Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Midweek update

This week, I’m on the rigging crew for yet another comic book movie (I have no idea which character, and quite frankly, as long as the checks clear, I don’t care. I never was much of a comic book reader, but I do like money).

On this movie, we’ve been having some very long days. Normally, rig days are never over 12 hours (and are sometimes 8 or 10 hours) – but Monday was a 16 hour day, Tuesday was a 14 hour day, and today was a 12 hour day (hey, at least the days are getting shorter). We think we’re about ready to go home, and then the shooting crew comes in and all hell breaks loose while we scramble around like crazy for another few hours.

I try to see the cause of the chaos, but I can’t – everyone in every department is competent and doing his or her job well – so I’ve developed a theory:

Just like really big forest fires that generate their own weather patterns, really big movies (and this one’s gotta be at least 100 million dollars), generate their own chaos.

It doesn’t matter how well prepared we are, nor does it matter how fast we work or how much stuff we rig – hell it doesn’t matter how well any department does it’s job, because there’s this vortex over our heads that’s sucking up our good intentions and raining pandemonium down upon our heads.

Part of the fun of coming in after first unit are done (they’re working nights, so when we come in in the morning, they’ve just left), is finding strange things that have been left behind by very, very tired people.

Like today:

Abandoned plate of cake

I can honestly say that this is the first time I’ve ever found an abandoned plate of cake in a freezer bag on a set.

Maybe I just think this is funny because I’m so tired.

Maybe I should go to bed.

Filed under: Photos, Work

I hurt all over.

Lately, I’ve been working on the shooting unit, which, while sometimes makes for long days (and since I’ve been working at Fox and have had access to the studio store, I’ve caught up on my Simpsons box sets – hence the lack of posting. If I don’t watch the DVDs right away, they might go bad or something. Really), at least has some down time and free access to (usually) fattening craft service food (okay, they do have healthy food, but frankly, I’d much rather eat those potato chips).

This makes me get all soft, squishy and complacent.  Don’t get me wrong, folks working shooting units work hard, there’s just opportunity to get off one’s feet for a few minutes.

Today was my first day back on the rigging crew, and boy do I hurt. We didn’t even really work super hard (although that’ll change tomorrow, I suspect) – we had a good-sized crew – I’m just not used to working nonstop all day.  When you’re on a rigging crew, if you have an opportunity to sit down, that means you go find a supervisor and ask them for something to do.

It’s not a bad thing – it makes for a nice change of pace, and it’s a crew of people that I really like a lot, I’m just… sore and since we had a long day and I have to be back at work at 7 am, I’ve got to get to bed and get some sleep.

Filed under: Work

Mirror, mirror.

I had sort of been dreading today’s work – well, wait. Dread’s not really the right word. How about fear?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a group of guys that I really like and have a great time with whenever I work with them (the same crew from Homicidal Hamburglar), but this movie’s got a low budget and the best boy warned me ahead of time that we’d be undermanned (a gaffer, best boy, and three electricians. This is really bare-bones. Four electricians better, but five would be even more better. The reason for this is simple: Some of our lights take three people to lift onto the stand, so when all three of the juicers are out in the parking lot lifting an 18 k, every other department gets to stand around and watch the gaffer freak out because nothing else is getting done on set. This is So. Not. Good.).

Generally speaking, the lower the pay scale the faster and cheaper they try to shoot, and the harder the crew works. This combined with the fact that lower budgeted movies generally have smaller crews, and I was really afraid I was going to get my ass seriously kicked today.

Luckily, this turned out not to be the case. The gaffer was really understanding about our being spread really thin, and even though we really needed four or five people, he never once freaked out about lighting set-ups coming together slowly.

It’s a damn good thing he’s calm, too. When they scouted this location (a closed diner in Glendale that will soon be torn down and turned into lofts), no one seemed to notice that the majority of the interior walls are mirrored.

Mirrors are very, very bad. Normally, as long as the lights and stands are out of the camera’s direct line of sight, they won’t be seen. But with mirrored walls, there’s nowhere to hide. The camera sees around corners and behind walls. Since they were shooting action sequences, they had two cameras, so when the light was in a good place for one camera, the other one would see it.

All day, the conversation on the walkie went something like this:

Gaffer: “Okay, walk that lamp three feet left*. No. Wait. It’s in. Walk it back right. No. wait. It’s in. Dammit… Stand by.”

Me: “Standing by.”

Gaffer: “Goddammit – it’s in the mirror on “B” camera. Raise it up. No, lower it down. Okay, it’s good for “B” camera.  Dammit. Now it’s in the mirror on “A” camera. Just.. wait a minute while I talk to the DP.”

