THE SUPER 8 DIARIES: VOL IV “Our neighborhood: Hollywood’s backlot”
August 1, 2011 § 2 Comments
When I was a kid, I was lucky to grow up in my hometown of Santa Monica, California where many of Hollywood’s most popular TV shows and movies of the time were always filming on location somewhere around town. My friends and I actually watched and followed many of these shows that we saw being filmed like “Charlie’s Angels,” “Quincy,” “Barnaby Jones,” “Starsky and Hutch” and “The Rockford Files.”
One of us would see a location shoot and tell the others, and then after school we’d head off to visit the set and even miss dinner to watch the entire production process. Usually the first assistant directors or the gaffers would take us under their wing and say, “okay, kids sit over here for a better view.” They must have figured that after so many hours of us watching that we were really serious about learning, so they helped us out. Our excitement was palpable and our main desire was to see how they actually filmed the shows with plans on watching the episode when it aired to see how it would eventually look on television. We felt privileged to have a “behind the scenes” view of the filmmaking process in our own neighborhood.
I remember one afternoon riding in the backseat of my parent’s car in downtown Santa Monica when suddenly, the “Starsky and Hutch” Gran Torino peels around the corner with stars Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul inside!
It was right out of the movies and I spotted a camera rig attached to the driver’s side and they were filming a chase scene. I hoped that our car might end up in the background of the shot, but later I saw the episode and we never did.
I also fondly remember a location shoot just up the block from my house of the hottest new show on television at the time “Charlie’s Angels.” I think it may have been on a Friday evening, as my friend and I stayed at the location from early evening and well into the night. It was star Kate Jackson’s birthday and the crew had a birthday cake on at the craft service table. I remember we got autographs from Kate Jackson and guest stars Fernando Lamas and John Larch. I have to laugh because us twelve-year old kids actually knew who these veteran film actors were. Again, we knew from watching a lot of television shows, but also old movies that aired on the local channels at the time.
We stayed on the location for so long that the crew called us “the neighborhood kids” and we stayed at the shoot for what felt like all night. Kate had to leave, but the crew served up the birthday cake and they allowed us to each have a piece too. We thought we were part of the “in crowd” that night, I mean getting autographs and sharing a star’s birthday cake?
I remember later watching the episode on television and recalling the scenes we watched being filmed that night. We felt like “insiders” having hung out on the location and meeting the stars. We told our parents and friends, “I was just off camera when they filmed that scene” and then explain how it was done on location. It was all part of the filmmaking bug that we caught during that period.
Another time we watched the crime show “Quincy” being filmed at an apartment building near the ocean. We certainly knew who Jack Klugman was and we had watched the show enough to be excited about the location shoot. Jack was gracious enough to sign autographs for us, even adding “nice kid” to it. Classic.
Becoming a filmmaker didn’t seem like a crazy dream because Hollywood’s backlot for location shooting was our neighborhood. As the big movies and tv shows were constantly being filmed around us, we also filmed our own Super 8 productions in the very same locations. It felt like we were real filmmakers but just on our smaller level. Our dream was always to someday do it for real and the constant location shooting definitely helped keep our dream in sharp focus. I feel blessed to have grown up in Santa Monica during that seemingly magical period.
Don’t miss reading VOL. I thru III of this series previously posted on the blog.