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Field Trip by Anna Chai

Field Trip by Anna Chai, Producer for The Layover Los Angeles 

ZPZ Production, 19th Floor.  13 edit rooms.  The Unity.  Eric Lasby.  By now, you know this is where editing happens. 

19 is my natural habitat, so it was a shock when they asked me to work on the LA episode of “The Layover.”  As in, go to LA with the crew.  Not just watch the footage, when the cards come back from LA?  Is this some sort of trick?  I assumed as much because 1) it’s Anthony Bourdain and 2) do you remember the last time “No Reservations” filmed in LA?!

I’ll tell you what happened — Anthony Bourdain got tasered by SWAT!  He also ate chicken and waffles with Jerry Stahl and hung out with a mariachi band, but the taser demo is what I remember most vividly.  Why go back to LA?  What could possibly top that?!

August 2011.  LAX.  My colleagues and I are ready to make some television!  We have 6 days to shoot over 30 locations.  WWTD?  First stop, In-N-Out Burger.

Day 1.  Chateau Marmont.  Bungalow 3.  (Yes, that one.)  Mr. Bourdain lays down some ground rules while we’re here at the hotel.  “Don’t be an asshole.”  That means: don’t gawk at celebrities, don’t bother the guests, and don’t point the camera at any famous people.  Got it.  This would prove to be good advice for the rest of our time in LA …

Day 2.  While shopping for the ingredients needed to make eggs, crew member misreads “scallions” and buys scallops instead.  Oops! 

Day 3.  Locals interview with Chef Ludo Lefebvre.  Hilarious.  (And like Randy Newman, he genuinely seems to love LA.)  Later, we are informed that while filming Ludo on the median strip, set against a stunning street scene, people were smoking crack in the background.  In the back of our frame!  Allegedly. 

Day 4.  The crew shows up to film a drive-thru restaurant, only to find the pavement has been freshly sealed that morning …

Day 5.  While filming b-roll of iconic LA, the crew encounters a grisly scene. 

Beloved sidekick Oxy dead on the beach!  (Identity confirmed by signature on Appearance Release, though DNA test pending.)

Day 6.  The “marine layer” makes it meteorologically impossible to film a sunrise.  Sorry!

Day 7.  Time to go back to 19.  All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my Ambien …

Crew blog: Miami by Claudia Woloshin, Producer

The Layover: Miami
Crew blog by Claudia Woloshin, Producer

Filming The Layover in Miami in mid-July was bound to bring with it some challenges. I figured it would be hot and humid and sticky and sweaty.  And it was all of that but oh so much more…

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Crew blog: Singapore

by Cherie Silvera, Producer 

When I was assigned the Singapore location, my first reaction was a little disappointment. I knew very little about Singapore, but I had heard it was a crime free place full of rigid rules, sparkly new and clean….a shoppers’ paradise. Wha’?! Not my cuppa tea. How are we going to make this interesting? Ajax Cleanser with a twist of JC Penny’s? Would we find any soul or an underbelly to spice up this story? Well….as with many things in life, just look past the obvious, embrace the weirdness, and love it for what it is. 

Turns out that the soulfulness of Singapore isn’t in the churches, temples and mosques, or in its indie music scene, or the brand new sky scrapers that seem to pop up daily. The spirituality of this place is found in the omnipresent religion of food – a super diverse population with origins from the far corners of Asia and beyond, and they are all united by this crazy food obsession. Google ANY tiny 8x10 foot hawker stall, and you’ll find hordes of patrons blog-bickering about the pro’s and cons of the dishes. My impression…Singaporeans = urban yuppie foodies morphed with cyber blogger nerds.  Eh? 

As for the more law-straddling element that gives any flourishing society its depth and character… look no further than the pseudo legal prostitution scene.  

We were hoping to shoot a scene at Orchard Towers, aka the infamous “Four Floors of Whores”, and off we went to scout it first.  Tom, a Singapore shoot veteran, led the production team into this office-tower-by-day and den-of-weirdness at night.  As darkness falls, each floor of this office/mall structure reinvents itself into a shady ladies-of-the-night club scene, whilst we were led into a fourth-floor bar where the tranny action was in full swing. The dancing and fashion parade were plenty entertaining, even for a Monday night.  Nonetheless, it IS Singapore… and though these establishments are legally tolerated, being allowed to film in them was another can of worms.

