Friday, November 23, 2012

Los Angeles Stuff

Will and I just got back on Monday from a week-long trip to Los Angeles, CA.  Will worked part of the time while we were there, and then the other part was spent on my music stuff.

Last Monday I took my boys up to my parents house, and also got my hair cut/colored.

(The bedtime set-up at Grandma and Grandpa's)

I have been pretty blonde for several months and was wanting some of my natural red put back into it, so the stylist actually put in 2 different shades of red as well as some blonde highlights as well. I really really liked how it turned out.

Since Will had to be in LA an entire day ahead of me, we took separate flights.  I was excited to finally meet up with him Tuesday evening - and we went out to dinner at PF Changs.

Here's me right after I picked up my rental car from the airport. If this tells you anything about my personality, they told me I had a choice between the Chevy Malibu, the Jeep Liberty, or a Mercedez. I chose the Jeep.

We also were able to meet up with Will's aunt and uncle. The funny part was that Will and Kevin were wearing the exact same plaid shirts from Costco (unplanned).

While Will worked on Wednesday, I headed into downtown LA to meet up with my friend Glen, whom I've worked with on music for over 5 years but never met in person until then.  He lives in Sweden so all of our work has been done online (he did all the beats and some of the additional orchestration on my Illumination album).

As well as eating some yummy Greek food, we also went to visit a piano store to play on some pianos (as I was still looking for a piano for my music video. That is a long story in itself, which, if you care to read, you can do so on my music blog here).

Sorry, I forgot to include this adorable photo of Preston right before we left. He packed up all his toys that he wanted to take to G&G's house and was all ready!

A photo of me at Kassimoff's Pianos, playing a rare Bluthner piano that was hand-picked by Marvin Hamlesch himself. I really enjoyed talking with the Kassimoff's for a couple of hours. Helga is elderly and she runs the store with her son. They served us cranberry juice and German cookies (they are from Germany). It was a lovely visit.  I had told them on the phone the week before that I would stop by and come visit them, and when I walked in the door with Glen, they looked at me and said "Jennifer!". I was impressed they knew who I was just from my website photos.

Wednesday night, Will and I got another date night.  Whew! Two date nights in a row - this was rare! So we went out to dinner and then saw the new James Bond movie, "Skyfall" - which I totally loved.

And speaking of James Bond, the next evening when we went to the HMMA's, Will was told he resembled Daniel Craig.  Yeah baby, I felt like my date was James Bond all evening.  I could totally see that too - Daniel Craig is blonde with very light eyebrows, similar color and hairstyle as Will. :)

I mean, he does have some similarities, just a little bit, right? :)

Yeah, so anyway, Thursday night we had the Hollywood Music in Media Awards - as I had 3 nominations for it.  "Best Classical", "Best Contemporary Orchestral Instrumental" and "Best Original Score for Indie/Documentary/Short Film".

This was on the rooftop of the Wilshire Hotel with some music friends before we all headed to the limo to go to the awards.  From left to right - Noelle (my awesome friend and makeup artist), Michele (Pianist/composer), Me, Glen (Film Composer), and John (Actor/Producer).

A photo of our group of 15 in the Hummer Limo....

I have to say that limos are not comfortable to sit in, they are expensive, and we didn't get to ride the limo back to our cars after the awards either. We had to find our own rides - which was crazy.  But it was kind of fun driving up to the awards and having everyone stare at us as we got out.

With my friend Viktoria...Not the best photo of me, but eh whatever.

Once we got to the awards, we had to stand in line for a while to get to the red carpet.   Glen's awesome manager, Jens, came and grabbed us though and got us to the front of the line which was really nice to bypass the wait. I think I need an awesome manager like that.

Here is Michele, Glen, and I - we were all nominees in the "Best Contemporary Orchestral Instrumental" category. 

Here's me being interviewed by some Bollywood station...which at the end when she asked me to say "This is ___ and you're listening to______" I totally could not say it.  Took me four times to finally get it right.

Oh whoops, one out of order - Michele and I on the rooftop of the Wilshire.

Out in front of the Fonda Theater in downtown Hollywood with Michele, Noelle, Becky and Ryan McNeal (the writer/director of Minuet, which was up for Best Score that evening).

The lovely dress I wore was a dress sent to me from  I have an arrangement with them where they send me dresses to wear for events for a low price, in exchange for mentioning them online and in interviews, etc.   I got a TON of compliments on the dress that evening -I was blown away.  It was very sparkly and definitely stood out next to all the other dresses.  It had a sheer top/sleeves and I put a nude cami under it to be more modest and it worked very well - you could not even see it under there.

Me and my Daniel Craig :)

So I did end up winning the award for "Best Original Score for Indie/Documentary/Short Film" which was really super cool for me.  Here is a video...

And then here are some photos of me being interviewed after winning the award. I invited Ryan McNeal to join me on stage and for interviews/pics as it was his film that he wrote and directed.  He was very excited to be part of the whole thing and to have won with me.

So anyway, it was a really fun night.  We got home pretty late though, and had to be up early the next morning as we were filming my music video for "Requiem For a Dream"...

