Alliterator's site visit report
Day One (Thursday Night)
The rain came down in torrents, making the dark concrete sidewalk muddy and dank. Even with my umbrella open, I was wet and cold. I gave the cab driver an okay tip and then waited. The gate was closed; only a small door was open on the right side. I was told to wait here until he showed up to bring me inside. I didn't know what I was expecting. I paced back and forth, the book bag settling uneasily on my back, the contents being two extra shirts, pants, and boxers; one toothbrush and tube of travel toothpaste; a book for reading; and an iPod for listening. I didn't know if I would even use the last two.
Then, suddenly, he was there, walking down the driveway in the rain. He wore white, which was surprising because it was after Labor Day. I entered past the door in the gate and approached him, then stuck out my hand to shake his. "Dr. Patel, I presume," I said.
No, really, I said that. Yes, I am a huge dork.
That was how I first met Polter-Cow face-to-face. I had taken a 5:45 pm Greyhound to San Diego and it had gotten there at about 9 pm. At first, I thought I had missed the entire first day on the set, but no; Polter-Cow called me while I was on the bus and told me that everyone was still there and to just go immediately to the set.
When Polter-Cow brought me in, he told me that everyone was having dinner. Which is probably the best time to show up, since I didn't interrupt any filming and I was totally hungry. I got some chow mein and a water bottle to drink and sat down to meet Wai-Yin (wyk) and Kelley (Spadada). I also mistakenly thought someone was Marc (spacecitymarc), but they kindly corrected me, telling me that Marc had gone back to the motel to write his American Idol report. Then I almost freaked out because sitting at a table across the room were Chris Lowell and Enrico Colantoni, casually eating dinner.
After dinner, the tour began. And it was AWESOME. The rest had obviously already seen everything, but Polter-Cow was happy to show me around all the sets. There was the Mars Investigations set, where I geeked out and asked them to take a picture of me behind the desk holding the phone; the Mars house (where I heard Polter-Cow had previously geeked out and recreated the "Who's at the Door?" scene); the Neptune Sheriff's Office (where I learned Deputy Sacks's first name and, no, I'm not going to tell you — well, maybe); and all the rest. In one of the college classrooms, I saw a banner for something completely hysterical, but I can't tell you what it is, because it would spoil you. Oh, and all over the walls were completely awesome fliers and posters that were awesomely detailed. The set dresser Monique even let us bring some back (though I forgot to take the Ed Argent poster with me).
Then, down to the nitty gritty: filming. The first scene I saw filmed was in the Marses' living room. It had Kristen Bell, Enrico Colanonti, and Chris Lowell. May I just point out that Enrico Colantoni? Funniest human being alive. Chris and Kristen goof off a bit (and Chris loves shaking his crotch), but Enrico? The awesomest.
Nick Marck was directing, and the entire set-up (monitors, chairs, all the other people) was in Keith's bedroom, where they kindly let us have the use of three headphones. People who were particularly nice to us were Iris, the 2nd Assistant Director; Misty, the assistant to Kristen Bell; Nigel, the totally British props assistant; and Lisa, the script supervisor. The scene in the script lasted about six or seven minutes; filming took over an hour. Nick Marck would shoot part of the scene, have the camera moved, then shoot the same part over. This would go on until he figured he covered all the angles he wanted and then moved onto the next part of the scene. A very impressive way to film, but also very time-consuming. Sometimes, between takes, Enrico or Kristen would come out and talk to us. Polter-Cow and I talked to Kristen about Pan's Labyrinth and Guillermo del Toro (where I made the faux pas of saying that I thought The Devil's Backbone was slightly better than Pan's Labyrinth) and Kristen revealed that her boyfriend was making a film with del Toro. She also talked about feet.
Because this went on for a while, Polter-Cow decided to show me the rest of the tour, which entailed going upstairs (on the very stairs that Veronica ran down in "Spit & Eggs," he was kind enough to point out) to see the art department. Unfortunately, Rick Pickett wasn't there, but I was able to see all the various poster designs they made (including one "Keith Mars for Sheriff" banner that had "I won – Lamb" written on it).
Back downstairs, they were busy setting up for a new scene in the prison cell part of the Sheriff's Office. While that was happening, we said goodbye to Chris Lowell, who was leaving since he had no more scenes to shoot. I think, at the point, I was actually too nervous to talk to him yet.
The new scene, however, involved Francis Capra, who was a complete delight. Enrico came out in his sheriff's uniform and said something hilarious that I won't repeat and was generally awesome. Before the scene was shot, we managed to talk a lot to Francis and for about five minutes each with Enrico and Kristen.
Since this new scene was part of a different episode, it had a different director: Jason Bloom. It was interesting to see how his style differed from Nick Mark's. It was still time-consuming though, with this five-minute scene taking over an hour to shoot. By the time it was done, it was 1:30 am.
We said goodbye to Enrico and Kristen. It was at this point that something completely awesometastic happened: Francis Capra invited us to dine with him. We immediately said yes, even though I was completely tired and felt like falling asleep right there.
Though we were going to the Studio Diner, which is almost three feet from the studio, Francis and his friend still had to take their cars there; while Polter-Cow and wyk got to be in Francis's car, Spadada and I sat in his best friend's car and just happened to hear a part of a rap song by Francis.
