Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Wait, what?

Although all of us are pretty much used to working 12 hour days by now, there’s a huge difference between a 12 hour shooting day and a 12 hour rigging day.

Since we can’t make any noise while they’re rolling, shoot days have opportunities to slow down a bit – get off one’s feet, read the paper (out of the producer’s line of sight, of course), or just take a breather.

Rigging days aren’t like that. There’s no forced quiet, so the only time that’s there to sit down is during official break periods – usually a coffee break a few hours after call and lunchtime and the rest of the time one is working and sweating (especially during summer here in LA), so that 12 hour day really feels like a 12 hour day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. A 12 hour day comes with a nice paycheck attached, and I’m working with a really nice group of folks that I like a lot, but adding on an hour commute each way (and time to go swim because walking on concrete floors all day kill my feet if I don’t) doesn’t leave me much time to do things like cook or clean and since I don’t want to use part of my precious down time driving to a place to eat, parking, etc… I bring my lunch.

Except I ran out of food at home and instead of purchasing ingredients and wasting perfectly good sleeping time with all that cooking nonsense, I decided to take the easy way out and buy something pre-cooked at my local market.

While I was standing in Whole Foods perusing the selection of ‘healthy’ foods and wondering why they just don’t sell plain iced coffee in a can that I can bring to work (I don’t care if it’s fair trade, I don’t like vanilla flavored coffee) when a guy sidled up next to me and apropos of nothing asked me

“When you wake up in the morning, do you ever wonder if you’ll meet a new guy that day?”

Honestly, no.

Normally when I wake up in the morning I wonder if I’m going to be able to get through the day without killing someone, but thanks for playing.

When I didn’t answer right away he asked again, and as I tried to extricate myself from the conversation by nattering about work and traffic patterns he looked sad and mumbled something about magic being missing from life nowadays.

In an uncharacteristic moment of empathy, I felt bad for him, so I used my age as an excuse.

“Well, you know… most of the guys want women under 30, so what ya gonna do?”

“Oh, is it hard out there?” he asked.

“Sometimes, but why dwell on it? Why not just live my life?”

He thought for a moment and then said “yeah. You just have to hang in there.” He started to nod his head. “Like Steve Windwood.”

Then he wandered off in the direction of the cheese, still nodding to himself.

Dude.

It’s puff, puff, pass.

I quickly grabbed a salad and something that later turned out to be very dry turkey meatloaf and when I got to the check stand I mentioned the exchange to the clerk.

“Well” he asked, “did you give him your number?”

You know, I hadn’t even realized what was going on. Although I’d love to use the ‘tired’ excuse for missing it, I think we may have a winner for most obtuse pick up line, well, ever.

Filed under: life in LA, Work, , , , , , ,

Did the earth move for you too, baby?

Since it’s late, I’m wiped out and I’ve got to get to bed soon (have to wake up at 4:30 am), I’ll keep this short:

Earthquake? No big deal.

No damage to the house – nothing even fell off the shelves. It made our lunch hour more exciting, but that was about it.

I’m off to fight for that precious six hours of sleep that I’ll be lucky to get.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Bluetooth tastes like burning

I can remember a time, not so long ago, when if no one was home, the phone would just ring and ring and ring and eventually whoever was calling would figure it out and call back later. If it was really important they’d just have to track you down. Or wait. Either one was good.

Then, we got an answering machine and suddenly we’d never miss a call again – Dog got out? Bathroom lights left on? Ed McMahon got lost while trying to deliver one of those giant checks and needed directions? Good thing you left a message ’cause that needed seeing to. Eventually. When we got home and it was too late (for Ed, anyways).

Then, when I moved out I one-upped the family and got an answering machine that had a remote code – by punching a number code on the keypad of the phone you were calling from you could get your messages without even being home. Technology really was something! I could know before I even got home that I’d left the radio on all day or that the dog had been digging up the neighbor’s philodendron.

