Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Whoops!

I will never understand why people who live in meticulously restored century-old houses worth truckloads of money feel compelled to fling open their custom-cut imported wood doors and welcome movie crews, who are infamous for our ability to destroy pretty much anything within a three mile radius of base camp.

We do our best to limit the destruction to stuff that can be easily replaced (like the grass), but something is certain to get damaged no matter how hard we try.

Today, we were rigging in a breathtakingly beautiful turn of the 20th century mansion that’s been lovingly restored to its former glory – including the original brickwork in the driveway which can’t be driven on or have any equipment parked on it (fun for the stakebed drivers)- and while we didn’t destroy anything today the potential for heartbreak is just hanging in the air. When we arrived, there were already chips in some of the brickwork, but let’s all just hope it ends there.

I was working with a group of folks that I really, really like and we weren’t super busy (most of the day was spent waiting on stakebeds full of equipment to arrive), so we were able to admire the original woodwork and the stunning view from the back deck (temporary, installed by the grips) over the hillside.

Also, a reader was kind enough to email me a correction to Friday’s post – turns out, the terrible accident that cost a man his eye did not involve the heavy rubber bungees that fucked up my elbow, but the type pictured.
I stand corrected.
And I’m working four days this week (unless one of them cancels, of course) which is very, very good.

Filed under: locations, Work

Friday Photo

Matching Bungees

Matching bungees at Warner Brothers.

Years ago, bungees were standard equipment on lighting and grip trucks, but most lots and shows have now banned them.

Specifically, they’ve banned the heavy black industrial rubber bungees (that I can’t find a photo of) due to accidents. What would happen was that one would buy the bungee (and the rental houses would only sell them, so since we paid for them, we figured we’d keep using them to get our money’s worth), then it would sit in the sun on a cart (or in an alternately boiling hot/freezing cold truck) for a long time and get dry rot and then when the bungee got stretched it would snap and … kapow. I’ve got bungee-related bone chips in one of my elbows, and one would be hard-pressed to find any crew person without a bungee horror story to tell.  One poor guy even lost an eye, which is what ultimately led to the near unilateral ban on the things.

I actually kind of like the stretchy bungees that are shown in the photo – they’re great for small lightweight stuff and they don’t look as beefy as the black ones so there’s no false sense of security about how much they can hold (“hey, give me two or three bungees” “but that’s a 10K!” pause “Ah, okay. Give me four”).

Most of the time we use things called rope ratchets on our carts instead, and full-sized ratchet straps to secure the carts to the side of the truck when it rolls.

If you’re thinking about using ratchet straps for the first time, please learn how to thread them properly before you fuck them up and make me want to kill you while I try desperately to open them up after they’ve jammed while my co-workers shout insults as they wait for me to get the thing open so we can load the last cart and go home.

Filed under: Work

walking backwards

Whenever you watch a TV show or a movie and there are two or more people walking with the camera in front of them moving backwards, that’s called a ‘walk and talk’. Most walk and talks are lit with a light (usually one of those round paper Chinese lanterns) that’s affixed to a long pole, and with an extension cord running back away from the actors. There are some lights that can be run off a battery pack, but tungsten chinese lanterns (which use standard household bulbs) aren’t one of them. So, to power the lamp that’s lighting the actors for the walk and talk, a stinger must be run to a nearby (how nearby depends on how far the actors are walking and talking) – not towards the actors, but backwards. When the actors walk, one person holds the light over the camera (but stays behind and out-of-the-way – hence the long pole), and at least one other person runs behind keeping the cable out from under the first person’s feet and out of the shot. On really long walk and talks, it’s not uncommon to need several cable wranglers and 200 feet of stinger.

Yesterday’s wasn’t too bad at all – only 50 feet of cable, and two of us handled it (although the sound guy did help as I wasn’t able to keep the cable off the ground behind me, which made noise). The only problem is the one that always happens – people don’t realize what we’re doing and stand behind us (or worse, set up chairs). When I’m walking backwards frantically coiling cable as fast as I can and trying to keep an eye on my co-worker for speed changes or turns, a chair or a body is potentially a problem. More than once I’ve crashed into someone or fallen over a chair that got set up behind me while I wasn’t looking. Luckily, that didn’t happen yesterday. One of the makeup ladies didn’t realize what we were doing and set her chair in the pathway, but moved right away once she figured out what was going on.

We ended up having a13.5 hour day, which is good since unless I can scare up another day, it’ll be all I’ll get this week.

Today the weather was so gorgeous that I ended up riding about 30 miles on the bike, which isn’t normally a lot for me, but since it’s the first long ride I’ve done since May, I’m completely wiped out. In a good way.

