Saturday, October 29, 2011

Salute to Supernatural - Guy Norman Bee

Guy Norman Bee spoke not once but twice at the Salute to Supernatural convention on Oct. 20 and 22 in Rosemont. He filled in at the last minute for Alona Tal, who cancelled her appearance after getting a TV spot. Bee must have come fresh from the airport. He wheeled his suitcase back behind the curtain before going out on the stage minutes later. True of any veteran director, he wasn't flustered by the sudden and unexpected change in plans. He seemed as cool and unruffled as though that was part of his schedule.

Bee offered an interesting and little-seen side of Supernatural, the production, nuts-and-bolts perspective that is as important as any performance given by the actors. It's the way the director lays out the scene that makes Supernatural look like a movie rather than a TV show. What also struck me is what a down-to-earth person Bee is. After the Q&A, I also saw Bee getting pictures with the fans in front of the Impala poster or just chatting with them.

Fan: Did you plan on getting into horror directing?

BEE: I originally thought I'd be a comedy director. I love comedy movies, such as The Hangover. I thought comedy was my calling, but as I started to work as a director I found horror cool too.

Fan: How did you get into directing?

BEE: At my school there wasn't a directing program. They basically had a camera sitting in a corner and said "Hey, if you can get it to work, feel free to use it." I learned a lot of what I do on the job, just working hard and learning from other directors.

Fan: My daughter wants to be a director? Any advice?

BEE: If she's willing to work hard and she wants it bad enough, the world is her oyster.

Fan: How much time do you have to direct an episode?

BEE: About seven days, sometimes less than that if it's a pilot, which is understandable. The script gets rewritten. They want to make it the best they can, but that gives you less time once it's final and you're ready to shoot. You just do what you can in the time you have. I try to have too much shot than too little when I give it to the editor. Once it gets to the editing room I don't want the editor to say, "That's it? That's all you got?" I try to have at least four cameras for coverage.

Fan: Do you prefer working with film or digital?

BEE: I like digital. It gives you more latitude. What you see is what you get. Back with film you had a viewer that showed you what was going on the film. It was very faint and blurry, like trying to see an image through a glass of milk.

Fan: Do you have any filming tricks you use?

BEE: It's important to mix it up and not use the same ones all the time. Sometimes it's worth laying down 20 feet of track or using steadicam. Sometimes using steadicam saves you time, sometimes it doesn't. You learn the tricks as you go along. One trick I use is called the French Reverse, not to be confused with "The French Mistake" (laughs). Basically you turn the camera 20 degrees and the actors change positions at 20 degrees and it makes it look like a different shot even though you didn't change location.

Fan: Is there an episode on Supernatural you wish you directed?

BEE: "The French Mistake."

Fan: Can you tell us about filming "Hello, Cruel World" and about that shot in the warehouse?

BEE: It was interesting because that day I really didn't know how I was going to shoot that scene. I didn't know what to do for 60% of the scene. When I started shooting then it came to me. It's that improvisation on the job that you have to do.

When I shot the warehouse scene it was in the morning so we had to put black fabric over the windows to block out the light as the scene was supposed to take place near sunset. By the time we shot the scene of Dean arriving in the Impala it was just the right time (sunset) so we lucked out on that.

Sometimes the writers have to change the scene. In Vancouver, we have long summer days and long nights in the winter. Usually it's not a problem. Sometimes we have to film from Friday night into Saturday. We call them "Fraturdays." That's always hard when you see people driving home from work on Friday night smiling and you're going to work.

Fan: What was the goo coming out of the Leviathans?

BEE: That was watered down chocolate icing. My daughter wanted to taste it. If it's sugar she's all for it. (laughs) I drank it first before she tried it. It tasted pretty good. (laughs)

Fan: What's the secret to being a reoccurring director on a show?

BEE: I try to shoot the coverage I need. If I get a day and a half's worth of work for every day with less overtime they'll be more likely to invite you back.

