Saturday, October 17, 2009

Answer to Question, Ebay Item, More on Flickr......stuff!

                                                          I did post an item on ebay (ending tomorrow) that is related to Magnum.  It's a framed print that Archie Bacon, the show's art director for many years, gave me.  I used it in that episode of Paniolo, but I can't find it in a photo.  Anyway, it's never really had a home since I haven't had an office in 3 years so I thought it could go to a better one.  Someone from Austria has asked about shipping--which I haven't looked up yet.  Actually, it's virtually impossible to tell exact shipping on something that's larger than 14" because of all that "dimensional weight" stuff now and then even more complicated with the foreign aspect.  I know about 5 years ago it was $60 to send a similarly sized item to England so I would guess foreign shipping is going to be at least $100 now.  Just come on over and pick it up!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I went to the official opening of what is now being called "Barbarian Princess" last night at the Hawaii Theatre.  It's the first film ever done about the Hawaiian monarchy or the overthrow of it.  From my standpoint, it is also the first and last Victorian period film done here since there is no longer any large source for antique items here without shipping them in.  There are various Hawaiian groups who have been objecting to the use of the term "Barbarian" in reference to Princess Ka'iulani.  Just about everyone watching the movie last night changed their mind if they hadn't already understood that the barbarian reference was from opposition newspaper items of the time who sought to discredit the monarchy during the overthrow in 1893.  I spent a couple of days doing a photo display of the sets and some of the crew during filming for the theatre lobby.  Considering they premiered it on Princess Ka'iulani's birthday you think they might have done something a little more.  Anyway, it sold out and they are already on their 3rd showing as part of the Hawaii International Film Festival.  Unfortunately the film remains unsold and undistributed so don't look for it at your neighborhood 20-plex any time soon.

I went ahead and put in some photos of Princess Ka'iulani in with the set photos as a way of showing her "non-barbarian" aspects and the fact that the movie does certainly honor her.  I didn't see any protesters last night, but there were enough police around to have  intimidated anyone to not even jaywalk--a $120 fine btw.  Someone did ask a question after the movie about when were they doing to drop the "Barbarian" from the title and the director gave a great response and the audience cheered him so I think the title is here to stay.

Mike's question is the first comment under the last post about changes in set decorating now with HD and DVD availability.  I know I've covered this topic before because I did at one point compare doing Magnum with LOST and the "scrutiny" aspects made possible today with DVD stop action and enlargement certainly do contribute to the detail that decorators go to now.  However, I just happened to catch the last half of the 1960's "Time Machine" that was on this morning on TCM.  I remembered seeing that when I was a kid and thought it was such an amazing film.  What I saw today looked like some cheesey amateur production of a low budget student film!  I didn't have to stop any action or enlarge anything to make that determination.  This was a full on Disney (I think) feature film release when it came out in the 60's and yet today it wouldn't fly with any 8 year old.  A lot of it is that we have also become more sophisticated as a society and the level of visual sophistication has increased as well.  Many of the big "spectacle" films of the 50's and 60's look pretty tame now compared to when we so impressed when Moses parted the Red Sea (film shown backwards).  Some things hold up--"The Birds" come to mind.  However, Alfred Hitchcock was aware that our own minds could create better horror than he could on the screen so many of his "effects" were created in our own minds--like when Janet Leigh took her shower with Hershey's chocolate syrup in "Psycho."  Today they have to show the steel knife blade ripping the flesh and red blood squirting out of an artery before anyone is shocked--especially an 8 year old!  So I think the increase in set dressing details today has as much to do with technology (and the ability to scrutinize) as it does with our expectations as viewers.  It certainly doesn't have anything to do with larger budgets!!!

Aloha,  Rick

I continue to post more photos each day on my career pics

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Locations and Higgins' Den Questions Answered

Mike and Susie have both asked separate questions under the previous posts which I will attempt to answer here.

First, I have been posting a lot more career photos on my flickr site   The photo editing tools are great and I'm getting pretty fast at fixing and loading the photos but I still have a couple hundred to go so check back from time to time!  Deciding on categories is the hardest part so I've been using a lot of key word tags.  They are also showing up in google now under my name.  As impressed as I am with what we were able to do here in Hawaii over years past, I am also saddened that most of those sets could not be done today because we have lost so many of those sources.  Well, at least they will live on in cyberspace for awhile!

