Monday, January 31, 2011
The following is part one of a two part installment truly explaining how awesome it is to spend a semester in Los Angeles. (Ok, the other posts have definitely done this, but these upcoming stories are totally epic).
I have a couple of quick housekeeping things before we continue with the storytelling. Well, it’s more of a quick rant, but something must be said.
For 22 days we were jubilant, relaxed and thoroughly enjoying every second of the glorious California sunshine. Then the unthinkable happened. I woke up yesterday morning and looked out my window to see what might have very well been the apocalypse. The sky was grey and little drops of water were falling from the sky. Panicked, I rushed out into the living room to find my roommates having breakfast. “It’s raining,” they said. And that’s when the memories of “real winters” started to come back to me. I had indeed seen this so-called rain before, but it had been on such a hiatus that it seemed as if it was gone for good. Ah, in a perfect world … Anyway, it obviously was a bit surprising to see a wet, overcast day on our four month vacation, but I didn’t react as nearly dramatically as I said I did. Come on now. Our home campus is Ithaca. Do you think we could REALLY forget what overcast skies and rain looked like?
Ok, now for the good stuff. A few more quick stories to tell and then you will be all caught up on what was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in one week. On Friday, a group of us started the day off with a VIP tour of Warner Bros. Studios. IF YOU EVER COME TO LOS ANGELES, SET ASIDE TIME TO TAKE THIS TOUR. It’s well worth the forty-something dollars because the groups are small, the tour guides are very knowledgeable and you just see so many cool things. To quickly recap, on some famous back lot streets, we saw crews setting up sets for tapings of the TV show Chuck and Harry’s Law, we saw Jim Carrey’s apartment building from The Mask, the balconies used in the famous opening scene from Rent, and an alley that our guide said was used in pretty much every crime drama episode in which a body is found in an alley. This alley is also home to a particularly famous wall from Spiderman. You know the upside down kissing scene in the rain between Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst? Well if you don’t you’ve been living under a rock, or simply haven’t seen the movie. Either way, we saw that wall. It’s just a plain brick façade. Nothing fancy. But hey, that’s most movie sets for you ... they’re not the way they seem, which segues nicely into our next stop on the tour. We were standing right in the middle of a traffic circle and in front of a façade of a three story building. Back in 1962, this “town square” is where Robert Preston famously paraded around singing “Ya got trouble! Right here in River City!” Decades later, this patch of grass and building façade was completely transformed into the set of Ocean’s 13. The façade actually supported the front face of the Bank’s Casino and the town square was surrounded by green screens. In the middle of the screens was a large diamond statue, used in one of the film’s final scenes in which Matt Damon’s character goes on the roof of the casino to help a helicopter fly off with the diamonds. I’m a huge fan of the Ocean’s movies, so I was pretty stoked to be there.
Later on in the tour, we stopped at the Warner Bros. museum to see movie history up close and personal. Virtually every famous prop from the Harry Potter films, including the sorting hat that can “actually” sort you into one of Hogwart’s four houses, Harry’s Nimbus 2000 broomstick, and a huge assortment of robes. There’s even a scale model of Aragog, the giant spider from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Downstairs, we saw costumes and the dream machine from Inception, costumes and props from The Matrix and more costumes, odds and ends from countless other films. Super cool. Our next stop was a garage containing a whole bunch of famous movie vehicles, including the original Batmobile from Batman and Batman Returns and the Tumbler from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. We learned that the Tumbler will soon be returning to Chicago, as filming is set to begin on Christopher Nolan’s next Batman masterpiece. We also saw the ’65 Lincoln from The Matrix, The General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard and the Weasley’s flying car from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. No big deal.
