Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Tuesday photos, or that one time I went to jail.

There aren’t a whole lot of options available, if one needs to shoot in a jail. For obvious reasons, shooting in a working prison can be.. problematic, so we’re restricted to closed jails, which, in Los Angeles, means either Sybil Brand or Lincoln Heights, depending on if one wants ‘old timey‘ jail or modern jail.

For the past few days, we’ve needed modern jail, so we’ve been at Sybil Brand.

It’s been shot so much that it’s getting hard to tell what’s the original prison and what’s sets, but please enjoy some photos:
Height of technology, 1963

Hang up

 

Cellblock

Do NOT touch!

What freaks me out so much about Sybil Brand is the complete lack of anything plastic. Due to what I can only assume was budget, the prison wasn’t updated at all before it closed, so it’s a treasure trove of silly looking stuff that was the cutting edge in 1963:

Height of technology, 1963

And now it’s all in limbo, pending a review of how best to spend the taxpayers’ money – renovate or rebuild?

Until then, it’ll stay a shooting location and dog training center:

Whoops.

Dog training course

Filed under: camera, locations, Photos, Work, , , , , ,

On second thought, maybe don’t let it snow.

I’ve worked in all sorts of environments – asbestos-filled, slimy, stinky, smoky, rat-infested, prostitute-infested (oddly enough, not the same place), etc..

But this past week is the worst I’ve ever felt from something on set. My cough has escalated into full-blown bronchitis, and one of the actors got so sick he had to take a day off.

Needless to say, once someone important got sick production put a stop to the paper snow (which, it turns out, wasn’t movie snow, but acoustic insulation – the type that is mixed with plaster and sprayed onto ceilings).

This was a step in the right direction, but what they switched to was shredded styrofoam – and still continued to throw in front of fans because the shakers are ‘for big shows’.

This led to marginally less coughing, but a lot more itching.

I only itched a bit (as in I waited until I got home to claw my clothes off and scrub my skin raw), but two of my co-workers were driven to the brink of madness by the itching.

Instead of the inadequate mask from production, I stopped off at the hardware store and bought a better one, so yesterdays 15.5 hour cluster fuck (oh, that’s a post all on its own) left me with only a mild cough.

Today, we started the wrap, so we were only there for 8 hours – but I still wore my mask as the FX guys were sweeping up the flakes and it was really dusty.

After work, I went to swim, but was almost 15 seconds slower per 100 meters due to the difficulty breathing and the coughing.

Although it’s not being blown around any longer, the snow will continue to be a problem since it’s on (and in) everything. We’re going to have to use the compressed air to blow the stuff out of the lights we’re taking down from the pipe grid.

Outside, of course, and wearing masks.

 

Filed under: hazardous, toxic waste, Work, , , , , ,

Let it snow, let it snow

Back in the days when the film industry was young and innocent, someone clever noticed that real snow, when brought onto a set with really hot lights, immediately melted.

The solution was to pile up a shitload of soap flakes or white-painted cornflakes (no, really), but those had… issues. Bugs and rats love cereal flakes and when humans are exposed to soap flakes for long periods of time the line for the toilet starts to get very long – not to mention the mess when it rains.

Then, someone very, very, clever devised a solution. A substance called Phoamaide or Foamite, very similar to the stuff in fire extinguishers, mixed with asbestos or those trusty soap flakes.

This is what we used for years – well, except the asbestos. I think they stopped using that last year*.

Then, someone came up with the brilliant idea to use small flakes of plastic. It won’t melt, it glitters just like real snow and it wafts gently to earth just like those nice big perfect flakes you want to see on Christmas morning unless you have to drive.

Also, it can be quickly vacuumed up (and reused) and won’t attract vermin or give your expensive actor a weapons-grade case of the shits.

The plastic is still used in cases where the snow needs to fall from the sky.

But if the snow is just sitting on the ground productions usually use a combination of paper snow, blankets, and foam (keep it away from animals and foliage). It doesn’t fall nicely, but it won’t kill fish if it washes into the watershed (okay, maybe the foam will make them sick but they’ll get better), so there’s a satisfying lack of guilt.

20140708-202549-73549792.jpg

But the paper stuff is extremely dusty, and creates a haze in the air which even the manufacturers warn not to breathe.

It doesn’t bother me when we’re outside (unless it gets wet and I walk through it. Then it has to be chiseled off the bottom of shoes and good luck getting it out of the car), but as soon as I get on a closed stage with it, its non-stop misery.