I heard via a non-LOST source that they are going to auction off items at the end.  Very smart if that is true since $10 lamps I bought at the Salvation Army that would normally have gone into a dumpster will probably bring hundreds since they were used in Hurley's House.  Instead of paying for dumpsters, they can make tens of thousands.  Those lamps were really ugly, though!

Mike asked about the"valuable" ivory tusk on the bookshelf in Higgins' den--see his photo link in the previous post comment.  Well, that ivory tusk is a valuable as all of the small green jade carvings that were also in his den!  Genuine plastic!  It's all about location, location, location.  Put something on a pedestal or put a picture light over a painting or on a bookshelf in an estate set and presto it's ivory and jade!  Looking at the photo of the den set and then looking at a photo of Jack's father's den set on LOST yesterday when I got another call:  "Where did you get his desk?" really reminds me of how standards have changed in set dressing.  The sophistication and layers and detail in sets today compared to 30 years ago is amazing.  People are more consumer aware, have seen more / sophisticated, and have TV sets with larger size and clarity.  Although the plastic tusk and figurines would still look good today!   Those 2 ordinary looking bronze-like vases on the mantel are actually old Chinese gourds that were grown inside a  mold and then hand painted.

I'm not sure I understood Susie's question about locations and elements in her comment 2 posts ago.  Unfortunately I never really used tag labels for these posts so I could just put in "locations" and go back and see what I've said in other previous posts.  I know I did discuss the perils of using your own home as a film location (another bubble burst!).  But here are some more observations regarding locations and set dressing:
DISTANT LOCATIONS:  If you're going to be dressing sets a long ways away from your normal, resident studio location (anywhere from 50 miles to another state), there is that tendency to want to take everything with you.  I've seen many a container of set dressing arrive from L.A. between features from "The Brady Bunch" to Bruce Willis epics "just in case" the decorator might need them.  In the case of the Brady Bunch, the decorator used more of the things I helped him find here than were shipped over which made me feel good.  The decorator on the Bruce Willis epic had a budget that allowed him to practically empty every L.A. prop house of all gilt furniture, chandeliers, and expensive looking items involving a dozen containers or more.  I was only worthy of being a laborer to unload them, so I know first hand!  Ironically, even though most of the items weren't used in the Nigerian presidential palace set, the ones that were used were never seen since the entire set (the first 20 minutes of the film) were cut out since Mr. Willis wasn't in any of the scenes.  That meant no one even saw the 240 shades I put on the light bulbs of the 5' high chandeliers that the bad guys ran by once.

So, way distant locations do represent a challenge even when you do have the money.  Having basic supplies, a resourceful crew, common sense and checking out the location ahead of time for sources is always best.  Being able to knock on a stranger's door and politely asking to rent their dining room set is also a good skill to have.

LOCATION SETS:  that allow normal access to familiar sources are less of a problem.  Private homes present the biggest challenge--particularly if the family is living there and  a full redress is required.  Knowing the abuse than can happen when a film company is there (and you're not) should be a consideration when deciding to use the owner's furniture or objects as key pieces.  As cool as it is to be able to say to your friends, "Meryl Streep sat right here on my sofa!", you might instead be pointing out the stain that someone made on it when something leaked or the damage that was done when something fell.  The good news is that any reputable company would have purchased a new sofa--assuming it was replaceable. I always prefer a blank slate if there is to be a lot of filming done inside someone's home especially if they are "virgins."  There are some homes who rent out often enough that know the pitfalls and aren't overly worried.  There are also those nightmare locations that begin with the owner saying to us "No one told us you were going to take out all our furniture and crash a car through the picture window" and the location manager's cell phone is conveniently out of range in the jungle somewhere.  Set dressers are the first to arrive and the last to leave.  We discretely advise that perhaps their collection of porn we find under the bed might be better off elsewhere or also not mention the bug and rodent graveyard under their sectional after we move it for the first time in 3 years.  This is why having an experienced crew is so important.  As the set dressing crew is also responsible for restoring afterwards, it's always handy to have at least a location assistant at the site.  We are blamed for all sorts of scrapes, and dings, and chips that may or may not have been caused by our film company.  In many cases, replacing food in an unplugged (because of sound) refrigerator or finding broken window glass behind the drapes get dumped on the poor guys who are just trying to put the furniture back in the room.  