We finished up the tour actually getting to go inside a few soundstages. The first of which, Stage 7, was a special treat for some of our good friends because they are huge fans of Pretty Little Liars. Our tour guide learned that the show wasn’t taping that day, so he was nice enough to take us onto the set of the show. Even for us guys in the group, who don’t follow the show closely, it was really cool to be behind the scenes seeing how on one side of a wall there’s a school cafeteria, and on the other side, there’s a bedroom. Our last stop was on the set of Ellen, which wasn’t shooting either … a plus for us! This was really cool because let’s be honest, most television fans have at least seen a few clips of the show, even if you’re not an avid viewer. The show’s popular enough to attract attention from everywhere, so this time, even the guys in the group were pretty wide-eyed. Overall, a one sentence recap: It was absolutely awesome and I want to do it again.
That night my roommate TJ, four of our good friends and I decided to go to Hollywood. And yes, to answer your question ahead of time, we were the cliché tourists who stopped right in the middle of the Walk of Fame to take pictures of stars and who put our hands in celebrities’ impressions in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Doing touristy things in Hollywood is a total given and we were more than ready to be “those people”. For me, this was completely surreal. I explained in previous posts about how I have never seen LA landmarks in person, so I was taking in every single sight with my own eyes and with my camera. I don’t want to get into too much detail about what handprints we touched and how cool the Hollywood and Highland complex is, but one moment stands out. On our way back to the Kodak Theatre after checking out the Roosevelt Hotel, (famous for being the death place of Marilyn Monroe), we came across a very familiar and respected name to Ithacans and specifically Parkies. Rod Serling was a professor at Ithaca College for a number of years, passing onto students his expertise that created “a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind.” In Hollywood, we weren’t crossing over into the Twlight Zone, but we were entering a state of humility. While it was so insane to see so many celebrities forever enshrined along the flanks of Hollywood Boulevard, we paused at Rod Serling’s star to remember a great member of the families of Ithaca College and Hollywood. For me, seeing his star among the hundreds of others showed me that although IC and the Park School are thousands of miles away from Hollywood, there will always be a connection. Rod Serling, along with other professors and alumni over the years, undoubtedly helped pave the road for future students to take advantage of incredible opportunities available to them at Ithaca College and the Park School. The six of us who stood there on the Walk of Fame that night are just a fraction of those students. Now I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty freaking sweet. Thanks, Rod.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
I know for many dedicated TV viewers, Thursday night is the night to stop everything in the midst of three hours of hilarity on NBC. I mean come on, it really is comedy night done right. But, if you maybe, just maybe want to switch it up a bit, might I recommend that you head over to CBS tonight at 8:30 to watch the new episode of $#*! My Dad Says. Why? Well, there’s a good chance you might hear some original and very hearty Ithaca laughter coming from the audience. Tonight. CBS. 8:30. Be there … or … err … enjoy NBC.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
So it’s been about a week and-a-half since all this happened, but the experiences are too great to pass up the opportunity for some storytelling.
We left off after the hike to the Hollywood sign. And I’ll say again, it officially felt like we were here, but there’s still so much to explore. Cue Thursday. My roommate TJ and I were bored, so we went for a drive. I know what you’re thinking: “who just goes for a joyride in LA?” Well, -usually nobody unless it’s one of two occasions: you’re either one, being chased by the CHP down a freeway or two, going out in the middle of the day. I mean, seriously, you would be crazy to go out for a drive in the morning or afternoon.
TJ was driving and I was navigating and taking photos. I know it seems unfair that only one of us could pay all attention to the sights, but I promised we would do this again another time this semester and switch roles. Our destination? We didn’t know either. We just wanted to explore. We ended up taking the 101 south to Highland Avenue. Yes, THE Highland Avenue. The first thing we learned during our drive: if we ever got lost, just look for Highland. It’s the perfect road for our purposes. It intersects all the other major boulevards (Hollywood, Sunset, etc.) and runs right into the 101. Once you’re on the 101, all you have to do is get off the Barham exit and voila! You’re at the Oakwoods.
Our first big sight of this drive was the Kodak Theatre, home of the Academy Awards. Granted we literally drove past it in a few seconds, but it wasn’t one bit difficult to pick out it’s famed entrance from among the surrounding buildings. We then hung a right and headed west down Sunset Boulevard. It was just how I pictured it: palms trees, convertibles, restaurants and stores. I know, “that’s it?” Just the fact that we were driving down such a famous street was good enough for us.
