Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Peter, meet Paul. He’ll be paying you. Maybe.

At the start of this show, we were told that we’d have no swing sets. Ever. For any reason. So, of course, for our last episode, we have four really big swing sets. Since our stage is 200 feet long by 100 feet wide, and it’s 44.5 feet from the floor to the perms, we’ve had some problems with power. Not that we haven’t got power available, it’s just the cable – or lack thereof.

The head of the waterfall (the cable that comes up from the dimmer packs on the floor to the perms) is at one end of the stage, and our swing sets are at the other.

So that’s  40ish feet up the perms, and then 5ish feet to the ‘head’ of the waterfall, and then 2 pieces of 100 foot cable to get to the new set that’s on the other side of the stage long-ways, and then another 30ish feet of cable down to the pipe grid where the lights are.

The thing about powering lights is that you can’t ever have a cable connection in the air – you can have one on the deck of the perms or at the light itself, but nothing in between.

Why? Because if something is going to go wrong, it’s going to happen at the connector and if that connector is 10 feet above the lights we can’t get to it without really making a spectacle of ourselves, and no one wants that. So, if I can’t get to the grid with what I have leftover, I have to add cable.

We don’t have any more cable, and because of the budget crackdown, we can’t order more.

Even if we could, getting cable up to the perms is an ordeal – we have to rent the winch from the lamp dock, have the grips go out into the ozone (as in off the walkways) to hang the pulley from the pick point (which is right over one of our sets), and then spend an hour or so hauling cable up to the perms. Don’t tell me we can haul it up by hand. That shit is heavy. Imagine hauling 70 lbs up a line to the roof of a two-story building. Now do it 30 more times and then work for another 12 hours.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

So we figure out where we can steal power from the standing sets, and now we’re on the hunt for stingers because we’re out of those as well.

Only to have the DP stand in the set that’s in the shitty far away corner of the stage  and demand two more lights.  At the top of the list of things one simply can’t do is to tell the DP that he or she can’t have a light rightfuckingnow.  Even nice DPs don’t react well to the word ‘no’.

We all looked around in a panic and then figured out that the set we need the lights in won’t shoot until Friday, so we can steal power at the end of the day on Thursday.

Two more wake-ups and then we wrap. At least gravity will be working in our favour when we drop the stuff to the floor.

Filed under: rants, studio lots, Work, , , , ,

Easing into the real world

Over the past two(ish) months, I’ve become accustomed to the lighter schedule of the multi-camera show.

Monday, we come in around 2 pm, and work until about 8. We hang lights – enough to ‘rough in’ the look so when they do the rehearsal with the cast the next morning, they have a good idea what the sets look like and what we need to change or add.

Ditto Tuesday and Wednesday.

Our long days are Thursday (block and pre-shoot) and Friday (audience), but neither of those days usually go over 12 hours.

Friday, the director does a ‘block and refresh’ with the cast before lunch, and then the audience load in and we shoot the live show.

Most directors finish with the refresh well before lunch, leaving us with a two-hour lunch.

This is a good thing and a bad thing.

I can go to the bank or the gym or just nap for those two hours, but I’m also on the Sony lot which means there’s a deeply discounted electronics store within walking distance, and I really don’t need to blow a paycheck on three TVs and a sound system.

But next week is our last week, and we’ve got three new sets plus an extra shoot day (to re-do the opening sequence), so we’re going to have more hours than usual.

We’ll have a nice check right when we’re unemployed, but the fact that we’re all dreading working a 60 hour week is some indication as to how spoiled we’ve gotten and what a shock it’s going to be to return to the real world of production, where every day will be 12 hours. Or more.

I have to say I really thought I was going to hate being stuck on a multi camera, but it’s been fun – largely because of the wonderful folks I’m working with, who I’ll miss when we’re done (but will see out in single camera world on a semi-regular basis).

I’ve also discovered that copious amounts of free time on a regular basis make me get less stuff done, not more.

Although I have binge-watched several Netflix series on the one new TV I bought (just one, although the salesperson really tried to get me into two).

My new hobby is watching movies from the 70s and 80s and pausing to really get a good look at the backgrounds.

I can really see the tape and spit holding the sets together.  It’s hilarious.