Then came the pager. I first got a pager when I was 22 or 23 and working at a job which insisted I be reachable 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I can remember driving around the pre-gentrification Hollywood searching desperately for a payphone that worked (most of them had the receivers torn off for some reason) or wasn’t occupied by a hooker trying to avoid a loitering charge, so I could return a page that I was just certain was the most important thing on earth (if it weren’t, why would they have paged me)?

Then, I got a cell phone. My first cell phone was from Airtouch in Westwood and the cement-block sized phone came with a plan which allowed me to talk for 20 minutes each month. So I saved the cellphone for emergencies and still ended up cruising the streets looking for payphones, but I bitched about having to drive around all the time and expose myself to whatever contagious microbe had set up housekeeping on the mouthpieces of public payphones because those fuckers just. wouldn’t. stop. paging. me. By this time that whole “911” pager code thing had come into fashion, so of course, every page was labelled “911”. Especially the pet-related ones.

Then came more and better cell plans and cell phones with speakers so not only did I not have to hunt down a payphone and get out of the car, I didn’t even have to hold the phone to my ear while I was driving, eating, reading the directions page of the call sheet and talking all at the same time.

Needless to say, by then I had ditched the pager. So inconvenient.

I started to bitch whenever I had to expend energy to actually hold the phone to the side of my head.

Then, I got a phone with different ring tones, so I could give different rings to work contacts, friends, family, bill collectors, former lovers, etc..

Soon, I started to bitch if I couldn’t tell who was calling me by the ring. Then, I got a phone that had a thing called “driving mode” where it would actually announce the name of the caller. After that, I started to bitch if I had to I.D. the caller by the ring instead of having the caller’s name announced for me like my life was some sort of badly-planned debutante ball.

Now, we have Bluetooth. Not only do I not have to hold the phone to my ear – I don’t even have to be tethered to said phone at all! It can be laying under dirty laundry in the backseat of the car and I can still answer it!

It’s not just for the car, though – I ride my bike a lot and now, when the phone rings, I don’t have to stop and dig in my backpack to find the phone before it goes to voice mail (I especially don’t want it to go to voicemail if it’s work), I just tap a button on the headset and answer the phone. Sweet.

This morning, as I rode the bike along Sunset with the early morning sun just breaking through the marine layer, past the Rite-Aid with the crazy lady in front and the hipsters staggering out of some all-night party in one of the Chateau Marmont’s suites, the phone rang and I didn’t even lose speed. I took one hand off the handlebars and hit the button.

Extra sweet.

Later, I found out from my friend that I can program the phone to respond to voice commands from the headset – so i can tap the headset, say a name and never even have to dig my phone out of the darkest corners of whatever bag it is that I’m carrying. I just have to be no more than 30 feet away from it.

Makes me wonder what I’ll be bitching about next. I love technology.

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

Two outfits, one day

Most of the time when I’m working, I aim for wearing clothes that don’t smell and haven’t got rips in embarrassing places, but sometimes I do actually have to dress up to go to work (actually, I usually wear my ‘normal’ clothes in and change at the last possible second to avoid any teasing, wolf whistles or photographs which may or may not later end up taped to the set cart with some sort of smart-ass caption).

One of these times is running a follow-spot.

A follow-spot is a light which requires an operator to, well, follow a person on stage with the spot of light. This can be very, very easy or maddening depending on the size of the stage and how much caffeine said person has had that day. Don’t even get me started about follow spots for anything involving dancing.

Luckily, my job yesterday was ridiculously easy as some extremely thoughtful person had removed the small stairway that would have allowed the speaker to step off the dias and roam into the audience, so he couldn’t move more than a couple of steps in any direction.

Whoever you are, I thank you.

Since this event was on a studio lot and attended by Important People, those of us working the event had to look presentable yet invisible at the same time – this means solid dark colors. I usually wear black slacks and a black long sleeved t-shirt which makes me not frighten any honchos who may come in contact with me (“eeek! It’s one of them! Run for your BMW!”), but since they’re fairly nice clothes that I’d like to not ruin, after the event I changed back into my normal work clothes to wrap the stage.

