Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

How does that song go again?

It’s not a secret that I don’t like Piña Colada (too sweet, and we all know what happens when one indulges in sweet stuff that also happens to be alcoholic), and after today, I can say for certain that I don’t much like getting caught in the rain, either.

Since I’m not going to get any work before January, my mission for the next week or so is to burn off some of the yummy fattening holiday foods I’ve been cramming down my gullet since Thanksgiving, so today I went for a bike ride – to the top of Sunset Plaza Drive.

For those of you not familiar, Sunset Plaza Drive is windy and steep, and eventually ends up at the crest of the Hollywood Hills. It’s a painful ride, but a much more interesting way to work out than staring at CNN in the gym while the fat sweaty guy on the machine next to me sings along with Justin Timberlake.

The payoff of this ride is the view once one finally gets to the top of the hill:

Clear view

This is looking east, towards downtown. Note the rain clouds rolling in on the left of the photo. As soon as I saw them, I thought “Oh, shit. I better get the lead out”, and proceeded to tear back down the hill as fast as I could – but I wasn’t fast enough. Half a mile from my house, the clouds caught me and I got drenched while sitting at a stoplight.

As I gazed up into the downpour and let loose with a terrible string of obscenities, I accidentally caught the eye of a guy in one of those Jeep Wranglers – you know, the ones without the roof. He was getting drenched, too – I think he might have even been shouting the same expletive at the same time.

As we waited for the light to change, we just looked at each other for a moment, and then simultaneously burst out laughing.

Luckily, my backpack’s waterproof, so although I got soaked to the skin, my cell phone and camera stayed dry.

Here’s another photo:

Clear Day

This one was taken from Blue Heights Drive (an offshoot of Sunset Plaza Drive), from the driveway of a very nice man who let me stand on his property to take this photo.

Filed under: Non-Work, Photos

Got Him!

The Bait:

Squirrel Bait

The Squirrel:

Squirrel

The Video:

He’s not super happy about the camera, and I wasn’t fast enough to pan over and catch him start to climb up on my lap.

This was taken Thursday, when I was back at Disney to tear out the party rig (and part of the rig from the shoot). It took us 12 hours to wrap all the gear they’d left (if we’d just wrapped our stuff, we’d have been out of there in three hours). 12 hour wraps are brutal, because there’s not any down time like there is when one is working a shooting unit. I spent most of the day up in the perms, dropping cable out to the guys wrapping it on the floor. We dropped out so much cable that the rope I was using wore holes in the palms of my gloves.

Friday, I ached all over and instead of soaking in the tub or getting a massage somewhere, I had to spend the day trying to fix my bathroom sink.

Anyways, I hope everyone has a happy holiday (whichever one you celebrate)!

Filed under: Work

A mouse and a squirrel and the week before Christmas

Very early morning calls are tough – it’s not just the getting up when it’s still dark (and cold), but any time my alarm is set to go off before 5 am, I get freaked about sleeping through the buzzer and wake up with a start every couple of hours, convinced that I’ve overslept. In an industry where one can’t afford to be late (the saying is “15 minutes early is on time, right at call time is late” and being late too often means no callback), one of my biggest fears is waking up an hour after my call time, wondering why I didn’t hear the alarm.

Luckily, this hasn’t happened yet, and I always get up and about with enough time to stop at the coffee place so when I do drag myself into work I don’t resemble a zombie so much.

Yesterday, my call time was 5 am at Disney to set up for another Christmas party – this one on one of the sets from Pirates 3. One of the Disney execs has a band which performed at the party, so we were there to light the stage and the ‘gambling’ tables (it’s fake gambling – they just give you more chips when you run out. This is how I learned – at the American Pie 2 wrap party – never, ever to play roulette. Boy, if that had been real money I’d have been in trouble).

Our call was so early because the band’s sound-check was at 3 pm, and the party started at 5 pm – which is when we needed to be gone. We barely made it due to the inevitable last minute changes, of course. I was officially signed out at 4:50 and guests were already lining up at the bar.

One thing that was strange, and that I’ve not seen at any other lot, was the guy sitting on the stage watching us. He was there at 5 am when we got there, and at first I thought he was a safety person to make sure we didn’t do anything stupid, but when I asked him he told me he was a security officer. He wasn’t guarding the door, he was watching us work. I don’t get this. What, am I going to put half the Pirates 3 set down the front of my pants and walk off with it?

My boss, whom I’ve not worked for before, was the nicest guy ever, although I’m really surprised that he didn’t snap about halfway through the day – the lot’s executives had been fretting about not wanting lamps to be hung in the air because they were afraid it wasn’t safe – this, in case you were wondering, is complete horseshit.

