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I came across the following dialog while watching La-La Land in English with subtitles:

Mia: How’d you get on the lot?
Seb: I basically just hauled ass past the guard gates. I think I have 20 minutes until they find me.

Can anyone tell me what this dialog means? What were they talking about? Was it just a joke I'm not familiar with?

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    Seems like this would fit better on ell.stackexchange.com – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 23 '17 at 18:34
  • @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft yeah, I completely agree with you. I wasn't aware of that community.. – CaptainRR Apr 23 '17 at 18:42
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    Anybody else having flashbacks of the Animaniacs running around the Warner movie lot? Illustrates guard gates on a [movie] lot quite nicely... even a bit of ass-hauling – A C Apr 24 '17 at 4:10
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As I understand it, "La La Land" is set in present day Los Angles, but makes nostalgic reference to the golden era of Hollywood in various ways alongside contemporary references. On the lot is mainly a reference to old Hollywood and old movies about old Hollywood in which being on the lot plays an important role. Is the character, Mia, trying to sneak into a closed audition, for example? I haven't seen the movie and am speculating.

The lot is short for movie studio lot and refers to the gated property of a filmmaking studio, e.g. MGM or Paramount where films were made on set vs. on location. A related phrase is backlot, the area of the studio complex where outdoor locations were recreated, e.g. a New York City street with buildings that look like the real location portrayed.

This reference to the lot with a guard at the gate who is checking what actors and personnel are allowed into the movie studio complex is from the time prior to the breakdown of the studio system, i.e. the 1960's and before. See Collins Dictionary Also, see Paramount Studio website for a contemporary description of the use of lots and back lots.

The phrase haul ass to mean move quickly seems more contemporary and less refined, so there may be a juxtaposition of phrases from different time periods.

A very useful explication of haul ass comes from Tom22 in a comment to this answer. I am now incorporating that comment into my answer. I would add that for me, haul ass most often refers to driving a vehicle. Again, I haven't seen the movie, so don't know if the character was in a car or on foot.

When you "just haul ass past" something, it implies that you are blatantly disregarding enforcement of rules.. in this case rushing by parking lot security. (that is clear to me without even seeing the film from the way it is worded). You "haul ass" in a get away from a bad situation.. a criminal seeing a police officer my haul ass.. "get the hell out of here" comes close... but it implies you're leaving before things get really bad. I Have 20 minutes emphasizes that he was spotted while hauling ass and its only a matter of a short time before the security radioed finds him. Tom22 -- see comments below for source.

I assume you understand that La La land is a phrase that means:

A notional place characterized by fantasy, self-absorption and blissful lack of touch with reality.

See The Phrase Finder, a good online reference based in the UK.

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    Thank you very much for the broad explanation! Some places are a revelation for me and I really enjoyed reading this! Thanks! – CaptainRR Apr 23 '17 at 18:57
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    @CaptainRR, I'm glad you liked it. I found a great example of the idea of sneaking past a guard to get "on the lot" and succeed in Hollywood. This is Stephen Spielburg's story (supposedly untrue) about that as excerpted snopes.com/movies/other/spielberg.asp "One day in 1969, when I was twenty-one [sic], I put on a suit and tie and sneaked past the guard at Universal, found an empty bungalow, and set up an office. I then went to the main switchboard and introduced myself and gave them my extension so I could get calls. It took Universal two years to discover I was ON THE LOT" – user227547 Apr 23 '17 at 19:17
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    I would add that when you "just haul ass past" something, it implies that you are blatantly disregarding enforcement of rules.. in this case rushing by parking lot security. (that is clear to me without even seeing the film from the way it is worded). You "haul ass" in a get away from a bad situation.. a criminal seeing a police officer my haul ass.. "get the hell out of here" comes close... but it implies you're leaving before things get really bad. I Have 20 minutes emphasizes that he was spotted while hauling ass and its only a matter of a short time before the security radioed finds him – Tom22 Apr 23 '17 at 20:34
  • @Tom22, thanks. I have incorporated your excellent explanation of "just haul ass past" something into my answer. I didn't give much attention to that and my answer is much improved by your insight into the phrase. – user227547 Apr 24 '17 at 16:03
  • @Tom22 thanks for the clarification! – CaptainRR Apr 25 '17 at 5:59
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to haul ass is an AmE slang phrase for "to move extremely quickly"

  • from the UD - to move extremely quickly, to move at an expeditious rate, to move much quicker than the normal pace

When you get right down to it, your dialogue means:

  • "How did you get here?"
  • "I simply moved very quickly past the guard gates. I think I have 20 minutes until they find me."

Addendum - "The Lot" (with capital letters) may be a reference to a cinema/restaurant/bar/café in La Jolla, L.A. or (the lot) a parking lot, or another kind of property.

  • Good answer, missing is: how'd you get on the lot? I haven't seen the movie, but lot can be short for a parking lot. – Lambie Apr 23 '17 at 14:40
  • @Lambie Yes, it may well be a parking-lot but it might be another kind of property. I haven't seen the movie. – Centaurus Apr 23 '17 at 14:42
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    "The lot" is a film studio's property. It's a movie about the movie biz. – Jim Mack Apr 23 '17 at 15:01
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    For the "translation" you offer, it would work just as well and be more idiomatic to say: "I simply ran past the guard gates. I think I have 20 minutes until they find me." This is also what you would say if you had some interest in avoiding the potentially-vulgar "haul ass" idiom. – Cody Gray Apr 23 '17 at 17:14
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    I haven't seen the movie, but "on the lot" needs explanation. It's a Hollywood movie studio reference. Maybe the character made it into a parking lot, but since when have you heard of being "on a parking lot"? – user227547 Apr 23 '17 at 18:41

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