Millions of people visit Hollywood every year hoping to see a real movie or television production. Sure, you can go to the Universal Studios Tour, and it’s great fun, but it’s also contrived and carefully orchestrated to keep people herded the right way, so even though you do go through the Universal lot in the trams, the odds you will see a real production taking place are very small.
Likewise on the streets of Hollywood. I’m using “Hollywood” generically to mean the greater Los Angeles area as studios and television networks are spread about and few are actually in the city of Hollywood.
On the streets, if you’re generally touristing the area, it’s rare to come across a film production taking place. And if you do, as I did a couple times on Hollywood Boulevard (I think that film was Jimmy Hollywood, with Christian Slater – I was in the area for a writers conference), there’s no opportunity to interact or talk to the folks, as they’re busy working and are trying not to be a tourist attraction. In fact, they quite emphatically do not wish to be a tourist attraction and have hired assistants and guards to keep the tourists at bay.
So, given all that, I actually became the tourist attraction one day. It was in film school. We were doing a remote shoot on some random street somewhere. There were mannequins in a store-front window we wanted to get in the background of a scene. When you picture our film equipment and crew, take what you see of a professional crew and just downsize it a touch. We shot 16mm film versus a movie production shooting 35mm. A documentary film crew would have been shooting with exactly our equipment, however, as it was all professional film gear, just not “major motion picture” format. And in crew numbers, we had somewhat fewer; three or four of us, plus our actor.
There we are, setting up our shot, when some tourists from somewhere in the Midwest came upon us. They were quite excited to see a real movie production and wanted to take photos of us, of them, and of them with our cameras and equipment.
We weren’t annoyed at all, more amused, really. They were delightful, friendly people. We explained we were a student film crew, not a real movie studio crew. They didn’t care about that, they said, it was exciting to see any film production in action.
Photos were taken. We posed. They posed. They posed with our cameras and lighting equipment and we took photos of them on their camera. And they happily went on their way.
The end of the tale is this. Somewhere, in someone’s photo album, are photos of me on a film shoot labeled as someone’s encounter with Hollywood.