Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Ow. My Legs.

I’m currently in Lake Tahoe, on the first vacation I’ve had in about two years (unless you count foot surgery as a vacation).

Since I’m very tired and hurt all over (but in a good way), I’ll just post some photos:

Frosty trees and blue sky

Lake Tahoe

View towards the lake

Tomorrow, I’m off to Napa to see my sister. I’ll be back either Sunday or Monday (depending on work next week).

Filed under: Non-Work, overspending, Photos

Long nights make short tempers

The problem with afternoon calls is that everyone starts the day in ‘death march’ mode – we know it’s going to be long night and since most of us weren’t able to sleep all day for various reasons we’re not starting out the day particularly fresh.

For me, the worst time of night is right around 3 am. I haven’t gotten that pre-dawn second wind yet, the coffee’s stopped working and all I really want to do is jump in my car, yell “see ya, suckers” and go home. Of course, that would result in my no longer getting work calls, so I just have to stick around and suffer. You’d think it would make me feel better that everyone else is just as tired and miserable, but no.

Production delays are worse when one is tired, the crafty’s worse when one is tired, the fact that the caterer put fucking capers in the goddamn chicken again is worse when one is tired and there’s no end in sight.

So all of us started out Friday in vile moods, and when everyone on the crew’s cranky it just creates this endless loop of sour grapes from which there is no exit.

This was made worse by our boss deciding to get pissed off about the crappy equipment we have in our lighting package.

Boss: “What the fuck is wrong with this stuff? Why can’t we get equipment that’s in proper working order?”

Me: “Because when we loaded in the lamp dock were out of all the good stuff and they won’t let us sub-rent* anything, so we’re stuck with this crap.”

Boss: “Unacceptable. Do something about it.”

Me: (pause)”Okay.”

Boss: “And stop fucking blinking so much”

It just went downhill from there. It’s worth noting that our boss is normally a really nice guy, but late call + slow director = cranky. The fact that they kept adding and dropping a move to another stage didn’t help the general mood (“Wait.. are we moving still?” “Last I heard, but let’s ask again in 5 minutes and see if the answer’s changed”)

By the time the impossible happened and we actually did have an 8 hour day it was too late. The cranky had taken hold of everyone. I went home, had a couple of martinis, decided to skip that night’s installment of the battle of the claws (Me: “Just let me trim those” Cat: “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!”) and start fresh the next morning.

Of course, my next door neighbors chose Saturday to have a garage sale. Right outside my window. They’ve recently acquired a smallish yappy-type dog which, also of course, decided to start yapping right about 8 am.

Eventually, I decided to leave rather than give into the temptation to kick the dog and the neighbors into next week, only to find my driveway blocked by a nice lady who refused to move her car as she was busy perusing the selection of heavily used muffin tins.

When I finally did get to leave, I went to the gym and swam for almost two hours, which improved my mood greatly. After a decent night’s sleep, I feel almost human today.

*sub-rent: when a rental house doesn’t have a particular bit of equipment, they’ll rent it from another company and add it to the package. For obvious reasons, rental houses don’t like to do this.

Filed under: cranky, up all night, Work

Shooting the poop

Today’s work involved poop. Not the rhetorical kind, the real (well, movie real, which we all know isn’t the same as real real) kind. The rodent kind.

Hero waves flashlight (not a normal one, a special movie one) around, discovers said poop, proves some plot point. Or something. I kinda zone out whenever I try to read the script.

Aside from the fact that shooting poop – even fake poop – is a ‘gimme’ day for bad shit-related puns (“I didn’t like that take. Let’s call it the flusher”), it was also a short day at 10 hours, so I got stuck in rush hour traffic on the way home from work.

Any other time, this would suck shit (see, I’m still doing it), but the recent February mini-heat wave we’ve had has made the city’s copious amounts of night-blooming jasmine start to flower so the drive home, while slow, smelled fantastic which abated my normal traffic related rage. Note: I hate synthetic jasmine perfumes, but I absolutely love the real thing. Right now, I’ve got all the windows in the house open and it smells so good even the cat’s happy.

If you’re ever in LA in the late spring or early summer, just step outside and breathe through your nose. You’ll smell it. You can’t get away from it. It permeates everything here, which is impressive considering that such a powerful smell comes from something that masquerades as an innocent shrub to which no one ever pays any mind.

I don’t think it’s summer quite yet (we’re due for more rain early next week), but it’s definitely on the way.

