My friends, I crossed another one off the list! As a part of my "25 Before 25" initiative, my husband and I took a tour of Warner Bros. Studios and became audience members in a live taping of Conan! Here's a bit about our trip, and how it all went down.
We arrived in Santa Monica to beautiful sunshine that promptly gave way to heavy fog, which decided it wouldn't leave us alone the rest of the trip. It was sunnier and warmer in Colorado than in California, but we didn't mind! We had plans to tour WB studios, see Conan, go surfing, and do a bit of evaluating to see if we'd ever want to live here. No amount of fog could get us down.
Warner Bros. Studios is up in Burbank, and for all the traffic complaints in LA, we didn't have a hard time getting up there early in the morning for this tour. Maybe Spencer had a hard time because he was driving and I was blissfully awaiting my opportunity to set foot on a film set again. Hm.
I have been to this studio before when I was a kid. I have to add that bit in there for my dad. I've been talking of being an actress/film maker since I was about 10 so when I turned 13, he finally took us to Los Angeles and, through a contact, got us this amazing private tour of the studio. This was way back when, so we got to go on the set of E.R (I saw Noah Wyle! I had no idea who he was, but I saw him!) as well as the set of West Wing (I didn't really know anything about this show, but we saw Rob Lowe! who very quickly said we were in his eye line and that we absolutely must move. Love it.) For a young girl dreaming of making it big, this tour made my dad 10,000x cooler than all the other dads. (Dad, you're still that cool)
Since then, though, I've come to know so many amazing television shows and movies that have been filmed here, so this time around the tour was just as fun but so much more personal. We saw Miss Patty's Dance Studio from Gilmore Girls...
...The orphanage from Annie, the scaffolding where Christian Bale sang "Santa Fe" in Newsies, the alley where the cast of Friends sang "In the Jungle" to Marcel the Monkey in one of the earlier seasons... and so much more. I'll get back to all of that in just a minute, though.
We drove through the mill where they build all the sets. Spencer took this photo. I think his engineering heart went pitter patter at the sight of it.
And we even got to see the set of Central Perk from Friends. The whole time we were touring around these sets on the backlot and front lot, I had this feeling just swell up inside of me - I want to do this, all day everyday. I want to be a part of this. I have things in life that I love and that I'm passionate about, but film production - it's like a serious calling. I've never felt the pull towards a career like I have to this. Amazing.
After the tour, we went over and checked in for Conan! It's really awesome that these tapings are free and they totally make the wait worth while. You have to check in several hours in advance to get good seats (to even make it in at all, really) but once you're in the studio, it's so worth it. They don't allow photography in there, but the set is so much smaller than it feels when you're watching it on TV.
Really, the most incredible part of the entire bit is what they do when they're at commercial. For one, they are so organized. Everyone knows exactly where to move and go next, and everyone is so full of energy. It's nuts to think that this is only one hour out of their work day, where they come and tape. The rest of the week is spent writing, rehearsing, doing pre-shoots and so on. But once they tape, it only takes a few hours before it's on TBS that night. Spencer was enthralled with this dude in a suit who was on the phone the whole time. Spence suspected that this guy's job was to make sure that whatever was coming out of Conan's mouth, or the other guys for that matter, was okay with their advertisers. I think that's a pretty good guess, and after we left, Spencer said he'd rather do that job than build sets in the mill. Either way, my husband is hooked.
Our hotel was amazing. We stayed at the Hotel Oceana in Santa Monica, which was recommended by Joanna in this post. I have to say, this is by far the best hotel I have ever stayed in. I am a really big stickler when it comes to hotels - it takes a lot for me to really feel comfortable - but this place hit the nail right on the head. Their staff and service is impeccable, and by the time we left, it felt like we had our own community there. The design is really cute and very Anthropologie-esque, which I of course loved. It's a small hotel, but very comforting and intentional. We will stay here time and again, I know it.
The last time I was in Santa Monica was 2 years ago on the Ride:Well Tour, pedaling my way up the PCH towards Seattle. It was fun to take some bikes out and ride around with Spencer on my "old stomping grounds" of sorts. I have to say, though, that beach cruisers make no sense to me. No sense at all.
Spencer went surfing and I was terrified of the dark abyss that would take my husband... I don't like the ocean. It was so mellow, but I'm a drama queen who hates tar on my feet and visions of my love tumbling in the waves.
He looks damn cute in a wet suit, though.
He did so well, and I was really proud. He's surfed before in Costa Rica, so it only took him two attempts before he's up and riding. He told me afterwards that one of the reasons he doesn't want to leave Colorado is because of his love of snowboarding, but that after surfing that day, he thinks he'd be just as happy catching waves everyday in California. Good to know!
Because on the last day, I said to Spencer that my favorite day was when we toured the studios and saw the taping. I am so glad I put this on my 25 before 25 list, because I doubt we would have even thought to do that this year had I not. The tour/taping reminded me of my passion for film and television, and the stories in cinema, and I am so grateful. I had forgotten. I had let some bad experiences in filmmaking get the best of me, and I gave up for awhile. But my heart was so in line with my head in those moments on the lot, looking at the sets, imagining the actors rehearsing well-written words, directors guiding them in telling a story that will inspire people around the world.
So on the last day, I told Spencer that I wanted to go back and take the tour again.
And so we went.
Don't mind my wrinkly shirt. I'm so happy here.
So happy that I said, "Spencer, take my picture doing a Newsies heel-click. I need to commemorate this moment with dance." And of course he said okay, and then of course my shoe went flying off mid-jump.
So I had to do this instead. Obviously.
We went back down Hennesy Street (named for the Production Designer of Annie) on the WB backlot, and back to the Anywhere, USA (all I could see was Star's Hollow). We saw the Gellar House, the living room where they all go to the Prom, Lorelai's House, Rory's study tree, the path where Phoebe and Rachel go jogging. We saw Luke's Diner.
We saw the Batmobiles!
Even the Tumbler!
(My husband is so artsy)
And I am very serious. Like the Matrix.
We went back to the Central Perk.
We even drove by Ellen's production offices in our little tram. I have to say, there were some pretty die hard Ellen fans in our tram. About five seconds after this picture was taken, this lady (wearing an Ellen sweatshirt) started yelling, "Is that Ellen? Is that Ellen behind us? Is that her Porsche?"
Our new-to-the-job tour guide nervously kept driving, and responded that he didn't know. I was up in the front with him, and could see all the security around us. But the woman kept screaming, "Stop! Go back!" And then finally, "THERE SHE IS!!! ELLEN!!!"
Lo and behold, the crazy Ellen fan was right. Ellen was driving behind us for a good minute and a half in her car while we drove by her offices. Right as we rounded the corner, the woman screamed out and the guide stepped on the breaks. We all looked to our right, just in time to see Ellen wave at us. I admit, I let out a little shout of excitement myself. Ellen is amazing. I'll just leave it at that.
We were really tired after all of this.
I call this photography series "The Great Nap."
This trip was absolutely incredible. The food, the surf, the purpose rediscovered. I am so thankful for my sweet husband who agrees to go along with my antics, and who is my adventurous traveling companion, through and through.
"18. Take a tour of a film studio, and see a taping of one of my favorite TV shows." Check!