YMWW #17-C: Photo Intermezzo, Part III

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

(Originally posted on Facebook)

In music and theater, an intermezzo is a light, short composition between two major bodies of work. It means “intermediate.” I first came across the term during an enormous, multicourse meal courtesy of Ian’s parents in Reno last year (that intermezzo was a tiny glass cup with sorbet and champagne, which arrived after the appetizers and before the main dish). As I saw it, the photo shoot gig was my work intermezzo, nestled between a job at Whole Foods Market and a job at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Day Five, February 18th, Hidden Trail on Diamond Head Crater

View of Diamond Head from the parking lot where I picked up the actors

As I biked through the chilly morning air to Amit’s house once again, my mind was not on my task ahead as a production assistant, but rather on my obligation later that afternoon. It was Thursday, and that meant I had an orientation at Bubba Gump. The orientation was originally scheduled for the previous Thursday, meaning I would have had to miss out on most of the photo shoot that followed. As luck would have it, the orientation was postponed and I got to partake in all the wonderful adventures described in my previous notes.

It was another early call time. Maybe too early, as I arrived at a sleeping house. Most of the lights were off and all of the rooms were still. So, I used the side entrance to the kitchen and just read my book until things got going. Slowly but surely, old friends and new faces began filtering in to the kitchen searching for a morning pick-me-up that only coffee can give them. And, like always, I drove to the nearest parking lot to pick up some of the actors. Well, at least I think I did. These days were kind of blurring together.

Thursday’s shoot was on a trail on a fenced off side of Diamond Head Crater. Yes, we were trespassing again, but no one was going to kick us out of this place. It wasn’t a Lost set, so no one would care. The beginning of the shoot, for me, involved a lot of running up and down this trail, transporting equipment and leading the actors to the location. Once everything was in place, though, the crew had little to do. We began playing get-to-know-you games. We guessed each others’ ages, ethnicities, and even middle names. No one guessed “Vanderlipe.” It was another one of those revealing campfire moments that brings people closer together, if not just merely keeping them occupied.

I left the set a bit early to make it to my orientation on time. I could have left several hours earlier as the crew was just sitting around doing nothing, but I didn’t want to miss out on the sitting around. Just because you are doing nothing does not mean nothing is happening.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Honolulu, O’ahu, Hawai’i

I got to Bubba Gump on time and met the other newbies. There was another Anthony; he had moved here from St. Louis a few months after me. He was the only one in the group who got a job as a dishwasher. I had met Katie a week earlier when I had gone in for my not-then-aware-it-was-postponed orientation and she was there for her interview. She is a UH student who moved here from San Diego a few months before me. She has a pretty eyes—and equally impressive other parts. Harry was the freshest immigrant, having moved here from somewhere on the East Coast maybe a month or two ago. His last name is Johnson. Yes, that makes him Harry Johnson. “Middle school was awesome,” he informed us with a deadpan stare.

Neither Katie nor other Anthony had the proper forms with them, so only Harry Johnson and I were left to go through the THREE-AND-A-HALF HOUR orientation. We read through the handbook, sampled some food, and got our homework. Yes, homework. Bubba Gump is known for their gruelling, four-stage training program. By Stage One, we were to have the appetizers and non-alcoholic drinks memorized, not just what they are, but their ingredients and garnishes, too. We also had to memorize the “Top Ten” employee creed, the table numbers, and sections. To be honest, I was a bit glad to have homework. Too often I’d come home from work with nothing to do but watch a movie or surf the Internet. Having a goal to accomplish would give me a sense of purpose, no matter how small or temporary. The cherry on top of my sundae of responsibility: my Stage One was scheduled for Saturday evening, meaning I could still work Friday’s and Saturday’s photo shoots.

Day Six, February 19th, Reservoir Clean-up and House Party

Abandoned Reservoir with Diamond Head in the background

I biked to Amit’s place with a backpack full of training materials and empty index cards. My downtime now would consist of menu memorization. Of course, I had to start studying on the biggest production day of the shoot: the house party. Fortunately, the house party would not start until that evening. Unfortunately, I had a major task to do that morning.