Filed under: Work

Nobody loves a rainy night

Yesterday started out with a Morton’s Fork – pants or rain gear. Wearing normal cotton pants means that I’m feeling fairly optimistic about having to remove the rain gear (and need I mention Murphy’s Law here – it applies to rain gear and the amount of sun that we can expect). If the rain settles in and I have to wear the rain gear over the cotton pants  for a while in a few hours I’ll be wearing something that feels a lot like a damp washrag. If I lose all hope of clear skies and plan to wear the rain pants all day, then I have to wear  moisture-wicking long underwear which do the job well, but are not really work appropriate without the shell and so necessitate my leaving on the rain pants all day (or until I can manage to change), rain or not.

Either way, the inside of the pants will be gross and slimy and clammy at the end of the day, but with the long underwear, I won’t feel it (for the record, I wear Lowe Alpine expedition weight tights. They’re comfy, warm and they’re black so if my rain pants rip it won’t be that obvious). Yesterday, I chose to wear the rain pants (and keep the regular pants in my bag just in case of random bursts of sunlight and temperature spikes), and I’m glad I did – even during the brief periods of no rain, the ground (and the equipment and all upwards facing surfaces upon which one could potentially sit) was soaked.

I know it seems like a silly thing to worry about, but in the past, I’ve worn the rain pants, had the sun come out, been unable to go change and had to swelter until lunch. Or, I’ve worn the regular pants and been soaked to the skin in 15 minutes and been wet and miserable for the rest of the day.

I hate being uncomfortable at work, and also absolutely can’t stand to have wet feet.  There is nothing so miserable as having water soak through your shoes and having to walk around, feeling your feet squish around in soaking wet socks for 12 hours. After the first time this happened to me, I went out and bought the best pair of rainboots that I could afford.

Due to turnaround issues for the next day, I didn’t have to go up in the condor (even though I’d originally been booked to do so), so I ran around on the ground in the rain all night, which was fine since I was prepared for everything except the hoards of extras who were really bad about not getting out of our way and blocking the entrance to our staging area. I was reduced one time to yelling at them, but I’m not really supposed to do that. If I abide by set protocol, I have to go find one of the ADs and ask them to ask the extras to please move out of the sweaty people’s way while we’re carrying heavy things over wet cement (and up and down wet metal stairways) and trying to not go ass over teakettle in the process.

Luckily, the really heavy rain didn’t happen until today, when we were safely inside on a stage. Hooray!

To answer Jonathan’s question in the comments about which rain gear to buy: It depends on your budget and your priorities. As you can tell, I like to be as comfortable as possible while I’m being rained on, so I went the expensive Gore-Tex and tech fabric route. Some of my co-workers are more tolerant of stewing in their own funk under a layer of flourescent colored vinyl, so they just go to West Marine and buy the heavy duty fisherman’s rain suit and they’re fine with that – and that’s certainly not a bad option. The West Marine suits will last you for years and years and are much easier to mend than the snappy outdoor store gear.

I do not recommend going to the surplus store and buying the cheap stuff. It’ll fall apart when you need it most, and you’ll have to replace it so often that it’ll be more expensive in the long run than shelling out for something quality, no matter what you decide to buy.

With the Gore-Tex stuff, it’s more a matter of which features to avoid than it is of branding.  You want to avoid a zip on or snap on hood (they leak like crazy), and the more exterior pockets and fancy vented panels the jacket has, the more likely it is to snag on things like stands and rip.   Make sure your jacket has armpit zip vents, though. I usually keep mine just a couple of inches open and it really cuts down on the sweating.  I’d also recommend one that has a two headed (so to speak) zipper so you can zip it up and then unzip a bit of the bottom to flare it out so it’ll fit over your tool belt.

When you buy rain pants, make sure you buy ones that have zippers on the sides at least halfway up the leg so you don’t have to remove your shoes to remove or put on the pants.  I would also recommend getting high topped rain boots and not just using waterproof low-cut running shoes. If you have to wade through a puddle you don’t want nasty muddy water slopping into the tops of your shoes. On Deadwood, I wore gaiters over my boots and under the rain pants because the water was so deep when it rained, but it was also about 80% horse shit so I really didn’t want that stuff in my socks.

Knee-high gaiters actually aren’t a bad buy – if it stops raining and you want to take off the full pants for breathability, but the ground’s wet and you don’t want to get the bottoms of your jeans soaked,  you can just put on the gaiters and wade through all manner of damp vegetation with impunity.  Ignore the initial taunting from your co-workers. Three hours later they’ll be asking you where you bought those things.

Should you buy tech gear, spend the extra money and purchase gear made by a company that offers a lifetime guarantee on the clothing.  I once sent an ancient pair of rain pants that had rotted interior seams back to Mountain Hardware and they replaced them with no questions asked.  Just try that with some crap that you bought from a discount store. Have a drink before you go shopping if you need something to help you steel yourself to drop several Benjamins on rain gear.

Tech stuff or vinyl, you’ll be much more comfy if you wear some sort of moisture wicking clothing underneath.