Fan: What was it like working on "Frontierland"? Did you do storyboards for it?

BEE: It was a lot of fun. You don't get to shoot that sort of episode (a Western). I don't do a lot of storyboards. I usually draw stick figures and a bird's eye view just to map out the blocking and camera movement.

Fan: If you're interested in directing, what would you recommend for study?

BEE: I'm a big fan of studying artwork. Also take acting classes even if you don't plan to act. It helps you communicate with your actors if you're using their language.

Fan: Do you prefer filming two actors (like on Supernatural) or a lot of actors?

BEE: Definitely two actors (like "Breakfast at Tiffany's") instead of a room full of actors. It's much more of a pain as you need coverage on the other actors, getting their reactions and you have to remember where they're at in the room. Also dinner scenes are problematic. You have to remember how much liquid was drunk, how much was eaten and keep that continuity.

Fan: Is there a chance you'll be directing a miniseries?

BEE: The problem is there are so few episodes and they usually have the directors lined up in advance, so each director is doing three episodes a piece.

Fan: Did you give Jensen direction in regards to folding Castiel's coat?

BEE: That was Jensen's idea, folding it up like for a fallen soldier. It was awkward because otherwise he (Dean) would just be standing there holding the coat. We had to do different takes and wring the coat out because it weighed a ton with the water.

Fan: What was it like filming mannequins?

BEE: Difficult. You set it up and you think it'll look cool but mannequins don't fall like people do. (Does epic mannequin fall)

Fan: Can you tell us about posting pictures on Twitter and the picture of Jared climbing up the rafter?

BEE: When I started the Twitter account it was crazy because overnight I had all these followers. I usually post non-spoiler pictures, pictures of monitors, the boys in a car. With Jared he just came out of the gym van, which comes with us everywhere. Jared looked at the rafter and said, "I'm going to climb that." Now if you've worked with Jared you know if you tell him not do something he'll do it anyway. I took some "art" shots of him silhouetted against the sky, but knew the fans would say "That could be anybody," so I took that picture.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Salute to Supernatural - Chad Lindberg

Chad Lindberg shines in the spotlight. It's obvious from the moment he steps out on stage he loves the audience and entertaining the fans. There are similarities between Chad and his onscreen persona of Ash.

They are both Dr. Badass.

Before the panel the fan video "Bringing Sexy Back" played on the huge megascreen. The cheering audience was near deafening as Chad came out from behind the curtain. Around his neck was a dogtag pendant given to him by a fan during a private meet-and-greet. The dogtag read "We Want Ash Back." While Chad sported a Ghostbusters baseball cap, what he didn't have was the famous Ash mullet.

(Q & A Paraphrased)

Fan:  So how did you get the role of Ash?

CHAD: When it came my time to audition I ripped off my shirt (makes a big dramatic gesture of yanking an imaginary shirt off). I think there's something about me, a quirkiness, that makes people think I fit into that world.

Fan: What other character would you play if not Ash?

CHAD: I'd only want to play Ash. (fans cheer) I make the mullet sexy. I wanted to reinvent the mullet. I'm like Ash but not computer savvy.

Fan: What weapon would you use in the zombie apocalypse?

CHAD: Oh lightsaber! Definitely! (makes lightsaber sounds and motions like he's holding one)

Fan: Where did you get that Ghostbuster's hat?

CHAD: I got it at ComiCon. I was geeking out there.

Fan: If you played a superhero, who would it be?

CHAD: Batman. As Superman the mullet would be flying around and look stupid. I'd like to play SuperAsh.

Fan: Ever thought of growing your hair out into a mullet?

CHAD: No. (laughs) I don't know how you (referring to women) do it. Hair on your neck itches.

Fan: What was it like working with Samantha Ferris (Ellen Harvelle)?

CHAD: Fun. (laughs) Couldn't pull a lot with her. She's such a spitfire.

Fan: Tell us about the shotgunning the beer in "Dark Side of the Moon."

