Friday, July 17, 2015

There Used to be a Ballpark Here

As a baseball fan, I'm continually fascinated by the sites of old Major League Baseball stadiums (Stadia? Okay, let's go "stadia."). I'm also pretty much continually saddened. Somewhere in the impractical part of my brain, I feel there should be a freakin' museum on the sites of our old Baker Bowls and Eclipse Parks and Crosley Fields, because hot dammit, Pete Browning or Wahoo Sam Crawford or Smokey Joe Wood used to play there, and that's scared freakin' ground as a result.

The result is we sometimes get a plaque in the middle of what is now a Lowe's Home Improvement or a shopping mall. C'est la vie, eh?

But hey—there are some nice monuments, and even though the capitalists might not find the ground sacred, you still can. Put in your worship at some of these sites, courtesy Berkshire Hathaway Travel.

Jim McLauchlin

photo: Cullen Stapleton

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Marvel Comics, $4 billion. Best deal ever?





How much is Marvel Comics worth? Disney paid $4 billion for it. Good deal? Bad? Indifferent? And what's EBITDA?

Find out at the mighty Newsarama.com, son!

Jim McLauchlin

Stan Lee on the Supreme Court and Spidey


June 22, 2015 was a busy day for Stan Lee. He was mentioned as part of a Supreme Court decision (!) and weighed in on how he thinks Spider-Man should be depicted in movies in light of documents revealed in the Sony hack. Read ’em both at Newsarama.com.

Jim McLauchlin

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Back in the day, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back



For some crazy reason, I often get asked about the odd time I had a two-line part (TWO LINES, DAMMIT!) in a movie. That movie was 2001's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

I was chummy with writer/director Kevin Smith, and Kevin often creates small roles for chums, so he offered me one and I jumped on it. I was also working for Wizard magazine at the time, so I turned the whole experience into a feature for said mag. Below, the text from that feature.

Upon reflection, the whole experience was a lot of fun, and I learned a LOT as well. I hope you have fun, and learn as well. Enjoy!


Wizard #120

TITLE: I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP, MR. SMITH
Sub: Free food! Kissing monkeys! Matt Damon! It’s all part of the deal when you’re an extra in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”

by Jim McLauchlin

Movies are big business. But to Kevin Smith, they’re also a friendly business.
Take a look at previous Smith written-and-directed flicks: “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy,” “Dogma,” whatever. Childhood buddies such as Walter Flanagan and Bryan Johnson always have bit parts. Even big names like Ben Affleck and Chris Rock keep coming back to the well, ’cause they’ve become Smith’s pals. The set of a Kevin Smith movie seems less a place of business, and more a family reunion.
The reunion this time is “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” Smith’s fifth movie and the last chapter in his “View Askewniverse” series of films. And this time around, one of Smith’s chummy little buddies getting in on the gravy train is…yours truly, Jim McLauchlin, boy journalist.
Smith invited me to tackle a whopping two lines in his new flick. He musta figured that was a workload even I could handle. He might have also been thinking that such a ploy would get him four pages in Wizard. But that’s neither here nor there.
So tag along. We’ll take you into the star trailers and behind the curtain to tear the cover off the seedy, steamy business that is a big Hollywood production. Cookies will be served. I promise.

TUESDAY, FEBURARY 20
6:49 AM
I show up the day before they’re going to shoot my scene. Yes, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck will also be in it, but it’s my scene, okay?
Today’s action takes place in a former garage converted into an advertising studio. The studio is the workplace of Holden McNeil (played by Affleck), the comic artist from “Chasing Amy.” The walls are covered with framed “Holden” art, actually drawn by X-Force’s Mike Allred. The art usually hangs in Kevin Smith’s comic store in New Jersey, but Smith had it shipped here for this scene.

6:53 AM
I see Smith for the first time this morning, decked out in “Silent Bob” regalia—long coat and all—and he greets me with a hearty handshake. Almost as quickly, he apologizes that he can’t chat—some late-arriving props are so late, they’re jeopardizing today’s shoot. “It’s a lot of chicken-with-the-head-cut-off stuff,” Smith says. “Always is.”

7:01 AM
Okay, Kevin takes a few seconds to introduce me to Ben Affleck. He’s tall. Like 6-foot-4 tall. We slug down coffee at the massive free food tent, and Affleck pours through it like a college student. He says he’s filming two other movies simultaneously, and will only be in L.A. for three days. He read his lines for the first time on the plane ride in this morning. Still, he’s smiling, even though he’s a little disappointed that they’ve run out of strawberry jam for his bagel.
Whiny little pretty-boy actor.

7:30 AM
Jason Mewes (“Jay,” duh) and Affleck do a “walk through” of their first scene, roughing out how they’re going to deliver the lines. Mewes has the lines memorized, but Affleck reads from the script. Smith stands one foot away, smoking a cigarette the entire time. This must be some sort of California workplace violation. Where are the occupational safety and hazard police when ya need ’em?