There’s no perfect rain gear. It’s all got drawbacks. You just have to find out what works for you. Most of the outdoor stores (REI, A16 if you’re in LA) will take returns on used gear if you buy something and don’t like it. I had to try three jackets before I found one that worked for me.

Filed under: studio lots, up all night, Work

Typical timing.

Today, Southern California’s first big winter rainstorm rolls in. Heavy rain is predicted for this afternoon and tonight, lasting until tomorrow night.

Of course, I’m going to be working outside.  The past couple of years have had lighter-than-average rainfall, so it’s been a while since I’ve had to stand in a downpour all night.

At least I’ve got good rain gear, as do all of us. Memo to outdoor clothing companies: If you really want to test out how waterproof your clothing really is, give it to film crews.  We’ll wear it for 14 hours at a stretch and will give you honest feedback about how much your stuff does or does not suck.

I just wish my rain jacket had a ‘toolbelt panel’ at the bottom.  I end up shoving things into my pockets to keep them dry, which makes my pants want to fall down. My jacket’s got pockets, but they don’t hold very much.

Think of me when you’re all warm cozy tonight.

Filed under: locations, Work

Best week ever! So far.

It’s fall in Los Angeles, which means that the weather is truly glorious right now – it’s warm but not hot, the sky is blue and filled with fluffy white clouds, the air is relatively clean and the few trees that do change colors are busily doing so.  It’s been so gorgeous outside that I haven’t even been freaking out about my inability to scare up any work for this week. I’ve just been riding my bike and enjoying the all too fleeting Southern California fall.

Also, on Saturday my noisy upstairs neighbors moved out. At 6 am.  When the other neighbor and I went upstairs to have a look to make sure our dreams were coming true and they were really gone, we discovered that they’d taken the bathroom sink with them. Pulled it right off the wall. Of all the things to take with you when you move – the sink? They’d have been better off to take the stove.  It’s an O’Keefe and Merritt from the 50’s and would buy one infinitely more crack (or whatever they’re buying) than a cheapo cabinet sink from a big-box hardware store.

I’m just very glad they’re gone. It’s so lovely to be able to sleep once again.

On both Monday and Tuesday the pool was empty while I was swimming (but filled up right as I got out),  and I had a date which went so well I ended up doing the walk of shame the next morning. Actually, it was more like the walk of the cat that just ate the canary and was desperately trying to find someone to high-five, but hey.

Today, I got the phone call from the doctor informing me that the biopsy turned up negative, which is a huge load off my mind.

It’s only Wednesday. Can this week possibly get any better?

Filed under: dating, Non-Work, Work

Almost a full week

Tuesday we had a relatively short day – 12.5 hours. The chickens behaved very nicely (except for one escapee who perched on the hanging lights and refused to come down. I didn’t realize chickens could fly as well as these seemed to be able to) even though they did crap all over everything in sight, and I got home around 11 pm. We’d all been expecting another 14 hour extravaganza, so it was a pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, I was scheduled for a biopsy (they found a lump on a mammogram) in the morning and knew I wouldn’t be able to swim for a few days afterwards, so by some feat of determination I managed to drag myself out of bed at 5:30 am and went to swim for 1/2 an hour beforehand. I would have gone longer, but I was worried about getting stuck in traffic and being late, since the procedure was at the Motion Picture Hospital, which is conveniently located in west bumfuck.

The doctor was very nice (even if he didn’t get the ‘my tit’s going to rot off’ reference from Fight Club), and borderline apologetic as he told me I’d have to avoid strenuous activity for 72 hours afterwards.

Me: “Define strenuous.”

Dr: “Whatever you’re thinking about doing.”

Stupid doctor.  I wasn’t going to do anything crazy like weights. I was just going to do some light cardio and perhaps sit in the steam room.  But after a lecture from both the doctor and my sister, I stayed home on Wednesday and watched daytime TV (like I haven’t done enough of that recently to last me for the rest of my life).

By the way – breast biopsies are done with the biggest fucking needle I’ve ever seen. Seriously. That thing was about a foot long. Luckily they numbed up my entire side before they did anything – I felt nothing, but there was an awful lot of blood. Normally, this doesn’t bother me, but when it’s my blood, I don’t feel so good about it.

But this morning, I got a call to go into work and cover someone who called in sick.

Of course, I said yes and decided that I’d worry about any potential consequences (hematoma, body parts rotting off, random explosions, gas, etc..) later.  I don’t care what the doctor told me, I can’t afford to turn down any work.

Luckily, I only had to climb one ladder and was able to favor the one side as the day was mostly moving around Kinos on C-Stands, which hardly qualifies as strenuous.

Our call time tomorrow morning is after 9 am – which is the official closure of the 72 hour window, so I don’t have to worry about it any longer.

I’ll have results by the end of the day tomorrow, but no one expects anything to be seriously amiss. Apparently, 90% of the time these things are nothing.

And the person who called in sick is still sick, so I got tomorrow, too – which makes a four day week. Yay!

Filed under: Work

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