Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

The one you want is always buried.

When a stage is rigged, we lay the cable down in layers, and when it’s time to take the whole thing out, of course the cable that I’m trying to wrap is always at the bottom of the stack – but it tricks me; I wrap about a quarter of it, think I’ve got a good one and then discover that the remainder is buried under 500 lbs of cable – I then try another piece only to discover that one is buried, too.

No matter how neat everyone tries to keep everything, it always turns into spaghetti.

I’ve been pulling out a rig that I worked on back in the summer, and it’s been fun (it’s a great bunch of guys that I love to work with). After sitting on set for the past few weeks, the physical work feels good for a change.

However, I’m still suffering side effects from Thursday’s food poisoning. I don’t have much of an appetite, and when I do eat I don’t want to eat very much.

It’s actually kind of funny – I’m normally a pretty good eater, but lately I’ve been nibbling these Lilliputian portions of food; half a salad and a few spoons of soup, the filling of part of a sandwich, one piece of toast and half a cup of tea.

Even when I’ve managed to get a good amount of food down, I’m not wanting to eat very often. I had lunch (half a sandwich and two bites of salad) at noon, it’s now 7:30 and I’m still not hungry. I forced down a whole turkey burger on Monday at lunch and didn’t eat again until this morning.

Good side effect: weight loss

Bad side effect: exhaustion and a complete lack of strength – a serious liability when one is wrapping cable for 10 hours (which is what I did Monday).

My boss pulled me off the ‘up high’ team today (I don’t know if it was because I was visibly struggling of if we were so successful against the spaghetti that he needed another body on the ground), and I spent the afternoon catching cable*, wrapping out some of the smaller lights, sorting the spare globes, etc.

I’m not nearly as tired tonight as I was yesterday, but I’m still pretty beat.

We’re going to finish the cable tomorrow (which is my last day), and then I’m going to lay on the couch all day Thursday while I write that article (many, many thanks for everyone’s input).

I’m surprised I even had the energy to type this much.

*One end of the cable is dropped out, and it’s wrapped as it’s sent down. The person wrapping on the ground is catching the cable. For me, catching cable is less energy-intensive than sending it out.

Filed under: Work

Call for gripes!

Well, not gripes, but I’m writing an article for an actor’s magazine about what they can do to help make crew’s day go smoother.

Instead of doing my usual lighting-centric thing, I thought I’d poll those of you in other departments and really make this something well-rounded.

So, aside from the obvious general advice (stay on your mark, show up on time, know your lines, lose the attitude), what department-specific advice would you give to actors?

Leave ‘em in the comments or email me at randomblogmail [at] yahoo dot com.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Last day on this movie.

The last day of a movie is always filled with busy work. Stuff that got shoved somewhere in the set weeks ago has to be found, sorted (the gaffer has his own equipment, the stage has it’s own equipment, and there’s a rental house package as well. Over the course of a movie this all tends to get jumbled up no matter how careful you are), and packed.

Since there’s a wrap crew coming in, what we had to do was pretty minimal, but it’s nice to help the brothers out a bit, and production wants the gaffer’s stuff off rental ASAP.

The main thing we had to do today was de-rig all the Kino Flos and change out the tubes. For the elevator and hallway sets on this movie, they used ‘cool white’ tubes in the kinos, which on film have a greenish tint to them (that weird color light in the parking garage scenes in Fight Club was cool white tubes). This is a great effect if you want it, but most folks carry color balanced tubes in their kinos, so they have to get changed back before they’re returned.

Kino Flos are the devil – they’re fluorescent lamps that are a great idea on paper (lightweight, easy to rig, nice even soft light), but are a HUGE pain in the ass in practice – they have a lot of parts to them (housing, reflector, fluorescent tubes, plastic grid which breaks easily, lamp harness, ballast, mounting plate, head feeder – all of which get lost if they’re not inventoried every 90 seconds*), and since nearly everyone takes them apart (in order to tape the tubes to a wall or cannibalize for parts when the lamps break), at the end of the show, they have to be completely disassembled and sorted in order to make sure that all the parts of each lamp come from the same rental source.

