The Great EA Adventure, Part 3
"I wonder what it's going to be like!" was the comment of the trip, it seemed.
-"It's probably a bunch of fucking big empty warehouses with a bunch of people running around in golfcarts wearing headsets and looking busy" we'd guessed. Of course we only knew from those movies and television shows that pan out and show the inner workings of the places that birth damn near our entire imaginations. How very meta.
Universal Studios is a bunch of fucking big empty warehouses with a bunch of people running around in golfcarts wearing headsets and looking busy, as it turns out. Everyone is very active and very nice. The security guards at the front gates not obese, donut eating simpletons admiring lists of upcoming celebrities, much to our disappointment. Apparently we would need to tour Warner Brothers for that.
Here we were, in the land of Double Dare and Legends of the Hidden Temple, staring in awe at the impressive array of battered picnic tables and smokers stations lining the alleys. Who had sat here and eaten a turkey sandwich? we wondered. Scott Stapp probably smoked a cigarette right over there by that porta-potty, prayed to Jesus, jerked off on that spider plant, downed a slug or two of vodka and then recorded the music video for My Sacrifice. This was truly the place where dreams are made.
We were met at the studio by Cleve, a big happy fellow with a clipboard and a mission. He took us through a couple short hallways and into The Green Room.
Now, I don't really know if it's considered a 'Green Room', per se, but it had a couple couches and some snacks- so that's what I assume everyone called it. It had an older projection TV in the corner with a Debug Xbox 360 sitting on the floor, not plugged in to anything. We were the first ones to arrive. At this point it was just the three of us (Grandma, Peter and myself) and the room seemed large enough.
Then more people began to arrive.
First was a mother and her son who looked to be around 6 or 7 years old. "It's hard sometimes for him in auditions because he has bright red hair but it doesn't match the red of other people," she told us. The kid was cool. He brought with him his PSP and a bag of mostly destroyed UMD's and some legos. "I keep telling him we need a case." He was there to play Tiger Woods PGA 09' on the Wii.
Next was a thirty-something guy who had done commercials pretty much everywhere. He wore a blue-ish work shirt and tie with slacks.
Then came a couple with their younger daughter. They had driven up from Miami. "We were really excited when she got a call-back from the open audition."
After that a brunette, then a blonde who confessed that she had to call off work to be here today and they wouldn't be happy about it.
Then a dude who looked like a cross between Dimitri Martin and Woody Allen who did nothing but play Madden as he waited anxiously for his turn.
The room no longer seemed so large.
All of them were actors. Most had began with local casting calls in South Florida. It wouldn't be fair to say they weren't gamers, as quick discussion revealed that most were, but we felt outclassed. Grandma and I exchanged looks that said "what are we doing here?" Oppositely, as they asked Grandma how she came to be part of this thing and she responded with the story about the blog and Monica and the video, they seemed to segregate themselves as well. They didn't turn up their noses and give us any sort of "well, YOU'RE not an actor!" looks, but I felt as though they perceived the situation opposite the way we did; thinking that Grandma was perhaps a ringer, and they were merely backups. "They flew you in?!" someone asked. "Hell, we all live here."
Nevertheless, in that Green Room, we all felt that we were in the same club, regardless of how we got there. No one was snobby.
In fact, if any of us were snobby in the least, it was me. It didn't seem that anyone there other than Peter, Grandma and myself knew who Errol Morris was. I wouldn't shut up about him.
"Come on! You have to know him! Thin Blue Line saved a man's LIFE!"
-"What's it called again?"
"Thin Blue Line. What about Gates of Heaven?"
"Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr.?"
"THE FOG OF WAR?!"
-"This is all on IMDB, right?"
"[*look of exasperation*]"
Grandma was called for hair and wardrobe. This is where we met Irene (pictured above). Irene was cool as fuck. After talking with her a bit, she recognized that being in this place was a big deal for Grandma and I both; this was not business as usual. At first, as I photographed Grandma getting her hair ready, she thought I was Grandma's personal photographer.
"Nah, I'm just her grandson."
-"Aww! That's so cute!"
This would not be the only instance of such an exchange today.
As Irene did Grandma's hair, thirty-something actor guy and I escaped the stuffy Green Room and went outside for a cigarette. A production assistant came out to ask him some questions about his wardrobe. It was exactly this moment that I realized that Grandma was going to be doing greenscreen work of some kind. I recognized the chroma-key language from MTV. I hoped her outfit would be suitable.
A woman approached us an introduced herself.
"Hi, I'm Errol's assistant." Quickly realizing a possible faux-pas, I moved aside.
-"Sorry-- I don't want to blow smoke in your face."
Fuck!, I thought. Way to make a first impression, Tim, you fucking dick.
"Did you get any sleep last night?" she asked us. "The fucking people next to me were up and down the entire goddamn night."
I backed away from the conversation to avoid saying something stupid, a tactic I stuck with for the rest of the day until moments where it was no longer possible. I did NOT want to fuck this whole thing up for Grandma by putting my foot in my mouth or tripping over a power cord or some other dumb fucking thing that I've been known to do [In the fall of 2004, I volunteered for The Democratic Party in Cleveland. A week before the election, I fell like the dumbass I am, pulling loose the power cord to a laptop owned by the chairman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, effectively erasing hundreds of database entries for canvassing and voter pick-ups. It is possible that my clumsiness clinched Ohio for Bush against Kerry in 2004, and by consequence, continued the Iraq War, killing thousands of people and destroying the regional stability for decades.]
Back inside, Grandma had finished up in wardrobe and was wearing new clothes, the tags still affixed and poking her in the ass.
"You nervous?" I asked.
-"Tim, all these people are actors!"
-"I don't know what the fuck I'm doing!"
"Relax. It's just like we did with the video. Just be honest, be yourself, play the game a little and your done! No big deal."
-"No big deal."
"No big deal."
By now, Grandma had been waiting for about four hours or so, getting more anxious each minute. I'm sure my constant ranting about how awesome Errol Morris documentaries are didn't help much. We were reprieved by lunch.
I don't know who catered this thing, but it was AWESOME. We were expecting cold cut turkey sandwiches and cans of Pepsi from a taco cart manned by a burly, mustachioed Italian-in-a-wife-beater named Rocko or some such thing. In truth, it was trays upon trays of tilapia, golden potatoes, pasta, and veggies. Grandma ate a stuffed mushroom of some kind. "This is awesome! What's in this?!"
-"Blue cheese," I responded with a smile.
"No it isn't. I fucking hate blue cheese."
-"That's what the dude said."
Sitting a table further down the row, tucking away at a salad, was the man himself.
Errol Fucking Morris.
[to be continued!]