Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Just like running on the beach

There’s a weird thing that happens whenever I’m the board operator on a show and it’s going to be a ‘light’ board day – which means that when we’re in a setup that’s not using the dimmer board, I’m expected to jump in with the set guys and help out. I don’t mind doing this, but as soon as I decide we’re not going to use the board and I should go work on set the gaffer will call for something on the board – not as I’m thinking about it, either. As soon as I’m far enough away from the board that it’s going to take a minute to get back there and the gaffer’s going to notice the delay, that’s when it happens.

So I spent the first half of the day being a victim of bad timing and having to scramble back to the board without having anyone see me running (running on a set is a very bad thing – it makes you look like you’re not in control), and then when I got to where I was supposed to be, having to disguise my wheezing from the gaffer over the walkie.

Then, we moved to a night exterior on a construction site. Most of our equipment is loaded on carts so we can roll it around fairly quickly, but those carts don’t work very well on unpacked dirt at construction sites – we’d unloaded some of our carts off the stakebed (since it was only one scene, we didn’t move our 40 footer, we just loaded everything into a smaller truck) into the street, only to have our boss tell us that the carts and truck needed to move to the other side of the set – across about 100 yards of loosely packed, uneven, rock-strewn dirt. Somehow the carts didn’t make it back onto the truck before it moved, so we ended up having to push them.

Remember those old Tom and Jerry cartoons where the cat would run after the mouse and then run off the edge of a table to find himself in thin air with his feet going like crazy while not going anywhere? That was us trying to push head carts across the construction site. We managed to do it (with two people per cart and a lot of straining), but my legs are still sore today. At the end of the day on the way back to crew parking, one of my co-workers compared walking on the dirt all night to running on the beach, and that’s about how it felt, were we running on the beach while pushing a steel cart loaded with 300 lbs. of equipment.

Call time: 10 am.

Wrap time: 11:45 pm.

Also, in today’s episode of Things I Really Wish I Hadn’t Eaten: The soggy meatball sandwich doused in some kind of unholy gravy-like liquid that was set out as second meal at 10 pm. Blech.

Filed under: locations, Uncategorized, Work, , , , , , ,

Almost-Saturday photo

Evening Drive

This is about how my entire drive home went – even though it was after 9 pm.
This is Santa Monica Blvd in Beverly Hills, though – so it could just be Friday night traffic from all the folks going to da club (or wherever it is that ‘they’ go).

Filed under: life in LA, Photos, , , , , , ,

Crosstown traffic and unexpected noises

Yesterday’s work day was at Raleigh Manhattan Beach Studios, which is in Manhattan Beach (bet you didn’t see that one coming). Manhattan Beach is literally all the way across town from me – and involves travel on two of the most notoriously traffic-clogged freeways in the region (the 10 and the 405) – and yet, by using the sneaky surface street route, I made in to work in about 50 minutes (if I’d stayed on the freeway, it would have taken about an hour and a half to get there). A 7 am call time helped as well – with an 8 or 9 am call time at RMBS, there’s simply no route that will get me there in under two hours.

Yesterday was also a new crew (only one of whom I’d met before) and a new stage – when anyone comes into a set that they’ve never worked before, there’s a bit of confusion – where things are stashed, the best route through the set with a big light on a stand (which is too tall to roll through a normal height door), where the distro boxes are (they’re usually tucked behind walls, and more than once I’ve run power to a box 80 feet away, only to find out that there was a box hidden 10 feet away), things like that.

Luckily, whoever designed the rig on this stage was thinking – everything was hidden from camera, but in plain site from behind the set walls, and the other folks working the set were very helpful (and nice) and the day went smoothly.

Except that I’m now on the AD’s* shitlist for making noise during a take. But it’s not my fault – it was the coffeemaker, I swear.

This particular coffee machine had a little dispenser for hot water off to the side, and since I’m still croaking like a frog, I drank hot tea all day in an attempt to soothe my throat. Since I’m usually pretty good about gauging how much time I have before they call ‘rolling’ and I have to be quiet, I ran the hot water right before they rolled, figuring my tea could steep during the take when I had to be quiet – except that this machine made a weird pumping noise right after it finished dispensing water – and right after they’d rung the bell (the bell rings once at the start of the take, and twice when they’ve cut – that way, if you’re not anywhere near an AD, you still know when they’re rolling because the bell is really loud).

Whoops. I set my tea down and walked away very quickly, but I still got busted.

The day’s main topic of conversation in between takes was the impending rain – according to the news, it’s supposed to rain today (of course I just went outside to take the trash to the curb and it’s sunny and gorgeous) and you’d think the world was ending or something. It’s astounding what we just learn to live with here in LA – earthquakes, crime, smog, traffic, Brett Ratner – and yet the threat of water throws us into a panic.
Thanks to the world’s fastest director, we shot just under six pages in nine hours, and I got off work just in time to get stuck in traffic on the way home – but it was a gorgeous afternoon, so I didn’t mind sitting still and looking at the pretty clouds in the blue sky.