It’s always safer to have the lamps hanging, especially when you have a stage full of people who aren’t used to being on sets and have been drinking. If a lamp’s on a stand, it can be knocked over, bumped into (and bumping into a hot lamp usually means a nasty burn), someone can trip on the cable (no matter how carefully the cable’s been run and taped down, someone will always find a way to trip on it). So, although to the untrained eye it looks horribly dangerous to have those lamps hanging 40 feet in the air, it’s really much better for them to be out of the way. We’ve always got those things clamped down and tied off so anything that’s going to shake them loose is going to bring the building down first.

I had a good day, too – we didn’t get worked super hard and I made the acquaintance of a very cool bunch of guys.

The bummer of the day was failing in my mission to get a good photo of one of the Disney lot’s hyper-aggressive squirrels. Lot workers have been feeding them for so long that they no longer have any fear of humans – in fact, they’ve developed a sense of entitlement for whatever it is that any random human happens to be eating. Several years ago, while eating at the outdoor tables, I had one jump on my plate and start eating my sandwich, and another time one actually chased me after I attempted to pull my plate out of his cute little paws.

Since I was trying to eat healthier after the other night’s delicious Korean BBQ meat-fest with a friend’s nephew who’s in town for a couple of days and wanted to try something new, I’d gotten a salad and soup, so I chose a carrot as squirrel bait. Squirrels like carrots, right?

Apparently, they don’t. I chose my victim, crouched down, held out the carrot and aimed the camera. While the squirrel wasn’t afraid of me in the slightest, he got spooked by the camera – he was charging full tilt towards me until he saw the weird silver thing I was holding, and then he stayed out of arm’s reach, hopped back and forth and chattered at me (if you’ve never seen a squirrel dance from one hind foot to the other while making “worry hands” with his front paws, you’ll just have to trust me that it’s very cute. Note to self: next time, put the camera in video mode). He had no idea what I had in my hand, he only knew that by all rights, it belonged to him.

Here he is trying to figure out if whatever I’ve got is worth coming near the scary silver thing:

Squirrel

Once he got up the courage to take the carrot, he carried it a distance away, figured out what it was and dropped it:

Squirrel

Picky little fucker. When I got back to the stage and told our security babysitter what happened, he said “Well, why the hell would he take a carrot? Most people feed them french fries or potato chips.”

Note to self: next time, put the camera in video mode and choose a better bait.

After work, I went with some friends to the LA Kings game, where the home team got stomped by Calgary – but we had great seats, so a good time was had by all. I was surprised how many people were there, since LA tends to empty out around the holidays.

I got home and got to bed about 11 pm, and I’m still tired today.

Filed under: Photos, Work

My wireless has fallen, and it can’t get up.

For quite some time, I’ve been “borrowing” high speed wireless from the school across the street from my house. The school didn’t seem to mind, and I was finally able to tell PacBell to get the hell out of my life (and boy, did it feel good).

Recently, however, my happy little wireless utopia has been smashed to shit – due to some construction, the school has moved the wireless hub to the other side of the campus, and now I can’t pick up the signal any more.

Damn.

This having to hoof it to the coffeeshop to check my email is getting old fast.

So, I’m thinking about going with Covad, who have a 1.5/128  plan for $24.95 (’cause I’m not going crawling back to SBC, the bastards, and I won’t get a cable modem because of Time-Warner issues here in Hollywood).

Has anyone used Covad? Are they any good?

On another note, I’m surprised to hear I may have a day’s work next week – I normally don’t get anything this close to Christmas, but I’ll take what I can get.

Filed under: Non-Work

One more reason for me not to see this movie.

Last night, I accompanied The Anonymous Source to a screening of The Pursuit of Happyness (highly recommended if you’re looking for a warm fuzzy movie with a feel-good ending), and before the movie started The Anonymous Source told me that last week, there had been a Cinematographer’s Guild sponsored screening of Apocolypto, after which the movie’s Director of Photography gave a talk.

During this talk, he’d told the audience that during the shoot in Mexico, Mel Gibson had kept the actors – even the children – on set for up to 19 hours each day.

Several days later, The Anonymous Source is still steaming about it, and I completely understand why.

Have we learned nothing from that John Landis thing?

Child labor laws may make shooting more difficult, but they exist for a reason, and I suspect that if Gibson had one of his own children in the movie, he wouldn’t have kept them on set that long.

Of course, I’m not sure that there are any child labor laws relating to film production in Mexico (a ‘private jungle’ in Veracruz, to be exact), but keeping kids on set that long is just fucking wrong.

Although I wasn’t going to see it anyways (there’s enough horrible violence outside my window. I don’t need to pay to see more), this just seals the deal that I’ll never, ever give Gibson any more money.