We eventually found our way to Beverly Hills. And let me start out by saying all the stereotypes appear to be true. The gas is absurdly expensive, the houses are huge and have gates, and a Mercedes-Benz is definitely a nonchalant sight in the midst of Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Aston Martins. Yes, we saw about a dozen of those cars in the matter of an hour. Crazy.
The highlight of the trip was the aimless route we took up and down the hills. We were on the lookout for celebrities and just wanted to admire the kinds of houses we wish to live in one day. Honestly, for us middle class Americans, this was pretty fun. Our last big landmark sight of the trip was Rodeo Drive, in all its ritzy and uncomfortably expensive glory. The stereotypes are true about this road, too (from what I could see from the car at least). I promise, once I get the chance to actually walk around and take some good mental notes, I’ll be sure to pass them on.
TJ and I were having a lot of fun, but the setting sun persuaded us to begin our journey back before rush hour. On the way back, TJ spotted Oscar Martinez, who plays Oscar Nunez on The Office, one of his favorite shows and the home of one of his internships this semester. Don’t worry, I successfully drew his eyes back to the road ahead.
Later that night, we got our first taste of In-N-Out Burger and Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt. Yes, In-N-Out is as good as they say it is. For us first-timers we fell in love. But, we’re being smart about this. You can only have a Double Double Animal Style with cheese fries every month or so … but we’ll see if we stick to that. Menchie’s was also fantastic. There’s tons of flavors and toppings to choose from, which are just calling for us to return.
I apologize for being behind, but we seriously have been up to so much! There’s still a few more days to recap until we’re back up to date, but I’m pushing through, and I appreciate you hanging with me. For all Ithaca College students starting classes tomorrow, ::pause for anxiety attack/fit of anger and/or crying:: good luck. And enjoy the single-digit weather. It’s 75 degrees here.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Thanks for waiting. Now, where were we? Right, the sitcom. What impressed me most about the taping was how many changes were made to the script right on the spot. Although we saw a few scenes that were wrapped after only one take, there were a few that were shot three or four times. As an audience member, the laughter wasn’t as genuine because we had already heard the punch lines. But here’s the beauty of television writing. With all of the show’s writers present at the taping, if something didn’t work, they would all converse in between scenes and talk about what to fix. William Shatner explained that in changing lines around, the writers either one, used their own discretion or two, used the audience’s reaction. If the audience didn’t laugh at a new joke as much as they did to an old one, the original would probably be kept in the script. Overall, it was a great experience and something I would love to do again. Also, in addition to the regular cast, we got to see Jean Smart and Tila Tequila. I know, you’re probably just as shocked as we were to picture Tila Tequila on the set of a sitcom.
On Wednesday my roommate TJ and I picked up our rental car: a 2010 Hyundai Accent, a small car perfect for navigating this SoCal traffic. Plus, we’ve found that is has AWESOME mileage. We’re out here and on a budget, so we’ll definitely take it. After our first driving experience that brought us down Ventura Boulevard and back to the Oakwoods, we walked over to Pendleton to finish up orientation. The RAs worked with Jon to put together “name games” to help us learn about other students attending the program this semester. It brought me back to my public school days, but hey, it was all in good fun.
Later that afternoon, we caravanned down the freeway en route to hike up to the Hollywood sign. Oddly enough, the sign revealed itself in the same fashion as the Warner Bros. water tower. After getting off the freeway, I found myself driving a non discrete residential street and then out of the blue … BAM! The big, bold, white letters were looming right in front of us. I can’t tell you how hard it was to keep my eyes on the road and not on the sign. It was quite the sight and another indicator of “we’re definitely not in Ithaca anymore.”
