After months of grey skies and rain, it felt like a vacation to spend a week in Los Angeles on a work photo shoot. The air was clear and sunny, with temperatures hovering around 80°. I had forgotten how good sun feels on skin, to smell yourself slow roasting in your own mellow oils. A few days out of the rain is enough to lift the spirits, and give me a bit of heat stroke. I spent most of my time in West Hollywood, either at an overpriced hotel or the sound stage 10 minutes drive away.
It’s a relief to see something get made. With the difficulty of selling an idea behind me, my role was just to oversee the process. The project involved fantastical sets designed by us with the help of the designers Todd James and Friends With You. We all came up with concept sketches, which were recreated by a team of production people that worked for the studio and photographer, Zachary Scott. It was magical to see what was nothing more than 2-d designs on paper become real rooms you could step into. Due to the budget/schedule, the construction of the sets was done efficiently. As a finished set was being shot, the rest we either getting dressed or struck. A finished set only existed for a few hours before being reduced to pixel memory.
It could not have been a better group of people working together. Everyone wore genuine smiles, enjoyed cracking jokes, talking, eating together. It felt smooth, happy. The designers and I would sit in plush rocking chairs, talk and collaborate on the propping of sets, all while the photographer worked and chimed in. There was a stuffed unicorn I tried to make into a marionette with fishing line. I shuffled around under a card board box. I ate pulled pork outside in the sun. I ate a milkshake in the sun. I propped a set that ended up looking eerily similar my mothers sewing space. I talked to models, male and female alike. The people from work were good, the clients were good. We ate a few delicious dinners together with conversation that rarely regressed to work topics.
I don’t recommend the Sunset Marquis Hotel however. It’s too much on the expensive side to have so many knocks against it. In this trip, my coworkers and I have noted the following inconveniences: air conditioner not working for the first two nights, one fan not working, a card key not working, an alarm clock on and set to 4 am, the elevator and one of the room carpets smelling like pee, a toilet repeatedly flushing, a toilet that got clogged on a reasonable quantity of feces, a power outlet that was too loose for plugs to stay in, a swimming pool that was under construction and unusable, missing molding in the hallways, excessive little reminder cards getting slid under the door, etc. This would all be fine for Motel 6 and its ilk, but for a hotel that goes out of its way to explain how good it is, you expect the place to be run a little tighter.
I apologize if the preceding paragraph makes me seem spoiled.
A few photos which, due to secrecy, can’t reveal any of the finished sets:
The large sliding door to the main room of the sound stage was open, a fair enough trade for being indoors all day.
A set getting painted.
P. wheeling and dealing as a pedestrian watches.
One of the other larger stages was set up for green screen.
J. and J. celebrate a simultaneous birthday.
“Tijuana Dog” and I.
Plugs and cords from the lighting.
The photographer looks over a partially finished set.
Friends With You (and I) sit in some casual, butt hugging rockers.
“Penelope”, the sweetest little unicorn.
Real ramen noodles eating in downtown’s Japan Town.
C. and I at the ramen house.
D. looking older and wiser than I remember, now with house, wife, and child.
Filling, rich Italian dinner at Dan Tana’s Hollywood Restaurant on Santa Monica Blvd.
Me and some of the hot, decapitated models.
A desert delight that both begins and ends at the toilet. Best eaten à la commode.
Some new-fangled banana desert. I think it was described as a banana pustule with ginger shafts, carmel sorbet, and sea horse eggs.
Todd James at work.
J. in a nest of body pillows.
It wasn’t a rock, it was a rock lobster…salad on a plastic tray.
Me on a walk in the woods.