CHAD: I actually have never done shotgun before. Jensen had to teach me (launches into Jensen's deeper voice and pose) "See, Chad. This is how you do it."

It took me five takes. The beer was running down my neck and into my mullet. Jensen and Jared were laughing as the beer poured everywhere.

Fan: What was the most memorable scene with Jared and Jensen?

CHAD: When I appeared "naked" opening the door. I had to wear a flesh-colored thong. Jared and Jensen were laughing in between takes.

Fan: I hear you watch Ghost Adventures and can you big step like in Ghost Adventures?

CHAD: I do watch it. I hope there's a crossover one day with Ghost Adventures and Supernatural. (Chad tries to big step and when the fan complains he invites her up on the stage and they big step together)

 Fan: Do you believe in ghosts?

CHAD: I do. I've had too many experiences not to. One time my buddies and I were out on the road and we saw this woman in a black evening gown. Being guys we had to look. This is where it got strange. She was picking up something on the side of the road and we couldn't see her face. We tried to get a look at her face but she put her hand up so we couldn't see it. When we went back to see if she was still there she was gone. Normally when it's one person seeing a ghost I'm skeptical but we all saw her.

Fan: What would your Heaven be like?

CHAD: It would include my family and friends, the ones that went before me ... and a Michael Jackson concert ... and flying dinosaurs because you don't see that here.

Fan: Why are your fingernails painted?

CHAD: I think hands are boring. I like something to look at during cons. (shows black nail-polished fingernails)

Fan: What was it like doing the rape scene in "I Spit on Your Grave"?

CHAD: As an actor I like the challenge and sometimes going into that darker area. The movie was a remake of the original "I Spit on Your Grave" which was notorious because of that scene. In between takes I'd (makes retching motion) then I'd go back and we'd do the scene again. At the end of the movie my character dies and you sorta feel sorry for him. My characters die a lot. I'm a good die-er.

Fan: Do you like older women?

CHAD (does a double take and pauses): I love my girlfriend. That's my final answer.

Fan: If you had an elephant in the room where would you hide it?

CHAD: What sort of question is that?! Where would you hide an elephant? Maybe (whistles and hikes his jeans).

Fan: What's your favorite fictional character?

CHAD: ET ... that is a fictional character, right?

Fan: What's your favorite Star Wars character?

CHAD: Han Solo.

Fan: If the characters in Supernatural would be an animal, what would it be?

CHAD: Sam is a moose. Dean is a tiger and Ash is a black panther.

Fan: Do you have any tattoos?

CHAD: I do (pulls up T-shirt sleeve on right bicep). I have a Chinese symbol for "Courage" although I was told later it doesn't mean that. Probably it spells "Dipshit" but I'm okay with that. I also got a breast cancer ribbon (reveals right forearm, the symbol is a black X with a long black line horizonal across the top of the X). All my siblings got it after my mom beat breast cancer. I like it because it looks more tribal and not the usual ribbon.

Fan: What's your favorite drink?

CHAD: Tequila. We'll do shots at karaoke tonight.

Fan: Was Dr. Badass your idea?

CHAD: No. (laughs) It was Kripke's.

Fan: What would Ash sing to himself alone as he dances around the room?

CHAD: "Bringing Sexy Back" or (at an audience member's suggestion) Lady Gaga.

(Chad slouches back in the chair on the stage. A big voice like God booms "CHAD, THIS IS YOUR FATHER. IT'S TIME TO GO."

CHAD (throwing his head back and screams): NOOOOOOOOO!!!!


Supernatural Convention - Rick Worthy

The last time I saw Rick Worthy on Supernatural he was chained to a chair in a prison cell being tortured and reacting as though the electric volts pulsing through his hands and feet were nothing. As the Alpha Vampire he had an imposing and intimidating presence. When Rick Worthy stepped on to the stage from behind the blue curtains he greeted his fans with a smile and relaxed, easy gait that seemed so different from his onscreen persona.

