Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

I’m back!

I tried to write something interesting – really I did, but my brain is completely fried.

Also, I’ve probably got cholesterol poisoning from that good old home cooking, so I’m going to go eat some raw veggies and work out for about 12 hours straight.

Hope everyone had a great holiday and I’ll try to be more interesting later.

Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s 4:30 am and I’m going to the airport

By staying up really late last night I managed to cobble together some acceptable gifty type things and now I’m off. I won’t have any internets while I’m gone (although if I think about it I might post something on Twitter via the cell phone),  so everyone have a fantastic holiday!

I’ll be back next week.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Have yourself a hysterical re-gifted Christmas

Every now and then, I just have one of those days.

Like today.

The toilet’s stopped up and the landlord’s out of town, so every time I need to pee I have to hike up the street to the gas station that’s also used by the local, um, working girls who are really guys whenever they need to refresh their makeup. Hey, at least it gets me out of the house. After calling around and pricing plumbers, I’ve decided that I can certainly live with a walk up the street a few times a day until the landlord gets back and deals with it.

Around lunchtime, I decided to hop on the bike and take a longer trek to the gym, which happens to be next to a movie theater with really nice restrooms – you know, so I could workout, offload breakfast and see one of the end-of-the-year award-bait movies all in one trip (although not necessarily in that order).

At the gym, everything I wanted to use was either broken or covered in puddles of sweat. Really, people.. you’re not just carrying that towel for the hell of it.

Later, as the movie was letting out, I looked up at the leaden sky and decided the predicted rain was still far enough away that I could get in a bike ride.

Of course, I got completely soaked, and when I got home I discovered that the FedEx delivery person from hell had taken my package of prints that I’d ordered from Flickr so I could save money on Christmas gifts this year, folded it in half and crammed it partway into the mailbox where it had then gotten rained on.

So now, instead of having that smug “I beat the system” feeling,  I had a big stack of soggy fucked up photos.

I now regret my decision not to bother with any sort of plan B.

I then called FedEx to file an insurance claim, and when the rep asked for the exact monetary amount of the order, I couldn’t find the order confirmation email from Flickr. It wasn’t in the inbox, in the trash, on the desktop.

It was just completely fucking gone. Then I realized that I had to pee again, which meant a hike up the street in the rain and that’s when I started crying.

“What am I going to do?” I wailed “Now I don’t have anything for Christmas and I have to get on a plane Saturday morning! I can’t go shop at the mall! I’m out of work!”

The FedEx customer service rep went into “placate the crazy lady” mode and tried to calm me down, but by then I’d worked up a really good head of steam and  there was really nothing he could do besides tell me that I had 21 days to file a claim and that perhaps I should call back later after I’d calmed down.

I then completely lost my mind and demanded that someone from FedEx call my family and explain to them that this was not my fault.

The rep started laughing, and then I realized how silly I must have sounded and started laughing as well, and although I’m much calmer now I’m going to be digging around the house looking for some crap that I can slap some paper on and try to convince said family that I really thought they might like a T-shirt from the caterer on some TV show that no one’s ever seen and a promotional flashlight from last year’s buzz movie.

Ooo… I think I might have an unused wooden spoon somewhere. That might work. Or batteries. Everybody loves batteries.

Also, I would just like to go on the record as saying that I am now officially sick of Christmas music.

If I hear that fucking Carpenters song one. more. time. I am going to very calmly turn to the person standing next to me and strangle them.

Merry Christmas to you too.

Oh, and I saw Juno. It’s very cute and sweet, although I really don’t think it’s award material. Guess it’s been a slow year.

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

A wrench in the works

Sometimes, out of the blue I see something so completely out-of-place that it literally stops me in my tracks.

Like today. I was riding my bike through Hollywood enjoying the sunshine and thinking that the upside of unemployment is that I’m going to avoid catching whatever it is that’s going around this year, when I saw this:

Gardner Street Guinea Fowl

That would be a guinea hen. Strolling down a residential street in the middle of Hollywood.

I stopped and looked with my head slightly cocked to the side – you know, like that dog in the old RCA ads – and when one of the homeowners walked out of his front door I asked what was the deal with the bird.

