22
Wed, May

Be Silent [No thanks]

ERIC PREVEN'S NOTEBOOK

ERIC PREVEN'S NOTEBOOK - Small steps are also progress; asking for help is strength, and people really do love and appreciate you.  But if you could have heard Paul Krekorian the other day in City Council, you would have been frightened. He expectorated a human being for... coughing.  Be Silent [Not]:  

 

“Student silence and compliance are often more comfortable and comforting for those who are invested in and benefit from the status quo, but it is truly anti-learning..." one education expert said remotely, concerned about retaliation.   

Listening to speakers does not mean ‘giving in to speakers’ or treating speakers as disruptors. Listening to people is a step toward fostering engagement and engendering responsibility. 

If we say we are listening, speakers are more likely to participate and speak. We just have to be ready to absorb some things we might not want to hear, like... coughing. 

That's a wrap: 

The man's loving wife of many years clutched his hand as he lay dying. This was the moment, where you would gaze into one another's eyes, but his eyes were shut,  "I'll see you on the other side," she whispered. 

"Oh, Bullshit," he remarked, opening his eyes one last time before promptly dying.  

A few days later the family was gathered, grieving, writing his obituary, and telling the good stories and a few bad ones too when the doorbell rang and a package arrived.   The widow herself retrieved it, but it was large and heavy so the son tried to help. She insisted on opening it herself and with a large carving knife opened the top of the box. "What could it be?  Chocolate? " one mused.

"No, it's too big and heavy. You don't send twenty pounds of chocolate " one sibling noted.

The son peeled back the bubble wrap... "Omigod, it's Gary!"    

The entire family gasped.  Gary had always wanted to be cremated and released into the sea. All the legalities had been pre-arranged with the Neptune society, we just had no idea that he would be returned so soon after expiration.

"Okay, this calls for a drink." 

"Should we put "him" out on the deck, so he can look at the ocean the way he liked?" a sibling wondered.

"No, put him with his brother." The son shrugged and put the decedent in the closet with his brother Blair who died in 2022.

One story worth repeating was about the widow who was given the dollar-per-word cost to run an obituary and then asked.  What would you like your obituary to say?  

The widow, off-put by how expensive it was to run a long obituary in the newspaper, thought for a moment, then said,  "Meyer died, Cadillac For Sale."

I'll try to keep this one, short.  

Gary Bowen finally called it a wrap on a magnificent life with my adoring mother and it feels appropriate to call out the great team at UCLA and St. Johns and Davita who scanned the DGA Insurance bar code attached to Bowen’s ankle three times a week at the dialysis center as was required, no questions asked.  

Quick question? 

No questions.  

Disclosure: Bowen fantasized about only having to schlepp two times a week to the dialysis center.  The people who drained Gary’s body and replenished it will confirm, it was not an enjoyable process but it is a requirement to go three times a week. 

Question? What if you do better and have a higher quality of life with two dialysis sessions, is that--

No questions. 

The driver we hired, Chuck, who would deliver the patient three times a week between home and the center is an incredibly diligent and reliable chap. If he couldn’t make the journey on a particular Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, he would set up a suitable backup plan and Gary loved that Chuck almost always hit his mark.  His obituary is linked here, Www.Gary-Bowen.com 

Gary's main role in life was working as a TV Soap Opera Director on a bunch of daytime serials like "Santa Barbara" or "Young and The Restless" to describe one that is still on the air.   A lot of that work is preparing 85-page daytime drama scripts that typically featured a subset of a large cast in about 22 scenes taped on one day. It's complicated stuff, especially when the factory is producing five episodes a week.   

Sometimes, the Director du jour would be offered extra segments to direct from a different episode that, thanks to the DGA contract, would result in a lucrative segment fee of nearly $1,000. I thought, cha-ching, what a great racket!  

Gary’s director scripts, which at one point I was charged with delivering, contained detailed notes for all the departments from the technical director to the music people, sound effects, the art department, wardrobe, and makeup.  It was a real army of professionals and the Director of the episode was sort of the General for the day.  

"Who's the woman in the back row of the control room barking at people including the Director? Isn't she the general? " 

That's the executive producer, "Yes." 

Let's stipulate that the director of the daily episode is the ... lieutenant or maybe some kind of commander for the day?!  

People imagine that Directors are always out on the set working with beautiful people, which in Bowen's case was kind of true.  He adored Robin Wright and Meg Ryan and A Martinez and Lane Davies.  Most of the work he did was at home preparing the battle plan to direct an episode or two a week.  

This is where you get up early, scribble up a thousand notes... take a nappy wappy and then head off to the Malibu Colony to play tennis with Peter Katz and Rob Reiner until two days later, when you have to drive to Burbank for a production meeting.  

Nice work if you can get it, but the skill level is high. 

After stepping away from the two shows a week grind, Bowen became an international television professor. He was the guy you would send into another country, with a handler like me, capable of communicating with the locals, to impose his views about how you break down a script, direct a scene and create a production plan.  

There were various techniques including losing his temper, that he developed to get out on time, but he also knew when to slow things down and demand more stuff and more time to mine it.  

He was a Lieutenant in the honorable and fading war of daytime drama.  

In the mid-eighties, I moved from NY and took a job at:  "Santa Barbara" Studio 11, NBC  3000 West Alameda, Burbank, CA 91523.  

As the 'photocopying specialist' I'd get lunch for the writers at Chadney's, the red patent-leather lounge across Alameda with guys who looked like Freddy de Cordova at the bar. It was Freddy de Cordova! 