Poor guy. I’m really surprised that his head didn’t explode before lunch.

I’m back on this same show tomorrow ( I keep wanting to call it Things With Wings, although that’s not the title).

*”Walk the lamp” means move the lighting unit to the indicated direction (left, right, forward, back) The phrase applies even when the lamp’s on a stand with wheels.

Filed under: Work

Friday Photo

Although I worked yesterday, I’m having a really bad ADD day today and can’t settle down enough to write about it.

So, here’s a photo:

Fiberglass prehistoric tragedy reenactment

This is from the Lake Pit at the La Brea Tar Pits. When you grow up in Southern California, this is a common field trip destination – when I was a kid, I felt so sorry for the poor mammoth thing in the tar – and the little baby mammoth on the shore, crying for it’s parent. I’d imagine them on a hot summer day, just trying to get a drink and getting stuck in the tar.

A few years ago, I went back to the tar pits with a friend’s kid, and I learned that the Lake Pit was a 19th century tar quarry, and only turned into a lake due to groundwater seepage in the early 20th century.

Damn you, fiberglass statues. You lied to me for all those years.

Filed under: Non-Work, Photos

Waiting, waiting, waiting

Today, I was wrapping out a set for a movie (The Kingdom) that, during the past few months of shooting, has had four deaths of crew and over 100 workman’s comp claims.

Needless to say, we were all really, really careful all day. No one wanted to be number five.

Since our call time was 5 am at Sony, I had to get up before 4 (3:45, to be exact) so now, although I’m insanely tired (at 8 pm, which makes me feel like a total loser), I have to stay awake until the best boy for tomorrow’s show calls me and tells me what the call time is. On shooting units, since the next day’s call time depends on how late the day runs each day, he won’t know what call is until they call wrap.

That could be, well, anytime.

If I go to bed early, I’ll wake up early – which will be a bad thing if the call time is, say 10 am which means we’ll work until at least midnight.

If I anticipate a late call time and drink a bunch of coffee to stay up late, he’ll call and tell me there’s a 6 am call time and I’ll be all wired and won’t get any sleep.

I can’t start calling the best boy and nagging him about call time, because if I do he’s going to decide that I’m a pain the in ass and not hire me again.

Pretty much my only choice is to sit here, waiting.

My sister just called me and asked what I was doing, and when I told her I was sitting in my room waiting for a boy to call, her response was “aren’t you a little old for that sort of thing?”

Yeah, you’d think so.

Staying awake would be easier if TV weren’t so bad.

UPDATE: 9:30 am call, which means parking in the Fox structure is going to suck, but at least I can go to sleep now.

Filed under: Work

Something happened while I was asleep.

I only had half a weekend, as I lost most of Saturday due to my getting home from work at 7 am. I would have gotten home at 6 am, but the Universal security guards locked all but one of the lot’s gates sometime Friday night, and then neglected to tell us which gate was open, so we had a Keystone Kops ™ moment while we all drove around the lot in a little caravan looking for a way to get the hell out of there.

It’s funny now, but at the time I think I sobbed and bashed my forehead against the dashboard because I just wanted to go home.

When I woke up Saturday afternoon, it had suddenly gotten really hot – I think what woke me up was my being covered in sweat due to my not having removed my long underwear (hey, it was cold up until Saturday afternoon) before passing out on the couch.

It’s been hot all weekend and it’s still hot today:

It's hot!

This is completely unfair. It’s not even summer yet.

Aaannnnd one more photo:

Discards

One of the Flickr commenters requested a backstory for this – the uninteresting truth is that I was out riding the bike and saw these two on the curb.

So, we’re all smart and have overactive imaginations – let’s make up a backstory, shall we? I’m not working for the next couple of days and need some entertainment :)

Filed under: life in LA, Photos, Work

You give a little up, you get a little back.

I hate turning down work for any reason. When one turns down work too often, best boys stop calling (“Oh, fuck it.. she’s never available. I’m not even going to bother”), and that’s the stuff of my nightmares.

So, yesterday, standing on set (last minute call , and a good day working with a great bunch of guys on a TV show that’s been on the air so long everything runs like clockwork so no panic, no rushing, no yelling and they’ve all been locked up on a stage together forever so all my jokes seem new to them), the best boy asked me if I wanted to work tonight and tomorrow night on a friend of his’ show.

Hell, yes I did. There was only one problem – I would have been spending both nights in a 125′ condor.*

Now, I have no fear of going up in a ‘normal’ sized 80′ condor, and until last year got called for condor work all the time (for some reason, last year was mostly rigging. The year before that was mostly working set, or ‘operating’. This is just the way work fluctuates, I guess. I don’t mind. It keeps things interesting).