 

 

Filed under: overspending, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The end is nigh

We have two weeks left until this show wraps.

At this point, we’ve used our lighting budget and aren’t allowed to rent any more equipment, no matter what.

Which would be fine if we had, as originally promised, no swing sets*.

But big ideas happen in the writer’s room and things change, so we now have to light a new set each week. But – we can’t get any new stuff, so we have to steal from whatever permanent set isn’t working to complete the rig.

Which is also fine, except that this week’s swing set will also play next week, so we didn’t de-rig it.

We’re fine if the set we stripped doesn’t play, but no one knows yet.

In other news, the cat is still alive.

$300 in blood tests and the vet has determined that she’s old (no, really?), anaemic, and may have an ulcer.

So I have to grind up a quarter tablet of Pepcid AC and put it in her food, and give her high-iron paste and it seems to be working.

She’s perkier and much more like her old self, which is awesome.

The downside is that iron paste is tenacious. Five minutes of exposure to sunlight and it hardens into something that I’m pretty sure would repel bullets, so of course the cat hates it and it’s a struggle to get it down her gullet.

The paste ends up all over the walls, the floor, her face, her fur, my hair, etc… I have a bit of eyebrow that’s shellacked now, and it’s just going to have to grow out.

I can’t mix it into the food as she’ll smell it eat around the bit of food that’s got the paste.

Ugh.

Any suggestions?  I’m covered in goop here.

 

*A swing set is any set that’s temporary – usually for one episode.

Filed under: studio lots, Work, , , , , , , ,

Money, power, and silence

Anyone who works in media in any capacity keeps secrets.

Most of them are harmless: the vegetarian who eats bacon, the studio exec with an 8th grade education, the erudite gangster rapper.

But some people do very, very bad things and get away with it. For years.

Because they’re powerful. Because they’re rich. Because if you dare challenge them they’ll litigate you into a special kind of hell from which you will never re-emerge.

Even if you do win, you’ll be demonized by the unwashed internet masses because how dare you speak ill of Mr (or Ms.) Perfect? They make great media!

Since he’s Canadian, you’ve probably never heard of him, but Jian Ghomeshi is rich, powerful, beloved, and an alleged serial date-beater.

The accusations span a decade, and the women in his media circles have been warning each other to stay away for about that length of time.

But no one went to the police, because apparently the police in Canada aren’t any better at dealing with this sort of thing than the police here in Los Angeles, where they warehoused rape kits for years.

And that’s women who were assaulted by the hoi palloi, not the rich and powerful.

Here in our little Southern California media community, there is at least one serial rapist – not a sad sack who confuses BDSM and battery, an actual rapist – who has been at it for at least 8 years. Maybe longer.

No one that I know of has gone to the police because this person is very, very powerful and, well, that’s why. Even those who are raped by poor people face victim blaming, accusations of being liars and whores who secretly wanted it, etc..

Imagine how that gets magnified when one’s claim involves part of the city’s economic elite, or very, very famous.

Is it any wonder that we just quietly warn each other to stay away from Mr. (or Ms.) Nightmare?

Glances get exchanged, texts get sent, private messages fly around – stay away.

But it’s not a perfect system. Some don’t get the warning. And they have to suffer through the cycle of shame, anger, grief, guilt.

And said abuser walks free.

Because the abuser is above the law. And will likely never face the consequences.

And one could lose faith in the human race, except that Jian Ghomeshi is, finally,  facing some (admittedly mild so far) consequences.

It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing, right?

 

P.S. For fuck’s sake – no comment guesses at any names, even if you know who it is. I can’t afford that kind of lawyer.

 

 

Filed under: dating, life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Panic and destruction

In case you were wondering, the day before we’re scheduled to shoot is not the best time to make major changes to the sets.

It screws up everyone – us, grip, camera, actors, but mainly set dressing.

Set dressers are the nice people who make the sets look like, well, not sets.

I’m sure you’ve seen the low-budget movie with sparse backgrounds that somehow look like sets – you may not be able to pinpoint what’s wrong, but you do know they don’t look right.

That, my friends, is set dressing.

They place magazines, table lamps, newspapers, pens, mismatched pillows, sex toys, statuary, flowers, coffee cups, and the difference is amazing.

