October 17, 2003

only in LA

Twelve ten p.m. I drop Damian off at school. A little under three hours to myself, time to get to work.

Ten minutes later, I walk into my café of choice. I prefer the library for its peacefulness and plethora of outlets, but it’s closed on Fridays and this place is a good consolation prize, with WiFi access for my intermittent internet jonesing. I park, walk to the café past film trucks on the way. I guess they’re shooting in the yoga studio on the corner. Good thing it’s not the café, that would really bite.

I walk through the busy front room, head to the quieter side room with its few but all-important outlets for my PowerBook’s AC adapter. Walk through the room. Boy, there sure are a lot of people in here, guess it’s the overflow crew from the shoot. Good thing I have headphones to drown out the chatter. I sit down at my favorite table. A slender woman, her dark hair back in a loose pony tail, comes straight over. “Excuse me, but you can’t sit here.” Her French accent is pleasant, light. Her words, not so much. Turns out they are shooting here. I stand up, not too happy. “You should put a sign up,” I say. She says yes, she’d hoped the café management would do that. I say “You should do it, it’s your responsibility.” I’ve been around enough film sets to know. This is amateur hour and I’m pissed.

I settle in near the one outlet by the front door. The table is pretty; inlaid tile. The air is cooler in here. If I wasn’t still so disgruntled, I’d even admit this is a better spot. I slip on my headphones and get online. (Hey, I have to ease into writing, can’t just start cold like that.)

Half an hour passes. The French woman comes up to me again, looking apologetic. What? You’re going to kick me out of this spot too?

Turns out she needs a favor. Apparently they have to get access to their casting website but the café’s pay-for-minutes terminal isn’t giving them images. Do I have access…?

Soon I have a casting agent and three producers (I assume that’s what they are, they certainly seem self-impressed enough) peering at head shots on my PowerBook, offering me bribes of desserts (no thanks, I’m on Weight Watchers) and coffee (no thanks, I don’t do caffeine). It’s more than a little surreal, this cluster around me. I normally feel cloaked in anonymity here, slipping into the café to write my pages and then disappear into the afternoon, private with my novel. But now I’m public and in the middle of that which I resent.

Turns out it’s not a film shoot, though, but a photo shoot. Which explains why we can still sit in the front room and why nobody’s hushing us every five minutes.

First they look at girls, ages eight to eleven. They’re looking for someone young and cute. I like the one they choose, she looks more genuine than the others, more spunky. Then they want someone to portray the dad. The casting director has me click on the "Men, 35" page. Up comes a series of smiling faces. These men look older than Dan. Either these men are prematurely aging or Dan is unusually young looking for his forty two years. Or they’re lying about their ages. (Ya think?)

I comment idly that my spouse is better looking than just about all the men here. He’s in SAG, too. (The Screen Actor’s Guild.) They perk up, say, “Well, if these guys don’t work out” (they’ve chosen four possibilities, all of whom look somewhat like Dan), “we’ll take a look.” The casting director stays behind to see pictures. I fumble with iPhoto, opening albums, searching for a decent shot. I know I have plenty on CDs at home, but do I have any here, where I need them? I see money, I see a fun unexpected Saturday photo shoot to give Dan something to smile about at work the next Monday.

I find a few tolerable shots, show them to the casting director, telling her I’ve got better but these will do for now. “You weren’t kidding, he is attractive.” She sounds genuinely surprised. Heh. I say “Yeah, I’m not prejudiced.” Well, not too.

If this were a true Hollywood Fairy Tale story, the other guys would all have fallen through and we’d be hustling Dan off to the set for his day in the sun tomorrow. But it’s real life and one of the guys comes through. Of course he does; it’s his job and I’m sure he needs the money too. But as I pack up my things to go get Damian, I decide to look around for that casting director, show her the better pictures I’ve unearthed. She’s sitting in the corner by the shoot. She thanks me again, gives me her card, and says she wants me to email the pictures of Dan. “Your son too,” she says. (The pictures I showed her of Dan had Damian in them too.) “And you. We’re always looking for real families.” She sounds serious.

I have no idea if this will come to pass. I’m not sure I care. It would be something a bit different, a story to tell, nothing more. It brings back a memory I’d forgotten, of a photo shoot at our loft in SoHo when I was a young teenager. It was for some brochure on textbooks, I think. I remember lying on the floor looking like I was having such a good time reading these thick tomes. That was fun. This might be too. If it ever happens.

Mostly, though, I walk to the car – my beat-up old Honda – thinking, Man. How Hollywood is that?

Posted by Tamar at October 17, 2003 11:29 PM