“Oh, it’s a turkey” he answered breezily “It’s been hangin’ out for a couple of weeks”

“You know, I’m pretty sure that’s a guinea hen.”

He looked at me and then repeated “It’s a turkey” in that slow, loud voice that you use when you’re absolutely certain the person you’re talking to is a complete idiot.

I gave up.

“Okay, it’s a turkey. Where did it come from?”

“Nobody knows. We figured it was going to be a Thanksgiving dinner and it got away. It’s just been cruising around. “

Yeah, given the laws in Los Angeles about keeping noisy birds that can run like an Olympic sprinter on banned performance enhancing drugs, that’s probable.

Plus, it’s not a turkey. I’m 99.9% certain of this, but since I have nothing better to do with myself these days I’ll open up the floor to speculation.

Is this:

Are you still here, human?

a) a guinea fowl

guinea fowl

b) a turkey

turkey

c) Rupert Murdoch

rupert murdoch

One of the other neighbors thought it was a quail and said it had been around for ‘a few days’. She’d been putting out a pan of cat food for it at night because she didn’t want it to starve but was worried that the neighborhood stray cats were chasing the bird away from the food.

You know, I’ll freely admit to being an awful person, but I gotta say that I’d pay good money to see a cat – any cat except mine, of course – fight this bird over a pie plate full of Nine Lives kibble.

Filed under: life in LA, Los Angeles, Nikon, Non-Work, Photos, , , , , ,

Yet more vacation photos

Although it was cold, I highly recommend visiting France in November – the few tourists there were were French, and although a lot of stuff was closed, what was open didn’t have any lines. We went through the caves at Lascaux and only had about 8 people in the group with us.

We got there before the caves opened and debated if we wanted to skip it or not, but it wasn’t like we could easily come back another day, so after I took some photos of the foggy forest, we drove back into the town and had breakfast.

Foggy morning in Lascaux

Fog and spiderwebs

The funny thing about the Lascaux caves is that it’s not really the cave – it’s a set that was built in the 1960′s because the real paintings were being destroyed by people being in the cave with them; which is why I was really surprised that they wouldn’t let me take photos even if I promised not to use a flash. It was an interesting tour, and then we went into the next town to see another cave.

This whole area of France is full of cave paintings and prehistoric findings. I guess the Neanderthals found it as pleasant a place as modern people do. What was really, well, funny for lack of a better word was that every single gift shop in the area had books about evolution (which makes sense given that the caves were painted during prehistoric times) – in the US, if you even mention evolution or Darwin you run the risk of some jackass running at you and beating you about the head and shoulders with a Bible (or a stick – whichever they have closest).

Of course, the museum of prehistory was closed for the winter, but we still got a good shot of the Neanderthal statue in the town of Les Eyzies de Tayac, which is a very pretty place. We also had some fantastic cassoulet at a roadside eatery while we were waiting for the second cave to open.

Neanderthal statue

River View

On the way to the second cave, we saw this guy:

Plastic Wrapped T Rex

Because no vacation is complete without a T Rex wrapped in garbage bags.

Filed under: Nikon, Non-Work, Photos, travel, , , , , , ,

Random midweek holiday photos

Equal opportunity holiday decorations at the Grove:

Equal opportunity holiday decorations

And I’m not sure which one cracks me up more – the chandeliers in boxes or the palm trees wrapped in decorative lights:

Christmas decor in Beverly Hills

Hmmm… Chandeliers win. By a nose.

Filed under: camera, Nikon, Photos, , , , ,

And the days keep slipping by.

 Part of the problem of being totally unemployed with no work prospects coming down the pipe is inertia – seems that the less I have to do, the less I’m able to do. I sink into a sort of slug-like state where it’s a Herculean effort just to haul myself up off the couch at all, and going to the gym feels like a grueling expedition to some far-off place.

When there’s work, I get a lot of stuff done because I know I only have the one day (or two days) to squeeze in everything – I get up, get moving and start going down the list of stuff (gym, laundry, projects, etc…)

Since my immediate future is a blank slate of nothing there’s no urgency to do anything. That, and I’m broke.

