Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Guest Post - Author Mary Kay Andrews talking about "Going Hollywood!"
I'm so thrilled to be hosting one of my favorite authors, Mary Kay Andrews today! She has a fun new summer book out, "Beach Town," and she was so kind to take time to write a post about her research into the glittering world of "Hollywood!"
Gone Hollywood—for BEACH TOWN
By Mary Kay Andrews
New York Times bestselling author of BEACH TOWN
When I start plotting a new novel one of my first concerns is how to create the world inhabited by my protagonist. Maybe it’s because of my background as a journalist, but it’s vital to me that my characters be convincing and believable.
That’s where research comes in. Greer Hennessy, the protagonist of my new novel BEACH TOWN, is a Hollywood location manager. Her job seems glamorous to an outsider, but the nitty gritty of managing a movie location shoot is dirty, detailed, daunting work.
How do I know? As soon as I knew Greer’s job, I set to work learning as much as I could about her world. Luckily, Atlanta, where I live, is currently a hotbed of movie and television production, and it just happens that my daughter Katie is in charge of issuing film permits for an Atlanta area municipality. She had the names and phone numbers of half a dozen film scouts on her Rolodex, and fortunately for me, one of them, Brian Albertini, happens to live only blocks away from my house.
I peppered Brian and two other Atlanta-based scouts with questions about the job. Of course, since I write fiction and fiction needs conflict and drama, I was particularly interested in disasters and worst-case scenarios. Most movie shoots where I live are "closed sets" but after much pestering, Brian managed to get me on the set of a cable television show being filmed in a local cemetery.
Once I had a basic understanding of what Greer’s job entailed, I decided to "go Hollywood," travelling to Los Angeles last summer to further entrench myself in the world of movie-making.
With the help of a dear friend with connections in the entertainment industry, I had drinks with a woman who’d been a film costume designer and another who’d been head accountant on a long-running cable show. I spent an afternoon spitballing ideas with an up-and-coming television producer and his business partner who generously schooled me in the ins and outs of something Hollywood calls "the slow no."
With my friend’s help, we figured out the neighborhood where Greer’s apartment would be, as well as the historic bungalow court where her mother, Lise, a has-been television actress owned a home.
As a long-time movie buff, I was thrilled to take the Paramount Pictures studio tour, which gave me a great look at behind-the-scenes movie-making. But probably my favorite field trip was to a place called Western Costume.
I wanted to get an idea of what a costume workshop looked like because in the book, Greer’s grandmother Dearie was a retired studio costume seamstress. Western Costume, which is over a century old, is the largest costume business in the U.S. It was fascinating to tour their facility and speak to the highly skilled designers, seamstresses, milliners, tailors and custom shoe-makers who outfit theatrical productions.
In BEACH TOWN, Greer’s best friend is CeeJay, a hair and makeup artist she meets when both the young women are learning their trades in the movie business. My friend’s hair and makeup artist pal was busy on a shoot, but I did manage to do a highly entertaining (and enlightening) phone interview with the artist, whose name is J Money. J was the total inspiration for the irrespressible CeeJay in the book.
Later, my friend and I headed up to the central California coast, to San Luis Obispo (or SLO, as the locals call it) because my plot called for Greer to have a location shoot (and ensuing disaster) in a drought-ravaged avocado grove. We toured an avocado grove and learned all about how avocados are harvested. We were fascinated to observe the avocado rancher’s Australian shepherds gobbling up avocados that had been overlooked during the recent harvest. Who knew avocados were good for dogs?
I knew from my research into the business that lots of things that get filmed never actually make it onto the big (or small) screen. Ironically, some of the research for BEACH TOWN also ended up on the cutting room floor after my cheerfully ruthless editor trimmed my final draft of the book.
At first, I mourned the loss of all those cool California movie details in the book. Truthfully though, the book reads better without it. Who knows? Maybe someday we’ll re-issue a BEACH TOWN "director’s cut" that restores all those "lost scenes."
My thanks to Mary Kay Andrews for providing this wonderful guest and to Meg at Tandem Literary for helping to coordinate.
Watch for my review of "Beach Town" to be coming soon!