My eyes itch, my nose stops up, my head hurts, my throat burns and I start to cough like a tubercular Victorian poet.

And that’s just with the stuff lying on the ground minding its own business.

This particular show is using effects fans to blow the flakes into the air, creating even more dust. They’re also spraying the shit out the “realistic” plastic ivy with foam, but I suspect that’s the least of my worries.

Today is day two of the episode and I already feel like crap – the last day of the show is Monday, so I have four more days of this to endure.

*I’m joking. I think they stopped using the asbestos in the late 1980s.

Filed under: crack of dawn, hazardous, Photos, studio lots, toxic waste, Work, , , , , , , , , , , ,

I Miss You, Winter. I’ll Never Again Take You for Granted.

Day exteriors are usually pretty uneventful for electricians. We might move around a few lights, but generally the ones getting worked are the grips.

But even if we have an easy day work-wise, this time of year the heat makes everything seem more difficult.

The heat can be not so bad or completely terrible, depending on where one is shooting. Yesterday, we were shooting in the cement-lined quad of a community college.

A few trees, but not even a hint of a breeze and the thing about cement is that it radiates the heat back – even the soles of my feet were hot, and my face got burned under the brim of my hat just from the reflected heat.

The only time I have ever passed out from the heat at work was under similar circumstances – hot day, cement quad, relentless sun.

In addition to the heat, it’s suddenly gotten uncomfortably humid here in Southern California. Not Florida humid, but 40% is like a steam bath to those of us accustomed to the desert.

One of the things I notice about humidity is that I never get any relief from the sweat. It doesn’t evaporate, it just clings to me and makes me clammy and smelly. I also tend to not drink enough water when it’s humid.

This production, in an effort to be ‘green’ doesn’t supply water bottles, only those teeny waxed paper cups.

Luckily I remembered to bring my own bottle, but I clearly didn’t drink enough as by wrap I had no strength left.

Even carrying a head feeder across the quad’s pitiful patch of burned grass made me feel like Atlas.

I downed about a liter on the drive home, and thought I’d be okay, but I woke up this morning sore and feeling hungover, even though I’d had no alcohol.

Today was day two in the heat (in a different location with more trees and marginally less cement) and my strategy was to mix electrolyte powder with every other bottle of water, and to make sure to keep the bottle somewhere I could get to easily – I can’t hang it on my belt as a liter of water is surprisingly heavy, but I kept it near (but not on top of) the HMI ballasts, so as we moved the heads around I would see the bottle and take a swig.

I think it worked as right now I don’t feel terrible and I had to pee about every hour.

I’m still going to try to get through another liter with the powder before I go to bed, though.

Tomorrow, we’re on stage all day – a stage with crappy air conditioning, but at least we’ll be out of the sun.

Call time Monday: 6 am

Wrap time Monday: 8 pm

Drive home: 45 minutes

Call time today: 6:30 am

Wrap time today: 7 pm

Call time tomorrow: 8 am

 

Filed under: crack of dawn, hazardous, locations, long long drives, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

The source of the smoke:

P1050082

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, Photos, up all night, Work, , , ,

The Visible Enemy

Work has been busy so I haven’t been paying much attention to the interwebs, but a few days ago something came to my attention via Facebook and it’s literally got my virtual panties in a bunch.

http://applesandbandaidsblog.com/2014/06/11/my-husband-doesnt-need-to-see-your-boobs/

The more I think about this, the more upset I get – not at the sad, frightened woman who posted it, but the people who made her this way.

Parents, teachers, friends, church elders, etc.. but mainly, I’m looking at you, media.

Women are bombarded with not-so subtle messages that we’re not worth the proverbial plugged nickel if we’re not perfect. Turning off the TV won’t help – it’s everywhere. Magazines, books, bus benches, billboards, hell, even the library, and look what it’s done to this poor woman.

Made her think she’s not beautiful just the way she is. Made her think she’s in danger of losing her husband if he looks at a photo of another woman – so he must ‘protect his eyes, protect his heart’ from Instagram.

This is beyond infuriating.

Women’s insecurities have been parlayed into a multi-billion dollar jackpot (Botox! Bleaching! Filler! Tummy tucks! Booty lifts! Plastic fun bags! Glop in a jar! Glop in a tube! Quack weight loss remedies! Enemas – oh, wait… wrong rant) that’s convincing women they’re ‘bound to the tankini with the granny skirt’ because they think they’re not perfect unless they pay dearly for crap in a jar or unnecessary surgery.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have anything against tankinis with skirts. Some of them are adorable.