7:36 AM
Scene one, take one. Despite the fact that he just learned the lines, Affleck delivers. And Mewes is a machine. He never misses a line. Some scenes are done in one take. Others, even though they look perfect, are filmed several times so there are multiples to choose from in editing. A simple Mewes saying, “C’mon, Silent Bob—We’re going to Hollywood” takes three tries, with Mewes using a different tone of voice each time.

12:36 PM
As we break for lunch, Kevin tells me why I had to show up today: I’ve got to be fitted by Wardrobe. One of the production assistants (let’s just call ’em “PAs”) hustles me around the corner to the wardrobe trailer—a literal semi trailer they can haul to any location with everyone’s costume, and a ton of extra stuff. It’s a rummage sale on wheels.

12:49 PM
I meet Annie Miller, set costumer. She tells me I’m fine from the waist down (lots of women have told me that), but picks out a new shirt for me to wear tomorrow. We make small talk, and shockingly discover that we worked at the same Target store in Saint Paul, Minn. back in high school.
Small world.

2:41 PM
I take off. Smith tells me that things have been going well today. There are 18 “setups” to be done. Some will be on camera only 10 seconds, but all 18 have to get done. The shooting day lasts ’til about 6 PM.

WEDNESDAY, FEBURARY 21
6:45 AM
The big day! Today’s shoot takes place on the CBS Studios lot, where the bulk of the movie is filmed. A variety of TV shows are also filmed here, everything from “Titus” to “Spin City” to “Will and Grace.” I put my car in Charlie Sheen’s parking place for about 10 minutes. Just for fun.

6:55 AM
I report to “base camp,” located on the North parking lot. This is where they’ve parked the wardrobe trailer, makeup trailer, and all the private trailers for the big-name talent. Passenger vans will haul everyone, about a dozen at a time, to Stage 14, where today’s shooting will take place.
I hop in line at the wardrobe trailer to pick up my shirt, with about 20 extras ahead of me. The line moves slowly, so when I see Casey Mako, one of the assistant directors I met yesterday, I wave “hello” at her. She comes running over to me in a blind panic.
“What the hell are you doing here?” she demands.
“Uh…waiting to get my shirt,” I say sheepishly. “This is the wardrobe trailer, right?”
“Yeah, but your shirt isn’t here.”
“Then where is it?’
“It’s in your trailer,” she says.
Oh.

6:59 AM
My own trailer! Cool! I feel just like Mr. T or something!
Casey leads me to my trailer (the farthest one away, of course, as everything in the movie biz has its hierarchy), and I strut to the door. My name is spelled wrong, but I’ll raise hell about that later.
The trailer comes loaded with a comfy couch, TV, VCR, mini-fridge, and my own bathroom and shower! There’s also a bouquet of flowers (what do they take me for?), and an assortment of pastries and fruit juices. Sure enough, hanging in the closet, is my trusty gray rugby shirt—The shirt I’ll use to play…“Clapper/Loader!”
(The clapper/loader, for those of you scoring at home, is the guy who claps the slate with the scene number and take just before the action starts. He also loads the film in the camera. Hence, “clapper/loader.”)
My copy of the script is also there. We’re “shooting” a fictional movie in my scene, and I get to call out, in the mighty clapper/loader manner, what’s going on:
“Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season!”
“Scene 16, take five!”
Yes, that’s two lines, not one. At least as I count them.

7:10 AM
Casey tells me to report to the makeup/hair trailer after I get changed. I do, and thick googobs of brownish makeup stuff is applied to my mug. I’m told it keeps my face from “shining.” Hair takes about 30 seconds, as I’m slowly going bald.
After that: Photo time! Someone from the wardrobe department takes a Polaroid of my body, followed by someone from makeup taking a Polaroid of my face. Just in case they need to re-shoot the scene, they need an easy-to-find record of exactly what I looked like.

7:25 AM
I step outside the trailer, and Kevin is relaxing in his golf cart (which he uses to tool around the studio) munching a breakfast burrito—eggs, cheese and bacon in a foil-wrapped tortilla. It’s damn tasty! I remark how I sure would like one, and ask him to point me to the food trailer. Kevin whips out a walkie-talkie and says I don’t have to get it myself. “Somebody will bring you one,” he says as he calls in the order. “Today, you’re talent.”
Kevin also tells me that I shouldn’t use lame-ass terms like “food trailer.” On a movie set, food is dispensed by “craft services.”