But, like the rest of us, set dressers don’t do their best work when they’re in a ‘holy fuck what just happened’ panic.

So they rip out all the practicals* – the table lamps, the floor lamps, the wall sconces, the weird puck light things in the cabinets that I’ve never, ever seen in the real world ever and wad up all the zip cord into a ball and helpfully set it somewhere that makes perfect sense. To them.

So then we come in on the day we’re supposed to shoot and find all new practicals in all new places and all of the zip and stingers connecting them to the dimmers gone.

Well, not gone, but wadded up… somewhere.

So now it’s our turn to panic as we try to work around the actors and director and camera trying to block the scene so we can shoot.

Of course, the only people who think that practicals are important are the DP and the gaffer.

Everyone else just see them as crap that’s making the toolbelt people have to get in their way.

So we have to balance getting yelled at by the gaffer, who wants that bedside lamp to work, and the director who wants us to get the hell out of his set so he can be a creative genius.

Since the director doesn’t hire us for the next show, guess who wins that battle?

Lucky for us, we managed to get everything redone in time to shoot, and hopefully there won’t be many more changes for show day tomorrow.

Oh, and the cat’s still hanging in there. She seems to have perked up a bit since it’s not as hot.


* Any light that’s on the screen is called a practical. It plays as part of the sets, but it’s a working light fixture.

Filed under: studio lots, Work, , , , , , , ,

Work is not on my mind right now.

The cat is old.

Really, really, old, and recently she’s begun to act her age.

Most of what she does these days is sleep, and she very rarely ventures away from her perch on the bed. I think it’s been six months since she’s done anything other than walk to the food bowl and then walk back to the bed.

She doesn’t look out the window, she doesn’t come and sit with me if I’m watching  TV, she doesn’t come yell at me to hurry up and get out of the shower.

She’s not even showing interest in her beloved Cat Track.

Her muscles are atrophying because of the inactivity, making it harder for her to move around.

She just sleeps. She doesn’t even wash her face these days – I’ve been having to scrub the food crust off of her nose for her.

I know the end is coming, but right now what I’m really struggling with is when.

I’m not going to let her slide and slide and become really miserable before dying naturally.

I’ve done that because I was too much of a coward to go to the vet. The suffering that animal had to endure because of my lack of action is something that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

But it’s not that simple.

If I do it too soon, she loses time (or maybe it doesn’t matter to her and I’m the one losing the time. Who knows).

If I do it too late, she’ll suffer.

Where’s the line?

I’ve had her for so long that I can’t imagine life without her, so I wonder if that clouds my judgement.

The vet is spectacularly unhelpful, just saying “You know your pet”.

Fucking duh. Of course I know my pet. That’s why this is so hard.

It would be super easy with someone else’s pet.

“Dude, that dog’s, like, jacked. You should put it to sleep”.

See? Easy.

So now I’m watching, and waiting, and wondering if I’m doing the right thing or just torturing the sweet soul that’s loved me unconditionally for almost two decades.

I wish there was an easy answer.

Someone please give me an easy answer.

 

Filed under: Non-Work, , , ,

Time and space

As the show goes on and more stuff gets put into the sets, the stage itself starts to get harder and harder to navigate.

On shows running longer than three months, the boxes, cases, oddly shaped bits of wood, unused couches, etc..  would be tucked away somewhere not the stage (sometimes an office but many times a shipping container).

Since a lot of the stuff we have will only be on camera for one episode and no one has any real estate large enough for storage, everything just gets stacked where ever there happens to be space.

In hallways, behind backdrops, against set walls, in the bathrooms, around our carts, under the audience bleachers.

Which I understand, as there’s just not any room on the stage to store anything, but it’s getting difficult to navigate lifts through the monumental piles of crap.

Add in the copious amount of fake trees in the fake yard and it’s damn near impossible to reach some of the lights.

Of course, the lights that are the biggest pains in the ass to reach are the ones that need the most attention.

So we bushwhack our way back to a point at which we can almost reach the light and then have someone act as a counterweight while we lean out over the debris to change a globe or refocus.

We’ll do a set changeover in a couple of weeks, so at least it’ll be different junk, hopefully in different places.

 

Filed under: studio lots, Uncategorized, Work, , , , ,

Half a weekend

Last week, we had a 6 day week, as we had to re-shoot the pilot episode of this show. Don’t ask why, I don’t know.

