So, we have finally arrived & finished our first day of touring. It was in the 70s here today… Far cry from New England’s sub zero temperatures.
After an early night on the Santa Monica Pier, we woke up feeling rested and eager to begin our day.
First stop: an audition workshop with Mark Sykes, a casting director, who managed to get all but one of our students (she chose to be a director instead) acting out scenes from 90210, Last Man Standing & The Power Rangers!
Next stop: Rodeo Drive shopping and sightseeing. We saw the famous Wilshire Hotel of Pretty Woman fame. This in addition to 6 star sightings today!
Then we went to see a 6 hour live taping of a new comedy, Cristela, on ABC where it was interesting to see the process of sitcom making taped at Fox Studios in Burbank. It was fascinating to see that last minute edits to the script and the retakes, in addition to the wealth of crew it takes to make a show. The comedian who warmed up the crowd was hysterical, so we were thoroughly entertained, and a little bit at my expense, as he called me up since I am the leader of our group. It was a lot of fun!
And last but not least, in an unexpected turn of events, our students got to participate as extras in a promotional video for a social media award nominee. Pretty cool stuff!!
We started off with a tour of LA Film School, a beautiful, hands-on, interactive school (I wish I had known about this when I was in college!) We saw a variety of working sets that were completely student run. We also toured the camera room and editing lab in addition to sitting in on a class where students were watching an interview with the director of Birdman, which would win best picture at the Oscars. Informative and exciting stuff!
Our next stop took us to Loyola Marymount University to the Barnelle Black Box theater where we’d meet with a number of alumni from our high school in Connecticut. These are former students who have relocated to LA to pursue a career in some facet of the entertainment industry. They range from 1987 graduates to 2008. In a panel discussion with our students, they talked about breaking in to the industry. One is the theater department chair at LMU, while two are actors, two are writers (one also a director) and one production assistant. Beyond talking about their careers, they gave our students advice in transitioning from our small suburban town to college and beyond. It was especially heartwarming for me to see their transformation from the students I’d remembered to adults who are wise and already so experienced at life. I also recognized what a good job we do at the high school in creating a strong sense of community that these students, and more, have moved across country but remain in touch and network with one another to this day. A truly rewarding experience for me and my colleagues, as teachers, and an informative one for our travel group.
Lastly, we venture out to Venice Beach, an eclectic location to be sure. The group LOVED it! From souvenir shops to street performers to Muscle Beach; if nothing else, we could people watch there for hours.
Today is an exciting one for us. Since we had to move our trip out a few days, we get to experience the set-up, first hand, for the Academy Awards show in Hollywood.
First, though, we take an interesting sightseeing journey throughout LA which includes Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Olvera Street, the Farmer’s Market & Grove.
Our first stop in Hollywood is Madame Tussauds Wax Museum where the group had fun posing with their favorite stars.
Next, we had the opportunity to tour Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. What an amazing experience it was learning about the history of the theater, premieres, and even movie stars preferences as to where they sit in the theater!
The day before the Oscars is a big day in Hollywood. The area surrounding the Dolby Theater is transformed. We had the opportunity to wander through mostly the perimeter, as much of it was blocked off. We also visited the Roosevelt Hotel, former home to Marilyn Monroe in addition to a list of stars who have stayed there, to see them staging for CNN to report live from there on Oscar night.
We spent a rainy day at Universal Studios. First we did the back lot tour together where we got to see outdoor sets of some of our favorite television shows and movies including Desperate Housewives, War of the Worlds, The Grinch and participate in some virtual stunts ourselves involving dinosaurs, King Kong, an earthquake, a flood & a train derailment (scary stuff!). There were special effects, wardrobe & prop and stunt shows to provide us with an inside look at film making. The students enjoyed some free time to go on the rides and mull around City Walk. Very cool day. Unfortunately, not photos due to the rain.
Our last day. Yes, we’re sad. We’ve enjoyed the weather and all of the excitement of being in L.A. It’s going to be hard to go home. But, before we do, we one last exciting day planned.
First stop: Warner Brother VIP Studio Tour (this was my favorite from our last Movie Magic tour in 2008). It’s a lot more hands-on than the Universal tour. Our group split up into two, got on trams, drove around the lot. learned many fun facts from our guide, Ellie. Then we stopped at various locations and had the opportunity to walk through.
Some of them included the Friends/ Central Perk set and an exterior N.Y. scene, The Fosters and Pretty Little Liars sound stages. I even got a peak into the sound stage of Big Bang Theory. I saw Tom Perrotta’s parking spot– one of my favorite authors whose book The Leftovers had been adapted an taped there. And we saw an anniversary exhibit for both the Batman and Harry Potter films.
Next, we attended a Cinema Secrets make-up workshop where students got to see firsthand what goes into the make-up process for a film. Two of our students (who are interested in pursuing careers in make-up) were used as models; then they all got to try out being make-up artists themselves.
In NoHo, we had our last supper together at a great restaurant called Pitfire Pizza– a bittersweet dinner. We had such a good time!
Finally, we make our way up to Griffith Observatory to get one last look at LA before heading off to the airport- and a picturesque one it was!
We are truly sad to go. We enjoyed our tour guide, Marianne, and Tito, our bus driver. We had an interesting journey full of excitement, education, practical application, and fun! Moreover, we made memories to last a lifetime.
Some OUT TAKE eavesdropping– funny things people say!
Mrs. C: Bring a jacket b/c we are going to the beach & it will be chilly
Jennie: I thought we were going to the pier
Mrs. C: Which would be AT the beach
Mark S: Do you know the rate for a T.V. writer?
Jessica: 516 pages
Mrs. K: Why does he have a top hat on instead of a baseball cap?
Mrs. C: You do realize that’s a shrimp and not Forrest Gump, right?
Marianne: Do you want to tell them how old they are?
Mrs. C: Guys, those of you who are 16 are 17 today. Just sayin’
Marianne: There is the church of Scientology
Jennie: Is that where John Travolta lives?
Morgan: We saw Austin Mahone. I didn’t say hi because I didn’t think he’d recognize me.
Caroline: Were you in Twinderella? I was always a lady in waiting.
Mrs. C: Molly ST, how did you like the taping?
Molly ST: Hated it. So cheesy. Not funny. And oppressive to women.
Christian: You should be a critic because that’s what they do… talk about what bad about everything.
Mrs. M: I think you should be a professional travel companion.
Mrs K: I don’t know if I want to be friends with Harry Connick Jr. He might not be worth the effort.
Mrs. M: Was she Asian last time you saw her?
Mrs. C: No!
Caroline: We should wear our drug rugs on the same day.
Mrs. C: Let’s pretend we’re not related this week.
Cassidy: That looks like a belly button on your forehead
Panel: Quotes will be available in print at the conclusion of our discussion
CUT! That’s a wrap.