8:15 AM
I tool over to Stage 14 with Kevin in the golf cart. Green Arrow #1 will hit in one week, and Kevin shows me a preview copy DC has sent him. It’s a bit rainy, and as we splash through a puddle, Kevin gets all geeky. “Don’t let it get wet! Here! Put it in this bag!” he screams.
We enter the stage, and I hungrily eye the craft services room. There is enough food here to feed the Chinese army.

8:25 AM
Kevin introduces me to Matt Damon. He’s short. Like 5-foot-8 short. But he’s resplendent in a brown T-shirt, a la Will Hunting. We do a walk-through of the scene in a prefect replica of the bar from “Good Will Hunting.” Tim Bird, the first assistant director, tells me the most important thing I have to do is run off camera after I deliver my lines and go stand in the corner.
Damn pretty-boy Damon wants to steal my face time.

8:39 AM
Gotta get the method to be a method actor, right? They introduce me to the real clapper/loader, who shows me how to clap the slate. “I do it like this, one handed,” he says, demonstrating. After I try it a couple times, he offers some sage advice: “You’d better use two hands.”

9:38 AM
There’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” on a movie set. I watch as some Jay and Bob solo scenes are shot. Funny note: Right before the camera rolls on each scene, Smith and Mewes face each other and groom each other’s hair so it looks just right. They look kinda like monkeys picking nits. But it works.

10:10 AM
Property Mistress Lisa De Alva keeps the all-important props in a locked chest, just so nothing gets lost. I steal a peek when she cracks it open. Also kept under lock and key? 18 packs of smokes, and a jumbo-sized container of “Tums.” Really.

10:49 AM
Kevin’s wife Jennifer Smith, who plays “Missy” in the flick but has no scenes today, swings by. Kevin greets her with a kiss, and they actually hold hands as they go to craft services. A 5-minute break is called.

10:50 AM
EVERYONE smokes! I swear, everyone—Smith, Damon, Affleck, the dolly grips, the gaffers, the best boys. Geez, it’s like a Marlboro ad in here.

10:54 AM
Another walk-through for a new scene. Matt Damon is only in for two days, and he and Affleck can’t stop playing around. When Damon adds a few lines to the script, Affleck yells out in mock anger: “Nice acting, Matt, really nice acting! Just go ahead and throw your own lines in there. Don’t be shy. Gotta get more lines than me, huh? Where’s my damn agent?”

11:55 AM
More cronies arrive: Mark Steven Johnson, the writer and director of the upcoming “Daredevil” movie, swings by. Kevin has a bit part for him in a couple days. Kevin introduces me to Mark, and I remark that my only prior experience with movie-making was swearing at the guys blocking traffic when they filmed “Grumpier Old Men” three blocks from my old house in Saint Paul. Mark says that he directed “Grumpier Old Men,” and he occasionally had to put up with idiots swearing at them during the movie. He also says that he thought my voice sounded familiar.
Small world.

1:31 PM
We’re rollin’! Damon and Affleck are mowing through their scenes and still having the time of their life. They can’t take anything seriously, and add tons of ad-libbed dialogue to the performance. The “Lion face! RRAGH! Lemon face! Whooo!” (Trust me—You’ll love it when you see the movie) is all improvised. It’s not in the script—It’s just two friends having fun. I stand in the background and wonder if there’s an Oscar for “Best Supporting Clapper/Loader.”
After each take, we all run back to “video village.” Each scene is videotaped simultaneously as it’s filmed for immediate playback, and about a dozen director’s chairs are set up around the small TV monitor to watch the replay. The monitor even has thick black strips of tape on at the top and bottom for that “letterbox” format.
Everyone cracks up at lion face/lemon face. Smith makes a snap judgment, squinting tears of laughter from the corners of his eyes. “It’s in,” he says, barely able to talk through the laughter. “That’s funny s---. That’s the good stuff.”

2:05 PM
Matt Damon approaches me while I’m sipping some java on a 5-minute break. “Hey, man. Where’d you score the coffee?” he asks.
“It’s over there,” I say, pointing a finger toward a door, “in craft services.”
He seems impressed by my deft use of the trade term.

3:29 PM
Showtime! We finally get to the part where I say my lines. Stupid as it sounds, I’m nervous as hell. What if I screw up? Will it ruin the scene? Will it cost a million dollars if they have to do another take? I run up to my mark on the floor and proudly proclaim, “Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season! Scene five, take 16!”

3:29 PM and 10 seconds
Tim Bird yells, “Cut!” The script supervisor gently but firmly reminds me it’s supposed to be “Scene 16, take five!”
Oh.

3:30 PM
We do three more takes. I nail ’em all. I only screwed up the one—honest. Damon pats me on the back. “Good goin’ man,” he says. “If you were a couple inches taller, you could take Ben’s place.” Affleck is noticeably out of earshot.