The hike provided amazing views all the way to the top of the mountain. For the first part of the hike, we trekked the trail along the south face, often pausing for pictures of LA’s sprawling cityscape. We could literally see for miles, all the way from downtown, to Century City and even to the Pacific Ocean. As we went higher, the view became even more incredible and just when you thought that was it for the picture taking until we got to the top, we rounded a corner and came face to face with the San Fernando Valley … all of it: Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Bob Hope Airport and all the studios. Being on this mountain that literally divides metropolitan Los Angeles was a really crazy experience. It showed me and many others just how much this city has to offer … actually no. A better way to phrase it: just how many opportunities we have to take advantage of through this program. Television taping and hike to the Hollywood sign? Check. Now on to the next one.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Ok, I’m back and ready to go. Boy, do I have a lot to share. So let’s get started.
I left off two posts ago talking about my first day out here, which already feels like ages ago! After checking in to the Oakwoods, my friend and I were in desperate need for some dinner. The fact that we were jet lagged and that I was running on three hours of sleep certainly wasn’t helping the situation. After utilizing some handy apps on my iPhone, my friend and I decided to take a walk down the street to a Taco Bell. I know it’s not healthy, but it’s cheap and filling, aka, a done deal for weary travelers. It turns out that Taco Bell was farther than we expected, so we backtracked to the Smoke House Restaurant, right down the road from the Pendleton Center and across the street from Warner Bros. We had a really nice meal that didn’t put a huge dent in our wallets. I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently the restaurant has had quite the guest list, with patrons ranging from Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and more recently, George Clooney who even named his business “Smokehouse Productions.” First night in LA and I already experienced a little bit of Hollywood history — definitely a win.
Monday was very low key. My roommate Topher took me down to Vaughn’s so I could get groceries. The store reminded me of a mini Wegmans, so I felt right at home … until I stepped outside and saw palm trees, not snow. Monday also brought about the arrival of some more friends and our fourth roommate, T.J. Everybody was here and we were ready to get started, but not until we were oriented. Cue Tuesday.
Members of the Pendleton Center staff joined all the students at the Oakwoods Tuesday morning and gave us the low down on everything we needed to know about the semester, including some very valued information: how to navigate Los Angeles.
LA Fun Fact Number Two: the LA metropolitan area is separated into two areas: the City of Los Angeles (downtown, Hollwood, Beverly Hills, etc.) and the San Fernando Valley. The Oakwoods, Pendleton Center and City of Burbank are all located in the valley.
The LA Program Director, Steve Tropiano, even went into detail about freeways, shortcuts and different communities in the metro area. Honestly, having somebody actually explain it helped a lot because I was having no success looking at a map of LA, which surprised me. I’m usually great with directions. I guess it comes naturally having mostly driven on Long Island and in Ithaca, two very different but very challenging areas. But LA is a complete different animal, as I would find out the next day. But before we get to that, it’s time for my first “Crazy Awesome Experience That You Can Only Have In Los Angeles”.
A TV taping. You have to do it if you’re out here. Thanks to Jon, the ICLA Prorgrams and Services Coordinator, we had the great opportunity to go to a taping of $#*! My Dad Says, a new CBS sitcom starring William Shatner. I, along with many others, was really excited for this because one, we would get to go on a lot and inside a sound stage and two, we would get to see some celebrities. We were ushered in through some really tight security (since the show hasn’t aired yet, no cell phones or camera are allowed) and took our seats, ready to provide the laugh track. Since most tapings last anywhere from four to five hours, the studio has an emcee, usually a comedian, to get the crowd going and to inform them what’s going on with the cast, crew, cameras, etc. We had a cool guy names Randy who paid extra special attention to the Ithaca crew, so we’ll send a shout out to him! Over the course of the taping, William Shatner was nice enough to come up to the microphone and talk to the audience about stuff that was going on to help keep us entertained. Believe me, staying entertained and focused was well needed towards the end. I mean don’t get me wrong, it was really exciting for 90% of the taping, but after sitting inside for five hours, you reach a point where you need some fresh air and a stretch. However, the cast and Randy did a great job keeping our energy focused on the plot developing on stage.