It took me a moment to associate Worthy with the Alpha Vampire in his jeans and skull-and-cross bones T-shirt. Over the weekend I was lucky enough to find out what a cool and fun guy Worthy is in person. When taking the elevator down to the cocktail party to my surprise he was in the elevator standing next to me. As soon as I launched into giddy fangirl mode Worthy lowered his voice in that rich, sexy baritone of the Alpha Vampire:

"Hello. I've been expecting you." 

I smiled while I tried not to spontaneously combust.

Worthy also made a huge effort for the fans over the weekend, showing up for the karaoke party and partying as hard as anyone (including body surfing). I also heard from a fan that he stayed up until 5 a.m. sitting on the floor with fans and chatting after the cocktail party on Saturday night.

(Q&A paraphrased as I was taking pictures rather than having a notepad out)

WORTHY: It was fun playing the Alpha Vampire. He's so cool. (Dropping into deadpan Alpha Vamp mode) "Ouch. You're hurting me. Stop."

Sometimes I like to pretend I'm him when driving.
(Deadpan) You cut me off in traffic. You might want to rethink that.

Fan: Is there a chance your character might come back?

WORTHY: Sera says they might bring the Alpha Vampire back sometime in the future.

Fan: What was it like for you playing a vampire?

WORTHY: Vampires have been done so many times before and probably will continue to be done forever. It was important to have my own take on him. For me playing a vampire was a dream come true. I've played cops and soldiers before, which is cool. My dad is a huge vampire fan and was excited when I got the part. I like real vampires, the scary and dangerous ones, not like the vampires in Twilight (acts all emo and prissy). I'd kick their metrosexual ass.

Fan: What was it like on the set of Supernatural?

WORTHY: Jared and Jensen are the two most humble, nicest people. Jensen told me "On this set there's no room for assholes." When I've been a guest star on some sets you just go and do your job and go home. On one set I was invited after we wrapped for drinks at a pub, but that is rare. It's surreal because I met Jared when he was 16 and now he's a grown man and married.

Jensen and Jared are totally believable as brothers. I'm the younger brother and when my older brother is at home alone we revert to our roles where he takes charge and I'm the younger brother.

Fan: Boxer or briefs?

WORTHY(sly smile): Neither

Fan: Your voice is incredible. Have you ever done Shakespeare? And if so, what part would you play?

WORTHY: I would love to do Hamlet. I actually did Macbeth set in modern day Somalia.

Fan: I think you should play Obama.

WORTHY: Actually I have a friend who does a better impression of Obama. He was even invited to do his impression on Saturday Night Live. Maybe I can do VampBama and invite the GOP over for "dinner."

A fan gives Worthy a bottle of wine during the Q&A Panel

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Supernatural Chicago Convention - Day 1

The last time I went to a fan convention years ago was Xena: Warrior Princess back when it alive and well on the air. That was an overwhelming and fun experience for me. Now, years later I was back for another fan convention at the Salute to Supernatural in Chicago. As I waited in the line I noticed there were several Castiels (some even with wings) waiting to get their gold ticket badges. I also bumped into a Misha "minion," who was wearing a sock puppet monkey hat.

As soon as I got my lanyard and ticket I also decided to buy some additional photo ops, one with Matt Cohen and Richard Spreight Jr. in their 70s digs for the karaoke party later that evening. The other photo op I would get with Misha Collins and Mark Pelligrino for the next day. I then stood in the line leading to the vendors room. Compared to the Xena convention the vendors' room was small and slightly off to the left from the convention hall. While the vendors' room wasn't suited well for a huge influx of fans (like right before the convention started) it had a nice cozy intimate feel once the crowds thinned out.