This particular lot has a policy that when workers are on an 8 hour call, said workers are not to be released before those 8 hours have elapsed, so after we got everything on the stage wrapped, we had to go work on the lamp dock for the rest of the day.

Which is fine – if the studio doesn’t want me roaming the city engaging in potentially criminal or dangerous activities while I’m on their payroll, I understand and since I happen to really like the guys that work on this lot’s lamp dock it was a very fun afternoon.

Although just for the record I would have been at the gym doing leg presses while on the studio’s payroll.

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

Friday Photo

Lately, I’ve been completely worn out in the evenings and haven’t really had the energy to do much of anything besides lay on the couch and stare blankly at the TV, so here’s a photo:

Burn test

Generally, one wants to ‘test burn’ lights while they’re on the ground, as it’s easier to repair them there than it is when they’re 40 feet up in the air.

These particular lamps are called spacelights.

Filed under: Photos, Work, , , , ,

I’m feeling much better now, really.

This morning the doctor called just to check in, and during the course of the conversation he mentioned that I need to find a therapist.

Me: “Why do I need to see a therapist? You gave me pills.”

After a long silence (during which I could almost hear him contemplating a career change), he sighed heavily and told me that the pills (which are totally great, BTW) are a short-term solution and since I can’t take them for the rest of my life I’m going to have to actually deal with my problems.

Damn.

Although I promised I’d get to it eventually, I’m going to have to wait a few days because of The Oyster Incident.

There’s a lady at the weekly Hollywood farmer’s market who sells farm-raised oysters (actually, I think they’re ‘line-raised’ but I don’t know one from the other) for a very reasonable price and while most of the time I can pass without making a purchase every once in a while something in the universe shifts and I just can’t say no.

I got a dozen, iced them down, threw them in the fridge, and spent Monday afternoon on the back porch with my oysters and my fancy German-made oyster knife which is supposed to make shucking them an absolute breeze, but they must have designed it for big weakling German oysters because those little California ones put up one hell of a fight.

In addition to being difficult to pry apart, they’re small and have lightweight shells. Normally, with the bigger oysters, if you miss and the knife slips, a small chunk of shell will break off and then you just have to try again. With these little ones, if you don’t get the knife in at just the right angle, a bigger chip of shell breaks off and the knife skids across the top of the oyster and plunges into any bit of soft tissue. Since I use a dish towel for protection most of the almost-stabbings happen around the thumb area, but this time the knife grazed my wrist since I was stupidly holding the thing in my hand as I attempted to pry it open, and now I’ve got a really nasty-looking gash.

No one who has seen it has believed my story – they’ve all given me that narrow-eyed “yeah right” look when I tell them what happened and that there was no alcohol involved.

Now, while I’ll freely admit to having contemplated killing someone else more than once, I just can’t see any potential entertainment value in suicide.

Since it’s not something I’d even remotely begin to consider, I’d just love to avoid the inevitable accusation/denial/intervention cycle so I’m going to wait until the thing’s completely healed before seeking out any headshrinking services.

Thankfully, the cut’s not deep (it’s really more of a scratch) so it should heal fairly quickly.

I have to work tonight and I don’t want to wear long sleeves (it’s currently hotter than Satan’s balls here in Los Angeles), so maybe I’ll just wear some of those 70’s-era terrycloth wristbands and hope that people think I’m trying to be ironic.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Surprise!

For quite some time, I’ve been anxious all the time but didn’t think anything about it as just about everyone I know is anxious right now (thanks a bunch SAG), but over the past few days I’ve started to have panic attacks.

Panic attacks, in case you’ve never had one, are like a fight-or-flight reaction gone horribly wrong. It’s that thready adrenaline rush you get when you almost have a car accident or the plane drops 1,000 feet without warning crossed with the screaming heebie jeebies of a horror movie. Times 10. For some reason, mine seemed to be much worse at night, to the point that I was averaging about three hours of sleep.

So yesterday, I went to see the doctor and he prescribed some medication (which I won’t name because if I do I’ll get several hundred spam trackbacks), plus some different sleeping pills since the ones I had couldn’t stand up to Captain Midnight Freakout. When I stepped across the lobby to fill the prescription, the pharmacist told me that my insurance had been cancelled.

