Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Page Interviews: Part One

Kenneth, the NBC Page - (c) NBC Universal

Before the television show 30 Rock, not too many people probably knew what a studio page was or what they did, unless they worked in entertainment. Now, because of Jack McBrayer who portrays an NBC studio page named Kenneth, the world of the studio page has been brought into the spotlight. Having worked as a page myself, I can say that some of the tasks that Kenneth is assigned on the show are pretty spot on:  giving tours of the studio, answering phones, running errands for various studio executives, helping out with audience coordination on TV shows. However, I would like to think that not all of us pages were as naive as the character Kenneth.

Because pages have so much access to the studios they work at, they usually have many interesting stories. When you have that page jacket on that Kenneth so much adores, no one really questions you when you walk around the studio. Nobody knows what big exec you may be running an errand for. To shine a light on some of the stories pages have, I decided I would start a new series of interviews with former and current pages.

In my first interview in this new series is former page Brian Lauda:

Brian Lauda gives a tour at Paramount Studios

For which studios did you work as a Page and what years were you there?

Well, Sony technically doesn’t have a Page program. I was a tour guide there from July 2005-January 2006. At the time, Sony’s lot was filled with mostly movies and one hour dramas, which don’t require pages. They used an outside Page company for the few sitcoms and game shows they actually had.

I also worked at Paramount Pictures as a Page from January 2006-September 2006.
For those who are not familiar, what does a Page do? What did your job duties consist of (Sony vs. Paramount)?

At Sony, my primary job was giving tours of the studio. I also helped answer the phones and schedule tours along with some other minor clerical work.
Paramount’s Page program was a lot more diverse. They actually have a structured page program. The three main duties I had as a page were 1) giving tours of the studio 2) assisting with the studio audiences for the sitcoms and other shows, and 3) performing temporary job assignments around the lot as needed.

What was your most interesting experience at Sony?

It was a slow tour day and I only had one person on my tour, which can either be extremely fun or extremely challenging depending on that person’s personality. This particular tour was a little tougher than others. My guest and I were standing in front of Nancy Meyer’s production company in one of the parking spaces. As I was talking about the building, this little car came whipping around the corner and nearly hit us. The driver put her hands over her face, and you could tell she was very embarrassed for almost hitting us. As the driver got out of the car, she waved to us and said “I’m really sorry,” before scurrying into the building. My guest then looked at me and said, “Did we just almost get run over by Cameron Diaz?” I said, “Yes, we sure did.” The rest of the tour was smooth sailing.

What was your most interesting experience as a Page at Paramount Studios?

I’m not sure if this is the most interesting, but this is definitely the most fun. If you ever visit a movie studio, you will come to find out that golf carts are the preferred mode of travel. Myself and a certain page who will remain nameless (because I believe he still works at the studio) had some time to kill between our last tour and a movie screening. It was probably around 6 or 7 in the evening and the lot was practically deserted. We thought it would be a great idea to race the golf carts around the studio. Now for those who don’t know, Paramount has an outdoor water tank. Before CGI and all the other special effects, a water tank was the place to film any type of water scene. The water tank at Paramount is particularly famous, because this is where Cecile B. Demille parted the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments. Because the water tank is no longer used very often, it is now a parking lot, which sits in the middle of the studio. This was one of the rare times the parking lot was completely empty. Naturally, we had to race our golf carts in this tank and take them up the sides of the curved walls. Only one problem…the front of a golf cart is square. Needless to say, we bottomed out and got our golf carts stuck. I nearly had a heart attack when three “suits” (studio big wigs) came walking by the parking lot. We quickly rescued our golf carts and fled the scene of the crime. Success!

What were your least favorite experiences?

Working the mail room during rainy season. Los Angeles has two weeks of rain a year, and I managed to work the mail room both of those weeks. My boxers and socks were soaked by the end of every day.

Any celebrity run-ins?

A ton. But the one that sticks out in my mind was when I was working one of the sitcoms at the Paramount lot. A couple of other pages and I were on break and standing outside the soundstage. Out of nowhere, Henry Winkler aka The Fonz, came over and started talking to us. I don’t even remember what we talked about, but he hung out with us for about 5 minutes. As a page, you are told not to approach any of the celebrities, so this was sort of a big deal. A movie studio is kind of like the zoo, and the celebrities are the animals…you can look, but don’t touch. I kept thinking I was going to get in trouble for talking to Henry Winkler, even though he approached me. Anyhow, he is one of the nicest and funniest guys in show biz. Truly, a class act.

How did you come to work as a Page at Sony and then later at Paramount? What was the process like to get those positions?

Well, in both cases, I had connections to people who worked at the studios. Hollywood is all about having connections. I believe the term is called “networking.” I basically got the job at Sony on a phone call. I don’t even think I interviewed. Paramount was a little more formal, and I had to go through more of an interview process.

Studios always have ghosts stories. Did you encounter any old Hollywood ghosts or hear any of the stories?

I never encountered any ghosts on either of the studios, but there are a TON of stories about ghosts on any movie studio you will ever visit. I will say this though…a movie studio at night is a little creepy, especially if you are walking the backlot by yourself.

Do you watch the television show 30 Rock? What do you think of the character Kenneth who portrays an NBC Page?

I don’t actually watch it, but I have heard that it is a very funny show.

What was your most unusual assignment at Sony and at Paramount?

My most unusual assignment was probably at Paramount. I was working for the Facilities Department and we had to clear out and go through all these old files. We found original studio blueprints from the early 1900s and really old pictures of the lot. It was really great to see these old items. They probably hadn’t been looked at in years, and it really gave you a sense of how much history has taken place at the studio.

Would you reccommend a Page program for others entering the work world - especially those pursuing careers in entertainment?

Absolutely. I said earlier that being successful in Hollywood is all about networking. What better place to network than at a movie studio? I would say the majority of people that came out of the Page program got some kind of job at the studio. And if they didn’t end up working at the studio, they ended up working for some other production company because they made a contact while working at the studio.

One last question. Favorite classic movie?

The Godfather


David said...

NIce Posting...Golf cart Calgary

RoeH said...

I love this!!

Bill said...

Very interesting! I look forward to other posts.

Diane said...

Very interesting and looking forward to part 2. Why did I not attempt a career as a page when I was younger? Now I feel way too old to do so...such is life. I wonder if there is a need for a page here in Dallas? Hmmm... As always I love seeing your blog posts.

Robby Cress said...

Thanks Diane. If only we could all go back and try other things when the times were right! You said it..."such is life."

Felix Curds said...

Ah yes, Kenneth is the cuteness. Respect to the studio page. It seems an awesome career. Sign me up?!!

Lovely blog<3


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