There was a long table where you could purchase photos for the autograph signing along with more "novelty" tables. One such table had small vials of rock salt pendants and replicas of Mary's hunter bracelet. I'm always one for more unusual items and bought from a vendor who specialized in laser engraving. There was of row of laser etched glasses in Celtic patterns, a rack of shirts with devil's traps or pictures of the Impala along with a display of whiskey flasks. One flask had a Celtic design that read "So you serviced Oberon, King of the Faeries?" and "I'm a Posse Magnet" with an engraving of a pistol and sheriff's badge. I ended up buying a flask with an intricate Devil's Trap etched on the front. Once I bought it I thought, "Hey, now no demons will get in my whiskey." But then I realized the Devil's Trap would keep the demons in the whiskey. I also bought a pendant in the design of Sam and Dean's tattoo which I wore throughout the rest of the con. 

As I took my seat I was amazed by how many of my fellow con-goers traveled a vast distance to attend. Some came as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and Japan. I asked one of my neighbors, Emily, how many fan cons she attended a year. She shrugged nonchalantly and said, "I'm trying to cut back this year. I'll only attend 12."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review of Habibi

Today I got my copy of Craig Thompson's Habibi. My first impression of the book is how gorgeous, intricate and detailed it is. Scrolling and elegant Arabic calligraphy loops and curls across the pages. The story is about two escaped slaves, Dodola and Zam. Dodola provides for them both by prostituting herself to local traveling caravans while they live in an abadoned ship now permanently marooned upon the desert sands.

Dodola tells Zam stories partly in amusement and escapist fantasy. Some tales are about the creation of Eden, the riddles put to Soloman, the magic in letters and numbers, and of the prophet Mohammed and his journey through heaven. These stories along with numerology, symbols and the power of words are interwoven through the story of Dodola and Zam. Eventually Dodola is recaptured by slavers and sold into the golden-cage existence of a sultan's harem. Zam, meanwhile, fights to save her.

Habibi is complex, rich, both beautiful and ugly in the contrast between the myths and the intricate tapestry of images with the horrible realities of slavery. While a graphic novel, Habibi is an adult book with nudity and sexual imagery and definitely not meant for children. I would recommend Habibi to anyone seeking a good story that is beautifully illustrated and well told.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Publish or Perish

Amazon might have brought about the end of store front bookstores such as Borders. Now it might make publishers obsolete.

Who Needs Publishers? article details how Amazon is courting top authors and writers in need of self-publication who previously were locked out of book deals by New York publishers. I should feel bad for the publishers and probably the lost jobs down the road. Publication houses closing, agents losing clients, editors out of work if this trend gains speed.

I'm all for the economy gaining jobs rather than losing them, but I have long been frustrated (as I'm sure many other authors are) of the old gate keeping system that's become more rigid and impossible for new writers or unusual genre fiction to gain any foothold.
The old system could take years if you're a writer. Just getting an agent who thinks your writing is worth his/her time could take even longer (or never happen), but without that agent most fiction automatically goes in the slush pile regardless of its quality.

Yes, there's a lot of crap people write and send that probably shouldn't be published, but Amazon gives these writers a shot not only to self-publish but also bring it to a wide readership. More profits also go the author who did most of the work instead of a long series of middle men.

I'm not hoping for the death of publishing houses, but they need to be more accessible and competitive with Amazon by courting new talent rather than automatically locking the gates on them. If they do this, they risk these authors going to someone who will publish them because they are no longer the only game in town.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Groupon's odd deals

Every morning since I got the Groupon app I check for any deals I might be remotely interested in. Generally I take a pass on the 20 free cupcakes I can get from a bakery (my waist line) or firing up the kiln for a blow glass class (what would I use this skill for?) Today I found a couple of interesting "deals."

Wax your body with chocolate!

This spa will wax you with chocolate, or perhaps it's a chocolate smelling wax? Regardless, will you feel any better as you get the overwhelming urge to munch on your legs while the tantalizing aroma of chocolate wafts around you?

Make your own Clay Beads!