Wish me luck parking at the lot today. Since I opted to sit here and write while drinking tea instead of getting over there at the crack of dawn, I’m going to have a hard time of it.

* AD = Assistant Director. On TV shows, they’re the ones roaming around trying to make sure everyone stays quiet during takes. On movies, it’s a PA (production assistant), but for some reason TV shows don’t use as many PAs as movies do.

Filed under: life in LA, long long drives, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Avast! A free movie!

I hope your Talk Like A Pirate Day was a good one – although I’ve started to lose my voice, so the “arrr” was a bit difficult for me. Which, since that seems to be the cornerstone of all things Pirate, means I was pretty much fucked for this year.

Oh, well – there’s always 2008.

Tonight was the crew screening for The Kingdom, so I decided to double up and see two movies (since I’m back to work for the rest of the week so I have to squeeze the fun in while I can).

In the afternoon, a friend and I went to see The Hunting Party. Run, don’t walk to see this one. It’s great. In fact, it was so good I may have to see it again.

Then, we went and had dinner and then to the Kingdom screening. The one thing they do at these screenings that makes me nuts is not allowing cell phones. I was waiting on tomorrow’s best boy to call and tell me what time to show up at work (which I consider vital information), so leaving the cell phone in the car would have been bad.

Listen, buddy – I’m the last person who’s going to pirate your movie with my cheesy fucking cell phone that takes two minutes of really crappy video. I ended up sticking the phone in my sock and the guard was so busy searching my huge rubbish-filled purse that he didn’t wand me.

Good thing I had the phone, too – the movie’s start was delayed 20 minutes because the director wanted to ‘say a few words’ beforehand (which mostly consisted of stories about how all the other audiences he’s screened the movie for just loved it, although he did thank the crew and mention that it was a ‘tough shoot’), and I was able, with the help of Verizon’s “let us rot your brain by letting you watch TV on your phone” feature to catch up on The Daily Show.

Turns out, my call time’s not until 7 am, so I was able to sit through the entire movie. I also didn’t see anyone I knew – probably because they were all working on something else, which is the down side of having your crew screening on a weeknight at 7ish, when most of us are still at work (the best time for crew screenings? Sunday afternoons or early evenings. We’ve gotten all our weekend errands done and, unless we’re working on one of those unholy Wednesday through Sunday shows, will actually be able to attend. Seriously – if you’re going to screen your movie and you want the working crew to actually be able to attend, do it on the weekend. It’s a complete fluke that I wasn’t working today and that my call time tomorrow was late enough that I could stay out until past 9pm).

I’m off to bed.

Filed under: humor, life in LA, movies, Non-Work, , , , , , , , ,

They tricked me!

Due to my being sick yesterday (okay, not so much the contagious type of sick as suffering the onset of Southern California’s allergy season with my sinuses packed so full of goo that I’m afraid my head’s going to explode at any moment – you know, like in Scanners), I didn’t do anything productive like I’d planned. No gym, no bike ride, no working on anything. I just went to the movies where my constant nose-blowing would blend in with everyone else’s constant nose-blowing.

Did I mention that it’s now allergy season here in SoCal? I did? Sorry. I’m blaming the antihistamines, which don’t clear my head up so much as make me so loopy that I don’t notice it – or have a short term memory, but that’s..

Wait.. what was I saying?

Oh, the movies.

I saw 3:10 to Yuma, which was fun – I love Westerns (and in fact, I wrote my film school thesis on the evolution of the western), and I’m sad that now we’re going to see a resurgence of simple-minded dreck thrown together by suits hoping to cash in on a trend.

Seriously, go see this one – the dude playing the bad guy’s sidekick really steals the show.

Then, because I could, I theater-hopped and snuck into The Brave One. I was expecting to see an action movie where people get shot every few minutes (which would have gone great with the surreal time-delay thing I’ve had all day), but instead what I saw was a chick-flick disguised as a real movie. I hate chick-flicks more than I hate any other movie genre (including cheap, crappy horror movies, which are at least funny).

Had I known this was a chick-flick, I never would have seen it – I blame the deceptive marketing campaign that made it look like fun. Bastards.

The dirt. It won’t come off no matter how hard I scrub.

On a happier note, I feel much better today. My head’s still packed with goo, but at least my brain seems to be working a bit better.

If my brain continues to function throughout the day, I’ll get on the phone and try to drum up some work.

Filed under: cranky, humor, life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, Off-Topic, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Merrily we grind to a halt.