Well, not completely broke yet, but unemployment are dragging their feet about cutting me a check so I can’t even go out and do anything that costs any money (a great source of amusement which costs money is hanging out in Z-list celeb infested holes on weeknights. It’s way more entertaining – in a train wrecky kind of way – than anything that’s on TV. Really, now. Who raises these people? Wolves?). I’ve got some movie passes to some theaters, but everything I want to see is playing somewhere that doesn’t take the passes I bought at Universal the last time I worked there. Dammit.

At some point the awards season screenings will start, but I’m not even sure how many of those I’m going to care about enough to haul my ass outside.

I’d start squawking about a deal between the writers and the producers needing to happen, but honestly at this point it doesn’t matter – by now just about everyone’s scrapped the remainder of the season (it’s just a 4th quarter loss, after all), so I, at least, am completely fucked and not in a happy way.

Speaking of fucked in a happy way, the only romantic prospect on the horizon is a guy who… get ready for it… is in jail for DUI.

Him: “Can I call you when I get out of jail?”

Me: (heavy sigh) “Sure, why not?”

Friend (after hearing this): “Are you insane? He’s a drunk!”

Me: “Yeah, but he’s got all his teeth. That counts for something, right?”

On the vacation recap, the next couple of days consist of us getting hopelessly lost and swearing a lot. Someone – and I think it might have been me – actually burst into tears at one point.

Here’s some photos:

This was the first sunny day of the trip at the Chateau Chenonceau

Clouds above Chenonceau

View of Chateau Chenonceau

This is the town of Montrichard. Everything was closed because it was lunchtime in November.

Montrichard was closed

Montrichard Fountain

Montrichard Roses

On the bright side, I just did all my holiday shopping by ordering prints off Flickr.

Filed under: Nikon, Non-Work, Photos, travel, , , , , , , , , , ,

You may think you’re being clever, but really you’re just boning me.

Although I’m sure it seems like a great idea to shoot an infomercial in a friend’s 4th floor studio apartment to save money on location fees, I think I can safely speak for everyone on the below-the-line crew when I plead for sanity.

We’ve shot in this building before – pre WW2, MacArthur Park adjacent (drug-dealer infested neighborhood, BTW), tiny elevator, no ramps, small apartment, narrow hallways – basically, everything one doesn’t want in a location all rolled into one big ball of unhappiness and production delays.
Because there was no room inside the apartment (and it was big for a residence, but when you get 30 people and lighting equipment into one room, it gets tight really quickly) to put, well, much of anything other than the set dressing and the lights, they had to rent two other apartments for the day – one for the production office, makeup and hair (and the agency people ended up in there as well since there was no room on set), and one for the actors (or something – I’m not exactly sure why the rented the third apartment. We weren’t allowed to stage equipment in it, it just seemed to be a place for one of the ad agency guys to make calls).

We had to schlep most of the contents of a 10 ton truck up four floors in the world’s smallest elevator, and stage everything in the narrow hallway while keeping a walkway open (made more difficult because the poor sound guy was also in the hallway – between the set and our staging area, so we kept having to force our way past him carrying hot lights and pointy things while he was trying to work), so it took us over an hour to even get our stuff upstairs and run our cable to the set, plus we kept getting delayed by having to fight our way into and around the set when we were trying to light.

Aside from all this, the main problem with shooting four floors up and not really having a place to put one’s equipment is the gamble factor.

When we can’t bring up everything but the kitchen sink, we take a great big guess at what we think the gaffer’s going to use, based on how well we know the gaffer and what we think he or she is going to do, lighting-wise (what the gaffer actually tells us counts as well, but we do indulge in a fair amount of second-guessing), and then haul up the stuff that we think we might need.

The flaw in this plan should be obvious – no matter what we haul up, we’ll end up having to run down four floors and get something that we either forgot or were sure we weren’t going to need while the whole production sits there and waits on that one item.

Although it’s tempting to just shout “damn the torpedoes” or something and cram every single bit of stuff from the truck into the world’s smallest elevator and stack it in the hallways (where some mild entertainment would be had by taking bets on when that teetering pile of cable would fall over and who it would hit), sometimes there’s just not any space and we go into it knowing that all of us are going to have to make at least one frantic run to the truck during the day.