Before moving to Studio City, I remember having breakfast next to Johnny Carson at the Malibu diner. We talked about the commute we shared to NBC Burbank. Carson drove a fancy white Corvette, off-peak.  I drove a Jalopy during rush hour. 

Ten years later I got my first job as a writer on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno".   

Here's hoping that the future of "Lovely Downtown Burbank" is as bright as the many vivid memories.  #WGAStrong 

 "You do, you assholes" TM

The daily taping schedule sometimes called the running order would be generated by a non-DGA production manager and once she had a copy of the Director’s script and an accurate list of sets that would be ready, she would assemble and publish the taping schedule.    The Director's job along with the DGA team comprised of an Associate Director (AD)  and typically two stage managers, was to make that schedule or "make the day." 

Of course, doing high-quality work takes time and there are plenty of obstacles and union-required five-minute breaks.

Running up overtime is discouraged and the preferred marinade for Hollywood hopefuls is fear and the belief that if they don't do things fast enough, they're replaceable.  

Those who fear being replaced the most, are often the hardest ones to replace.  

The studios and streamers are setting themselves up for a doozy whopper. It's early so they feel, "Who needs Scripts?" 

 "You do, you assholes" TM

 

Quality content is the only commodity when there is too much junk. Studios and Streamers are in big big trouble. You'll see!  

Dress for Success: 

Bowen taught me the importance of dressing for the part... when I arrived in 1985 he took me to Chanin’s, a state-of-the-art fashion jeans store in Westwood, created by Los Angeles retailer Marvin Chanin, whose chain of fashion boutiques that in his heyday, served Mods, UCLA students, pro athletes and eventually, moi. 

I looked like a little producer, even though I was the mail room kid, and somehow I became a little producer.  

Gary once told me Chanin treated his business relationships like friends and his friends like family. 

We all agreed, "The harder you work, the luckier you get." 

I had the good fortune to meet the "miracle" man while working as a production consultant for SONY International Television on the first Russian language telenovela that originally aired in the Russian Federation and Ukraine in 2003-2004. The story of "Bednaya Nastya"(Poor Anastasia) is set in the 19th century and featured 127 forty-minute dramatic episodes comprised of multiple genres including historical romance and detective drama, and even comedy. 

My assignment was to share the USA production methods with our Russian partners, specifically how to grind out high-quality tv soap opera programming at the blinding pace of an hour a day. We worked off of a very good book, which was called a bible, written by head writer of stateside soap operas. 

The local TV professionals working at Mosfilm, a central studio complex in Moscow, were more accustomed to producing gorgeous eight-hour miniseries over the course of two years, than soap operas.   

I was the annoying American insisting on doing good work "while moving more quickly."  It was a massive challenge, yet working together the show achieved international success and was shown in China, Israel, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Greece, Bulgaria, and more than twenty countries worldwide.  

Moscow was booming in 2003 and as the first man on the ground for SONY to establish a pre-production and production plan, I was charged with bringing in various consultants to assist me as I demonstrated how to effectively cut corners while producing Emmy award-winning drama. 

I insisted that my team of experts, which included the Director, Gary Bowen, an art director and lighting consultant, and even a boom operator, all be housed with me at The Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow, a world-class, residential-style hotel designed for the discerning traveler.  

SONY wanted to stick my consultants in a lower-cost, less frilly hotel but given my central role as head diplomat during the tense startup period, they had no choice.  

The Ararat Hotel which gives off strong "Lost In Translation" vibes is superbly located in the heart of Moscow, adjacent to the Bolshoi Theatre and only five minutes walk from the Kremlin, Red Square, and the central business district.   

One night during the pre-production period, we were celebrating in one of the consultant's hotel rooms as part of the team heading back to the States. 

I rode the elevator up to my room near the top of the hotel to load up on supplies. As a long-time guest, I'd grown friendly with the hotel staff including the waiters, doormen, and the elegant men and women working the reception desk.  As I stepped back onto the VIP elevator with a bottle of whiskey under one arm and a bottle of wine under the other, I took note of the three occupants: A large bodyguard in a raincoat, an elegant fifty-something-year-old woman translator, and Mikhail Gorbachev.   

I was a little tipsy so immediately introduced myself as the SONY guy working at Mosfilm Studios, dropping names as fast as I could. Gushing about how cool it was to meet him and how pleased we were to be helping launch the first-ever Russian language telenovela. [Disclosure: I do not speak Russian but worked with a translator who went on to become a successful producer in her own right.] 

The elevator doors opened on the floor where we had been congregating but I opted to continue shmoozing with Gorbachev and allowed them to close.  It seemed to me an alternate reality and we were having an interesting discussion. 

As the doors opened onto the beautiful lobby the bodyguard exited first and glanced around before our oddball little trio emerged. Gorbachev's presence electrified the lobby, and there I was chatting with him as my comrades and friends looked on slack-jawed.

After a moment that seemed like a miraculous eternity, it was time to say "Do svidaniya."  

The charming doorman with whom I joked daily while waiting for my driver was in disbelief, eyes widening. The receptionist behind the desk had to stifle their giggles as I conducted the most over-the-top goodbye imaginable. Bowing and gesticulating as if we were in a Saturday Night Live sketch, I embraced Mikhail Gorbachev.  

His bodyguard winced, but Gorbachev hugged me right back.  

Award Season:

Proud that "All Hail Primo Villanueva"  was recognized as a finalist in Sports Commentary and proud that alongside, Randy Kuzaszak, our Editorial Cartoon, "Step out of the Canoe" was recognized as well.  So Cal Journalism Awards are coming June 25th.  

 

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions expressed by Eric Preven are solely his and not the opinions of CityWatch)