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Remember the fellow who had won the iCarly set visit, that I ran into at the Memphis airport? I heard from him again, he'd talked with Nickelodeon and they told him the opportunity was for up to four people. He still had no friends or family who were interested, so he said if I'd chip in, I and one or two friends could come with him. He would still be paying the lion's share of the money, so it was an attractive deal. I'll call him Chris (as that's his name). Chris and I hammered out a simple contract, and I transferred the funds.

Nickelodeon offered him a few choices, and he elected to go on a day that had a long shooting schedule. The package came with 2 nights at the Roosevelt hotel in Hollywood, a visit to the Nickelodeon Animation Studios, a visit to a taping of the Ellen show, and some goodies like script excerpts and an autographed cast picture.

[livejournal.com profile] fizzygeek would come with me, so it would be the three of us. We'd be in the LA area more than two nights, so we needed to find somewhere to stay the other nights. As it happens, our fronds [livejournal.com profile] keighsie and [livejournal.com profile] ayasdollz had moved from Phoenix to LA since we'd seen them last, and were willing to let us stay at their place, and (better yet) get to hang out with them more. Looking forward to seeing Dan Schneider and the cast again, I rounded up the Zoey 101 key I had made (I'm such a fangirl) and made myself a "Generation Love" T-shirt in honour of cast member Jennette McCurdy's charity project.

We'd never been to LA, and we weren't quite sure what to expect. As it happens, LA is a bustling city with gorgeous weather and plenty of things to see and do. We had a fun time hanging out with our fronds, who basically let us have the run of the house when they were out at work, and play with their cat and dogs (including one grandly named PooPooButt!). We had a great conversation about how our lives just refused to be ordinary (my running into someone at an airport, resulting in a set visit to one of my favourite TV shows was a great example of this). The so-called "law of averages" simply doesn't seem to apply to us.

It turns out the Roosevelt hotel is right on Hollywood Boulevard, diagonally across the street from Grumman's Chinese Theatre.

The Nickelodeon reservations were for a small room, so we asked if we could upgrade it to one with room for the three of us. They were happy to do so, but we found out later that the second "bed" was really a couch. For reasons we don't entirely understand, Chris (who, again, was putting down most of the money for this) elected to sleep on the couch. Before we went to bed, we went for a walk around Hollywood, seeing the sights, like going up and down the Walk of Fame and seeing the sidewalk stars (both the bronze ones embedded in the concrete and people dressed up as stars who'd pose with you for pictures).

We took a cab out for our tour of Nickelodeon Animation Studios. It's a fun place, with bizarre zigzag architecture, bright colours, and (of course) pictures, sculptures, and other decorations related to Nickelodeon TV shows. It's an old converted industrial building, so as we wended our way along, we'd see old brick in one place, and giant old wooden beams in another. There are separate areas dedicated to the various shows, and they're all decorated by the people who work there. I mean really decorated - there are figures, drawings, and paintings everywhere.

There's one wall with a great big whiteboard where guests are invited to leave greetings, sketches, or whatever. We did, of course. When going through the Spongebob area, [livejournal.com profile] fizzygeek noticed an imposing painting of Plankton, the show's main antagonist. Then she realized it was hanging in the office of Mr. Lawrence, the person who voices the character as well as one of the show's writers - he seems to be responsible for the more surreal episodes, so we've been known to clap and cheer when his name comes up in the writing credits. He wasn't in, but it was neat just seeing his office. Out back, there's a hallway where the employees have a little art gallery - and the art is for sale! At the end of the tour, they screened an unaired episode of Spongebob for us, and gave us some nice goodie bags.

After we got back to the hotel, we decided to walk around some more. We ended up at Amoeba Records, a truly wonderful record store with lots of music and attitude. Months later, I was watching a show about Victoria Justice, and it showed her out and about with some friends, and I recognized Amoeba Records! Sure enough, Victoria explained that she loved the place too. Hollywood is an interesting town, with fancy restaurants cheek by jowl with run-down hotels and weird anti-psychology centers ($cientologists by any other name). Here's the obligatory pic of the Hollywood hills:

That night, we noticed more than the usual amount of commotion on Hollywood Boulevard - it turns out Grumman's Chinese Theatre was hosting the premiere of Horrible Bosses. So we peered out the window and watched the limos roll up and celebrities pop out. It was a really nice vantage point.