Up near the trail of the previous day’s shoot was an abandoned reservoir, which has been taken over by graffiti artists for some time. This huge concrete bunker is set in the side of Diamond Head Crater, an industrial ruin hidden by natural beauty. The walls are covered with graffiti pieces and the ground is carpeted with empty beer bottles and spray cans, rusty tin roof panels and rotting wood. The threat of tetanus lurked near every step. Our major task was to clear that ground for the following day’s shoot.

The clean-up crew consisted of me, Simran, and Bean Dip—the only Mexican I’ve met in Hawai’i. Despite our small group size, we got the middle of that ground cleared in no time, and we had fun doing it. Nothing is more gratifying than physical labor, especially the kind that involves chucking huge pieces of metal, jumping on wooden beams, and smashing glass bottles against concrete walls. We returned to the house by late morning, grinning through dirt and sweat.

Close-up of one of my favorite pieces

The hours between the reservoir clean-up and the house party were spent studying. Well, at least, that was my aim. It’s hard to study in a house filled with over a hundred interesting people. I got to talking with some of the newer people, as well as with some returning ones. Fortunately, a lot of the conversations included a discussion of my new job and the homework that went along with it. Several people even quizzed me, which was nice. Remember Lauren with the nice smile? She came back, and we started talking again. We discovered we both like to travel and started discussing where we’ve been and where we’d like to go. I told her about my study abroad trip in Mexico. She told me about her long-distance relationship with her boyfriend. I went back to studying.

As the sun sunk lower in the sky and the energy of the house rose, I studied less and less frequently. I eventually packed up all my material and switched to full production assistant mode. Once everyone was dressed and all the shots were more or less planned out, Amit gathered everyone around—roughly 120 people—and gave a breakdown of the evening. Once again, he asked the crew to raise their hands. Once again, I smiled proudly on the inside.

By now, I was a trusted member of the crew, and all night long I was right in the action. Granted, I was only carrying one of the four lights they needed, but that meant I was right behind the photographer the entire time. The actors mingled, sang, danced, and carried on as though it were a real party. The crew moved through the crowd, taking pictures of this group doing one thing, then another group doing something else. We kept working after most of the crowd was allowed to leave and all that was left were a couple actors and a skeleton crew, of which I was a part. It was definitely the longest day, but also the most interesting. I got home pretty late that night, but continued to study until I passed out with a pen in my hand and my head on the desk.

Day Seven, February 20th, Abandoned Reservoir

View from the top of the ladder

Saturday was my final day on the set, as was most people’s. I felt as though I had come full circle, starting off as an inconsequential lackey to and evolving into a top crew member. It took a few hours to get all the equipment and actors into the reservoir. Though, because of all the time and hard work I put into that place, I almost felt like it was my reservoir.

On top of the ridiculously revealing clothing and sharp edges everywhere, the set was made even more dangerous with the presence of kids and animals. Some of the kids had trouble climbing into the reservoir, but once they were in, they were running and jumping around. The animals we had on set, colorful birds of every size, were squawking and pooping everywhere. Add a blazing sun and little water and you have yourself the most difficult production day. Well, if you were an actor. We crew members were off to the side, in the shade, out of the shot. I eventually got into the mix holding the giant reflector or supporting a leaning photographer. Once I ran back to the house to fetch Daeja her memory cards, returning with some food and water for her. She said I could be her assistant on any project. I am going to hold her to that.

Though the day was nearly done by early afternoon, I left the set early to get ready for my first day of training. Nearly everybody on the set was aware that I was studying to be a Bubba Gump server, so they wished me luck as I climbed out of the reservoir. I paused halfway up the ladder to look out at the people I was leaving behind, the good friends I had made during the week. I stood there reflecting on my wonderful experience on the set of unique photo shoot.

“Run, Forrest, run!” yelled Amit to me, “You’re in the shot!”

I quickly scuttled up the ladder and ran off to my next great adventure.

THE END

Here is the last photo I’ll be sharing from my friend Daeja. You can see more at www.daejafallas.com

Roxy models will return next week.


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