This post has gone on for quite a while and I still have more to say about the sitcom and of course, the MANY other things we’ve done this week. So in the interest of keeping YOU focused, I’ll end here for now. I know the anticipation to hear all these great stories is building, but hey, patience is a virtue.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
The first post from the James B. Pendleton Center! Woo hoo!
So we're kind of in limbo right now. It was our first busy day of the semester, between orientation this morning at the Oakwoods and finishing up this afternoon here at the Pendleton Center. We learned a lot and got plenty to read and talk about with friends -- trips to Disneyland, Universal Studios Six Flags Magic Mountain, the beach and all the other coolness out here in SoCal.
We're literally walking out the door to head to a taping of $#*! My Dad Says right next store at Warner Bros. Studios, but I just wanted to drop by for a quick hello. More details and stories to come in future posts.
If you're back in the Northeast, stay safe and warm inside and away from the blizzard!
Monday, January 10, 2011
Del Taco, Panda Express, In-N-Out Burger, palm trees, a familiar-looking water tower, movie promotions – yeah, I’m in LA.
Hello from the West Coast! I guess it’s official now that I’ve changed my “current city” on Facebook, right? It’s 60 degrees, sunny and an all around great day, which is well needed after a stressful day of traveling yesterday.
I flew out here with a good friend of mine, but happened to see some other familiar faces on our flight, so that was pretty cool. Our trip: JFK to Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. For anybody coming from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, definitely consider looking into this route provided by JetBlue. It’s a direct flight and it brings you within a few miles of the Oakwoods. Plus, JetBlue is low-cost and you don’t have to worry about the hustle and bustle of major airports such as LAX. It’s just a lot more relaxing. Believe me, future ICLAers, you’re going to be really excited and ready to see the sights, but there are nerves that go along with this, so you need to try and make the transition as relaxing as possible. I related coming out here when I first got to IC’s campus in August, 2008. I just didn’t know what to expect. But, the staff at the Pendleton Center has done a great job in recent weeks sending us e-mails about orientation, internships and a lot of other things to help us prepare for the semester. Also, the orientation packet helped A LOT.
We took the Super Shuttle from the airport straight to the Oakwoods. It was a quintessential LA ride. Hollywood Way is lined with palm trees, houses and a bunch of stores, but at the end is a crowned jewel of sorts. Looming in the distance I could make out the outline of the very famous Warner Bros. water tower. That’s when it hit me. Wow, I’m actually here. Growing up on Long Island, in the suburbs of New York City, I frequently got to visit Broadway, Times Square and other landmarks such as the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center and Central Park. I even had the great opportunity to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade seven times. Needless to say, New York City felt like a second home, so whenever I would see one of these landmarks on TV on in a movie, it wouldn’t really phase me. It’s a different story for LA. With the entertainment industry having a very obvious foothold out here, I grew up seeing the Hollywood sign, studio lots, Santa Monica Boulevard and tons and tons of the other sights out here. However, all these places were on a screen and I never seen them with my own eyes. So seeing that water tower was a pretty big deal for me.
The Oakwoods are great. The apartments are comfortable, the staff is friendly and the grounds are very well maintained. BUT, even for an Ithaca College student, someone who is well trained in navigating a very confusing and hilly environment, I DON’T KNOW WHERE THE HECK I’M GOING! I’m sure I’m in the same boat as everybody else and granted it is only my first full day, so it’s only a matter of time until I can find my way from my building to a friend’s building without becoming totally lost. That’s actually a good stopping point for now. I have a few things to finalize regarding my rental car and interview, but for the next post expect a good story about navigating Burbank … in the dark … on our first day. What a start, huh?
Friday, January 7, 2011
Another great question.
