« connection | Main | the omnivore's hundred »

August 12, 2008

maybe i need GPS

since the show i am currently working on is an NBC Universal property, we shoot quite a bit on the Universal Studios backlot. now, if you're a normal human, you probably would love being there -- you get to see cool things like the phenomenal carnage of the giant plane crash site from War of the Worlds, or the Bates Motel from Psycho, which, very oddly enough, immediately adjoins the cartoony marshmallow-looking snowy world of Whoville from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. however, if you're me, you do not love being there. no, i am not some crusty jaded below-the-line crew person who does not care about movie magic; it's because the place is best seen by professionally-driven Universal Studios Backlot Tour trams. it is not meant to be navigated by innocent non-crusty crew members in their own car, as i learned last night.
now, the last few times we have shot there, crew parking is at the gate, and we're shuttled in to location, usually becoming completely disoriented by the time we get there. however, for reasons still unknown to me, we were told this time to drive all the way into the depths of the backlot to "Falls Lake" (most recognizable as the giant artificial lake where Jim Carrey ends up at the conclusion of the The Truman Show), where our big nighttime shoot was going to be. the gate guard told me (and i quote) "follow James Stewart here straight into Six Points Texas, turn left at Steven Spielberg, and go up the hill to Falls Lake." um, okay. at this point i should explain that Universal Studios is huge (230 acres or so) and old (been there since 1915) and pretty much built into wilderness land (so it's an incredibly confusing, hilly, twisting layout that is random film sets surrounded by brush). so yeah, these directions were pretty much useless.
but off i went, hoping to actually just find "Steven Spielberg." luckily, a tour tram turned right in front of me. sweet! i thought, i'll just follow that! this turned out to be an amazingly bad idea, as it was only at the last second that i realized i was about to drive straight onto the Jaws dock and get attacked by a giant rubber shark. i awkwardly reversed, ignoring the stares of the tourists, and squeezed around the tram, humiliated.
T.T. will be the first to tell you that when it comes to being directionally challenged, i am VERY directionally challenged. i admit this freely. so is it so surprising that next, i managed to somehow get stuck driving in circles around Jurassic Park? when another tram passed me, i wretchedly hoped that it wasn't the same one that watched me almost follow them into the gaping maw of Jaws. quickly becoming a tragic tourist attraction myself, i finally found a nice security guard on Wisteria Lane at Desperate Housewives, who told me he'd been there only a few days, but that Rosa down the hill and to the right could help me. thankfully, Rosa did, and i managed to barely make my call time.

now, remember that i said this was a nighttime shoot ? we wrapped sometime around 3am, and boy was it DARK. you'd think i'd have been more nervous about finding my way out, given how much trouble I had getting in, but i was cold and tired and just wanted to go home. instead of waiting to follow a less directionally-challenged person out, i foolishly peeled out of the parking lot thinking of nothing but a hot shower.
had I been starring in a horror movie, this is where the menacing music would have started. there were no streetlights. a light fog blanketed the roads, reducing visibility to barely a few feet. condensation was obscuring my windshield faster than my defrost could keep up, and i almost immediately took a wrong turn. a very wrong turn, as i found myself suddenly trapped... in a tunnel.
not just any tunnel - a claustrophobic "stone" tunnel from The Mummy, only as wide as my car, with no way to turn around, and ditches on either side. i stopped the car in disbelief, thinking oh craptastic, i have to actually drive through this. i slowly crept forward.... and my headlamps illuminated NOT the end of the tunnel, but a huge, riveted iron door. great, i thought, if this was Indiana Jones, right now would be when the giant boulder would start rolling towards me and i'd be crushed in my faithful wee Honda and dear God how am i supposed to get out of here? i had to inch my way backwards, visibility almost zero, out of the evil tunnel. despite the cold, i was sweating when i finally emerged and turned around. and that's when the coyotes started howling.
no, seriously, there are packs of wild coyotes that roam free on the Universal backlot (remember this is wilderness land) and when they start baying, it pegs the creep-o-meter right off the scale. completely spooked and exhausted, i blindly drove ahead, just wanting to put the tunnel behind me. as I passed the massive wreckage of the crashed War of the Worlds 747, i thought oh please do not let me get lost near the Psycho house where is Rosa when you need her?!?! only there were no Rosas. not even at Desperate Housewives, which i thought ALWAYS had security around. apparently not tonight, because after aimlessly weaving around Wisteria Lane, i began to completely resent Universal Studios, all stupidly named roads of Universal Studios, and any show or film ever shot on Universal Studios. oh yeah, and all coyotes of Universal Studios.
somehow, thank God, i miraculously popped out into Six Points Texas, the western town, which blessedly signaled to me that I was close to the gate. after making my way through saloons, wooden clapboard houses, and hitching posts, i emerged, exultant, at the exit gate. i knew i had just escaped certain creepy death by fog tendrils and coyotes, and cheered quietly for myself.

too bad i then spent the next 35 minutes pathetically trying to find my way onto the correct freeway going the correct direction...

Posted by hadashi at August 12, 2008 12:25 PM


That is hilarious and oh so sad. I'm glad you made it out safe and sound. I highly recommend the GPS!!!

Posted by: Marti Author Profile Page at August 14, 2008 8:37 PM

if you had been with me, i wouldn't have worried; your pop culture movie mojo would've saved me ("turn left at Wisteria Lane, go down the hill and then right at the burned-out shell of Back To The Future").

Posted by: hadashi Author Profile Page at August 14, 2008 9:52 PM

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! hi-larious!!!!! i heart this one!!

Posted by: ernli Author Profile Page at September 19, 2009 12:57 AM

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?