Eventually we drove into the lively red light district of Geylang. We had hoped to capture the local street color, showing there is more to Singapore than just shopping malls and eating malls.   It was 1am, hookers and johns checking each other out against a backdrop of brothels lining the lorong streets — indicated by not-so-subtle neon signs such as “Happy Hotel”.  Ironically, when we finally found this darker seedy side of Singapore, lurking beneath its shiny surface, we were unprepared to film it.  Leaving the safety of the production van was a bit creepy… Zach and Shirai claimed the need to protect their pricey camera’s from aggro pimps.   And shooting out of the van windows was forbidden by our driver, who feared his doors would be kicked in if we filmed the wrong dudes.   Nonetheless, we did find that underbelly….  every city has one, even ‘perfect’ Singapore.

Anyhow, I’m glad I was assigned to Singapore.  It was quite delicious AND interesting.


Brazil

Crew blog: Brazil
By Katie Gray, Production Coordinator

Ah, the Brazil show: Completely new and interesting flavors, harrowing plane rides into the stormy jungle, fishing for giant, prehistoric-looking fish… and to think, it almost didn’t happen at all.

Well, sort of.

As the Production Coordinator for No Reservations, I assist – or, “coordinate stuff” for – the crews from pre- through post-production from our offices in Manhattan. Some of it is stuff that is unique to specific shoots, e.g. acquiring Tony’s fishing and ‘coon huntin’ licenses for the Ozarks, or wiring extra cash and sending hourly hurricane updates to the crew in Haiti. However, there are some other things that are pretty routine, like setting up carnets and getting visas.

One thing that is of constant, utmost importance is the status and location of Tony’s passport. I don’t hesitate to say that I might spend nearly as much time with it as he does. This item is key when it is mandatory to acquire things like visas, as they sometimes take weeks to be finalized –a period during which the passport must be left at the appropriate consulate. This can get extra fun (ie, complicated, dicey, eye-twitchingly stressful) when we’re in the middle of a certain 7th season and we’re shooting tons of shows right in a row (all of which require visas!) with as little as three days of down time between shoots. Sometimes certain countries require special shooting permits that can take; weeks or even months to get before you can even THINK about getting a visa. Sometimes Tony travels abroad on trips outside of the show that require his passport. And sometimes all of these things happen at the same time. And shit gets dire. At 2am. During a blizzard. When I have the flu.

This is my first season as a Coordinator on No Reservations, having been bumped up from PA from last season, and all visas and pre-pro materials thus far seemed to effortlessly materialize out of thin air and flutter into my lap. That is, until Brazil. Oh, Brazil. It’s such a long and ridiculous story that you probably wouldn’t believe all of the twists and turns and only-funny-in-retrospect bad luck that came to pass. So, I’ll just keep it short and fast forward to the part where it’s well past midnight on a blizzard-y evening in January, I have a 101 degree fever and am still glued to my office desk trying to sweet talk the internet into not failing me any longer. The following morning would be the last possible day to submit visa applications in order to have everything ready by the time Tony had to leave for his vacation in the Cayman Islands (the Brazil shoot was to head out very shortly after his return.) After months of stressing about my meticulous timing plan, the stakes were high — tons of hard work and money had gone into the show already, and this was the last possible night to make it all happen. So, naturally, throughout the course of the night, the Brazilian Consulate’s website went down (high traffic? maintenance? DON’T KNOW, but you HAVE to submit all applications online), the color printer broke when I tried to print the application photos, all of the 24-hour Kinkos and whatnot types of stores closed down because there was a fucking BLIZZARD happening outside, and then, around 1am, I just happened to peer into Tony’s passport and realize that he had ZERO visa pages left. Ruh roh. It was around this time when I believe the night editors stopped teasing me about still being at work so late, and started actually being afraid of me as I stress-ate M&Ms and face-planted into a pile of post-its on my desk at devastating speeds. I’d been working since a 7am trip to the consulate that morning, and the angry, murderous flu virus taking over my body wasn’t helping. After weeks of damage control, was this really it? Was Brazil dunzo? Was I going to have to greet the bosses in the morning and tell them that all the money spent on this show is basically festering in the proverbial shitter because of VISAS?