Filed under: rants, Work

I’ve got the RSS blues

Until I can figure out this RSS thing (and there’s a myriad of new stuff here on WordPress that’s throwing me for a loop), you’re just going to have to subscribe manually.

Here’s the feed link: http://filmhacks.wordpress.com/feed/

The feedburner feed is: http://feeds.feedburner.com/wordpress/XKCw

Enter that into your RSS reader and you can subscribe from there.

Many, many thanks to the wonderful commenters who were kind enough to share this information!

Filed under: Non-Work

Friday Photo

Editorial Comment

Taken inside a facade on Warner’s New York Street.

Filed under: Photos, Work

Of all the things I’ve left at home, I miss my glasses the most.

Although I didn’t expect to work at all in December, I’ll end up getting three days this week.Tuesday night, I got a call to work on second unit shoots for a TV show*. My call was 11 am at Warner Brothers in Burbank.

I don’t work on the Warner Brothers lot very often, and in some way that’s a good thing. Warner’s contains the single biggest threat to my pocketbook in the entire city – The Mill Store.

All studio lots have stores where they sell discounted DVDs and various merchandise, but at Warner’s, they have really deeply discounted stuff at the Mill Store. Super cheap DVDs, CDs, shirts, hats and various assorted work-related tchotckes are too much for me to resist, and every time I’m on the lot, I spend at least a third of my check in there.

Wednesday, I had a fairly typical day – 14 hours (11 am to 2 am), two stage moves, and the nicest bunch of guys I’ve met in a long time. I really hope I can get back on this crew because they’re all terrific** and I had a great day.

It never rains but it pours – as I was standing on set, I got called to do a day on another TV show, right after the best boy had asked me back for tomorrow to help out on the fixture rigging crew (fixtures, or practicals, are the lights that you can see on the screen) .

The fixture crew ended up being an old friend of mine who I’ve not seen in two years, and another person who I work with every so often who I like a lot, so I had a great time Thursday as well.

The only problem Thursday was the short turnaround. They’d set my call for Thursday before lunch on Wednesday, and when we went late and it became obvious that I’d not make the call because I wouldn’t get my minimum turnaround (9 hours for studio lots), they pushed my call so I ended up coming in at 11 am (the original call was 7 am).

I can’t go right to sleep when I get home – I have to take a shower and wind down before I get into bed, so I ended up getting about 5 hours sleep and being a total zombie in the morning.

When I’m a total zombie I forget things – on Thursday, I forgot my glasses.

I have great long-distance vision. I can read the tail numbers of jumbo jets flying in the stratosphere, but up close, details are a blurry mess.

We were wiring sconces that had been hung on the outside of the facades of New York street, but had to be powered from the inside (remember that if you see a power cable on camera the world will end. Okay, maybe not, but I’ll get fired), so I ended up spending the day with my face right up against the walls trying to see where I was sending the fish tape. So not a good thing. The last thing I wanted to do was get my face up close to the walls on the inside of the facades.

The reason I didn’t want to put my face too close to the inside of those walls is spiders. Those facades have been there for 50 years, and the arachnid life inside have dug in and gotten fat and sassy – the last thing I need to do is stick my eyeball up to a hole in the wall and have a spider jump on me. I probably wouldn’t be able to see it coming, either. I’d just scream like hell and scare my co-workers and the spider.

I’m back on the fixtures crew for tomorrow.

*I will only tell you what show it is if you promise not to charge up to me on set shouting “Hey, you’re that blogger. Although I do like to hear that people are enjoying the blog, being confronted at work makes me very uncomfortable, and then I think the heat’s on, freak out and start posting things about my shoe collection that nobody wants to read.
Trust me, I’m a lot more interesting when I think no one’s watching.

** Easier said than done at Warner Bros. The set lighting department there are intensely loyal to their regular folks, and won’t hesitate to lay off people they don’t know well in order to make sure their own people keep working. In this day and age of corporations not giving a shit about dedicated workers, I think it’s wonderful to see a company display this kind of loyalty to workers – even when it works against me.

Filed under: Work

Welcome!

Welcome to WordPress! For the time being, I’m going to post over here, due to some problems with Blogger – I’ve not completely abandoned the old blog, as I’m trying to figure out the best way to transition smoothly and not lose too many readers.

I’m still playing around with templates, so feel free to make suggestions.

The blogroll’s not complete yet, and probably won’t be for a few days – that cut and paste thing takes a while.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Okay, so some of you care.

Thanks for all the supportive comments! Following some excellent suggestions, I may make a change – I’ll keep writing, but it’s looking like I’m going to move over to WordPress – I’m having issues with Blogger, and the evil corporate overlords at Google don’t seem to be interested in customer service these days.

The new link is filmhacks.wordpress.com.

Right now the template’s butt ugly and I’m still playing with it.

Filed under: Uncategorized

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