Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A day on the Warner Brothers lot

My partner, David and I went to Warner Brothers yesterday to help punch-up a friend’s pilot. Judging by the nine-story-high billboards, I guess they tape Conan there. We were directed to a large parking structure across the street. That’s when you know your career is in the dumper – when they don’t give you a drive-on. When you’re assigned the lot reserved for audience members of ELLEN. Forget that we weren’t in a lot with all those fancy Porsches and BMW’s. We were the only car in the whole structure that had California plates.

I felt bad for the ELLEN audience. There they were in this confusing Byzantine parking structure, SUV’s coming at them from every direction. They had no idea where they were going. Was it really worth it to see Ellen interview 12-year-old basketball prodigy Jordan McCabe?

We crossed the street along with three people in clown outfits. At least they all came in one car. We next had to go through a TSA-like security check. There was a time that Warner Brothers practically seduced us to come to work for them. Now we’re considered potential terrorists.

We had to show our ID, and the guard (a very nice woman, by the way), compared my driver’s license photo to my actual face. I thought to myself, what happens when the clowns go through?

Once on the lot, we soaked up the Hollywood vibes. Every soundstage has a plaque listing what productions were filmed on that stage. So on one you might see CASABLANCA, THE JAZZ SINGER, $#’! MY DAD SAYS.

The first time David and I were ever on the Warners lot, we were like an hour early for a meeting. We were just starting out in the business. I think we had sold one script. And we were still given a drive-on. But I digress. We killed the hour by just walking around the lot. Standing by one stage door, in full costume, was John Wayne smoking a cigarette. He was making his last movie, THE SHOOTIST. He spotted us and said, “How’s it going, boys?” We were completely tongue-tied. “Uh…gr-gr-great, Duke”. We moved on and thought to ourselves, “Wow, we have ARRIVED!”

Today I think I saw that Asian guy from THE MENTALIST who talks like Jack Webb. But I can’t be sure. He could have also just been another maintenance guy on his way to hanging the seventh giant Conan poster.

We found our building, a charming older structure with a tile roof, and headed upstairs to the conference room to work. I always wonder -- what classic shows down through the years have been rewritten in this very room? Was 77 SUNSET STRIP created here? Or MURPHY BROWN? Or THE OBLONGS?

I have to say, there are few things as much fun as sitting around a room with incredibly funny people. So many laughs. I just feel bad that none of them got into the script.

Styrofoam lunch from the fabulous Warner Brothers commissary is a must. I was feeling nostalgic so I picked the entrée that traveled the worst – their world famous “homemade” chicken pot pie.

I knew it would come back cold, but I had no idea the presentation would be so, uh… unique. The goopy contents of the chicken pie were in the main compartment and a biscuit sat in one of the others. This was a homemade chicken pot pie? Where was the pot and the pie part? Good luck to the guys from THE BIG BANG THEORY who get to order here every day.

After five hours of everyone sharing their latest brain aneurism and Holland Taylor stories, we finished the polish. I hope the people coming in tomorrow are better.

On the way out I passed the stage where I directed EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND. “God, I miss this!” I said wistfully. David reassured me that I’d direct another show. “No,” I said, “My parking space.”

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