Creating jewelry is fun and creative. Creating your own beads for a necklace sounds cool until you look at the beads. They're clay, which means they'll weigh a ton. They're chunky (okay, some people like chunky) and come in only solid colors (not cool tie dye streaks or faux marble). They also remind me of the plastic beads kids push around on wire toys you find at the doctor's office for some reason.

Kiddie photos

Another photography studio is offering discounts on getting your precious one photographed. Do they guarantee, however, your kid will look as happy as in the sample photo below?

(This is not my kid!)

Meet Namara

Namara is a ragdoll kitten I adopted when she was only 13 weeks old. She was shy at first. When I brought her home she immediately curled up in a ball behind my shoes and was very frightened. After a few days with a lot of treats and cuddling she realized things weren't so bad. After four days of being in a "safe room" she wanted to get out and explore. When she first met Stella, my tuxedo cat, there was plenty of hissing and swatting. In less than a week, however, she also charmed her way into Stella's heart and became her adopted kitten as well.

So is a ragdoll cat that much different from a domestic cat?

She likes to play fetch and will follow you from room to room to the point of almost tripping you. She will cuddle on occassion but doesn't like being held nor does she go limp as the breed usually is famed for (hence the ragdoll name). But she is sweet as she is mischievous. Often she tries to eat things she has no business trying to consume, such as packing foam (today), a ball of yarn (last month) or a spider she found in the bathtub (one week ago).

When we first brought her home

Here she is helping me ship off a package

Sunday, October 16, 2011

How Civilization ruined my life

It's not civilization with a small c but Civilization the game, especially Civilization V that eats up my time and transforms me from a healthy, well adjusted person into a turn-obsessed glassy-eyed zombie staring at the screen for hours while I try to conquer the world.

My nasty obsession with Civilization - the first one with crappy blocky graphics that randomly froze in the middle of battles - began in high school. I would play several turns where I'd annihilate a rival civilization and then run to class to take my final exams.

Now I play Civilization V, which isn't a great game but as addicting perhaps as World of Warcraft. It can be very cathartic to drop the A-bomb on an annoying rival civilization if you've had a bad day at work. The downside? You've just blown 4 hours playing the game straight. Will this stop me from playing? Hell no! I still need to kick Napoleon's ass.

Creepy George Washington WANTS YOU!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Message in a Wooden Bottle

Sometimes the right decor can make the room. Some just stare at you with creepy taxidermy eyes or make you feel you've been sent to the crappy side room at Red Lobster complete with fishing nets, hooks and oversized plastic trout hanging from the walls

Today at Target I saw an item that screamed Decor Fail - a couple of chunky and heavy bottles that looked like they were carved from not the prettiest log in the lumber yard.

What exactly can you do with these log flasks except put them next to the carved wooden mushrooms you also bought at Target (in the background behind them)?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pearl foolishness

While in Las Vegas I visited The Pearl Factory several times mostly in the obsessive quest to finding even a better pearl than the last one. It was gambling with mollusks instead of slot machines. At least I always got a payout.
I ended up with some nice pearls - one of which was a gorgeous 8mm gold pearl which I ended up getting set in a pretty swirly setting. But this left me with a problem. At the end of the trip I had to set 3 loose pearls I cracked open. I also learned that unless you want to pay overprice for a setting at Pearl Factory just set it yourself for a few bucks.
The settings I got off of ebay. The last pic is a ring setting in 10k one lady sold to me for $35 because the original pearl has fallen off of it. I think the results turned out nicely. ;)

New blog, new motivation

Here's to hoping starting a blog will give me the necessary kick in the butt to write and share what I write instead of keeping it locked up in the proverbial desk drawer. On Livejournal I don't post a lot of my original fiction as that's more a venue for fanfiction and obviously Facebook and Twitter are not the places to be sharing writing as well. This also gives me a chance to hopefully get more a sounding board on what I write and do a little self publication. I also will share my own observations and the odd creative endeavor if it doesn't fit anywhere else. ;)