What I really want to do with Kino Flos is throw them into the nearest dumpster, but I don’t think the gaffer would like that. They’re expensive and I’m pretty sure his insurance doesn’t cover damage done by frustrated employees.

We got them all sorted and packed (except, of course, the ones that were working in the set that we were shooting. Those, the wrap crew will have to get), and it was only a 10.5 hour day – mostly due to the director needing to go to some awards ceremony right after work.

I’ve got a one day weekend (get up, get coffee, do laundry, script meeting for the TV show, try to clean the house, and then go back to sleep), and then I’m back to work (on something else, of course) on Monday.

* While I’m on the subject – Kino Flos are responsible for set lighting having to carry C-Stands in our rental package. I fucking hate C-Stands. They’re grip stands and are designed to be versatile enough for a million uses (the name is short for “Century Stand”, supposedly because there’s a hundred different ways to set them up), but they’re hard to set properly (if you do it wrong, the stand falls over and breaks your light) and drive electricians nuts.

Filed under: Work

What is it with me and catering trucks lately?

Thursday, I got food poisoning again. This time, I think it was the sausage.

I showed up for work at the LA Port (where they’d turned an old cruise ship terminal into JFK, since it’s impossible to shoot in an airport anymore), and since I got there about 10 minutes before call time, I ate off the buffet instead of ordering from the truck (since the chefs in the truck make everything to order, this can take a few minutes and is not an option if you’re cutting it close).

I was fine for about three hours, and then I started not feeling so good.

Luckily, it hit after we’d finished lighting our big shot, so I figured I’d throw up whatever it was while we were sitting around, be fine afterwards, then go back to work and no one would be the wiser – except that this time, I got dehydrated and collapsed as I was trying to wrap cable (I was afraid to drink anything in case I threw it up on set).

After a gentle admonition from my boss (“You really should tell me if you’re sick”), some fluids and a nap in the truck, the medic sent me home just in time to get stuck in rush hour traffic.

Amazingly, I felt well enough this morning to come into work (at the stage again), and aside from the medic watching me like a hawk (“What did you have for lunch?” “How much water have you had?” “No, you may not have coffee.”), which I appreciated (good to know someone cares – even if it was just because he didn’t want to peel me off the floor again), the day went fine, although I had to pass over some of the yummier-looking stuff that crafty put out.

I’m glad I went into work today – they added a day tomorrow, so I’ll get three days this week, which will just about cover what I spent in Vegas.

Yesterday: Call time: 6:30 am
Wrap time: 8:30 pm (although I got sent home around 5 pm)

Today: Call time: 8:30 am
Wrap time: 10:00 pm

Filed under: Work

One well placed bomb would have meant you’d have to read for entertainment.

I just got back in from Vegas – I’m exhausted.

Conventions are all about connections, so in addition to pacing the floor all day (and the Mandalay Bay convention center is HUGE), it’s vital that one go to the bar after the convention closes to network.

Since all of the heavy hitters were staying at THEHotel, that lounge was the place to be – The Blonde and I circulated and chatted like crazy and gave out all our cards and flyers (jokes about the name of the hotel provided an instant icebreaker, for which I was thankful). Most of the executives, while a bit defensive inside the convention, loosened up considerably once they got to the bar.

If someone thought our show wasn’t a good fit for them, they’d yell across the packed bar to someone they knew – “Hey, Pete! Come here and listen to what they’ve got!”, and Pete would come running to hear what we had to say. This is the only time I’ve ever seen television executives like this. Normally, they seem to be afraid of new shows. Must be something in the water.

Craziness.

Although nothing is ever a lock until you’re actually on the air (so hold the congrats), we’re reasonably certain that we’ve sold the show to a cable network.

The only problem now is my bar tab. I had to buy drinks for way too many people. I’m broke for the next month.

I have a 6 am call tomorrow (across town, of course), so I’m off to bed.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Vegas Again.

After a harrowing drive across the desert (wind gusts up to 70 mph), The Blonde and I are in Las Vegas for NAPTE – a television programming convention.

We’re hoping we’ll come home with an episode order.

This time, we’re staying at the Monte Carlo – way more ghetto than the Wynn, but much, much cheaper.

I’ll be back in LA on Wednesday – I’m having to leave early (The Blonde’s staying until Friday) because I have to work Thursday.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Baby, it’s a company town.