Filed under: hazardous, toxic waste, Work, , , , ,

Friday Photo

Big big light

A lot of the equipment we use is big and heavy, but the 100k (that’s 100,000 watts to you) Soft Sun takes the cake.

It’s 118″ x 33″ x 22″ (295 x 825 x 55 cm) and weighs in at a svelte 320 lbs (145 Kg). When burning at 100 percent (of course it has a dimmer, because although 100k may seem like the bee’s knees, it’s really too much. Really it is) it’s so bright that you can’t look directly at it.

It’s a gearwhore’s dream and a nightmare for people who actually have to lift the damn thing. Luckily for me, this time the poor put-upon riggers had to wrestle this beast onto the condor, and all I had to do was turn it on.

Thank goodness.

Filed under: Photos, Work

Captain Overtime

TV shows chug along, usually impervious to the director, who on TV series has minimal creative input. Movie directors have the luxury of being an enfant terrible or a control freak, but TV directors are mainly traffic cops.

The actors already know the character, the sets are already there, wardrobe’s already set, etc..

All the TV director can do is move the actors around a bit.

Some TV directors do this very quickly, others not so much. Yesterday’s director is a very, very nice guy who is clearly good at his job as he’s been working steadily for years, but he’s one of the slower directors out there.

He earned the nickname “Captain Overtime” on a cable cop show that shot years ago where he never worked anything less than a 15 hour day. Some of his days went up to 18 hours. Sucked at the time, but the checks were fantastic.

Yesterday when I walked in, concerned that I’d only got one day lined up so far, I smiled when I saw Captain Overtime at the helm. This particular show has decided that they won’t allow days over 12 hours anymore, but his presence guaranteed at least a 12 hour day.

Not to disappoint, Captain Overtime came out of the gate by taking 5 hours to shoot a 1.5 page scene with three actors.

He didn’t speed up all day, until the UPM showed up on set to crack the whip and then he finished us out at 11.5 hours.

I should mention that I really like Captain Overtime. He’s a wonderful guy and gets really good performances out of the actors. Also, he pads my bank account. Hell, I love the guy.

And, I’ve ended up with three days this week so far. Tonight’s a night exterior with stunts, so I’m going to freeze my ass off, but at least I’m working.

Filed under: Work

Just a little while

Last night, a friend called me up and asked if I wanted to work today – of course I said yes even though it meant fighting my way to north bumfuck through hysterical rain-crazed traffic.

The job, as described to me, would be babysitting an EPK (electronic press kit – those interviews you see with the actors on the DVD extras and on celebrity ‘news’ shows) unit for a few hours. EPK people are usually really nice but high-maintenance about asking for lights, but I had a list of restrictions that would keep them from getting too crazy with the requesting things (we couldn’t move rigged lights, the stage had no floor package of staged lamps to use, so they were pretty much restricted to stuff I could control from the dimmer board) so I figured it would be an easy, fun day.

I showed up at 10 am, checked in and was told to wait for them to show up. Two and a half hours (and several cups of coffee) later, they still hadn’t shown so I figured I’d help out the riggers who were working in the stage. I really hate sitting around doing nothing when other people are working. It makes me feel guilty. Or something.

About an hour after that, the best boy came in and told me what I’d already figured out for myself. The EPK unit had cancelled without bothering to notify anyone, so I was asked to hang around and help out the riggers for the rest of my eight hours. Which was fine – the riggers are nice folks with whom I really enjoy working, so I kept on hanging lamps.

Then, right after lunch, I got the bad news. We had to go out in the parking lot and run cable in the pouring rain. This would have been fine had I known I was going to be rigging outside in the rain, but I’d been told the day would be mainly sitting at the dimmer board so I didn’t bring the shoes that are waterproof on top or the waterproof gloves.

So my feet got wet. Again. Eventually, my geeky tech sock liners wicked away enough of the moisture so I didn’t feel quite so sloshy, but still. I hate, hate, hate having wet feet at work. I know it’s silly that something so small makes me so completely miserable, but I can’t help it.

In addition to being wet, my feet also hurt like hell as my shoes, in addition to not being waterproof on top, weren’t really ‘stand all day’ shoes.

After we ran the cable, we went back into the stage to hang some more lights, and right about 5 pm, the EPK people walked on to the stage, having changed their minds again without telling anyone. Luckily, they were only there for about an hour and I was released about 6 pm, just in time to go swim for an hour while the rainy day traffic snarl died down.

Filed under: Work

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