The Detour

Hometown USA 1990-1992

Short version: I worked in the film industry for three years.

Long version: From my humble beginnings making Korean props for a failed movie, I moved on to set construction for local commercials and small productions. I got a "break" from a local Prop Master I met who hired me as the Prop Buyer for a TV series (it ain't what you know, it's who you know). The Buyer role was pretty fun, and it paid a flat $150/day. I was getting paid to drive around and spend someone else's money on stuff we needed for the show. Shooting schedules on a TV series are tight so I had license to throw money at something if I thought we really needed it.

Example: We were to shoot a scene that called for homing pigeons to fly off and the actor had to hold some sort of tracking device. I made a black box with flashing red LEDs from parts I bought at Radio Shack. I also ended up hiring a Falconer for the day, including his equipment and expertise. He didn't want to do it, but I kept offering him more money until he finally agreed. The scene looked realistic, and we even put the Falconer in the shot for a brief moment. Everybody was happy.

That series got cancelled after a mere 8 episodes. From there I moved on to other productions where I worked in the Prop or Art Departments. I was 2nd Assistant Props on a 12 episode TV series, same position on a TV Movie of the Week, Assistant Set Decorator on a couple Movies of the Week, 1st Assistant Props on a low budget feature, and myriad roles on countless other commercials and productions. All those jobs paid between $150 and $225 per day. The most money I made per day was as the Greensman on a Chevy Truck commercial.

"Greensman" is a bit of an ironic title for what I did on that shoot because it was the most un-Green thing I've ever done. Al Gore is turning over in grave as we speak. The genius director wanted me to cover up 200 yards of barbed wire fence by attaching plants to it. I rented a 27-foot U-Haul truck and drove around the nearby countryside with a chainsaw just mowing down any kind of vegetation I could get my hands on. It took two days to gather and attach all the greenery I needed, one day to shoot the scene, and one day to break it down and haul it to the landfill. $1,675 dollars later and I needed a serious nap.

The film industry certainly isn't all glamour and glitz. Work days were usually 13-16 hours long with only an 8-hour turnaround guaranteed before they could require me back at work. Add it up and it equals zero social life. There was no time to spend any money so I was saving fairly well even though I was pretty much scholarshipping my mean girlfriend through college (maybe more on her later).

Thanks to Bill Clinton, I spent the majority of 1993 collecting my unemployment benefit and getting a rockin' tan. I firmly believe everyone needs an extended poolside period to get their head right. It worked for me...

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