I’m super sad this is only available in plus size.

And this.

But ‘adorable’ is the reason to wear one, not ‘I have to cover up because I don’t measure up to an image’.

It’s not a sledgehammer, it’s a thousand tiny cuts.

Sister, I don’t know you or your husband, and your marital issues are none of my business, but life is too short to worry about things you can’t control.

I’d like to introduce you to Go Kaleo. Also known as Amber Rogers, she’s a personal trainer who is all about being strong and awesome and not giving a flying you-know-what about the scale or what you think others think of you. Give her site a gander. Trust me.

Let’s talk about regrets for a moment.

You know what I regret? I regret the years I spent being so insecure – that was most of my 20s – when I was young and much hotter than I am now.

I regret turning down an invitation to go cruise on a very, very nice yacht with a very nice, very single guy because I didn’t want him to see how fat I was.

Note: I have never been fat. Ever. Not once in my entire life. But the insecurity caused me to look in the mirror and see only my shortcomings.

I regret allowing myself to be eaten from the inside with the cancerous fear that I wasn’t measuring up to the heavily retouched photos of what a woman should be. That any small imperfection would ruin my life and make me the laughingstock of people whose names and faces I no longer remember.

I regret giving in to the fear that people were judging me all the time. More than once, I ran out of a party to my car, where I would change clothes to appease the madding crowd. Never mind the ignoble strife.

That terrible insecurity did, in fact, for a time, ruin my life, but one day something inside me snapped (which is a story for another post), and suddenly, I no longer cared about other people’s opinions.

For a while my Facebook photo was me, running down the beach in a bikini and a pirate hat, arms aloft in Nixon’s double peace sign, reveling in all my middle-aged glory.

I might not be super hot, but I’m free from bondage.

And that’s worth so, so very much.

I invite you to join me.

 

 

 

 

Filed under: life in LA, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants, , , , , , , ,

It’s there, but I don’t have it

It’s been a very long time since I fell asleep at the wheel while driving home.

The first time, it was after a 16+ hour overnight in the high desert and I dozed off while stuck in rush hour gridlock. I woke up when my face hit the steering wheel, but luckily my foot never came off the brake.

There have been a few more times over the years – mostly just weaving on the road and having to roll down the windows or stomp the floor of the car with my left foot.

It just became a thing. Night work meant a fun drive home trying to out-weave the drunks, but I never felt concerned (if I should have is another post).

But I was really frightened Saturday morning when I dozed off while travelling southbound on the 405 at approximately 80 mph.

Luckily, I just weaved in my lane and then stomped the hell out of the floor of my car and made it home.

Wait.. let me back up.

This time of year work is thin, so when I got a call to work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I said yes before I asked any questions.

It was only after I was booked that the best boy told me it would be all nights on the other side of town.

Nights bother me a lot more now than they did when I was younger – I have a much harder time adjusting, and if I’m flipping between days and nights it’s even worse.

It would have been bad form for me to say ‘no’ after accepting the job, even with the construction in the unit above me (they say they’re remodeling it, but really I just think they’re chopping holes in the walls, patching them and cutting them out again just for practice), so I was stuck.

Lucky for me I was with a wonderful bunch of guys that I really like a lot – but that construction starts up at 7 am and I can’t sleep later, even with earplugs and a white noise machine, so even with the interim days off I spent an entire week on so little sleep I think it might have qualified as cruel and unusual.

As an added bonus, Friday’s pre-call ‘breakfast’ of a seemingly harmless turkey burger resulted in a three-day bout with rotavirus.

I got picked up for this week as well, which is great, but it’s been 7 am call times all week. Between the sleep loss and the power cleanse today was the first day I’ve felt even vaguely human.

Tomorrow, our call time is 6 am in west bumfuck, so I will have to get out of bed at 4:30. AM.

We have 9 pages to shoot, but it’s all day exterior and we don’t have enough lamps to make daylight*, so it can’t go all that late.

Since I didn’t post anything last week, please enjoy an apology photo of uplit trees and a condor with someone besides me in the basket:

P1050103

 

*It is possible to shoot day exterior at night, but you need a lot of equipment. Like a 48 foot trailer full of HMIs. Then, when the sun goes down, we unload the truck and curse our poor life decisions.