Requiem For a Dream Video Shoot

Again, if you want to read the detailed version of what happened on this video shoot, then I highly suggest reading that from my music blog HERE. For this family blog, I'm just going through really quickly to explain some of the pictures, however I also might give some more personal info about stuff that I didn't include on my music blog....

We got a soundstage for a screaming good deal that also had a really fantastic makeup room. Here's me all natural and make-up less waiting for Noelle to get started. I obviously need a lot of help getting beautiful! Ha!

Here is part way through the process - after makeup, false eyelashes, and hair in rollers....we are almost finished.  Justus (the producer) kept coming in and asking for an ETA...which kept getting extended.  It really does take a long time to get ready for shoots like this. At home, I'm TOTALLY not like this. I spend maybe 10 min on my makeup (which is usually just foundation and mascara), and I throw my hair into a ponytail.  But for stuff like this where a camera is getting close up shots of my face and hair - it's kind of important to cross the T's and dot the I's.

Here is a shot that Noelle took of me from behind while sitting at the piano - all freshly done. 

The dress was, again, from I really love their dresses and I'm not just saying that because I have an arrangement with them. I had bought their dresses long before the arrangement. 

Here is Ryan and the crew getting the white stage all set up with the Steinway...It was very interesting to me how they did it. They laid this cardboard stuff down and then painted it all fresh.  The cardboard stuff rounds out into the side walls, and when painted it creates a sense of endless boundaries.  It's super cool. I always wondered how they did that.

Another shot of me at the beginning of the day...

Some shots from the video shoot...

An actual still-frame from the camera...

While I was spending most of the day filming my piano scenes, our dancer, Ivorie was in hair and makeup getting ready for her dancing scenes. I just loved the whole concept that Ryan came up with for this video- it is high class top notch. Very artistic and beautiful. All done in black and white with a sense of class and grace.  Ivorie had most recently performed as a dancer for Cirque de Soleil and she was just the most beautiful graceful dancer I'd ever seen.  I wish I was in that good of shape.

I also loved how her name was Ivorie - which is what traditional piano keys are made out of. And she is African American - and the video is all done in black/white which gave her and I both stark contrasts to each other throughout.

After my piano scenes were finished, I finally got to eat! I was very excited, because I hadn't eaten all day. I was afraid I would spill on my creme-colored dress, or just feel really gross and not at my best.  

My friend Noelle made the comment to me, "Jen, you are either super dressed up, or super casual.  Never in between."

It's true, if I'm not in a ballgown I'm in sweats or my pajamas.  With the exception of date nights with Will.  What can I say - I just really prefer to be comfortable and my "casual" wardrobe is lacking any real style.

This was Will and Eric helping the Kassimoff's Pianos load the 6 foot Steinway into their truck....

This is the same moving truck that they have always used....there is a story behind it, which I can't tell you, but it's got character.

The next morning was SUPER early.  We were up around 5:00 a.m. and checked out of our LA hotel by 6:30 so that we could be on our way to Joshua Tree National Park.

Once we got to the park, we checked into a motel and then Noelle, Ivorie, and I started hair and makeup.  Another 4 hours later, we finally made it out to the desert. The sun was going down and we only had a couple of ours to get some shots before we lost our light. Here are a few that Will took on the camera...

It was SUPER cold that evening, and the wind was blowing pretty hard. I guess it made for some pretty cool windy-hair shots, but it was almost impossible to play my violin with my hair blowing everywhere. It kept blowing onto my strings and sometimes I would just have to fake it and keep playing even though my bow would not play over on top of my hair.

Music playback was also difficult.  The iPod and bluetooth that we were originally planning to use wouldn't sync, and so I ended up using my workout MP3 player with earbuds.  Only they were wireless, and so Alex (the editor) stood behind me and would push play, hurry and tuck it into the back of my dress and then leap down off of the rock out of the way.  I had the earbuds hidden underneath my hair.

Will was AMAZING during all of this.  He was waiting for when my shots were done and he would hurry up and put blankets around me, or hug me to keep me warm. He also brought me bobby pins for my hair - which I eventually ended up using to keep some of the bigger strands of hair out of my face when the wind was blowing.  Did I mention that I was only wearing flipflops?  And  when they filmed scenes where my feet showed, I just took them off and had bare feet. The rocks were too dangerous to wear my high heels on. I was soooooo cold.

After a late night (and we all went to Breaking Dawn Part 2), we had another very early morning. Noelle and I were up at 4:30 doing hair and makeup for a 7am call time.  It doesn't take me 2.5 hours to get ready, but Ivorie also had to get her hair/makeup done as well and so between the two of us - with just one makeup artist that is how long it takes.

We headed out to the dessert again...Ivorie did her scenes first this time.

Meanwhile, I practiced the violin and prepared for my upcoming shots...which I learned were going to be super high up on this rocky ledge.  From the bottom, I thought, eh it can't be that bad.  But once I actually got up there it was freaking me out pretty bad.