4:27 PM
I’ve still gotta be in the background of another scene. And this is 10 times as scary as saying two stupid lines.
Ben Affleck has to fire a shotgun…pointed just where I have to be standing. Movies being movies, things have to look as real as possible, so this is a real, FULLY FUNCTIONAL, double-barreled shotgun. Lisa De Alva runs in before each take and opens the gun, shining a flashlight down both barrels to show everyone that it’s not loaded. She’s very dutiful, and they’re all damn careful. Still, I’m sure they were this careful on “The Crow,” too, and look what unfortunately happened there.
We go through four takes. I’m sweating bullets each time. Hey, you try staring down two barrels of a shotgun. Makes me wish I could been “Man on Barstool #2” instead of “Clapper/Loader.”

5:15 PM
I’m done with the big stuff. The crew was amazing. Any time I wasn’t sure where to stand or when to spout my lines, someone was there to help. At any time, it felt like there were three people employed to do nothing more than make me feel good. I’m told repeatedly after the day is done, “You were great!” They even sound like they mean it.
Aw, shucks.

THURSDAY, FEBURARY 22
7:53 AM
Movie extras are smart. Smarter than me. They come with massive-ass backpacks, overflowing with bottled water, magazines, and occasional hardcover books. Why?
Well, Day Two of “Good Will Hunting 2” is what’s called “coverage.” Ever see that background crap that establishes a scene for five seconds before the main actors start talking? That’s coverage. So all we peon extras have to set the scene and establish that yes, this is a bar…about a billion times. We walk back and forth. We pretend we’re talking. Fake waitresses carry fake drinks. “Coverage” is shot 53 different ways from four different angles. Only certain extras are needed at certain times, so the rest pull up some floor space out of the way, sit down and catch up on their reading. It’s a lot like jury duty, or waiting at the DMV. Only with unlimited free food.
I crash out on an unused film dolly and take an hour-long nap. No one notices. Literally.

9:02 AM
I wander over to craft services and munch on a chocolate cookie filled with coconut. It’s soooo good, I stuff two more in my pocket to take home. No one seems to notice.

10:19 AM
Yes, Virginia, even the big stars have to hang around for coverage. Jason Mewes and Ben Affleck make the most of it: They spend most the time hitting and play-wrestling with each other. They seem to be having a pretty good time of it.

10:53 AM
Walk back and forth…have a fake, lip-synched conversation…walk back and forth…

11:29 AM
I step out to take a leak. Like I said, a lot of TV shows are filmed at this studio. I turn down a hall and find a bathroom labeled “Two Guys and a Girl.” It does not live up to its billing.

1:33 PM
Walk back and forth…have a fake, lip-synched conversation…walk back and forth…

3:17 PM
I spy a Polaroid someone took of Mewes while he was napping on a cushion. One of his hands is lying right in his crotch. The caption someone’s wrote in? “Jason finds inner piece.” It is to laugh.

5:22 PM
Harley Quinn Smith, Kevin’s 2-year-old daughter, swings by. Actually, she’s carried by Kevin’s personal assistant (and mother-in-law!) Gail Stanley. Harley’s trying to gnaw on a bagel that looks about three sizes too big for her. Kevin’s eyes light up when he sees her, and we all take five minutes. Smith really seems to enjoy this fatherhood thing.

6:11 PM
Walk back and forth…have a fake, lip-synched conversation…walk back and forth…

6:44 PM
That’s a wrap! My duties done, they send me to the base camp office trailer where I have to sign about 112 standard releases allowing them to use my image in everything from theater trailers to movie posters in Paraguay to drink cups at Burger King if it ever gets to that. One of the PAs hands me a plain manila folder, and upon opening it, I realize…they gave me Ben Affleck’s folder.
I start poring over the paperwork and just before I get to the part where I find out how much Big Ben got paid…another PA yanks it away from me. “I think this is the wrong folder,” she says sweetly. “Here’s yours.”
Curses! Foiled again! At least she doesn’t know about the two cookies in my pocket.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Yes, 57 days is a mighty long road trip

We all know minor league baseball road trips can be grueling. But a 57-day road trip? That's insane!

Find out how Adam Weisenburger of the Biloxi Shuckers copes with it all at the mighty Berkshire Hathaway Travel Blog.

Jim McLauchlin

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Is fun finally okay at DC Comics?


Lots of new things are happening at DC Comics in June. The order of the day used to be that everything had to be a "Crisis," but has that wall cracked? Dan Jurgens tells you (and tells you about the new Bat-Mite series) at Newsarama.com.

Jim McLauchlin

Friday, March 13, 2015

Crunching Comic Cons



No lie: Comic book conventions are now MAJOR travel destinations, and running into the same ticket, timing, and hotel problems you might find at Coachalla, SXSW, or Sundance. Read all about it at the mighty Newsarama.com

Jim McLauchlin

photo: Zach Pennington