I lost count of how many times I ran up and down the stairs – and the real kicker is that the grips blacked out the windows so we could have been on the first floor.

Hell, we could have been on a stage with air conditioning.

But the production team were all nice (even though they were all really young. I mentioned to a co-worker that I thought the first AD was kind of cute, and said co-worker replied “Oh, please. He’s a pre-schooler.”) and everything was calm, even though two of the actors were two hours late so we started out behind schedule.

Call time: 7 am

Wrap time: 10 pm

Filed under: locations, Work, , , , ,

It worked! I slept until 6 am.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been dead tired by 8pm (not normal end-of-the-day tired, either. Dead dog can’t stay awake one more second tired) and have been waking up at around 3:30 am. Since I refuse to get out of bed that early on general principles, I’ve been tossing and turning until the morning news comes on. For some reason once the a.m. news is on I feel okay getting up and puttering around before having to take a nap at noon in order to stay awake until 8 pm.

Dammit.

But yesterday morning, tired of freezing my ass off, I called the gas company and used the magic words: “I smell gas when I try to light my heater”.

They promised to have someone over that day, which I suppose is technically true – the guy finally came at 11:30 pm and lit the heater in about 45 seconds, but the really important thing was that I managed to stay awake late enough that I slept until 6 am.

Hooray! We’ll see how late I can stay up tonight. I may go see a movie, but there’s not that much playing right now at any theater I can get into for free, so I may just stay home and watch old episodes of The Simpsons.

Anyways, more about the trip:

We’d flown into De Gaulle (which is north of the city), but since were were driving south and anything involving a car and Paris is really best avoided altogether, we picked the car up at Orly – because of the transit strike, it took us a couple of hours to get there from our hotel (only one train out of 10 was running, so we sat on on the subway platform for about an hour).

If you’ve never seen it, Orly is easily the ugliest airport I’ve ever seen – think Soviet era block construction with a faded, pigeon-splattered facade that’s seen better days. I was afraid to take a photo in case the French were as hysterical about photos in airports as we are. There were hoards of angry-looking cops everywhere, so I decided not to chance it.

After a quick trip into the terminal for a cup of coffee, we got our car (which took well over an hour due to some confusion) and headed out.

Of course, as soon as I got behind the wheel of the first stick shift I’ve driven in years it started to pour rain, and we were unable to figure out how to turn on the windshield wipers – the car’s manual didn’t help as it was written in French, so I ended up just having to hit the washer button every 15 seconds until I accidentally turned on the wipers (and then couldn’t figure out how to turn them off once the rain stopped, of course).

Once we managed to get on the big highway, we got to Orleans pretty quickly and then we decided to get out, walk around and have lunch.

Orleans’ old city (near the cathedral which seems to be the main tourist draw) is really cute, and even though it was pouring (I got completely soaked) it was still very charming:

Courtyard

Since everything was closed, we headed out and this time we stayed off the superhighway and drove on the back roads, which was a very good call since we stumbled upon a town called Beaugency.

Church tower

Beaugency

We braved the rain, took some photos and found an open bakery where we loaded up on bread, but I couldn’t find any coffee – just about everything was closing for lunch, which hadn’t been a problem in Paris because so much there stays open. Somewhere in the back of my mind I’d had an idea that it wouldn’t be like that in the smaller towns, but I hadn’t given it much thought and now it was coming back to haunt me.

After getting completely lost on the unmarked backroads, we pulled into the town of Blois and once again got lost – we’d called ahead for a room in a hotel that one of the guidebooks recommended, but when we got to Blois the ‘confuse the invaders’ street plan had us driving around in circles for the better part of an hour – we saw the hotel once, but couldn’t get to it due to the one way streets, so we stayed in another hotel that was run by a very nice man who pointed us towards a laundromat so we could wash some clothes.

Afterwards, we went out to a really nice place for dinner and I ate everything the chef recommended (all of it came from the surrounding area and was delicious).