The reason to have a second unit on any shoot is either to enable the main shooting unit to work faster by not having to do small shots or to pick up stuff that either didn’t get shot due to time, wasn’t up to par for some reason, or got changed after the fact. Thus, second unit shoots are sort of a potpourri of random stuff, and today, we had two different directors as we were picking up scenes from two different episodes (television shows have a different director each episode).

Our first item up was a three-and-a-half page scene with four actors, and our first director bashed the thing out in five hours – that’s FAST. Normally, a scene that long would take most of a day (and the more actors the longer it takes because one needs to shoot the scene from a greater number of perspectives, called “coverage”. A scene with four actors will take longer than a scene with two actors, even if those actors are, say, standing around a table having a conversation), so of course we all got our hopes up that we’d continue at that pace and perhaps have, if not a short day, at least not a super long one.

Then, we switched directors.

The second director wasn’t nearly as quick as the first one – in fact, when the first unit guys came in (much later in the day) and found out who was directing the second half of our day, they just rolled their eyes and muttered something cryptic about it being a long one for us.

Apparently, this director is just – slow. Normally when things move very slowly, the reason is pretty obvious – complicated blocking (the actors movements around the set is the scene’s blocking), stunts, acts of various gods, whatever.

This director was just moving at the speed of molasses on a cold morning. Well, that, and doing a number of takes which would have horrified even David Fincher.

After the first guy who was so fast, that was just mean.

Really, though, it wasn’t that bad – I was on the dimmer board and since the board operator sits down all day I didn’t have to worry about my feet hurting, and this particular crew are a really great bunch of guys who are always fun to work with, so it was a good day.

Call time: 7 am

Wrap time: 9:30 pm

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

Portable computing not at its best.

My poor little laptop – I bought it cheap off eBay so if something bad happened to it, I wouldn’t much care.

Perhaps that’s not the right way to phrase that – I’d care about a $200 laptop, but not nearly as much as I’d care about a $1200 laptop. So, today, when my computer refused to boot up, I was surprised to find that I cared very deeply indeed.

Not so much for the computer, but for the data which was now completely inaccessible – including drafts of some posts for LAist, about a million photos, a script and a half, and three quarters of a book.

Also, I’m back on the dimmer board tomorrow, so a laptop really helps with quick answers when the gaffer starts asking about obscure movie trivia in between set-ups.

Turns out, all I had to do was re-set the BIOS, which I found out on a computer forum after I’d freaked out and bought another cheap laptop off eBay (the idea being that I’d get the new laptop here, pull the hard drive out of the old one, burn the relevant data off to a CD and then sell the old laptop on ebay “for parts”).

Whoops.

Honestly, though – my laptop’s old so it’s probably not a bad thing to change it for a slightly newer (but still old) one before something even worse happens.

Filed under: computer, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Two hours makes all the difference

I’m having one of my “I can’t focus” days, so this’ll be short (those of you without ADD have no idea the Herculean effort even this much writing has been).

Monday, we wrapped out the Lane Victory – on Friday, my call time was 9 am and it took me 90 minutes to get to San Pedro. Yesterday, my call time was 7 am and I made it in 25 minutes.

Since wrapping out a set goes much faster than putting in the rig*, we were done by 1 pm, so luckily I missed traffic both ways.

But, enough about me.

Fellow blogger John August’s movie (that he directed, even) is out and since he’s just generally awesome I’m sure the movie’s going to be great. It’s called The Nines, and everyone should drop whatever it is that you’re doing and go see it right now.

*the rule of thumb is that it takes half the time to de-rig as it takes to rig, although that can change depending on how difficult things are to remove, access issues, etc…

Filed under: locations, long long drives, Work, , , , , , , ,

Just don’t call it a boat

Since the bulk of my nautical experience has been throwing up over the side of the Channel ferry and watching movies where a shitload of people drown, I learned a lot yesterday. Mostly, I learned what not to call things on a boat – whoops, I mean ship.

We were putting a rig in on a WW2 era merchant ship called the SS Lane Victory in San Pedro, and right off the bat I committed a gaffe by calling it a boat – and then proceeded to make an even bigger ass of myself by not being able to remember which side was port and which was starboard (don’t even get me started on forward and aft – I’m still a little shaky on which way the boat was facing. At least twice yesterday, I was unable to figure out where my boat lingo talking boss was and had to walk around in circles on the deck until I could see him. Luckily, my boss yesterday is a really terrific guy and tried his best to help me get the nautical terms through my thick skull so the next time I’m on the ship there will be less snickering).

The ship’s staff- who we’d nicknamed “The Old Salts” (who were actually not very salty at all. They were a terrific bunch of guys who were really interesting and I’m bummed that I didn’t have enough free time to talk to them. Guess I’ll have to go back on my own time) were there to help us (and were very kind about not making fun of our comparatively rudimentary knot-tying skills) and quickly winched all our cable and lights onto the ship using the 60+ year old equipment. There was no fumbling, no shouting, no confusion – they just whipped that stuff up onto the ship’s deck quicker than we could bring it to them – guess they’ve had a lot of practice.