The next day was the day for our iCarly set visit. Naturally, I wore the Generation Love T-shirt and Zoey 101 key I had made. The show is filmed at Nickelodeon On Sunset, which is a grand old art-deco Theatre which has been repurposed. From the outside, it looks like a big blocky industrial building, but when you go inside, there's red carpet all over the place, giant curving staircases, and the walls have big blocky brushed aluminum accents. Then you dive off to the side, and you're in a gigantic cavernous wooden structure, blocked off into sets for various scenes. To the left is the one used for the upstairs room where iCarly show-within-a-show is set. It's kind of surreal seeing it in person. I really wanted a picture of myself standing there, but I didn't want to violate Nickelodeon's copyrights and get us thrown out. Beyond it was the "school" set, and on the right was a set I didn't recognize, and past it, the iCarly "kitchen" set. The one I didn't recognize was the one with all the lights and cameras set up. There wasn't a lot going on, but Mary Scheer (who plays Mrs. Benson) was waving a prop sword around with her double, who was dressed just like her. We also noticed BooG!e (who plays T-Bo) and his double. Looked like an interesting episode. As that episode has since aired, I can write about it without giving away secrets. It turns out it was to be iStill Psycho, a sequel to iPsycho, an episode where a crazed fan had kidnapped the cast. And, like iPsycho, it had a lot of intricate stunt scenes. In Dan's blog, he mentions "In fact, one scene is so intese and crazy, it took us a WHOLE DAY just to film the one scene." - Yeah, that's the day we were there. At first, they filmed a reaction shot. A stagehand would smack a couple of boards together to make a bang, and the cast would jump back, duck, cringe, and look scared. At that point, we were unsure what they were pretending to react to, so it was a little odd. Then they filmed the bit the actors were to be reacting to. It seems that T-Bo and Mrs. Benson came smashing through the door on a motorbike to save the day! So they had a stunt T-Bo (complete with a fake set of hair braids) and a stunt Mrs. Benson on the bike, and installed a breakaway door. They only had three doors, so there weren't a whole lot of chances to get it right. The actors weren't on the stage for the actual door-busting (for safety reasons), which is why the reaction shots had been filmed separately. When everything was set up, they called "Action!" and the motorbike burst through the door. Then, "Cut!" and some time went by while the crew reviewed the footage. They also called "Hot set!" and put up caution tape - if people went wandering around, they'd bump into chunks of the door and mess up the continuity. Eventually, they decided the first take was a good one. Then they filmed some of the ensuing scenes where the characters realized they were being rescued ("Mom?" "Freddy!" "T-Bo!" "Chicken?"). Yes, Maurice the chicken from the original iPsycho was back. Then some derring-do (Yay "Fencin' Bensons"!) and it was time for lunch.

They had a catering truck out in the lot, and the cast and crew lined up to grab yummies. I hung back a bit, as these folks were working and I was just a spectator. Jennette McCurdy came rolling by on a skateboard, noticed my shirt, said "Awesome shirt!" and rolled away. We ate at the outside tables, which were also the lunch set for Victorious, so it was like having lunch at the (fictitious) Hollywood Arts school where that show is set! This was also near the fence along Sunset Boulevard, where fans would come by, peer through the fence, and entreat cast members to come over for autographs. The cast was really nice about it, and obliged as many folks as they could, but there was no possible way they could attend to everybody.

This helped drive home for me what an unusual experience I was enjoying. Here I was, just kicking back having lunch, surrounded by famous people, and a few feet away were throngs of people who would wait for hours to spend a few seconds with one of the cast members, separated by a fence. I'm sure there are a lot of folks who wish every single day to hang out with the iCarly crew, and here we were, spending the entire day with them!