It seems like just about everyone in town’s at Sundance.

The Blonde and I have been going to this exclusive after hours club thingy on Saturday nights (well, Sunday mornings, actually. It doesn’t even start until midnight).

Normally, it’s packed with film industry mediumweights*, but last night I think there were 20 people there.

Want to get into the most exclusive club or score a table at the newest super-hot eatery? Make the reservation during Sundance, Cannes, Telluride, etc…

*The Blonde views them as potential romantic interests, I view them as work contacts since I know better than to date them. So does The Blonde, but she’s horny and thinking with her crotch lately.

Filed under: life in LA

I hate it when things are my fault.

Carrying lights into or out of a set can be tricky – a light on a stand is about five feet tall and the whole contraption must be balanced on the shoulder as it’s carried through tight quarters packed with people (some of whom heed the call of “hot points” or “watch your back”, some who don’t).

The solution (for me, anyways), is to keep the stand closer to vertical – it makes it easier to go around turns without knocking out someone’s teeth, but means that I’m carrying 4 feet of steel above my head.

Every now and then, some joker of a set designer will put a ceiling in a set*. This is just mean. It means we can’t light from above the set, the sound guy can’t put the boom mic over the set, and it means that the four feet of steel I’m carrying is suddenly a HUGE problem.

Today (yesterday, actually as it’s after midnight), as I was doing the ‘get me into the hallway’ limbo, I broke a VERY expensive light fixture, that was hanging from the low ceiling in the kitchen (I’m guessing the fixture was probably 8 feet from the ground).

For the rest of the day, the set dressers (who thankfully didn’t sell me out when the AD stormed into set demanding to know who the hell broke the fixture) teased me like crazy. Every time I’d come into the set with a light, one of them would say something like “Look out – there’s glass!” or “Watch out behind you!”.

We were in the same set all day – plus we had a stunt**, so all day, the single remaining kitchen lighting fixture hung from the ceiling; a reminder for the set dressers to keep razzing me.

*Or fill the set with expensive furniture – most furniture on set is really cheap crap, because they know it’s going to get fucked up, and the camera really can’t tell the difference between something pricey and Ikea that’s been painted to look expensive.

**There are stunts and then there are Stunts. Although yesterday’s stunt was probably more of a pratfall (actor loses consciousness, falls over humorously), anytime an actor does anything that could result in an injury, it’s called a stunt, and must have a stunt guy, crash pads, medic, etc…

Filed under: Work

Oh, no way.

Big budget movies shoot very, very slowly. On this particular movie, they’re averaging two pages per day.

To stave off insanity, we speculate about things – our next contract and what the international’s going to screw us out of next, where in the world Osama’s hiding, who’s screwing whom, why we can put a man on the moon but can’t come up with sneakers that don’t stink after 14 hours of wear. High-speed wireless internet access on stage makes such speculation far, far more fun (and more current than last night’s news or the morning paper).

This particular movie takes place in New York City, and one of the ongoing discussions among the crew is about the cost of the character’s apartments.

On stage, this production has built an entire floor of a Manhattan apartment building (with no wild walls, of course. There must be something going around), and our characters (all young, single, and not overly wealthy) have HUGE one and two bedrooms in a pre-war building – supposedly somewhere in the Village.

I understand that reality doesn’t play well on film, but this is a bit of a stretch, isn’t it?

When you have high-speed internet access on your stage, the people with computers can price rentals in Manhattan and figure out exactly how much that a young, single and not overly wealthy person would have to pay for a 1200 square foot one bedroom (with foyers, wood floors, charming arched doorways, full kitchens and built-in bookcases).

NYC Rentals on Craig’s List

One of the actors has a theory that everyone in the building has a sugar daddy, but how many of those are really running around NYC?

Filed under: Work

I hate it when this happens.

After years of erratic hours, my sleep patterns are pretty well fucked up.

Sometimes it’s not too bad, but this morning I woke up at 6 am and couldn’t go back to sleep.

I’ve got a 9:30 am call (same place as Monday), which means I’ll be at work until 10:00pm (at the earliest).

Lucky for me crafty’s got some great coffee.

Filed under: Work

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