Sara Bareilles, Sausalito, The San Francisco Bay, and The Shoulder
Updated: May 12, 2019
Phone rings. I don’t recognize the name.
Me: “Hi. It’s George.”
Person: “George, it’s Sara Dauberman. You worked with me when I was Sara Clarkin.”
Me: “Are you in the WPP?”
Sara: “The what?”
Me: “The Witness Protection Program, hence the name change.”
Sara laughs a musical laugh, which jogs my memory.
Me: “Okay, now I remember you. You’re the person I turned upside during that Cisco job for sassing me.”
Sara: “Yes, that was me.”
Me: “Okay. How can I help you?”
Sara: “A friend of mine is producing a concert video for Sara Bareilles in San Francisco, and she needs a co-producer for the location work.”
Me: “So you’re still mad.”
Sara: “What? No. What makes you think that?”
Me: “I don’t hear from you for a couple years after hanging you upside down by your ankles and you finally call and threaten me with a music video? I’d say that shows some open hostility.”
Sara: “What are you talking about? It’s not a music video. It’s a concert video.”
Me: “Does it involve a record label, a recording artist, a film crew, and very little money? And are all the people involved going to converge in the same place at the same time? If so, it’s a music video. And music videos suck. They’re for young people who need to develop production skills and who might alsorecognize the artist and the song. I stopped producing music videos after doing two of them in the early nineties. One for Zhane. And the other for Emage.”
Sara: “For who?”
I waited for the light bulb to go off over her head that she did not recognize those two groups before moving on.
Me: “During my LAST music video job, my camera went south on me on twice during the shoot. Once after it was “repaired.” And it took me six months to get paid. The only reason I got my check was because I happened to be in Los Angeles where the production company had their offices. I walked in and refused to leave until they gave me a check for the full amount.”
Sara: “Did they?”
Me: “Only after I’d been there for a few days and had begun to smell.”
Sara: “Well, this won’t be anything like that.”
Truer words might never have been spoken.
In order to educate myself on Ms. Sara Bareilles, I purchased a copy of her latest CD, and listened to the whole thing. Beautiful voice. Crystal clear. Strong. Had it not been for the usual pack of lies about what I had agreed to produce, and make no mistake it was a music video, I might have been a fan.
I agreed to take on the project since the, ahem, “concert video” consisted of a multicamera shoot at the Fillmore, a famous iconic San Francisco 60’s Rock venue in which I’d never worked. For that alone I thought it worthwhile. A classic bait-and-switch awaited, as the executive producer informed me that in addition to the shoot at the Fillmore, I’d be producing some performance footage of one of Sara’s songs at a houseboat location in Sausalito.
But not to worry, the houseboat location had been secured. It belonged to a friend of the executive producer. All I needed to do was scout the place and . . .
1. Arrange for crew and equipment parking in the private lot owned by a bunch of inbred Sausalito houseboat occupants.
2. Clear the dock area for usage of storing equipment, including the band’s instruments, and for serving meals and craft service. Said inbred Sausalito houseboat occupants were all part owners of said dock.
3. Work out the fee with the houseboat owner and get her signature on a location agreement. In other words, nothing had been done to secure the location and inform the woman of the juggernaut of people and equipment about to invade her crackerbox houseboat.
4. Inform the union that production company is from NYC, but is an IA signator, a little fact not presented to me as I attempted to hire the crew.
5. Rent several vans for the agency, record label, and clients use.
I could go on, but the upshot is that I had to produce the entire job. Nothing had been put in place, despite being told that it had, and the record label, the agency, and the client were all expecting to lay siege to the dock with a camera crew of at least six people and grip and electric and props of three times that many, plus the dreaded Vanities department, and video engineering, all union, all expecting to cram themselves into the one person houseboat, which, by the way, sat at the very end of the next to the last dock in Sausalito.
Making the job even more pleasant, the union strong-armed the third prop into sending them the call sheet, and then hassled me for not informing them of a sixth camera operator.
Me: “If you would give me two seconds, I would have, but I’ve been a little busy producing the job to do things on your schedule.”
Jimmy Hoffa: “You’ve got an attitude problem. I should fine you.”
Me: “Ah, go ahead. That will make me that much more cooperative.”
We did not get fined.
As the shoot progressed, it became obvious the crew didn’t want to walk more than eight feet to receive their daily intake of 6000 calories. My craft service person cleverly moved some of the food inside the houseboat and staged it in the kitchen, where it looked like, oh I don’t know, food in a kitchen.
NYC Cameraman: “Did you all see George’s on-site craft services?”
Me: “Okay, I dub you producer for the next three minutes. Where would you put it, goofy?”
NYC Cameraman: “Not on set.”
Me: “Brilliant. I had it “not on set,” but the Jenny Craig dropouts on the crew couldn’t go more than five minutes without a cookie. Any other suggestions?”
NYC Cameraman: “Yes, can we get a real A.D.?”
Me: “Sure. Can you get me a real budget? And, ironically, I was just going to ask about getting a real cameraman or two.”
That conversation deteriorated further, and I felt it best to leave the set and let the director continue to ask Sara Bareilles the same six questions over and over again, while the half-dozen cameramen tried to find the best angles inside the phone booth that some woman called home.
The shoot continued just fine without me, and as the sun set over Sausalito, the testosterone-challenged version of The Magnificent Seven, the director and the six cameramen emerged from the claustrophobic confines of the houseboat interior.
Me: “Do you want to call wrap, or should I?”
Director: “I’d like to put Sara in a canoe and have her sing using only her acoustic guitar while the camera boat follows her around the Bay.”
Me: “In the dark?”
Director. “We’ll use a DC powered light.”
Me: “I don’t remember that in the script.”
Director: “I’m adding it.”
I invoked my usual “It will never end up in the movie,” and it didn’t but not for the reasons you might imagine.
I called for the camera boat, which pulled up next to the dock. I loaded a couple of the cameramen in, the ones not gorging themselves at the craft service table “not on set.” The gaffer grabbed the DC powered light and checked the battery level. I put Sara in the canoe. One of her sycophants handed her the acoustic guitar.
I turned to walk back inside the phonebooth sized houseboat to assist with the wrap.
The next thing I knew I had entered the 55 degree water of the San Francisco Bay. My production gear and clothes weighted me down, but I had been open water swimming for 12
years by now, and prepared to head to safety. But my left arm wouldn’t move. I had dislocated my shoulder.
I struggled to the surface. A hand reached down and took my right wrist. I scissor kicked onto the dock and rolled over onto my back. John South, the key grip, had pulled me up and out of the water. I panted. The pain traveled from my left shoulder to my brain. I gritted my teeth.
Jon Fontana, the gaffer, knowledgeable in dislocated shoulders tried to push it back into place, but something felt off.
Me: “Socket ain’t cooperating.”
Jon: “Ambulance is on the way.”
The EMTs arrived and hustled down to the lower dock. They asked several questions to check my level of shock, including;
EMT: “Do you have anything you need to tell us?”
Me: “Yes. I don’t think I’ll be coming into work tomorrow.”
Finally, after 24 years in the business. My favorite comeback.
They got me to my feet, but I had to walk the several hundred yards to the ambulance because the dock wasn’t wide enough for the gurney. I looked like a member of the SS in 1945 being led away by the Red Cross, my arm locked in a Heil Hitler salute, since any other position did not appear to be in my shoulder joint’s retinue anymore.
Me: “No more music videos."
EMT: “What was that?”
Me: “Please don’t ask me to repeat myself.”