YMWW #17-A: Photo Intermezzo, Part I

Sunday, March 7, 2010

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Firstly, apologies for the hiatus. My wireless card had crapped out around the time I became busy with this project, so I had neither the ability nor time to write.

I’ve been lucky as hell with the timing of my work opportunities on this island. Prefacing my old cook job at Whole Foods was only four days of unemployment, and snuggled between that job and the next was an adventure of comic proportions.

Of course, like all great adventures, this one started on Craigslist. After scouring the job listings for an escape from my kitchen job of horrors, I resorted to checking through the “gigs” section for temporary relief. What I found was an ad seeking crewmembers for a ten-day photo shoot production; the photographer wanted to capture a narrative story through digital photographs and publish them in comic-book format. Picture panels and speech bubbles adorning fine art photography. Models, comic books, and a chance to exercise my Production Assistant expertise? This was more than an ad, it was a calling.

I promptly replied to the listing, emphasizing my film set experience. All one of them. I soon got a call from an Elliot, who later interviewed me in a beautifully spacious house imbedded within the side of Diamond Head Crater. It was the photographer’s place, Elliot informed me, and the meeting spot for each day of shooting. It didn’t take long for me to convince Elliot that I belonged on that set.

At the crew meeting the following week, I was initially attached to assist the lighting guy, but I expressed an eagerness to help out with all the physical brunt work and my “gopher” status was born. Amit, the photographer, found my fondness of manual labor “charming.” I was unsure if my inexperience with lighting would have been a help or a hindrance, so I was relieved to become a gopher.

The shooting was originally supposed to begin on my 23rd birthday, February 12th, but it was pushed back a day. I then found out that the 13th wasn’t a shooting day, but an optional equipment check and crew meet-up day. I optioned out of it to jump out of a plane. So, the project for me started on the 14th, Valentine’s Day, which was fine because it was not like I had any plans. . .

Day One, February 14th, Makalei Beach Park

Makalei Beach Park

Opposite the beginning of the photographer’s elusive and small street is an equally elusive and small beach park, which served as location #1 of the photo shoot. We started around 5:30 AM in order to capture sunrise lighting, which wasn’t horrible because I was used to rising before the sun to open at Whole Foods. Since I freefell through the skies over North Shore instead of attending the previous day’s crew meeting, this was when I met the rest of the crew. Daeja is a photographer and camera tech extraordinaire; she was responsible for all the equipment and made sure the cameras and lights were set just right. Stephen just got off a plane from Hong Kong, but knew Amit from New York; he was Daeja’s right-hand-man. Simran also knew Amit from New York; he came to Hawai’i to be a gopher, like me. It was great hanging out with Simran because not only was he a good conversationalist (bonus points for a slight New York accent), but also because his being a gopher legitimized my position on the crew.

After helping load and unload the equipment, I was told to help Daeja with whatever she needed. Apparently, she needed me to wear a backpack of camera accessories and stay near her. My task for the day was easy, but surprisingly important. Need a new flash card? I’m there. Need to clean the lens? I have what you need. Need me to stay near you and the bikini-clad models you’re shooting on a Hawaiian beach in gorgeous sunrise lighting? It would be my pleasure.

Given that I did not have a primary job, every task I did felt like an opportunity to show my initiative or eagerness to assist. I was quickly building the status of a dependable guy, which I began to see as a quite empowering position. Glass-half-empty: I’m just some photographer’s lackey; glass-half-full: these top-of-the-hierarchy people are dependent on my actions. They may tell me what to do, but they’d get nowhere without my help. At least, that’s how I saw it.

Day Two, February 15th, China Walls

China Walls

Since the photographer’s house was nowhere near convenient parking, my first task of the day was to drive actors from the closet parking lot up to the house. The previous day I was just legs on a backpack. Today, I was head of the shuttle service. Yay, promotions!

Once everyone was assembled at the house, we caravanned to the southeast side of the island and walked down to the smooth rock cliff ridges known as China Walls. It’s a dangerous yet beautiful natural location unknown to tourists (and even some locals). Again, as a gopher, it was my duty to carry equipment back and forth, this time across the slippery rock edges. The payoff, I thought, was to witness beautiful people photographed in a beautiful setting. Not the case. We couldn’t bring down all the equipment from the entrance of China Walls, so someone had to guard it. Guess who was chosen.

Apart from all the action, I had plenty of time to take a nap, check my e-mail and Facebook, and catch up with a few of my friends over the phone. At one point, the lead male actor, Blaze, came up and joined me because he was no longer needed. He told me about his unbelievable exploits in Seattle, which involved homelessness, long-lost relatives, and crazy landlords. It put my Hawaiian escapade to shame. It was great getting to know Blaze, but for the most part, I was alone up there. And although guarding the equipment gave me the opportunity to connect with friends both old and new, my self-perceived status on the film crew had dropped. The day had started out promising as they needed a responsible and licensed liaison. But as the day progressed, all they needed was a Keep Away sign. I was the next best thing.

Since it turns out I have a lot to write about each day, I will dived this post into three parts. Anyway, I’m sure you guys have more important things to do on that computer than read this right now.

Part II will include a horse ranch, an abandoned wildlife park/Lost set, and a forbidden trail.

I mentioned how photographer Daeja Fallas was working on this project. For the next few posts, I will be concluding with photos from her work instead of Roxy models. I know no one will mind.

This photo and the rest of her work can be found on www.daejafallas.com

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