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Per Diems Are in the Envelope: Part 3



Great Guns director Calum Macdiarmid makes the last few stops in his travel diary, reminiscing about his experiences in LA and New York

Per Diems Are in the Envelope: Part 3

One of the great joys of this industry has been, until recently, all the travel.

I’ve heard shoots abroad referred to as a ‘sholiday’ - even though they can be incredibly stressful, you are nonetheless in a foreign land away from all the more ordinary stresses, where the pressures of delivering expands to fill your entire consciousness. For a brief week or two, nothing in the world matters… from paying your rent to social obligations, it all goes out the window. Coupled with room service this can be a strangely pleasurable escape.

The following is a photo diary of those adventures abroad, for work, leisure and everything in-between.


I began to get quite a lot of work on the west coast for a while, so had some extended stays over the years. 

LA is always fun for the industry glamour side of things. After a couple of shorts I’d done, I was lucky enough to receive film representation by WME. Hollywood is quite a gossipy place and everyone’s talking about who’s doing what, so a management company got in touch also looking to represent me. (In LA you have a separate agent and manager... just so everyone can make a little more money). 

I was staying in the Beverly Hills hotel as I was shooting a commercial at the time. It has this beautiful '60s Hollywood styling and I have this memory of sitting poolside, for once able to pay for my dinner while a ‘Hollywood guy’ pitched his management company to me... for a south London kid who failed everything at school but art it all felt totally mad.

To compound this ridiculousness my partner, Julia, joined me out there. She was modelling at the time and together we lived out the cliché dream; driving a convertible muscle car around town while she went to castings and I went to meetings about movies.

LA was receptive to the model/director cliché and we enjoyed a sometimes vacuous but always warm welcome. One of these welcomes was from the Church of Scientology who spotted us staging sarcastic selfies outside the ‘Scientology - Celebrity Branch Church.’ Rather than being angry, they insisted on giving us the tour as they felt we were ‘their kind of people.’

It was actually really interesting to get a first hand look at the machinations of their brain washing process... a crude bastardisation of traditional psychotherapy and the offer of past traumas healed. Fascinating as it was, it got a bit too much when they started trying to strap us to the machines - so we made our excuses and got the fuck out of there. On the way out we were invited to a TV producer's party in the hills that evening... he promised we would meet some very cool people... I was half tempted and remember thinking all I need to do now is sign up to a local Christian church and a synagogue and I’ll have this whole Hollywood thing on lockdown.

Another experience I remember involved filming a commercial with Jessica Alba high up in the Hollywood hills. On the day of the shoot, we had a bit of an issue with the outfit she was set to wear. It was a tricky situation, as we wanted to make sure everyone felt comfortable with the setup - whether this was the client, agency, or Jessica herself. 

It seemed like we were at an impasse, with me standing in the middle feeling like an idiot with this daft yoga outfit. But, things turned a corner… 

I’d done my research and knew about that company she’d set up, it was called Honest, and it sells natural goods for babies and children. I changed the subject to enquire about her company and explained that I had just had my first child... and we quickly bonded over the universal subject of parenthood.

Half an hour later we were shooting and Jessica was awesome. By the end of the day we had everything we needed and Jessica kindly arranged for four suitcases of baby products from her company to be sent over to my hotel room!

I arrived back in London to a happy client and a happy Julia.


I can sense my adrenaline glands throbbing the very second the plane wheels hit the tarmac in NYC... it is a place with an intense electrical energy that delivers 5000W into your senses so that you burn twice as bright until exhaustion eventually catches up with you.

Americans, particularly in NYC, are brilliant communicators, from the pettiness of small talk on the streets, to the depths of emotion - it all comes out with no filters. For an introvert like myself this atmosphere is very healthy as I’m forced to engage in an equal fashion and have discovered a completely different personality within myself.

In my youth I came to NYC for a few weeks with a friend and as we were skint decided to do the trip without getting a hotel, instead finding parties, meeting people and blagging sofas wherever we could. Armed with an English accent and a liver that could go for days this was plausible and successful for a while. After a couple of weeks though the drink took its toll and I became ill, resulting in an increasing charisma deficit. As my blagging skills diminished so did the offer of places to stay and I eventually found myself trying to sleep in a freezing Brooklyn squat. Shivering away under a rotten towel I didn’t think it could get any worse. Then the police came to do a bust, luckily they didn’t arrest us but we were turfed out and I eventually found a space along with some other people under a tree in a park. As we tried to sleep I remember one of them crying in his sleep ‘I want my mummy’ over and over.

When filming a commercial in NYC the situation is... somewhat different. Sushi, saunas and friendly hotel staff - I appreciate it all the more.

During my most recent NYC commercial, we were filming in a studio but I was desperate to capture some of the real NYC street scenes that I originally found so intoxicating.

Filming short films there is tricky as everything is unionised and it’s harder to get people to jump into a freebie project. Somehow over the course of the three days I had left after the commercial, I managed to write and produce a very small short film that captured a bit of the glow of NYC. I didn’t want to pay a mad location fee so we filmed the entire thing from outside a restaurant while our two actors were inside and as casually as possible edged their seats over to the windows so that we could see them. You can see the film below. 

Swipe Right - shot in New York. 


The best thing about all that travel... coming back home and seeing it with new eyes. 

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Genres: Scenic

Great Guns London, Wed, 27 Oct 2021 14:25:00 GMT