But over the years, I’ve cultivated an active dislike for the condors over 100′ tall. It’s a psychological thing – technically, they’re just as safe as the smaller units but for some reason that extra elevation just makes me want to wet my pants, and let me tell you, my shrieks of terror carry a loooonng way in the night air (“Why don’t you just come down and let someone who’s not a complete pussy go up there?”), and no one wants to hear one of the lighting crew scream like a little girl.

So, after considering the possibility of humiliating myself in front of a whole new group of people, I turned the job down – on the grounds that I am, in fact, a complete and utter pussy about things like that.

So, right afterwards, before I even had time to regret the decision, I got a call to work Friday – sitting on a rooftop all night, babysitting a light.

It’s only one night instead of two, but hey, it’s work – and no scary super-tall condors involved.

* You know how night scenes in movies always have the perfect moonlight – just exactly behind the actor’s head and spilling artfully onto the street? Yeah, that’s me (or somebody like me) up in a condor with a BFL (Big Fucking Light).  The operator usually has to stay up there with the light all night because as the camera moves around to shoot all the angles of the scene, the elevated BFL will have to change positions, too – in order to keep that moonlight artsy.

Filed under: Work

Oh, the things I learn from Google

WordPress has a great feature that allows me to see the search terms people typed in at Google which led them to my blog.

Some are predictable (“lighting tech blog”), some are funny (“Disco Fogger, Trader Joes vomit, teamster joke”), and some are just confusing (“Academy Award Speech generator, pre-paid cell phone rates, jennifer aniston nosejob”).

That last one is really confusing, given that I’ve never even mentioned Jennifer Aniston or her nose here – until now, I guess.

Oops. Guess after today it won’t be so confusing, huh?

Every once in a while, though, a search term makes me sit up and take notice: today I got “Terry Gilliam Wasp Factory Movie”

What? Terry Gilliam’s doing a movie of The Wasp Factory? I’d always thought of that book as an example of the “New UK Brutalism” genre, but I suppose it’s really a sort of morality play about, well, grey areas and the abuse of power.

Whatever, it’s an extraordinary and deeply disturbing book, and I hope that Gilliam, and extraordinary and deeply disturbing director, actually gets to have a go at it. .

I can’t find any mention of it on IMDB, so it’s probably a pipe dream – just like the ill-fated Good Omens movie (not a disturbing book, but a hilarious one. Okay, it is disturbing that someone can get that many laughs out of the Apocalypse) which Gilliam was also slated to direct.

Speaking of movies, if it’s playing somewhere near you, run – don’t walk – to see The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen). Some net-folk have dismissed it as just another “man bites dog” story, but I loved it. It’s incredibly well done (well shot, well directed, well acted, riveting to watch), and was so worth the extra money that the Arclight charges to see movies on weekends.

Tonight is the Media Bistro Blogger Party, and since I’m not working, I’ll probably go by for a while and say hi to some of the nice folks.

Speaking of work, I hadn’t been looking too hard, since there was a rumor of a TV pilot starting next week with my usual crew, but I just heard today that it’s not going to happen. Damn.

Guess this means I’m back to calling everyone I know, asking if they’re ‘picking up’.

If that doesn’t turn up anything, I’ll be reduced to dialing random numbers out of the union’s member directory, and then begging whoever answers the phone for work.

Let’s all hope it doesn’t come to that.

Filed under: Non-Work

For Your Friday Viewing Pleasure…

Liz, whose blog Everyday Goddess can be found over there on the blogroll, has a film online.

You can view it here: http://films.thelot.com/films/2542

Here’s how I’ve been accessing the internets as of late:

mobile computing

Hey, I can only spend so much time sitting in Groundwork before they start making me pay rent.

Photo taken on Gower St. just outside one of Sunset Gower Studios’ stages (stage 3, I think).

Also, here’s a link to some shaky still-camera-in-video-mode footage of Money Mark’s in-store concert at Amoeba in Hollywood:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOCevJM0E9I

Filed under: Non-Work, Photos

Out of work, but it’s not my fault (this time).

So, I’m no longer working on the comedian’s TV show, due to the DP deciding to move on to greener pastures (or at least pastures that don’t schedule 16 hour days).

When the DP or a gaffer leaves a show the replacement brings along his or her own crew, leaving those of us that were just working for the guy (or girl) shit out of luck.

So, I’m back to making frantic work calls, although everyone seems to be  already crewed up for pilot season.

Damn. Hopefully, I’ll pick up some days on something.

I just have to keep making phone calls.

Filed under: Work

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Flickr Photos

Halfway through a wrap day

Get something out of those jockey boxes, I dare you.

Electricity and water

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