I feel a bit cheated. We’re working on Saturday because everyone got an extra day off the week before I got here. There’s something not fair about that. On the other hand I spent more time in front of the camera this morning than I have since I got here. I was on set almost continously before lunch.
The first bit was pushing Sarah in on a rolly-cart because the shot was too low for her to move herself without her knees showing. So, that was really puppeteer manipulation, rather than puppet manipulation. Still fun to be working.
The next shot I did live hands for Sarah as she worked Trixie. We had to come in carrying a cable, give a thumbs up, turn up the volume on a turntable, have a bit of dialogue and dance. Because of a turn that we had to do, there was a moment where I was blind (couldn’t see a tv monitor). It’s funny, because on stage that would have been no issue, but with television puppetry I’m not manipulating the puppet on my hand so much as I am moving the image on the screen. So, it doesn’t matter if my muscle memory tells me where something is; it can still look wrong on screen.
After lunch has been a different story. We’ve been doing our usual waiting routine.
We started working as soon as we came in today. I did some right hands, but nothing terribly complicated. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this, but one of the reasons that I was hired is because the other puppeteers have fairly large hands and, in Jodi’s words, “they look freakish” when they do live hands for the puppets.
This is the green room, where we spend a lot of time. I wish I could take pictures on set, but I figure this way you’ll get to see all the backstage stuff; the show, you can watch on t.v. We’ve done a fair bit of work today, which is nice. The days when we’re here, just waiting, are excrutiatingly long.
I actually wound up working quite a bit today. I was in a couple of shots as hands or feet, but my primary activity today was on a full body shot that they would like to do, but they’ve had little success with the full body puppets thus far. So we spent, what seemed like hours, walking the same fifteen foot stretch of floor with a puppet that is three-quarters life-size. For me, this means a lot of time crawling on the floor.
Tomorrow morning we’ll try the same thing but on a platform, which will be easier because I won’t have to crawl. Such fun.
After work I went to the pool with Jodi, Sam and Julie. The hot tubs are a really lovely way to unwind after a day spent hunched over.
Today I was pulled in to do assist Sarah on the rods of Trixie. In the first shot, my only job was to put Trixie’s right hand on her hip. No problem, except for one tiny thing. We’re on these flat rolling carts, kinda like mechanics use under cars, so that we can stay below the camera sightlines. Anyway, mine tips over during the shot, leaving me on the floor with three puppeteers about to roll over me.
The puppet wrangler, Adam, holds out his hand to me and drags me across the floor so I can get out of their way. It was very funny. But we saved the shot, so that’s okay.
I also worked a pair of legs during a football tackle and did some more rod work. There was this one crazy shot where I was doing rods on two different puppets at once. Don’t ask, it’s almost impossible to explain why it made sense to do it that way.
For those of you who aren’t in the puppet business, here’s an analogy. Remember the hardest game of Twister you’ve ever played. Now, to puppeteer in television you have to hold that position, stick one hand up in the air and put a five pound weight in it. BUT, and here’s the hard part, you have to stay below knee level on an average person, because if someone can see that you have to start over. While doing that, you need to sing and dance and act, all at the same time.
Hmm. Now, why do I think this is fun?
I got my pass today, so I can move around the building without needing to borrow someone elses. It was a remarkably freeing sensation.
I just got the word that they are going to keep me. Whew. It was pretty informal. Raymond, the producer, came in and asked Jodi if they liked me, and then asked me if I liked them. Then he asked Jodi to step into the hall and apparently said “She seems nice.” He told Jodi that he’d work on my paperwork. So I guess I’m here for five months.
Which is good, since I’m finally adjusted to the time zone. I went to bed at 10:30 last night and woke up at six this morning. I usually need seven and half hours of sleep when I’m rested, so this felt pretty good.
I also, finally, got to puppeteer today. I was the live arms for Sarah while she was manipulating Trixie. I also did live hands for Jodi. I’ll be the default for three of the kid puppets because my hands are smaller than Raymond’s. Raymond is the other assistant puppeteer.
I went to bed at nine o’clock last night and just passed out. Then I woke up shortly after midnight–very annoying–and I could not get back to sleep. I finally got out of bed and had a snack, then tried to sleep again. The last time I looked at the clock it was three a.m., but the alarm startled me when it went off, so I must have been fully asleep.
Despite that, I feel much, much better today. We got to the studio about 8:30; Jodi and Sam picked me up. So far I haven’t done any puppetry except to play around in the puppet shop. The rest of my time is spent helping get the puppeteers pillows for their shots. There will be more involved shots later when they will use all of us but right now I’m very contented to ease into things. I worked for a bit with Julie, who I’ll be seconding at times. That was fun.
I can’t take pictures of the set, so here’s something I can take a photo of. They feed us in a really great lunchroom. It has a view of the lava fields that surround us. The landscape here is like nothing I’ve seen; it is like a moonscape and at the same time lush with life.
The mosses and grasses, the small flowers and shrubs blanket the rocks and soften their edges. Everything feels new.
(Tor Books — August 21, 2018) Continuing the grand sweep of alternate history laid out in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars. Of course, the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, […]