STUDIO SETS:  Permanent Sets - Swing Sets  Permanent sets on a soundstage are set dressers best friends.  Other than basic maintenance and restoring after shooting, all we do is cover and uncover them.  The more permanent sets the better.  In case of rain, sickness, script problems, these sets are just sitting there waiting to be filmed.  There may be a lot of pain and angst creating them in the first place, but they can last for years and leave time for other sets.  Magnum was really great for that reason.  Even when other temporary sets were added, the style of the permanent sets was so strong that it was easy just to plug into that look.

Technically there can be swing sets that are "permanent" in that they are taken down when not in use and then set up again if used infrequently.  Even Rick's bar set was considered a swing location set as it always required dressing at the beach location.  Swing sets can just be new sets that are created in space on the soundstage for the particular episode--sometimes even inside permanent sets.  We frequently did that once the large living room set was built and often incorporated actual walls from the permanent set.

Well, that's enough rambling on a question I'm not sure I even understood!

The "Cooler Kings" pilot that was supposed to be prepping this month seems to have cooled and another project may be taking its place.  Funny how "The Circle of Life" from "Lion King" just popped into my head.  Maybe because 2 years ago I was halfway through being the lead male dresser for 99 performances--or maybe because the projects just keep almost coming and then fade away?

Aloha,  Rick

Friday, October 9, 2009

I'm on flickr!

It takes awhile, but my career photos are now showing up on flickr  It's sort of a poor man's website, but it's about time I started putting my stuff online.  I made a mistake making my categories too specific and too small.  There doesn't seem to be any way to change or regroup them now.  I'm making the group categories larger now.  I've been listing them by kinds of sets rather than by specific projects and then using tags to allow you to find specific projects.  I have a TV next to my computer that helps break the monotony--although watching 3 Esther Williams movies in a row on TCM was a bit much.

I haven't gotten to any Magnum photos yet.  They are going to premier what is now being called "Barbarian Princess" at the Hawaii Theatre next week so I'm still putting up those photos.  I didn't realize I was making the photos too small so I did go back and change some.  Flickr has a great editing too so I can fix the photos before posting.  This is sounding like a commercial.  Well, it's something until I get a real website going.

Aloha,  Rick

Friday, October 2, 2009

What I Ate For Breakfast......

Has it come to this?  Is this going to become one of those blogs where I post what I ate for breakfast and then people comment "mmmmm, yummy"?  Well, I hope not!  It's just that I have basically mined my mind of Magnum memories with 25 years having passed since I was in my 2nd season on the show.  Most of the questions that have been emailed to me recently involved watches, rings, sunglasses used on the show.  Those all fall into props and outside my area as the Set Decorator.  So I don't really have anything new or even old to add to my working on the show that hasn't been written about somewhere in this blog.  Of course, pertinent questions about the show are always welcome.   Do I also need to mention again I don't have anything from the show left, Eve is not giving tours, and there is no secret stash of Magnum furniture?  

News from the home front includes the Governor deciding to completely eliminate the Hawaii State Film Office at the end of the month!  It's absurdity rivals the city building its billion dollar monorail that doesn't go anywhere.  With tourism listed as our major "industry" in a year of cutbacks everywhere, it is expected the State is looking to save money.  Our already poor public education system (with the highest percentage of students attending private schools in the nation) is furloughing teachers, programs being cut, and others being planned.  Eliminating a proven money making department that has made getting permits easier and solving problems before they arise is unfortunate.  The State also all but eliminated the film tax credit which was directly responsible for the work I had in 2008 in a double blow to the industry.  While the film / TV industry isn't tied directly to the economy in general, investment in the business is.  Given the lack of government support of the industry here, the plantation mentality of the legislature, the bad economy and the false belief that all the good workers are on "LOST", there does not appear there will be any work until mid 2010.  Currently there is another Lifetime film going on but the Jerry Bruckheimer pilot has been postponed again.  I'm not sure there could be any more nails in this coffin right now.  I guess if professional mourners were paid, I might consider continuing to wait for the phone to ring.  The reality is that I have had some success in other areas and I'm continuing to pursue work in them for now.

I hope that within a week or so I will have most of my past work online.  Until I can get up and running, I think doing flickr albums of my photos is a good start.  Working in a field where photos are the only evidence of my work sometimes makes it more difficult to convince others how good I am!  Present tense, of course.

So I'm not sure if this really counts as a posting or just a rant?  If neither works for you, I did enjoy a bowl of granola, a mug of coffee and a glass of carrot juice.  Mmmmm, yummy!