Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Only in the Film Industry...

True story. So, I'm working on Michael Mann's new HBO television series, Luck, and I'm blown away by the talent. Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina, Richard Kind. Crazy stuff. It's a show about the seedy side of horse racing, and it's gonna rock. Is it the next The Sopranos? I dunno, but it's gonna rock.

But, all of that is irrelevant to the story I'm going to share.

A lot of the series is shot at the famous Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia, California, just a couple dozen miles outside of Los Angeles. And it's shot at the racetrack during hours of operation. Which means there are a lot of people running around trying to prevent racing patrons (read: gamblers) from walking into shots. Luck is not unique in this... every location shoot has to deal with locals. When the cameras are rolling, such dealings are called lock-downs. And they're not always friendly.

As it happens, I was asked to block a rather large staircase AND a rather large hallway. Dustin Hoffman and Dennis Farina were filming a scene (over and over again, I must add) in which they rode up an escalator while discussing betting on a certain horse (that's all I'll reveal about the show... just watch it when it premieres). This staircase and hallway were under said escalator, and the exit the patrons were (or would) attempt to use to leave the track was beside said escalator.

In other words, before I ramble too much, it was rather important to block the exit. So much so, there were three or four "layers" of lock-down. Of which I was the first.

Anyway, most (I'd say 95%) of the patrons simply nodded when informed of the filming, turned and left via another exit. That stated, that 95% was still rather difficult to deal since they either A) were elderly and didn't seem fit enough to take the alternate stairway, B) spoke little or no English (a surprisingly large amount of them didn't), or C) initially pretended that I wasn't standing there talking to them.

But that other 5%... hah! Oh, boy. Two instances stand out. No, wait, three.

1. An old man and an old woman, upon being approached to take another exit, started screaming about how the elderly are mistreated. Right, dude... you've got enough strength to walk the paddock to the betting booths, then up the stairs to the viewing room or bleachers, but not enough to walk around a set. Okay, whatever.
2. A woman, upon being approached to take another exit, said: "I ain't coming here no more. I get disrespected all the time by all these damn Asians" (yes, there are a lot of Asians working at the track, and even more gambling at the track, but I was only one of a handful on the film crew).
3. My personal favorite. A man, who at first seemed polite and attentive, suddenly turned hostile, throwing down his racing program and yelling, "Why don't you go shoot your movie in China?" I responded, calmly, "Because I was born in Florida." Never mind that I'm not even Chinese. And that it wasn't my movie.

I actually found it all a bit hilarious and couldn't stop myself from laughing. Even if I'd been upset by it, watching two great actors (Hoffman and Farina) and standing next to one of my directing heroes (Michael Mann... you can read what I've written about him here) more than made up for any negative experiences from set.

Still, given the pervasive attitudes in America, it's no wonder why I'm moving to Australia.

I love the movies.


joanny said...


Interesting read--- so you want to become an 'Aussie'.

Glad you could laugh, at the audacious unrestrained unclassified behavior of the people you described, which by the way would make a good write in for a script.

Nice gig you are working on, with Michael Mann's new HBO television series.


Julie said...

umm ... you would get all the above at Randwick, or Rosehill, or Caufield or Flemington.

Our government is housing 1500 male Afghanistan refugees in a disused barracks of some sort close to Normanton which is an outlier suburb of Perth. The locals have been stirred up about it ... for political reasons. But one stood up in a public meeting the other day and screamed that they would all slit Aussie throats.

PattiKen said...

Ah, Babe, there are idiots everywhere. Although I suppose it might be argued that SoCal has more than its share.

Hoffman and Farina. Sounds like great casting for a horse racing series.

Wings said...

I knew it! For years I have said you were an Asian stairway blocker!

American writer my ass.

Harnett-Hargrove said...

I suppose people can be rude when they are loosing at the track. Sorry you happen to get in their venting way.
Sound like a great gig, and the stories....


Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Interesting. Have you considered creating a distraction at the exit you want the people to use instead? For example, I have always wanted to work in the film industry, maybe you and I could do a reprise of the Groucho and Chico "getta yer tootsie fruitsie iza cream" scene from Day at the Races. We could even charge extra to the bigots in the crowd.

Brian Miller said...

gotta love did you get to take anyone down?

Baino said...

You're Asian? Well I'll be buggered!
Then I've seen you handle chopsticks, pretty deft!

Betsy said...

I'm jealous...LOVE Hoffman. :) You have to laugh, right? They aren't worth your tears.

Pisces Iscariot said...

Prejudice knows its borders

Marcheline said...

Um... wait a second. You're moving to Australia to find polite people? Excuse me for just a second.


Okay, better now.

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