This was unexpected, to say the least.

We have to work 300 hours per semester in order to keep our insurance, but any excess hours can be put into a bank so that if we do come up short for some reason (like being out of work for four months because of a strike), we can pull hours out of the bank so as not to lose our insurance. Right before the writer’s strike, my bank was completely full, and I did get some work during the semester, so I figured I’d qualified and when I didn’t get anything in the mail I thought they were just being slow about sending me the new cards and forgot about it.

Turns out, I didn’t work enough hours and had to pull out of my bank. This, I’m learning, does not happen automatically – they send you a letter asking you if you’d like to pull from your bank and guess who didn’t get hers?

Yup. I never got the letter, so I never even thought to call and ask about my status. Also, as it turns out they don’t send any kind of notice when they cancel your insurance. They just kick you off.

The pharmacist has clearly dealt with this problem (and the accompanying outburst) before. She just calmly told me to give them her fax number and fax over that form that I never got in the mail so I could sign it and they could restart my coverage.

Which they did, and then I sat and waited for them to fax the pharmacist back letting her know that all was good and she could fill my prescription.

And I sat. And sat. And sat.

Finally, I called the office back and reached a very frazzled-sounding woman who informed me that they might or might not be able to do it that day, basically told me to fuck off and then hung up on me.

Normally, this would have bothered me, but I wouldn’t have started to cry.

Which, of course, is exactly what I did. Right there in front of a dozen people in the clinic’s lobby.

I hate it when I start to cry. Some women manage to just look sad and kind of moist, but not me – my face gets all red and blotchy, my nose starts running like a faucet, and I get these hiccups which make it impossible to speak coherently.

I guess it worked out, though – as I stood there by the window of the pharmacy, blotchy and blubbering and hiccuping the pharmacist gave me the prescription, charged me the normal co-pay and told me that they’d call me if Motion Picture hadn’t updated my status by late this afternoon.

Now, I’m an adult and I’m certainly not asking to be mollycoddled by an insurance company, but what the fuck?

Why couldn’t they just send me a notice informing me that I was going to be dropped? Or how about one of those creepy automatic phone messages? One of those would have been great (“Hello _health plan participant_ this call is to inform you that your _motion picture_ insurance will terminate on _July first_ unless we hear from you about your _bank of hours withdrawal_. Thank you”), and I hear those autodialers aren’t all that expensive.

The postal delivery in Los Angeles isn’t quite as reliable as we’d like, so there’s a chance the bank of hours notice that I was supposed to get is sitting in the mailbox of some abandoned house somewhere, or being digested by the mailman-eating pitbull on the next street over (he doesn’t eat the actual letter carrier, he just chases them and then when they drop the bag full of mail, he eats that. He’s also developed an immunity to pepper spray. And people wonder why I don’t get my mail half the time).

I should be considerably more upset about this than I am, though – if the insurance company decides not to update my info until, say, next Thursday, I’m going to get a bill for the full price of the medication and the doctor’s office visit, but I’m pretty calm right now.

I’m also calm about the news that martinis are now off-limits (as is all other alcohol) while I’m on the meds. Since I do love a good martini, this should make me sad, but somehow it doesn’t.

Guess that means the medication’s working.

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

Soooo tempting…

Although I made it through the holiday weekend with no bullet wounds (I think), this not being able to work out is making me crazy.

The really bad part is that the shoulder’s almost, but not quite, better so I’m fighting the temptation to work out ‘just a little’ which would, of course, make the shoulder worse and since there are rumblings of some increasingly scarce work later this week, I just can’t risk it.

Ironically, I’ve got this week’s “Workout Wednesday” post on LAist about how awesome weight training can be, even though I haven’t been able to actually work out for a couple of weeks.

I tried to swim yesterday and while I could do the breast stroke just fine, any attempt to do anything else hurt.

I’ve been riding my bike through the little piles of spent fireworks (fireworks are illegal in Los Angeles but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone) covering the city, but it’s just not the same.