In the morning, we went to see the chateau in Blois since my travelling companions wanted to see castles (I’m fairly indifferent to them. I’ve been to Europe before and my attitude towards castles is that since I’ve seen one, I’ve very likely seen them all), and I took some photos of the exuberant decor inside and the postcard view of the old city:

View over Blois

View of Blois

King's Bedroom

We then headed towards the day’s next castle, which is where I’ll pick up next post

Filed under: Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, travel, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekends mean nothing to me now.

Since I’m currently unemployed between projects, the whole “Saturday/Sunday off ” thing is totally meaningless – every day is Saturday now.

What I’ve been dealing with during my endless string of Saturdays is the suitcase explosion in the living room and the fact that I’m really, really cold.

I don’t mean that I’m colder than I was in France – I mean that my house has no heat because apparently I’m too dumb to light the pilot light on my heater. It’s got this complicated little mechanism where one has to turn the gas on and then hold a button in while shoving a match into a teeny hole and hoping desperately that the pilot light will somehow come on (“Ooog see fire! Fire good!”) and then giving up once fire does not appear after repeated attempts and the room begins to smell like gas – although I’m certain that I’d be able to keep warm were I to simply create a bonfire out of the suitcase flotsam that’s currently covering the living room.

I’m saving all my receipts in the hope that somehow I’ll be able to write the trip off on my taxes.

Of course we knew about the transportation strike before we left, but I think all of us were hoping that it would be over before we landed – no such luck. When we landed at the airport, we had to wait 45 minutes for the airport bus to take us to a city train station that was kind of near our hotel, and then taxi it the rest of the way.

One thing I’d forgotten about Europeans is that they don’t line up – they just crowd around and shove each other. I will never understand this, but I’m really good at shoving people without being too obvious about it (an important skill when the producer’s having a conversation in the only doorway into the set and I’ve got a 60 lb. light on my shoulder that’s hotter than the surface of the sun), so we got on the first bus out and managed to arrive at our hotel in about the same amount of time it would have taken had we gotten on the train.

Our first night in Paris, we just walked across the street from the hotel and grabbed dinner at a cafe which was really smoke filled (another thing I’d forgotten about Europe) but had good food. With the exchange rate, dinner cost approximately $17,000. Each.

Because of the transportation strike, we were pretty much limited to stuff in the center of the city – there was some train service, but it was unpredictable and the lines were being shut down with very little notice. I, for one, didn’t want to get stuck in some far-flung corner of the city when the subway line went down and have to pay a small fortune to take a taxi back to the hotel.

Our hotel was on the left bank near the Luxembourg gardens, which seemed fairly central when I booked it, but when faced with the whole walking thing, I really wish I’d been able to afford something even closer to the center of the city.

Oh, well.

The advantages of travelling in the off-season were the lack of huge lines. We got into the Louvre right away, although I skipped the paintings, which I’d seen before and went straight to the old fortress that’s on the lower level.

Louvre

So. Cool.

Later the same night, we went up the Eiffel Tower – when we got up to the top, there was freezing rain and the wind was howling around us. I stayed in the lee of the elevator shaft, but still managed to get some great photos before my hands stopped working because of the cold:
Night cityscape

The blue beam was coming from the tower itself – it rotated around, and I’m still not sure why, but the tower was definitely the highlight of Paris for me. The last time I was in Paris, it was the summertime and it was so crowded with tourists that you had to wait hours to go up, so I didn’t get to go.

Eiffel Tower

Although I had a good time, I still stand by my statement that I can take or leave Paris. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that it’s, well, it’s a large city – it’s crowded and dirty and the stairwells all smell like piss. Just like LA, just like New York, just like Berlin, just like London.

Everyone was really nice, though, and they were very understanding about my atrocious French.  We had some wonderful hot chocolate on the Ile St. Louis (someone at work had recommended Angelina, but the place we found had better hot chocolate and now I can’t remember the name of it although were I there I’d be able to find it again just by following the smell), and I ate a bunch of stuff I really shouldn’t have and didn’t gain any weight because I was walking 50 miles a day.

On Monday morning, we packed up and headed out to pick up the car and start driving south – which is where I’ll pick up tomorrow (or Monday, depending on how lazy I’m feeling), since this is getting a bit long.

Filed under: Non-Work, travel, , , , , , , , , , ,

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