After lunch, it was back to filming. There was one scene where McCurdy flings Danielle Morrow (who plays Nora Dershlit, the crazed fan) through a breakaway coffee table. These actors are professionals, and real troopers. Danielle (not her stunt double) got flung onto the chunks of the table time after time, not complaining a bit. They were looking for a line for Sam (Jennette's character) to say to cap the scene. They tried "You're not in Kansas any more!" and one where Jennette looked up and added a goofy "WhaaAAA?" that made me laugh. Jennette looked right at me and said "Hey, that guy liked it!"

Later, they were filming a scene where they're forced to play a nutty party game, "Pin the tail on the birthday girl". Freddie (played by Nathan Kress) is reluctant to stick a tail on Nora (Danielle)'s fanny. Andrew Friedman (who plays Mr. Dershlit) says "Pin the tail on my daughter's butt!" But apparently the scene needs something else. Dan suggests "Danielle, could you shake, the um, target?" And Danielle obligingly shimmies her fanny on the next take, which was just what it took to make the scene.

Later, BooG!e is trying to get Nathan's attention, but Nathan is talking to one of the cameramen and doesn't hear him. I say "BooG!e, I don't think he hears you." BooG!e looks at me and says "You think I should ask for Freddie instead?" I agree that's worth a try, so he hells "Freddie!" Then Nathan hears him, and sticks his arms in the air and does a complete double spin. Even when he's not in character, Nathan's a hoot.

At one point, Miranda and Jennette are sitting on a spare sofa a few meters away, giggling about something. Dan shows up with a pocket camera and starts filming them. Miranda says "that better now show up on youtube!" Dan assures her it won't, but it's obvious that it will. And it did. Yup, I was right there when he filmed that!

A while later, Miranda is just sitting around, and Chris goes to talk to her. I'm tempted to go join them, but this is his deal, he paid for it, I'm not going to horn in on his moment.

I had seen a post Miranda made where she showed off pictures from a phone app that lets you add cats to pictures. So when she wandered by once, playing with her phone, I asked her "Miranda, are you adding cats to pictures again?" She grinned at me and said "MMmmmmmmaybe."

One of the last scenes they filmed inside was at the end of the episode, after the rescue, with Danielle lying on the ground with Maurice the chicken eating bits of food off her belly, and the iCarlys are telling her she's going back to jail, for ever, and ever, and ever - Danielle stirs and asks "and ever?" and they continue to chant "and ever, and ever". It was a kind of disturbing scene. They took several takes of that one, and it was amazing to watch these cheerful, perky people drop into character and suddenly look exhausted and vengeful. Now that's talent.

After a very long day of filming, the production moved out to the parking lot, where they were setting up to shoot an outdoor night rain scene. It took a while to move the cameras, set up the rain bars, lights, and so forth. This scene required Noah Munck (who plays Gibby), but the rest of the cast was excused, so they left one by one. Nathan took off across the lot at a run, and someone explained that he was late for a date. Most of the other folks skittered by, and I didn't want to be a pest, so I didn't try to waylay them. However, Jennette came out and, even though her grandfather was there in the lot waiting for her, chatted with us for a bit. She was very sweet and down to earth. She pointed out "Oh, I look glamorous and all, but with a fancy hair and makeup crew, anyone can." Not snooty at all. She even hugged me!

Chris pointed out it was really late and we'd been there like 12 hours at that point, did we want to go back to the hotel. I didn't, I figured I spent all this money and came all this way, I was going to get the most out of the experience. So we stuck around.

I went to say hi to Dan, and show him my Zoey 101 key. He'd had an even longer day, and was busy writing a Victorious script while he waited for the shot to be set up. He was distracted and really tired. But he grinned when he saw the Zoey key.

The scene they were filming was of Gibby stuck in a chimney (they had built or borrowed a little half-cabin with a chimney just for this episode). So Noah gamely climbed up, got rained on, and did a few takes of him pretending to be stuck and yelling. Then they filmed a bit where people were throwing tennis balls at him. And a couple of balls ended up smacking him in the face and neck. But he's a real pro and just kept going. When they were done filming, he went inside to change clothes and warm up and we got to meet his dad, who was there to pick him up.

It had been a long day, even though we mostly sat around and watched other people work. On our way out, I noticed the marquee:

The finished episode aired six months later, on New Years Eve. Here's the promo spot for it.

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