I do not like edges. I'm not afraid of heights, but I don't like edges where I feel like I will fall.  Will and Alex helped me climb up there in my dress and flip-flops.  Once I got up to the top, it took me like 10 min of sitting on that stupid rock to get my courage to stand up on it.  

I finally did stand up, but started feeling really dizzy, nauseous, scared, and I started to panic. I felt like I would fall right off.  Yes I cried too.  And all I could think about was that I was going to ruin my makeup.  

I kept telling myself "Just do it! Do it for the shot - it'll look awesome!" but my panic won over.  I ended up sitting on the rock and doing the scene that way. I swear I felt like Fiddler on the Roof.

Even looking at that photo, it doesn't appear to be so bad. But it was much steeper when actually standing on the rock. Man I'm such a wimp!

Next we moved locations to a part of the park where there are these really cool cacti called "Teddybear Cacti".  But they did not feel like teddybears. If you get one of the thorns in you it rips your skin from the inside out.  We had to be extremely cautious, and even getting one in your shoe would go through to your foot. We had pliers on hand to pull them out so we wouldn't touch them with bare hands.  A few of the crew got pricked pretty badly though.

After the teddybear cactus location, we moved to one last location- which was a viewpoint overlooking Palm Springs. It was very beautiful and we were there just in time for some really cool sunset shots.

Again, it was FREEZING cold up there, and the wind was blowing pretty good too. It took a lot of concentration to remember to not act cold when on film, because all I wanted to do was let my teeth chatter and shiver.

I have to say filming for me was not easy.  I think when you see music videos, you think it just looks pretty effortless and beautiful.  But it's so far different than performing or recording.  For example, when I am in performance mode on a stage, I really am concentrating on hitting all the right notes and making sure that the way the music SOUNDS to the audience is how I want it portrayed. I usually don't care about what I look like while performing, but am just very concentrated on the music.

However, for shooting a music video - I have to forget about the music almost entirely.  The music is pre-recorded so we're not concentrating on hitting the right notes.  But we're concentrating on smiling, looking nice while performing, not slouching, etc.  On the violin it was particularly hard for me because I tend to normally really put my violin chinrest pretty far underneath my chin when I play - which pushes my chin fat out to the side. It's not pretty - haha.  So but for filming, I had to hold my violin a different way that made my face look the most flattering and inviting.   The way I am holding it in the video is definitely not how I would hold it if I were to really play it in performance mode.

I also tend to really purse my lips when I perform and get a serious look on my face.  I made sure Ryan knew that he could tell me when I needed to change my face. He was constantly telling me "Smile more", or "Look lighter", or "Relax your jaw/lips".  

On top of that, I also had an earbud in my ear playing music part of the time which I was to sync to, and the times I didn't have the earbud we were doing playback from an iPad which was kind of hard to hear over my violin right in front of my face.  I had to strain to hear it - and oft times I just had to ad-lib because I couldn't hear it.   It's bad to stop while filming - you're always told to just keep rolling even if you mess up.  So I just kept going, knowing I sounded awful and had no idea if I was on with the music or not.  

I also had to be careful not to "spike the camera", which means to look directly into the camera.  There were plenty of times when I was looking down at my fingers to make sure I was playing the right notes, and then Ryan would say "Okay look up and out", and so I would look up and BOOM look directly into the camera. They would have to stop and start the take again.

At the end of the shoot, Will told me he was shocked at how much hard work it was. He had no clue.  He said "Wow you have so many things you have to think about when you're playing - all at the same time!"...and then he also commented on how all three days were very early mornings and very late nights and we just worked literally all day long.  

It really is a lot of hard work -but it's also a lot of fun. My "work" is fun. :)

All in all, it was an absolutely WONDERFUL experience.  I had filmed a video in August with my friend Viktoria on a collaborative project and the whole thing left a really bad taste in my mouth. It was not a good experience for me.  So to have this whole video shoot turn out so incredibly well, so positive and uplifting - well it was just awesome. And Will had a really great time as well. It was really fun having him with me, and I couldn't have done it without him.  He was not only just really supportive, but UBER helpful in so many ways.

And it was really nice to have some time together without the kids. Don't get me wrong- we LOVE our boys.  But having a whole week together just the two of us - was really needed.  We laughed so much, and touched, held hands, hugged, kissed more in public than we had in a long time. It really felt like we were newlyweds again.

It made me realize that on a normal day to day basis, we both get pretty exhausted by work and being parents.  Both are good and needed of course, but we are so busy fulfilling other peoples' needs all of the time that we sometimes don't have any energy left for each other.  So to have this last week with each other was just really wonderful and I haven't been able to stop smiling ever since coming back - as I think back on our really fun memories from the trip. :)

As for the boys, they had a really super fun time at Grandma and Grandpa's house. I'm so grateful to have parents close by to watch them for us - and I never have to worry either. I just know that they will be taken care of extremely well (and spoiled!).  Here are some photos from their time and G&G's....

We're all back home now and had a really great Thanksgiving dinner last night.  

Now I'm going to head to bed and snuggle with James Bond.

Good night!

P.S. Longest blog post ever? I think so.