Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bullet Hits or BANG BANG Shoot 'em Up

Sorry it's taken me so long to post.  The only 2 times I have been kayaking in the past year have been to scatter friends' ashes off Lanikai--which I did this past Monday again.  It's a beautiful place to spend eternity, (it even means "Heavenly Water")  but it's creating a bad association for me with kayaking!  I think I'd better just go for personal enjoyment reasons soon.

Well, we have to take the good photos with the not so good ones.  This was not one of the better sets, but the only thing I remember about it was that we not only shot it on film, we actually shot it up.  It's interesting to see what goes into bullet "squibs" for a gun fight.  Each gun shot blast is a separate wire to a small powder capsule attached to a wall surface or object (like a break-a-way vase or bottle.  Each one of the circuits running to each object or hole-in-the-wall to be "hit" gets connected to a positive side of a circuit.  Crudely done, it can be nails pounded into a board wired in series.  Then taking the negative side of the circuit on a separate nail, you just run the negative nail down the row of positive stationary nails completing each circuit for just a second.  As each circuit is closed, it fires the one squib it is connected to and BANG.  Or as the case may be, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, depending on how many squibs are used.  The order of the BANG locations matched the order on the crude little nail board so it appears that someone is firing an automatic gun across a wall.  Single bullet hits can be done the same way.  The person shooting obviously has to be aiming the fake or empty gun in the direction of the bullet hits for this to work.  Not sure if I have made this understandable or not?  Another way to do bullets are with small dust hits.  On people you can even have small, remote controlled squibs or blood packs to simulate their hits as well.  Of course there are times when we wish they would use real bullets on certain people, but that makes resetting a scene and clean up more difficult.  To reset a scene, another wall or portion or panel of a wall has to be already there, painted, wired, and loaded so they can try for another take without having everyone stand around waiting.  Well, looks like I made a boring set sound more interesting describing bullet hits.  These are all controlled by the special effects team, by the way.  Many times as a decorator, our department might supply the breakable objects made from "sugar glass" for them to use.  They are VERY expensive and fragile--although it is fun to break a bottle over someone's head once in awhile!

Aloha,  Rick

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hypothetical Answer to Mike's Hypothetical Question - Magnum Movie

I decided to "elevate" Mike's comment question to a blog post since it's a good one and will let me rant and rave more!  Also, since it's not about a set photo as usual, here is a picture of Tom I found in a drawer at McClain's that sold off everything last weekend at about .15 cents on the dollar.  A dealer even came from the mainland to fill a container because things went so cheaply.

Anyway, there would be no reason to contact me about the look of any of the sets.  Any decent Hollywood Art Director or Set Designer would be able to pull the basic design (interior and exterior) of any of the sets that were seen on Magnum.  Screen grabs, blow ups, and production stills taken by the studio during filming would all provide more than enough information to re-create as much as they want of the show's original settings.  If they want to do that at all.

As to the expense of new, original vs. recreation, it might cost a bit more having new sets designed as a Production Designer and staff would have to be employed, but not significantly more than another team going over hours of DVD's looking for set views and drawing plans.

And now a few words from the blogmeister............(ok, more than a few).......

When a producer or studio purchases the rights to a property such as "Fantasy Island" or "Hawaii Five-0," they aren't necessarily buying any obligation to re-create a museum replica of the original.  Obviously there is some obligation to have 5-0 take place in Hawaii instead of Maine and "Fantasy Island" not take place on Fire Island, but given time and societal changes that have happened in the 20-30 years since these TV shows first aired and the current film tastes (car explosions, f-word, computer effects, and MTV editing, etc.), one would assume a recreation would not be practical if you wanted to make your $500 million opening weekend at the multiplex.

I mention those 2 shows because I did do a pilot for "Hawaii 5-0" in 1997 and I was the decorator for the pilot and (only) 13 episodes of the "new" "Fantasy Island" with Malcom McDowell in 1998.  Granted these were TV to TV and not TV to film revivals, but they will serve as examples.  

With 5-0, the only original cast member involved was James McArthur.  Ever young at heart, he looked more like Albert Einstein with a mop of gray hair than the clean-cut, subservient Danno of the original series.  One version of the MANY scripts we went through had McGarret in his deathbed filmed from the rear, passing the torch to Gary Busey and Russel Wong. (sniff)  Originally the police office sets were going to be super-modern, futuristic on a high floor of the recently created First Hawaiian Bank tower downtown.  When they finally found a director for the pilot, they decided ultimately on a more retro look built inside the old post office building--ironically across the street from the now revered Iolani Palace which was just another public building when it was the TV home of the fictional 5-0 state police.  After that it was just another cops and robbers show that was so bad (mainly because of you-know-who) that it never aired at all.