Although we were expecting the worst, day 6 turned out to be not so bad (only 10.5 hours), as the director came in very prepared and burned through the stuff.

I was home before midnight, which I hadn’t expected.

The advantage of four cameras is that it’s possible to shoot 26 pages in a day; something that’s completely out of reach for single camera shows (a misnomer, since most single camera shows use two cameras).

This show is 99.9 percent wonderful.

I really like the rest of the crew, the hours are easy, it’s close to the house and I’m really happy to be here.

The main problem I’m having is craft service.

Not the person – she’s a very nice lady who is exceptionally good at her job, but she doesn’t put out the healthiest stuff. She’s trying to make an entire crew of overgrown children happy, so she puts out comfort food.

Pasta, meatballs, chicken fingers, sliders, bacon wrapped bacon, weenie tots, onion rings, pastrami, etc..

Which is fine, as most people like that stuff and won’t complain.

Hell, I like that sort of stuff, but if I spend the next 6 weeks eating deep-fried whatsits three times a day my arteries (and my waistline) are going to explode.

Simply not eating for 12 hours isn’t an option, so I need to figure out a way to bring my own snacks without offending her.

It would be easy if we had a dorm fridge in our gold room, but we don’t.

If I bring food I have to put it in her fridge, so it’s not like I can sneak it past her.

Vegan? Gluten free? Nut allergy? Sanctimonious uber-organic locavore? These are all plausible, but I think I’m just going to tell her that I’m a super picky eater with an extremely sensitive stomach and this way is going to be easier for both of us.

Hopefully, she’ll understand and not poison my bagged lunch.

 

Filed under: Work, , , , , ,

Hooray!

The powers that be finally (after almost two weeks) approved my application and activated my membership, so today was my first day getting use the Sony gym.

I lifted some weights, since we weren’t going to have a particularly strenuous day (then, of course, I had to go up into the perms to drop out cable), and I have to say I really enjoy the gym.

They’re missing a few bits of equipment that the other gym has that I like, but it’s super clean, and they were playing 80s hip-hop on the sound system, which was extra awesome.

The gym I go to – the normal gym – is fairly small and I know everyone, so it’s a friendly place.

I wave and smile at people, ask how they’re doing, chit-chat about workouts, progress, the weather, etc..

People at this gym are less smiley and chatty. Maybe it’s because I went during the lunch rush (we had a 2 pm call time so I got there at 12:30) and maybe folks were just trying to get in that workout on lunch, but they didn’t strike me as a particularly friendly bunch.

One lady, after I’d said hello, started and responded with “Oh, were you talking to me?”

Oops. Guess I’d better cool it with the friendly.

I finished my workout and then stretched on the super awesome weird cage thing that I really wish my gym would buy.

Sadly, it looks like most of the really good classes are at times when I’m going to be working, but I do love being able to work out and then walk five minutes to the stage.

I might regret the expenditure when it’s dead and I’m broke, but right now it’s so worth it.

 

Filed under: studio lots, Work, , , , , , ,

It doesn’t count if it’s not on

The way our schedule on this show works is that we shoot Thursday and Friday, and Monday – Wednesday we light.

For folks from single camera world, this is bizarre beyond belief.

Block it, light it, shoot it, move on.

But multi cameras don’t work that way.

We hang some of the big lights, they block. We hang some more lights, they rehearse and change the blocking. We hang more lights after moving all the previous ones, and then finally we shoot.

Which is fine – the rig days are shorter as our call time is after they finish rehearsing, but as soon as the actors and important people leave, they turn off the air conditioning on the stage.

In case you hadn’t been informed, it’s currently hotter than the proverbial four-balled tomcat here in Los Angeles.

So when we rig after the rehearsals, we go up into the lighting rig using either lifts or ladders.

Since heat rises, this makes the temperature in our working environment approximately 500 degrees.

Last night when I came home from work I was able to wring out my bra.

Ick.

Say what you will about desert heat, it’s considerably less sweaty than tropical humidity.

We’re all glad that tomorrow is a shoot day, so we’ll have chilled air for the entire day.

Hooray!

 

 

Filed under: studio lots, Work, , , , , ,

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