Talk about being alive with activity. That’s the Park School. Walk through the lobby during the heart of the day and you’re bound to see someone you know. They might be grabbing their coffee, shooting some b-roll, or working at one of the tables. So what do you do? Right. Stop and chat. Constant conversation is only fit for communications students. The usual chatter can all be overheard: classes, parties, more parties, you know the deal. But this past semester, it seemed as if a different, more rousing tone could be felt among a particular group of students. The usual topics were traded in for talks Hollywood, Universal Studios, and the beach, which were usually accompanied by smiles, laughter and the occasional scream of excitement. For those of us heading out to Los Angeles in the spring, needless to say, it’s been the talk of the town.
But the time has come for us to stop talking and start doing. With some students having already settled into the Oakwoods, it’s time to focus on our internships, classes and final preparations. Plus, we have places to go and people to see. And from what we hear, some of those people may very well be celebrities. But you’ll hear about those star sightings as they occur. You’ll also hear about everything, well, almost everything we do, which brings us to the role of this blog.
Even before being accepted into the Los Angeles Program, I had questions. Anybody who knows me will wholeheartedly agree that I always ask questions. For the purposes of preparing for the LA Program, that attribute proved me well. But the whole experience encompasses so many opportunities that it’s impossible to get every question answered before you arrive. For those of you without answers, hopefully, this blog will change that. For those of you looking for a good story, hopefully this blog will provide that. For those of you reading for the heck of it, well, thanks for reading.
Whoever you are, it’s my hope that this blog opens up a new conversation and a new story. I mean, come on. Parkies and La La Land? We’re more than capable of writing a novel. So let’s do it.
Friday, January 7, 2011
I'm Andrew Buraczenski and I'm a junior integrated marketing communications major with a minor in journalism. I hail to Ithaca (or in this case, Los Angeles) from Long Island, New York. Ahh, Long Island - where the beaches are plentiful, the traffic is intense and the accents are heavy. Bam. Right off the bat LI and LA have two things in common. Of course, the accent always stands out ... especially in my case. Just ask anybody who's seen me order a certain caffeinated beverage from the Park Cart. Apparently, it's pronounced "cah-fee" not "caw-fee". Who knew?
So, with all the generic "about me" information behind us, what else is there to know? Well, as you can probably assume, I'm one of thousands, and thousands ... and thousands ... and thousands of students looking for a job within the next two years. So if you like what you read, don't hesitate to pass my name on to that important person you know through your brother's uncle's friend's second cousin's girlfriend. See, if you really take the time to think about it, we all know somebody in Hollywood. Oh, right. That reminds me why I'm qualified to write this blog. Aside from being a job hunter, I'm one of 67 lucky students who will be attending the Ithaca College Los Angeles Program during the Spring 2011 semester. Now, if you happen to be reading this blog where it's cold, windy, rainy, snowy and all-around miserable for a good part of the spring (yes, look outside Ithacans. I'm talking about you), expect to become jealous over a great number of references to the sun, sand, ocean, palm trees, boardwalks, star sightings, flip flops, sunglasses, bathing suits, shorts and practically anything else found in Southern California or sold at Hollister.
Aside from seeing some incredible new sights, we also have new experiences to face through our internships. This semester, I'm a Social Marketing Intern with Live Nation Entertainment, doing a lot of work with social media, promotions, and graphic design. So, I'm really excited for that. I'm also in the process of interviewing for another internship in Beverly Hills, but more word on that as the story develops.
Speaking of internships, it's time for fun fact number one about the LA Program. Every student is guaranteed an internship. It might not be your top choice, but assuming you apply early and to a decent number of companies, you're bound to get something you like. Also, a lot of students even do two internships, which can be tough to manage in the vast expanse of civilization that is Los Angeles. One of your internships can be on the coast in Santa Monica, while the other can be located in a skyscraper downtown. But hey, it's all about planning. Anything can be done out here as long as you think ahead, but more talk of that in future posts. I'm fortunate enough to have landed one internship and tracked down another that are located just a few blocks away from each other in Beverly Hills. So I guess it's safe to say that even though my fashion sense is a little whack, I'll still be rolling like a celebrity. Oh, that reminds me - expect a lot of music, references, too.