Luckily, I remembered my knee brace, as there was really no direct route to any where on the ship, and there was a lot of ladder climbing (and stairways that may as well have been ladders and a really steep gangplank that may as well have been a ladder) all day. By the end of the day, both my legs were aching like I’d just had a strenuous workout at the gym.

The day’s big stroke of luck was my not having to climb the masts to put lights up at the top – my boss did it. Good thing too – although I’m not really afraid of heights, I do draw the line at climbing a 60+ year old metal ladder up the side of a mast on a floating ship. Of course, one of the Old Salts does it every day barefoot while smoking a cigarette (and he’s almost twice my age and in better shape than I’ll ever be in even if I were to take a year off work and do nothing but work out all day every day).

The first part of the day was really hot, but towards the end of the day it cooled off and there was a really beautiful sunset and a wonderful breeze.

The day’s really big news came from one of the Old Salts – apparently, the US Coast Guard thinks film crews are security risk and has advised the folks running the Lane Victory (and other similar locations) to no longer allow film shoots (obviously, because we’re dirty America-haters and can’t be trusted on locations. Either that or it’s because we don’t pick up after ourselves).

Really, now – terrorist plotting after work is way too much effort. When I got home last night I couldn’t even muster up the energy to make a sandwich.

At the end of the day, the best boy asked me to come back with the shooting unit that’s working today, but I’d already been booked on another show (which is good, but I hate saying no because I’m always afraid they’ll give up on me and not call me again) for tonight.

I left my house at 7:30 am, and just barely made my 9 am call, right under the Vincent Thomas Bridge.

We were released at 9:40 pm, and I got home at 10:15 pm.

My job tonight will give me three work days out of a four day week.

Not bad.

Filed under: locations, long long drives, Work, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Early arrival has some perks

When one works at this particular lot, one has to consider the garage factor into the arrival time.

This lot’s parking garage simply isn’t large enough for all the cars that need to park in it, so late arrivals have to use the valet service. While this may seem cushy, in reality it’s a huge pain in the ass. Since shooting companies work far later than do the valets, the solution is for the valet to park the car in a space that opens up after the garage empties out, and then take the keys to the front gate (on the other side of the lot from the garage) after the garage closes. If one is working on a stage that’s near the parking structure, this means that after wrap one has to traipse all the way across the lot to get the car keys, and then all the way back across the lot (while carrying all of ones work gear) to get back to the car.

Call me a whiner if you like, but after a 14 hour day that double walk across the lot seems more like a 400 mile hike while lugging a boulder.

So, for an 8 am call I got to the parking garage at 7:15 am, and that was almost too late – all the ‘good’ spots were gone, but at least I didn’t have to cruise the garage with my fingers crossed hoping against hope to find a spot that everyone else had overlooked, plus I had time to finish my coffee and stroll over to the stage and raid first unit’s craft service (since they were in an hour earlier than us and the main unit generally gets better stuff than the second unit).

While I was driving to work, I kept having this nagging feeling that I was forgetting something, and I kept going over my work gear checklist in my mind: change of shoes, change of socks, hat, tools, sunglasses, phone, etc..

I couldn’t figure it out until, of course, I’d gotten far enough away that I wouldn’t have been able to turn around and go back and then I remembered. My knee brace. I left it sitting on the bench next to the front door where I’d placed it so I wouldn’t forget it.

D’oh.

So it was really a good thing that I got put on the dimmer board (since the guy who was supposed to be running the board called in sick). I got to stay off my feet (the dimmer board is almost never on set – it’s usually in a small room somewhere, and the operator gets to sit down, although one generally can’t walk away from the board because as soon as the operator steps away, the gaffer will start adjusting light levels) and I didn’t have to do anything more complicated than bring up the lights the gaffer wanted (one can do incredibly complicated things with dimmer boards – but I’m a bit out of practice on this particular model, so requests for something complicated would have sent me frantically paging through the manual while trying to stall the gaffer) and only had to call the first unit dimmer board op a few times with questions. The rig in that stage hasn’t changed in so long that he doesn’t leave notes out because he’s got it all in his head, so every now and then I’d not know something and then have to call, but luckily our gaffer and the DP were calm and no one flipped out.

Plus, I managed to get out of the studio store without shopping myself broke.

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

September 2007
S M T W T F S
« Aug   Oct »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Flickr Photos

The space between the cells

Hallway in the afternoon

60s phone

More Photos

Categories

Random Quote

"If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." -Anne Lamott

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 697 other followers

Twitter Updates

Blogroll

Not blogs, but cool

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 697 other followers

%d bloggers like this: