8 for Vegas – Season 2 – Episode 1

Before you read, please watch Episode 1 of Season 2 of 8 for Vegas:

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

I’m sitting in Argo Tea, around the corner from Society Billiards, having blown up my last…

Well, we’ll get to that. That’s an episode 2 surprise.

The first season of 8 for Vegas was a lot of fun. I got to hang out with a bunch of great people over last summer, and I learned a lot about production, directing, editing, and shooting.

This season, I learned a lot about being a producer.

In March of this year I had a fundraiser on indiegogo. It went reasonably well. We got a lot of donations from both fans and APA players in NYC. Julie and I were both pleasantly surprised. It showed us that, besides not having huge numbers of views on our series, it had spoken to some people… enough that they were kind to donate money.

One of the things I struggled with, first time around, was that since this was about pool, I originally thought actual games were going to play a more important role than a lot of the comedy and story. Read this as pandering to our core demographic, pool players. I can tell you the exact moment when I knew that wasn’t the case.

I produced this fundraising video for our first shoot:

The original cut was 9 minutes, and I got a scathing review of it and edited it down to its present size, cutting out almost 2 minutes of pool. Because it was BORING.

The series is about people, plain and simple. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll already know the story of season 1. What started off as a nightmare became one of my favorite things ever.

Season 2 started about the same as season 1, but for many different reasons and, as a producer, I had to make choices that were for the good of the project. This was a theme that would follow Julie and I for the entire 3-month production of season 2. I wrote episodes as we finished shooting episodes, because characters, motivations, and plot points would change with actor’s schedules.

We took on new characters, we cut some of the older ones…

One of the things I found that was exhausting about last season were the amount of characters we had. 8 characters, plus opponents… that’s a lot! So, after some deliberation, Julie and I cut down the team to three core characters. Ian, Walter and Leslie. We felt that these three could hold the attention of the crowd, and… well, I’m not going to ruin it for you. But the season plays out in a funny manner.

Ok, it’s been 10 hours since I started this post… let me tell you about the goddamn day I had.

I woke up this morning, grabbed a shirt from the pile of dirty clothes by my bed… yes, I’m 39 and I still do this… and I got all my things together and well hell. What is that smell?

I know what it is. My cat Doc…

… he’s a pissing and shitting machine. Oh, and eating. And waking me up at 6am to refill his food bowl even though it’s full. I get that look. “Dude, that’s old food. 3 hours, 4 hours, I don’t care, it’s old. Give me fresh food.”

And before you say anything like he’s got a disease or some shit, no. He doesn’t. He’s 13 and he’s a cranky old bastard and if he doesn’t get what he wants he shits somewhere.

And I can smell it. It’s somewhere in the goddamn apartment, but I’m so far behind getting ready I just say I’ll let Karen deal with it…

I get into the cab and I head over to the tea place and I’m writing this blog and what do I smell? Cat shit.

It’s somewhere close. Like in one of my bags or in my sneaker. He’s a clever bastard, it could be anywhere. I’m smelling each of the four bags I have, I’m looking at the bottom of my sneakers and… it’s close, I know it’s…

So I have that moment. Where you find out that thing that’s bothering you, and then the moment’s gone and you become instantly disgusted and furious at the same time.

It was my t-shirt.

So I stand up quick and hit my head on the cast-iron Argo Tea sign that’s suspended from the ceiling. It’s 10:30 and I’m ready to start punching things. A piece of terrible artwork is in front of me and I just want to burn the entire block down.

None of my cast or crew are there, so I do the one thing I can think of. I turn to google to find a place to buy a new shirt. Burlington Coat Factory is down the block, on 6th Avenue and 23rd Street. Now, had I been a slightly more ignorant man, I would think THEY JUST SELL COATS FOR CHRISSAKE.

But no. They sell other clothing, too.

So now I’m pacing. Back and forth, waiting for someone from 8 for Vegas to show up. Finally, my sound and associate producer Jeremy shows up. Thank god. “Jeremy, watch my stuff, be right back.”

I power walk the two avenues, trying to hold my breath. I call Karen and tell her what’s happened. She laughs, finds the poop, and is no longer laughing.

I get to Burlington and I felt like I was in an emergency situation but no one would really care. I really thought that there would be a complete lack of empathy if I said “Mens shirts, where are mens shirts?! I smell like cat shit!”

“Security!”

You never know with retail workers.

I found what I originally took to be a good deal. A khaki short sleeve buttoned down shirt. I paid, forgot to get a plastic bag for the offending t-shirt, and walked back to the tea place to find Ian there. I went into the bathroom, washed my chest down as best I could with tepid water and what felt like granulated soap, used a combination of physics and acrobatics to use the air dryer, and put on the new shirt.

Left the bathroom and there was Julie. “What’s with the shirt? You look like you’re on a safari.”

So I told them. I put the offensive shirt in my bag and everyone kind of collectively gasped. “You’re not throwing that away?”

“I can just put it in the wash… it’s, you know, Karen gave me this shirt. It’s from John Carpenter’s The Thing.”

“Jesus, go wash your hands Indiana…” that was Julie.

I get a hazmat bag from Argo Tea (read as gift bag) and put the offensive shirt in the bag and seal it tight, put it in my bag and wash my hands.

And then we go to shoot.

What a morning. I no longer smelled, we got set up, and had an awesomely productive morning. We got through 4 pages in just over an hour, and then I had some supporting cast members show up for pick-ups of episode 3.

Heather Cambanes, Emily Eden, Chantal Ngwa, and Amber Snider.

Heather and Chantal I worked on Internet Affairs. Emily and I did a short video for the Noel Coward theater company, and Amber and I met while working on The Thing with Marc Palmieri.

They all did wonderfully, and we were thrilled that they showed up with not much notice. Such wonderful women.

The only other hiccup that happened throughout the day was the curse of 8 for Vegas. During season 1, and particularly the fundraising video above… my actors could not shoot pool to save their lives. Whenever they were in need of making a ball, simply shots mind you, they couldn’t do it. And it’s plagued us for over a year.

99% of the time it’s funny. But that 1% makes the shoot frustrating and puts a lot of pressure on the shooter. It’s partially my fault, and I’ll say now that everyone was a trooper today. We got through 9 pages, plus pick-ups… it was very productive.

The day ended and here I am. It’s 9pm and I’m exhausted. We release episode 1 tomorrow (tonight, technically)… and I hope people enjoy it. We all had fun creating it.

Thanks for reading about my day, and some of the things I learned about being a producer.

All the best,

John

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