 

 

 

 

Filed under: crack of dawn, cranky, locations, long long drives, movies, Photos, up all night, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Memories of ye Goode Olde Days

Everyone who has ever worked low budget anything remembers the struggle to get paid.

Minutes would slow to hours as one sat, face pressed against the window, scanning the street for the elusive postal carrier, hoping against hope that today, finally, that precious check would arrive.

One would call the payroll company and be told that the checks were cut, but that since there was no money in the account, they couldn’t be mailed.

Calls to the production company, of course, would go unanswered.

Then, after two weeks, one had the sinking realization that the check probably wasn’t coming and decide to take a more pro-active course of action.

I personally have planted my ass outside an accountant’s office with my back against the only door, knowing that I could wait longer to pee, eat, drink, sleep, whatever. Get a group of production workers together and every single one of us will have a story about the extreme measures to which we’ve gone to get checks.

The labor board was never much of a help because they didn’t move very quickly, and productions were notorious for closing the office and dissolving the LLC before they suffered any retributions for screwing the crew out of pay.

There was no pain in the world like the “this number has been disconnected” phone message – it meant there was never, ever  going to be a check, no matter what.

So the power got cut off, and the gas got turned off  (the phone could never, ever get cut off because how would one get jobs?), the car insurance lapsed, and the landlord got yet another excuse, and one loaded up on snacks from craft service because there was no money for food.

When one did manage to get a check, one hauled ass to the bank in the hopes of depositing it before it bounced.

Bounced payroll checks were the worst. Not only did one not get money, one had to pay for the bounced check.

I will confess to, on more than one occasion, having contemplated homicide when faced with the consequences of a rubber paycheck.

I will also confess to having accepted dates from men in whom I had no interest just for the free dinner.

Don’t judge me.

My grandmother, who lived through the Great Depression, once told me that hunger and desperation change you forever.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve worked a job where the status of the checks was…indeterminate, but even now, when the check for the mid-month low budget is a few days overdue, the old fear grips me.

The empty mailbox makes me grind my teeth, and I frantically snap off lights while eating a cold dinner so I don’t have to use the stove. My pulse quickens as I try to figure out how to get to work without using any of the precious, precious, expensive gasoline in the car’s tank. I start a mental inventory of anything I own which has resale value.

Yes, thank you, I’m well aware that I’m completely overreacting. Intellectually, I know the checks will show up eventually, and if they don’t I can call our union and they’ll do the work to roll out the legal guns (so to speak).

But it’s so hard to be calm.

I guess now I’ve gained more understanding of my grandmother, who was almost as rich as Midas at the end of her life, yet still spent time clipping coupons and screaming at us to turn off the lights because the meter was running.

I really need that check.

 

 

Filed under: movies, overspending, rants, Work, , , , , , , , , , ,

My phone explodes!

Normally, May and June are slow months. The television shows are on hiatus, the pilots are done, and any movies left in town are already crewed or haven’t started yet.

Movies – especially the ones that shoot in the desert – like to wait until it’s really super fucking hot to start principal photography.

So, just like January, I curtail my spending as much as possible, and use the time to complete some projects around the house, reorganize the dresser drawers, brush the cat, sell unwanted stuff on eBay, etc..

But this May has been different. Not only have I been working pretty consistently, I’m getting calls for multiple jobs the same day at least once a week.

It’s freaky. Not bad, mind you, but not expected.

Of course, I’m answering ‘yes’ to every call I can.

Sadly, this means I’ve had some very short turnarounds the past few days, as minimum ‘off’ time rules don’t apply when one is moving from one show to another.

Tomorrow, my call is 11 am – an hour drive from my place, which means I’ll work until 11 pm and be home by midnight – at the earliest , and then I have an 8 am call on another show Friday morning.

It’s all wonderful – work while it’s available and rest later.

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, long long drives, Work, , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

20140516-200051.jpg

Most of the time when we unload our truck at the end of a show, we’re not missing much. On the whole, we’re really diligent about counting and re-counting.

But there’s something about stingers.

Everyone wants them, everyone takes them, uses them, drops them when they’re done and then fails to tell us where.

So at the end of a show we’re almost always missing a few. It drives best boys mad, but it’s just the way it goes.

Except today, when we unloaded the “truck” (so small that it took two of us 15 minutes to empty and the rental house guys less than an hour to count), and laid out all the stingers, we weren’t missing any.

Everyone was shocked.

Not literally, of course, but I can’t remember the last time the stinger count matched the paperwork.

Filed under: Photos, Work, , , , , ,

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