Or maybe that’s just the gunpowder residue covering the streets.

Fingers crossed for no SAG strike! I’m almost on the verge of being optimistic.

Filed under: Non-Work

Happy holiday weekend, everyone!

Although I’d love to be able to jet off to somewhere exciting and fun over the holiday weekend, economic uncertainty and high gas prices (for us. You Europeans can stop snickering now, thanks) mean that I’ll be staying home this weekend, dodging bullets.

No, really.

In certain areas of Los Angeles, the locals celebrate major holidays (4th of July, New Year’s Eve, birthdays, tax refund checks) by firing guns into the air at random intervals from dusk until they get tired or run out of ammunition, whichever comes first.

The funny thing is that I never even realized it was gunfire until someone told me – I always thought it was fireworks. The only time I ever heard gunfire that I knew without looking was a gun was when one of my neighbors fired off a shotgun – not in the air, though. He thought he saw a prowler which later turned out to be a stray cat. Guess it’s a good thing he’s a bad shot.

That, and machine gun fire on set, which is really loud and scares the crap out of me even though I know it’s not real.

This weekend, I’m going to a pool party (so many friends with pools who will never let me come over and swim – I have to wait for parties), a birthday (not mine so I have to find a cheap or free gift), and I’m going to try to go see the Hunter S. Thompson documentary since I do worship at the temple of Gonzo.

Hope everyone has a great weekend full of greasy food that’s been cooked outdoors!

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , ,

Almost a full weekend.

One of the things that really gets me when I work all night Friday is trying to get back on a day schedule – we get released sometime Saturday morning and then have a 7 am call on Monday, so there’s a bit of a panic to not be a zombie Monday morning.

While there are rules about the amount of turnaround time from Friday to Monday, they don’t apply if one is jumping from one show to another, so that Monday morning thing can be really, really bad.

This time, however, I lucked out and got almost an entire two days to get turned around.

Friday’s call time was 2 pm, and I was awakened by the class of ’08 from the school across the street who started partying and blowing air horns at 7 am, so I gave up and got up, hoping they’d leave and I could catch a nap before work. Not so much.

When I left at 1 pm, they were still making a racket.

Of course, we worked until 8 am Saturday morning. I almost never drink energy drinks (they taste like crap would probably taste after being mixed with a pound of sugar and whatever chemical makes that unholy fluorescent green color), but I made an exception and choked one down because I was afraid I wasn’t going to make it the 30 something miles back to the house.

When I got home, I didn’t even bother to shower – just kicked off my shoes and crashed on the couch until about noon, when I forced myself to get up and shuffle around aimlessly until it got dark enough to go to bed.  At some point during the day, I tried to connect my new (ish. Thank you Ebay for enabling me to buy someone else’s castoff crap at a discount) Bluetooth headset to my phone and although it worked,  now I can’t find the headset.

I’m sure wherever I put it made total sense to me when I was exhausted. Guess I’ll just have to wait until I come home from the next all-nighter to find it again.  Once, I came home from work at 7 am and put a pair of brand new sunglasses down… somewhere.  I went nuts for weeks trying to find them (they were expensive) until the next time my knee hurt and I had to get the icepack out of the freezer, and there they were – coated in frost.

There’s a weird thing that happens to me on weekends like this – I’ll take a short nap on Saturday, then stay up all day, go to bed early and then get up early on Sunday in the hopes that I’ll be able to go to bed early on Sunday, too.

For some reason this rarely happens and despite having gotten up at 6 am Sunday, I’ll still not be able to fall asleep until midnight. I don’t know why this happens.

This time, though, I lucked out because my call time Monday was noon so my not being able to fall asleep really didn’t matter.

Work is starting to slow down a bit as many of the TV shows that were frantically trying to get something ‘in the can’ before the possible SAG strike are now finishing up and waiting to see what’s going to happen with the actors.

Hopefully I’ll pick up another couple of days this week before everything goes dead.

Filed under: crack of dawn, up all night, Work, , ,

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