The other revival show, "Fantasy Island," was a bit closer to the original series.  There was still the plane that landed (an amazing feat on the fish pond at Kualoa Ranch!), a bell tower, the mysterious Mr. Roark (this time in Armani suits), a beautiful tropical hotel, but no annoying "boss, boss, deplane, deplane" person (although we did have a portrait of him in the hotel lobby in the pilot).  The show was produced by 2 famous Hollywood producers ("the 2 Barrys"), Sony Studio, and had 3 famous stars as regulars.  

Problem #1 - it was aimed at a "young and trendy" audience, yet it aired on Saturday night.  Young and trendy audiences are not at home on Saturday nights--but did anyone ask me that?  The now older, not-so-trendy original watchers didn't like the new version and watched something else.

#2 - there were 2-3 "fantasies" per episode and most of them were "bummer" fantasies.  Unlike the original where they fulfilled positive dreams and aspirations, one woman on ours asked for "ultimate knowledge" and promptly discovered her sister was sleeping with her husband.  Bummer.  A REALLY strange fantasy (on the kinky side) was this woman fighting in an all woman's army unit in WWII against other all woman Japanese soldiers.  The producers actually thought the USMC here was going to help them with equipment!   Can you imagine the military actually wanted to read the script ahead of time?!  (duh) I was the one who got the call from some general on the mainland since I was relying on all their tents and equipment for the battleground set.  Basically he said, "Are you out of your mind?"  So, big surprise, no military help.  I saved the day (again) by using this theme  party company that did "Mash" parties with vodka in the IV bottles for their party equipment.  I know, wrong era, but no more absurd than the women to women combat troupes were.  That might even have its own series potential?!  General Mylie Cyrus?  Maybe not.

So, moving along, what I am getting at finally, is that there is no reason to think that there would be a re-creation of what we all lovingly remember (some better than others) of the original Magnum series.  I would assume that they would build all interiors on sound stages in L.A. and could even do the exteriors in Mexico or Australia where it is cheaper to film.  I would hope the Thomas Magnum character would at least have a mustache and wear a baseball cap (and not shave his head and wear an earing),  but you can be sure he won't be wearing his former jogging shorts!  I read somewhere that Tom Selleck had said he hadn't been approached at all about the possible film.  And why would they any more than they would contact anyone who worked on the original series? Maybe Tom playing Russell Crowe's father?  The main ticket buying demographic today did not watch Magnum in the 1980's.  They were born in the 1980's.  Hey, I don't make this stuff up!  

I guess if a picture is worth a thousand words, I'd better stick to photos.

Aloha,  Rick

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My First Time (was not the best time)

As I recall, this was the first set I worked on at Magnum at the beginning of the 4th season.  Technically I was still the assistant decorator, but as it was pointed out to me by the producer (when I officially became the decorator 5 episodes) later, I had been doing far more than being an assistant all along.  This was supposed to be some sort of English import shop that had some sort of fight or something that happened to damage some of the items.  I found a potter to make a bunch of items out of unfired "slip" pottery and then had them hand painted so they looked fairly real and could be easily broken.  As fate would have it, the local department store, Liberty House, was having a British fair and had a lot of English themed items.  I remember being with the decorator when he bought several thousand dollars worth of stuff at the counter in the store.  I was still in my "WOW!" mode.  Twenty years later I learned to max out the company credit card before noon while driving 65  mph on the freeway ordering things on my cell phone!  That water filter crock has been in my kitchen for 24 years now and I think that scale is still at the film studio.

     The building we used is the Kamehameha V (Kam V) Post Office downtown on Bethel and Merchant St.  It's credited as being the first all concrete building in Hawaii (1871).  Those are 2 cannons vertically inserted into the sidewalk for some reason I don't remember. We used both the exterior and interior.  Looks like some sort of magazine stand outside.  I'm sure we got by using real magazines and papers back then.  When I did a stand on "LOST", EVERY magazine cover and newspaper had to be created in L.A., cleared and then glued on to an existing magazine.  As usual, they probably weren't seen at all.

     It's always tricky for locations when we film downtown as the directors always want "ITC" or intermittent traffic control.  That means they can stop traffic whenever the camera rolls for sound and background continuity.  If there are cars driving, they could be extras driving their own cars so continuity can be controlled.   These 2 streets are not particularly busy in this area.  We have to hire police to stop traffic so it does help the economy even if it does irritate drivers--unless Tom was playing in the scene, of course!

Aloha,  Rick

P.S.  Hope you all had a great Easter or Passover - you can see that I did!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Even I Know This One.......(I think?)