At the Studio Diner, I ordered water, too nervous to eat anything. I don't exactly remember what Francis ordered, but it was a sandwich of some sort. I'm not going to reveal the details of what he told us, because it was a lot and my memory is really shoddy, but we talked until about 3:30 am. It was at this point that, even talking to Francis freakin' Capra, I was almost falling asleep.
After Francis left, wyk drove us back to the motel, where I was able to check in and, after confirming a wake-up call for 10 am, fell into a deep and fitful sleep.
Day Two (Friday)
Ah, Friday, Friday, Friday. Freya's Day. What a magical day. I woke up at 7 am because apparently going to sleep just three hours before did nothing to deter my enthusiasm. Plus, the bed was uncomfortable. Walking around outside, I came upon a wonderful realization: there was a comic book store right next door to the motel! Okay, this may not be so wonderful to you, dear reader, but it was to me. A trip to the Veronica Mars set and a comic book store in the same day? Serendipity!
Okay, I'll skip that part. And the continental breakfast I had with P-C, marc, spadada, and wyk. Let's just skip ahead to where we all piled into wyk's tiny car and she drove us to San Diego State, where the VM crew were filming on-location scenes for episode 3.19. wyk drove around a bunch of parking lots, finally parked, and then we had to figure out where exactly they were filming. After doing so (with some help from a few signs that said "Hearst"), we finally got to the outdoor scene where Kristen and Francis were filming.
It was pretty cool. (Hey, I used up all my good adjectives in the first half of this report.) I remembered to bring my disposable camera this time, so I was able to take pictures of some of the crew, and when Percy Daggs showed up, I kindly asked if he would pose with me. Of course, that was probably a mistake, since he was currently in the middle of his script, but he was so kind, he said yes and I completely geeked out. During one of the filming breaks, Francis actually came over and talked to us (as well as posing for pictures — yes, the others geeked out as well), revealing that Jason Dohring was actually an alien posing as the perfect human being. (I'm not being sarcastic. He actually said that. Sort of.)
Pretty soon, filming for that scene was over and everyone packed things up and started moving to the next location. I'm not going to tell you what that location was, because that would be spoiling and I wouldn't want to upset Mystery Sock. (If you don't get that joke, you haven't been watching Heroes, so shame on you.)
It took some wandering about aimlessly to find the next shooting location, but find it we did. And then: jackpot! Well, if the jackpot was watching the scene being blocked, lighted, rehearsed, and finally shot. Which it was. It was totally awesome. (See, I told you the adjectives would suck.) This was another scene for 3.18 involving Percy and Kristen and another actor who I am not at liberty to tell you about (okay, I am at liberty, but I'm not gonna).
Let's skip over all the boring stuff and get straight to the juicy parts: after the scene was finished shooting (it takes a long time just to shoot one scene), we were all able to talk to Percy. Marc had made it his mission to get every cast member to sign his sides (the mini-scripts that are passed out to everyone) and, well, now it was everyone else's turn to take a picture with Percy, who was super nice and tolerated all the crazy fans around him.
Then another scene was blocked, lighted, and rehearsed with Kristen and Percy. This one was interesting to watch because during blocking, Kristen and Percy weren't actually there — it was their stand-ins. Who don't look anything like them, but are still cool. (See above, re: adjectives.) Skipping hours later, another scene was filmed with Kristen and a guest star, which was Kristen's last scene on this location.
And then something amazing happening (and no, it has nothing to do with comics): Dan Etheridge, who had been completely and totally awesome to us throughout the visit, pulled us aside and showed us to Kristen Bell. Now, the day before, we had talked with her slightly, in between shooting scenes, but that had been for only a few minutes. Now, we had ten whole minutes with her and let me tell you: she is quite possibly the nicest person I have ever met. And pretty. Anyway, we all talked with her and took our pictures with her and were generally geeked-out fans with her. I can't completely recall what we talked about, mainly because my mind overloaded with the awesome (and I'm sure we have it on tape somewhere).
There was one more scene in this location that had Francis alone. After some amusing comments about his contacts and one funny moment when he realized that he was holding a prop upside-down, the scene was over and it was time to move on to the next location. This was slightly less fun for us, because it took place inside a crowded space, with us outside. However, outside was right where we wanted to be, because we got to meet one of my favorite actors (and here comes a casting spoiler, but I so want to tell you I can't keep it in), Patrick fucking Fischler. Now, I know what you're thinking: who? Okay, you might be thinking something else, like "Do I have any anchovies?" or "Where's a good place to hide a body?" (you don't and a big freezer will do). But let me tell you some of the things that Patrick Fischler has been on: Angel, where he played a creepy conspiracy theory guy; Drive, where he played a creepy guy named Brad; Mulholland Drive, where he played a creepy guy (okay, he plays a lot of creepy guys, but he's still awesome); and Idiocracy, where he dies within the first five minutes.
With a little deft manuevering, Polter-Cow, marc, and I were able to smoothly place ourselves inside the space where they were filming. We had a nice conversation with the director, Jason Bloom, and then I suddenly became narcoleptic. Well, okay, I had been awake since 7 am and it was now 1:30 am, so I was a little tired. But I decided that perhaps staying awake for the entire rest of the shoot wasn't going to be a possibility for me. So we all decided that it was probably time to get back to the motel. I didn't personally witness it, but P-C says that Kristen actually jumped over something to hug him. Of course, he made her a mix CD, so his judgment might be a little clouded, but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt.
And that was the end to our awesome day.