I spent Tuesday and Wednesday star-struck. And who can blame me? There I was on a film set, hanging out with Angie Harmon (Rizzoli), Sasha Alexander (Maura), and writer/executive producer Janet Tamaro. I was there to watch them shoot the TV pilot of “Rizzoli,” which is based on the characters from my crime series.
I have long heard that filmmakers think novelists are troublesome and they don’t want them hanging around during filming. But as soon as I arrived, the whole cast and crew couldn’t have been more welcoming. When the First Assistant Director announced to everyone, “We have the author on the set today,” the crew broke out in applause.
I’d never been to a film set before, and I was overwhelmed by the sheer scale of it all.
Here’s a view of some of the trucks parked on the street. They were filming in a private residence, which they’d rented as the location for a crime scene, and a lot of effort went into protecting the interiors of the house from being damaged by camera equipment. The walls, floor, and furniture were protected by cardboard and bubble wrap. The property was so large that they were using a different part of the house as Maura’s residence, and yet a third area as a funeral parlor. The house is in Hancock Park, a very nice section of Los Angeles, and the neighbors must have felt like they were being invaded by an army. Imagine looking out your window and seeing this parked outside on the street:
(Not to mention the three fake “Boston PD” cruisers” parked nearby!)
I was impressed by the sheer number of people involved in a film shoot. It really is an army. At one time, I counted sixty people bustling about. Here’s what the “crime scene” looked like between takes, and it shows just a fraction of the crew involved.
As the locations manager told me, “if you wanted to plan a military invasion of a foreign country, you wouldn’t go wrong hiring a Hollywood crew to coordinate things for you!”
The director Michael Robin (above), seemed delighted to have me there, and he’d often turn to me after a take and ask, “Is that how you envisioned this scene?” The work is painstaking and exhausting, and the film crew works a full six hours before they break for what they call “lunch” — even though “Lunch” may be at 4 PM. Then they come back for yet another long stretch. Each scene requires multiple takes, and it took them about seven hours to finish filming what will probably end up as only three minutes in the show.
(I confess: after only four hours, my husband and I wimped out and left the set for lunch and a break. When we got back, the crew was still at it. And they went on to film late into the night. By which time, I was already in bed in my hotel room!)
I also got to hang out with some of the many other people on the set. One of them turned out to be from Boston.
Detective Russ Grant — a real homicide detective, not just an actor! — flew out from Boston to be a consultant on the set, and to advise the actors how to approach a crime scene. He noted, with some amusement, that Hollywood crime scenes have about ten times more personnel than real detectives would ever get to assist them — and far better lighting, too! We both laughed about this as we stood outside in the front yard. It was after dark, but the film set’s lighting blared down so brightly it was like daylight.
Greg Varela was the medic on the set, and he told me about some of the situations he’s had to deal with during his career in the film industry. He’s attended everything from sprained backs to cardiac arrests to amputations. The equipment is heavy and potentially dangerous, and he said that knees and backs give out early in this business. “A lot of these people live on Advil,” he noted.
Because it’s a film set, you just never know who — or what — you’re going to find sitting off in a corner.
Here’s actor Dwayne Standridge, a man of immense patience, who spent many cold hours in his underwear, playing a corpse. But even corpses need to take a break every so often!