I assume this was the Luther Gillis episode.  I don't know about the going back in time thing, but anything has to be better than the smoke monster on "LOST!"  This was a fun set to do, however.  I think I remember it aired in black & white otherwise that orange chair looks like something out of a  60's Danish furniture store.  I've been hanging a towel on that coat rack for the past 20 years, otherwise I can't imagine where I found all this stuff!  Sadly the last of this kind of furniture in Honolulu  is being sold off this month--a roll top desk larger than this one went for $350 because there really isn't much of market anymore.
     I'm sure all of you experienced set watchers have noticed the jogs in the walls that indicate that one or more of them are wild (moveable).  I can't think of much more to say about this set so now it's your turn!

Aloha,  Rick

Friday, April 3, 2009

"Going Home" Set Discoveries.....Thanks, Marco!

Marco sent me some screen grabs from this episode that I looked at more closely.  The kitchen was a set on the stage, also!  That large, dark hutch was mine and I thought it was odd I would have used it inside a real house since it was so big.  I tried selling it (cheap) last fall with no takers, it went into an auction (where it was listed LAST) and didn't sell, so I wound up giving it away just to get rid of it.  Also, if you look carefully, you can see a set wall seam in the upper right corner behind the hutch.  That lamp over the sink is right out of J.C. Penney's (when we had one here), so that was another interesting discovery that confirms it was a set.  Also, Marco, if you look on your asset list when your paperwork arrives, I think that wall oven is listed on it.  Notice the wood trim on the arch unit in the kitchen (behind Tom's head) matches the trim on his bedroom closet.  It's possible that they just reused that section from the kitchen and repainted it if there was enough time between the filming of one set and the other.  Most set details (like trim and molding) were done in place on the stage.  It was almost impossible to work on the sound stage while they were filming--in fact, if the sound man could have stopped all of our hearts from beating while they were rolling, he would have done it to make it quieter!  That radiator in Tom's bedroom was a fiberglass one I brought back from Universal Studios set dressing storage building.  Needless to say there were none in Hawaii.  They were never sent back, but I think have recently disappeared from the film studio's storage room.
     The trophy behind Gwen's head in the attic was probably taken off the cover set dining room and used there.  The reason I would watch the shows (well sometimes for this reason) was to make sure that if someone placed the trophy into the scene and it appeared so prominently in the shot, it would have to be retired for awhile.  Of course nowadays, nothing is sacred with DVD stop action and enlargements.  Like when I spelled the main character's name wrong on a diploma on "LOST"  It was used several times and none of us noticed it until a blogger posted it all over the net.  Damn bloggers anyway! lol
     Well, thanks for the screen grabs and looks like I milked the last post a little further and saved more of my pictures for later!

Aloha,  Rick

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

One of My Favorites....."Going Home" with Gwen Verdon

It's gloomy, cold, and rainy out again today so I thought I'd cheer myself up by posting a set from one of my favorite episodes.  I did look this one up so I know it was from 1985 "Going Home" that had Tom going back to (I think it was) Virginia to see his family.  This dining room set was built on the sound stage.  The actual house was a large, old home in Manoa Valley and, in spite of its size, you can only cram so many people and so much equipment into a house for so long.

     What was memorable to me was not the set (for once).  It was being able to spend an entire morning sitting on the steps going upstairs and talking to Gwen Verdon.  She was waiting for her scene and I didn't care what else I had to do. There always seemed to be a sort of "secret society" within the film industry of those of us who had our start in theatre.  It's sort of hard to explain it, but it just is.  I had no hesitation in telling her how excited I was to meet her and she was excited to have met someone who knew who she was!  Well, not to get all mushy, but it was one of those incredible moments you never forget--even if I have forgotten most of what we talked about!
     Meanwhile, back at the set, it was nice to have a set with some architectural interest--the built-ins and double-hung windows.  Those are some of my (famous?) stapled up curtains.  Speaking of theatre, as long as a drape didn't have to open on camera, they were usually stapled up by me and if we were really worried, the bottoms had a taped up hem and were ironed.  We did have a Venetian blind manufacturer who would make us blinds in a day or two--ironically named Paramount Venetian Blinds.  Looking at it now, I can't believe I didn't do some wall sconces (lights)  since it would have been easy to wire them in from the back of the walls.  They didn't always like it when me made holes in the walls, however.  Speaking of walls, you can see the little jogs where the wild walls overlap.  It was nice to do a traditional, mainland type of dining room after the usual wicker and rattan here.
     Again, you can see the catwalk above the long wall of the set.  The set would have been built in this location to take advantage of it.  Lights on floor stands would fill in on the sides.  I don't know how much this set was used in the episode (or at all, for that matter), I just have good memories of this episode.

Aloha,  Rick