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Nah. But oh, the horrible, unspeakable things we did to make it happen… just kidding. I think. It’s a bit of a blur. I won’t bore you with the details, but I will tell you that Nicola, our Unit Manager and I, concocted a plan that involved my getting a total of seven hours of sleep in a span of 72 hours, and putting our brand new PA, Greg, on a plane to the Cayman Islands to take care of some passport stuff — a trip that literally involved about three hours in the airport before flying right back to New York. I don’t think he even got to go outside. Livin’ the dream! Sorry, Greg. But, hey! The shoot was nothin’ but smooth sailin’ after that, what with Tony’s back injury, mysterious crew illnesses and delirium, treacherous weather conditions and approximately ten billion hours of flight delays on the way back to the States. Part of me would like to be bitter, but the show just came out so damn well that it’s not really possible. In all honesty, I have a blast doing what I do to help get this show into your TV box, and I think you’ll all agree when you watch tonight’s episode that all of the stress, hard work and future therapy was (and will be) totally worth it (as will finally getting Tony a second valid passport.) Enjoy!

Katie and Josh

Brazil episode premieres tonight at 9pm e/p on Travel Channel! 

Ozarks

Crew blog: Ozarks 
By Sally Freeman, Producer

Our shoot in the Ozarks is one that will stay with me for a long time. For reasons good and not so good.

I’m not talking about the stark beauty of the landscape or the incredibly warm welcome from the Ozarkians. I’m talking about two unique incidents that I’ve never experienced before and probably (hopefully) never will again.

The first involved a raccoon.  This particular one had been shot the night before and left outside in sub zero temperatures.  A combination of rigor mortis and the fact that it was frozen solid made this a very hard raccoon to skin, and this is what I needed to film.

So whilst the rest of the crew was off at the next location, I found myself in a garage with three jovial hunters and a frozen coon carcass.  They tried their best, and at one point all of them had feet firmly planted in the ground and were pulling the frozen skin off of the frozen body in a violent taxidermy three-way.

Once this was achieved they started to remove a special part of the animal which they wanted to present to Tony at dinner.  They called it a “toothpick”, they meant the penis.

Marty cut through something in the undercarriage of the unfortunate coon and unleashed a torrent of very cold urine towards me.  I was getting a low shot at the time and my boots and camera got more than a little back-splash.  The three guys were laughing their heads off, this was their only direct and very deliberate shot of our raccoon hunt.

The other incident involved a very talented and world famous writer who was taking Tony night fishing.  Daniel Woodrell, a West Plains native took us to meet a team of fishermen well versed in “gigging for suckers”.

With the benefit of hindsight, a frozen, fast running river, at night in the middle of nowhere is probably not the place to be with a valuable literary talent, and Tony.

I was in the boat filming at the moment of the accident.  The sound and force with which Daniel hit the deck was chilling and terrifying. I felt physically sick, I was convinced he’d broken his neck.

I think its testament to the spirit of the area, that within 10 minutes Daniel was sitting in front of a fire cracking jokes and drinking bourbon from the bottle.

The Ozarks will always inspire within me feelings of terror, hilarity, warmth and awe.

I can’t wait to go back.

Crew blog: Security Briefing in Haiti 
by Nari Kye, Associate Producer

Please note:  There are no actors in the video you are about to see.  The looks of sheer terror on our faces are real.

Only three days in, the cholera outbreak, the heat, the hostility towards the camera, and the overall lack of infrastructure has made this shoot one of the hardest on record.  This country had just gone through a devastating earthquake that killed over 300,000 people and left over a million homeless and now an epic storm is expected to touch down.  As the rain started to descend and the giant orange and red vortex on the satellite feed came closer and closer to Port-au-Prince, we thought it was time to have that inevitable “worst case scenerio” talk.  Our intrepid security team, Rhidian and Rob, sits Tom, myself and Todd (filming) down to discuss some events that could very well occur in the next few hours if Hurricane Tomas hits Haiti’s capital.