Monday, July 24, 2006

Day Six: July 23, 2006
Getting Technical

I forgot to mention the bear we saw yesterday. At one point in the mountains, traffic stopped as people wanted to get a look at the bear on the side of the road. We basically agreed that it was a medium-sized bear. So it’s just hanging out there on the side of the road. The thing is that people around here don’t seem to know that it’s generally not a good idea to throw food out the window to the bear. But the bear could care less. He (or she. I couldn’t tell from the van.) was more than happy to eat whatever snacks people were offering. So we got some pictures and went on our way. Several hours later, we were headed back the other way and there he (or she) was! Well why not? Free food! Now the bear was on our side of the road (or vice versa) so we stopped, rolled down the window and took some pictures. Then as we pulled away, the bear started chasing us. I can honestly say that’s another thing I’ve done on this trip that I’ve never done before. Get chased by a bear? Check. If this were a scavenger hunt, I’d be kicking some serious ass.

Say what you will about communism, but they got some serious buildings built pretty efficiently. The United States is a democracy (I’ll leave out the obvious political crack about the Bush theocracy) and the BQE is still under construction.

So today is the tech scout. We need to shelp around Bucharest and other places of interest to see what’s up with our locations. Any lighting things we need to know? Efficiencies we can muster up? Naps we can take?

The first location is a park. Communism touched many things around here and it looks like quality landscaping is one of them. The park is nice enough but the grass could use some grooming. And watering. And reseeding. I’ll have to remember to bring some bug spray and sunscreen. I’ll also have to remember to buy some bug spray and sunscreen. Some nice guy hands out bottles of water. I wonder if he’s with our group?

Next up is some kind of museum which is also a musical institute and the home of the Bucharest office of a rival agency (note to self: print out résumé). It’s another example of amazing architecture. According to Terry (some guy on the crew with a really bizarre hairstyle), it was built by a Count (who’s name I forget, but couldn’t pronounce anyway). He was a huge patron of the arts. Now we get to shoot a commercial for Twister Dance in his house. But everything about the place is amazing, except for the musty smell on the inside. And the heat. The guy spends all his dough on this beautiful house, he couldn’t bother with some air? He was also a big fan of Romanian composer George Enescu and built a house for him on the grounds. Amazing paintings on the ceilings, ornate woodworking. Nice place. No gift shop from what I can see.

9:20 and I’m already dragging. I’d have more coffee but I can sense that this would not be great for my system. Maybe a crepe! Clarita cu banane si Nutela, va rog! What? No bananas? We’re in the middle of a supermarket! Which brings me to location #3. Cora is one of the newest hypermarkets here in Bucharest. Part supermarket, part Costco, and part department store. This place has everything under one tremendous roof. Many of the employees wear rollerblades to get from one place to another. We’ll be shooting here after hours.

I’ve been here for less than an hour and I’ve already caused two incidents. I saw an aisle that was marked “Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce”. How could I not check that out? So I find a closed checkout counter and enter the store from there, the same way you’d enter a supermarket from the checkout area. Then Terry approaches me and tells me that I’m not allowed to enter the store the way I did. I have to enter and exit only through designated areas. I apologize and all is okay. Except that Terry won’t leave my side. So I go back to the rest of the group. Later on, I decide to buy something for Aaron. So I return to the store proper (the correct way this time), select my item and go to the express line. The lady in front of me has 11 items on a 10 or less line but she’s in no mood to deal with others. Plus, I can barely say hello in Romanian. So I wait patiently and ignore the lady behind me who is standing way too close.

So it’s my turn. The lady asks me something, which I think was something about having a Cora card. I say no and she rings up my purchase. I present my Amex card. No dice. I present my Master Card. Then everything goes wrong. The machine won’t accept my PIN. Then it does but there’s some sort of delay. The lady behind me is getting impatient. The line is growing. In my mind’s eye, the whole store is staring at the incompetent American, holding up progress in a country already struggling to escape the tyranny of outsiders. I hand over some cash and move on.

I must remember to speak to my therapist.

Speaking of money, I already have to get some more. I notice that the RON is wider than my wallet. But my wallet is a standard size. Are wallets in Romania bigger than most? And if so, will they have to conform to EU standards if they decide to join? Stay tuned!

A lot of the women around here don’t seem to mind wearing black or patterned bras under their tight, sheer blouses. That’s if they decide to wear bras at all! Liz pointed out the lack of undergarments on some of the women. Liz is so cool. I guess if there was a guy walking around with see-through pants and no underwear, I point him out to her.

Time to go to lunch. We’re at some Italian place. Attempting pizza again, I guess. It’s odd to be in a place where they’ve never heard of zoning laws. We’re basically in a residential area but this restaurant is right on the corner. I can imagine the real estate listings here: 3 BR, 2 ½ BT colonial. Near schools, shopping, decent pizza joint. Topher told us that the food was already ordered for us. We’ll be getting some pizza, pasta, antipasti (is that the opposite of pasta?) and chicken. The food is good. And the pizza? We’ll never know. The crew got the pizza, we got the other stuff. I guess pizza is considered to be too “low” for us. Peasant food or something. I would have preferred the pizza.

Off to the studio, location #4. This is not what I expected. When I shoot at a studio, it’s usually a giant stage on the property of a complex of stages. Cold, smelly, the works. But this is like driving onto a real Hollywood movie studio. Sort of. We drive through a large archway, pass by bungalows and giant outdoor sets. Very impressive.

We’ve made our way to the cafeteria where we’ll shoot a scene for Yahtzee Turbo. The place smells awful, like a…a…cafeteria, I guess. There are six large, framed photos of people who remotely resemble slightly famous actors, if you really use your imagination. Stars from Romania’s storied cinematic past, I suppose. Then we wander upstairs to scout a location for a principal’s office. There’s lots more movie stills and posters. I haven’t heard of any of them but Robert and I had fun naming them anyway. I notice a recurring theme of popes and Nazis.

Remember the tater tot incident? It continues. James (another Grey producer) is flying in today with 10 bags of frozen tater tots. Bonita (the AD) asks Topher if he arranged for some kind of freezer unit at the hotel. He says he doesn’t and in an amazingly snippy way, she says, “oh way to go, Topher.” Then she yells for someone to call the hotel to arrange for a freezer. Wow, this is so unfair. Topher is juggling a million things, including trying to get 9 days of work into 5 or 6. When did his job include handling other jobs, like that of the props department or the art department? I would have stood up for him but I’m afraid of Bonita.

Robert is exhausted. He told me he’s so tired that he thinks he might swallow his tongue. I told him that was impossible unless he was unconscious or having a seizure. But maybe I’m wrong. He promised to let me know if I am. Hey, I’m a writer, not a doctor.

I can’t find my headphones. The skin on my scalp is peeling. I already finished the book I was reading and there’s still over a week to go here. But Kelly and Stephanie (account execs) showed up today. So did James. And Christy and Sarah (clients) finally made it into town after almost 30 hours of traveling. Hey, who told them to fly from San Diego and get delayed in Chicago and miss their connection in Frankfurt? Certainly not me.

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