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Friday Night Shenanigans: Shooting Paris

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Busy weekend, so I'm putting Friday up for now and will try to get to the rest of it (and more exciting parts I might add), in the next day or so.


I didn’t sleep much during the week, what with the apartment being located on a busy side street full of cafes and bars.  And a heavy heat set on the city making for some restless nights.  Paris moves both fast and slow at once.  If you try to slow down, Paris will fool you and come alive before you.  If you try to speed up, the city will flip it on you and insist you enjoy the cafe culture. 


The pattern outside my bedroom window went something like this:  street cleaning around 9am.  Loud.  Delivery trucks dropping off drinks and potatoes at 10am.  Loud, with chit chat.  Cafes and bistros open, service begins around 11am.  The day has started.  I spied a business meeting from the living room window and it was pretty chill.  Don’t know how much got done.


Around 12:30, dishes clink and cigarettes are lit.  An accordian player strikes up a couple songs, looking for table side tips.  It looks and sounds fake, as in ‘is someone staging this for me?’  Things don’t really calm down from there until about 3 or 4am.  The cafes close early enough, but the bars take over from there.  There’s alot of loud singing of American songs in the streets.  Woke me up around 3am.  At first I fought it and cursed it, imagining how appropriate it would be to hurl wine bottles down below.  Then I realized, this is Paris.  You hear it, go back to sleep, wake up and have strong coffee.  Sleep deficiency solved. 


I had kept to myself most days this week in Paris, what with my friend being tied-up with work.  I like being by myself, as mentioned, especially in Paris.  You can observe so much.  I made a sandwich (from a baguette, of course) and walked down to the Seine to eat and read.  It was hot out so I wasn’t the only one sitting river side. 


Adolfo, a Spaniard in town to do some storyboard artist work, told me about a book his friend wrote.  It’s been translated into several languages so we went for a walk to the bookstore called Shakespeare & Company.  It’s a famous store in that it was founded in the ‘20s (I think) by an American women to give struggling American writers a place to stay as they worked on their next great novel.  A fellow named Ernest Hemingway stayed here. 


Adolfo searched for the book, “Shadow of the Wind” and purchased it as a gift for me.  Very kind.  But I wasn’t sure I’d be into a book that was forced upon me.  That’s not how a good read is typically found.  However, this one stuck me right away.  It’s good.  A little sad since it opens with a husband with a young boy coming to terms with his widowhood, but it changes direction quickly enough.


After lunch, I took a walk to the Musee d’ Orsay, a former train station that now houses some of the world’s greatest art:  Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Degas.  My goal was to take a picture next to a painting by Degas.  It was my wife’s favorite and she had her picture taken in front of it while in Paris with her mom about five years ago.


I walked up and down the museum.  It’s very well laid out and almost feels like an indoor park.  But I couldn’t find my wife’s painting.  Up and down I went, searching high and low thinking I must’ve walked past it.  Finally, I asked a museum official.  Alas, the painting was out on loan.  I didn’t ask where it went.  I was too sad and felt the world take the air out of me for a moment.  I went outside and found a bench to sit on where I cried a little, pissed I didn’t get to have that moment next to my wife’s painting. 


There were a couple of artsy French chicks sitting nearby.  I gathered myself and asked them to take a photo of me with the museum in the background.  It would have to do. 


As with the last time I was in Paris, I carried my wife’s funeral card with me and I held it up to take a photo with the museum surrounding it.  I’ll just have to go back to Paris when the painting returns.




I walked back to the apartment to rest but got a call from my friend.  He was shooting some establishing shots on the Pont Neuf, a bridge with a great view of the Seine, so he dropped by the apartment to meet me (translation:  he wanted to use a toilet that he could count on) and we walked the 10 minutes to the location.  Since it was an establishing shot with no actors, there was a slim crew and the producer was there.  I get along with him pretty well and we hung out quite a bit in Serbia.  He liked to sing Peter Frampton then.   In a French accent:  “I want you, baby, to show me zee way...”

I asked one of the crew to take a picture of us and we started making funny faces.  Or at least, I did, not that I have a choice:




After the bridge shot, we went up to Sacre Couer, an amazing church with a remarkable view of Paris, high on a hill.  It was built by the Prussians as an apology to the French for beating the hell out of them.  Since it’s built of limestone, it cleans up every time it rains, hence the white appearance.  We had to wait until nightfall for the shot.  So we stood around and played music trivia.  My friend would play a song on his iphone and if the first Frenchy to guess the tune got 20 Euros.  I was not allowed to play but I would have kilt it.  Music trivia time:




And this is what it looks like when you're setting up a shot at Sacre Couer:




The crew drank some beers here and there and then the ten second shot was completed.  We broke for dinner, all 15 of us.  The waitress insisted she didn’t need to write the order down, but she would walk back and forth asking us to repeat what we wanted.  Drove me nuts.  Just write the damn order down!  And of course, it mostly came out wrong.  How do you mess up a chesseburger order?  Well, you can put bacon on it when you didn’t ask for it.  That’s how.



The last shot of the night was in an area called Pigalle.  Or as the American servicemen called it during WWII, ‘Pig Alley,’ as it was - and is - the home of Paris’s sex trade.  How do all these leather goods shops stay in business, selling the same thing as one another?  Is there really that big a demand for tiny nurses outfits? 


After drinking a bunch of waters and coke zeros (and a coffee) at dinner, I had to take a whizz.  I found a McDonald’s across Pig Alley where I had to buy an ice-less Coke Zero for 2 euros to relieve myself in a stinky bathroom.  So, that’s why my friend was willing to walk so far to use the apartment bathroom.


The last shot was quick, but there was some added drama when a ladder was beckoned so the cameraman could get on top of the crew van and set up the shot from there.  I can’t imagine that happening in L.A.  That would be a violation of about 200 union rules.  The ‘martini shot’ wouldn’t have been made and shooting would have been delayed and the producer would have tried to take his next production to North Carolina or Vancouver.  But this was Paris.  Where things are slow.  Or fast.  Or just about right. 


The Martini Shot:



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Yeah, the server was flexing like she had some sort of mystical craft to remember large orders.  And then of course, she busted me taking the bacon off my cheeseburger and made me feel like the bad guy, giving me a look like only the French can.  To top it all off, she was hot.  She should be a dominatrix for people with food fetishes.  She would make a killing.



So even the server was getting in on the you are honored to eat at that cafe, if you don't like it, you can leave business model?  

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Yeah, the server was flexing like she had some sort of mystical craft to remember large orders.  And then of course, she busted me taking the bacon off my cheeseburger and made me feel like the bad guy, giving me a look like only the French can.  To top it all off, she was hot.  She should be a dominatrix for people with food fetishes.  She would make a killing.



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My Welsh friends put me on to the Musee d'Orsay (literally, Museum of the Horse). Wonderful place. Everyone wants to go to the Louvre, which I have also been to, but I enjoyed d'Orsay more, to be honest.


One thing that surprised me at the Louvre is how small the Mona Lisa is. I always envisioned a much larger painting.

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