Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Friday Photo

Where I live now, there just aren’t that many couches left out by the curb – or the trash collection are more efficient, but either way there’s not much to put on the couch blog anymore.

But every now and then, I see one.

Like today:

 

photo(5)

It didn’t show up on the picture (damn iPhone), but that note reads ‘Free’.

No idea if the creepy naked doll is included.

 

You’re welcome.

Filed under: camera, couches, life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, , , , , , ,

A nice Friday surprise.

When I staggered out to the mailbox this morning, there it was, waiting for me – the judge’s written decision in the unemployment case.

I won! The judge ruled that my mistake (which resulted in an overpayment last year and caused a delay of benefits and a fine this year) was made because of poor organizational skills and sloppy accounting on my part and not a deliberate attempt to defraud the state of California.

Although I’m not sure how thrilled I am about having a judge pretty much call me an idiot in a written decision, at least the state has to refund the penalties to me now.

If I’ll ever get them is another story – the California unemployment folks seem to be doing anything they can to avoid paying out claims. I know one person who is owed almost 8 weeks worth of checks and can’t get an explanation as to the cause of the delay, another who has had to go to three different offices to verify his identity in person and still hasn’t been issued a check, and another person who is getting one check out of every four that she’s owed – also with no explanation of why.

Even if I never see any of the money, at least now I’m not viewed as a criminal by a group of bureaucrats who may or may not have souls.

Speaking of surprises, I saw this while riding my bike the other day:

Not a couch, but still odd.

I wonder if the homeowner was hoping that some passerby would take them. When she saw me taking pictures of them, she ran out of the house to yell at me in what I think might have been Russian, but I’m not entirely certain.

Filed under: couches, Non-Work, Photos, , , , , , ,

Fine, I’ll look on the damn bright side.

Although I don’t know how much of this list is optimism and how much is schadenfreude, but sometimes you just have to take what you can get.

Especially from me.

Here ya go:

1) At least I don’t live in the Western San Fernando Valley – if you think I’m whining about the heat now

2) At least I’m not a “pro-family” US Senator with a horrible voting record on gay rights who got popped (pun intended) for hitting on a male cop in an airport restroom (insert derisive snicker). Now there’s a guy with problems.

3) The cat has only thrown up one hairball this week. This is a vast improvement over last week, when she threw up about ten thousand hairballs and kindly left most of them right where I’d step in them during night-time trips to the loo.

4) The maintenance guy has switched from Eddie Money to the Eagles. I don’t really care for the Eagles much, but it’s a change and I have to take what I can get, right?

4) I’m working Friday, but it’s on a stage that’s air-conditioned to the point of qualifying as a meat locker with a crew of folks who, if I start acting bitchy, will just throw something at me and not take it personally. Yay!

5) The MRI for the right knee came back, and besides a bit of fluid, everything is normal. No torn anything, no weird tumors.

And, just for the record, I don’t hate France – I love France. Honestly, I can take or leave Paris, but the south of France is where I really fell in love with the country and the people (who were wonderful everywhere I went, and very patient with my atrocious French), even though every time I go there I gain about three metric tons from eating all the delicious food and drinking gallons of the local vin ordinaire.

Whenever I complain about the excess pounds, whoever I’m talking to gives that dismissive hand wave that only the French can do really well and says “Oh, there is always time to diet later. Here, have another croissant”.

Why, merci. Don’t mind if I do.

Stupid France and their stupid wonderful food and stupid delicious wine and cheese (which is so totally worth eating) and nice people and beautiful light and strong coffee.

Mmmm.. France. I need to go there right now.
But I can’t go to France any time soon because today I lashed out with Mr. Debit Card and bought a Nikon D40.

I blame Nezza for this.

Originally, I had only thought of buying the D80, which is WAY outside my price range, so I’d just looked at them, sighed wistfully and hoped that the DSLR fairies would someday leave one under my pillow if I were very, very good indeed, and moved on. Then, when Nezza mentioned a D40, I looked at it and thought it wasn’t so bad, so when I went by Samy’s Camera today to buy film for my ancient SLR, I saw the sale price on the D40 and before I knew it, I was walking out the door with one.

I hope you’re happy, Nezza.

Now I have a camera but I can’t make an impulse ticket purchase to Paris, where I’d jump on the train and go somewhere with fatty food and stunning beaches and cheap wine and fabulously attractive locals whom I’d probably ignore completely due to my being too busy stuffing my face.

Who am I kidding… Once I factor in the lost work, that would cost about a bazillion times more than a camera.

Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t use normal batteries, so I couldn’t just take it out of the box and start shooting (of course, there was a really awesome couch on the way home), but once it gets charged I’m going to try it out.

And, of course, if I don’t like it I’m going to muster all of my imaginary PMS anger and return it.

Filed under: camera, couches, life in LA, Nikon, Non-Work, Off-Topic, overspending, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pow! Right in the kisser!

There are no gas stations in Beverly Hills.

Okay, there are two (according to the NFT Guide) – one at Olympic and Beverly Drive, and one at Little Santa Monica and Crescent. There’s also one that’s not listed in the guide on Wilshire right next to the Beverly Hilton.

All of these gas stations, might I add, are of the “76″ variety (actually I think they’re a BP company now) and are at least 10 cents per gallon over market price, and there’s an impressive stretch of high-end retail that’s sans filling stations of any brand. If you pick the wrong part of Beverly Hills to stall out in, you’re in for a long hot (or cold, or wet, depending on the time of year) walk followed by and extremely expensive gallon of gas, my friend.

Guess what happened to me today?

I had some errands to run in Santa Monica, so after a quick stroll on the beach I headed back across town in an attempt to beat the rush hour traffic. My gas gauge has been broken for some time now, but it’s normally not a problem – I just fill up when I’ve driven a certain number of miles or it’s been a few days, but since I’ve been working at Paramount and haven’t been driving, I forgot about the system and stalled out right in front of Crustacean (the food’s fantastic, in case you were wondering).

In the midst of my digging for my phone to call AAA (okay, I screamed “shit” for about a minute first), the driver of the car behind me started to lean on the horn – despite the fact that my emergency flashers were on and I’d had my arm out the window, waving motorists around. For good measure, I’d gotten out and put the hood up – the universal symbol for “Don’t honk at me, jackass, my car’s stalled.”

For those of you not familiar with Beverly Hills, there’s a certain type of woman there – bleached blonde hair, botoxed yet somehow pinched faces, overly yoga’d bodies, nose jobs, cheek, chin and breast implants, liposuction, bleached teeth, Hermes bag, blank stare. They all look exactly alike – they’ve gone to the same surgeon, I guess, but the first time you see it it kind of freaks you out. Once you’re used to them it just seems kind of sad.

The one behind me had decided that somehow leaning on the horn of her luxury coupe was going to make AAA get to me faster. If only it were true.

Finally, I walked back to her car to see if I could get her to understand that all she had to do was pull around and she’d be back on her way to, well, wherever.

“You’re blocking traffic and some of us are in a hurry!” she yelled as I drew even with the driver’s window.

“Well, as you can see my vehicle is currently disabled, so why don’t you just pull around?”

“I shouldn’t have to! Why don’t you get a decent car? One that isn’t… polluting the planet!”

As soon as she said it, I looked down at her car and saw the shiny little metal plaque – V12.

No, no, no. You may not sweat me for driving an SUV (a V6, btw) when you’re tooling around town in a car with a 12 cylinder engine.

What I desperately (oh, so desperately) wanted to say was “Well, if you could just manage to suck a few extra cocks this month, you could buy me a Prius and save the world!”, but I bit my tongue. After all, you never know who’s somebody (or married to a somebody) in this town.

What I actually said was “You do know that my truck gets better gas mileage than your car, right?”

At that very moment, the AAA guy pulled up with a gallon of gas and friendly directions to the nearest overpriced 76 station.

I started up my offensive, planet-destroying truck and continued on my way, and Botox Barbie zoomed off to, well, wherever.

Couch of the Day:

Couch

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

I was only kidding, mostly.

It’s been a busy couple of days, and what I’ve really learned is that when I ask for things, I need to be more specific.

On Thursday, the shit hit the fan (so to speak) and we actually did get fired – because of something that happened in another department (ye gods, how I love the film industry).

Here’s how it went down:

We did as much of the rig as we could on Wednesday, because of the party. First unit’s call time in the morning was 10 am, with the balloon tech* and set lighting on a one hour pre-call.

Rigging’s call was 6 am, so we got there, found our driver, moved the carts over from the stage to the theater and then started to complete the rig (normally, you’d flip that – complete the rig first, and then move the carts, but we were going to lose the drivers because they had to move the trailers which is something they should have been able to do the night before, but there was that party) – until the guys who’d come in with the projection screens (they had a big banquet scene with giant screens all around the set) discovered that whomever had set up their stuff the night before had put the screens in the wrong place and they couldn’t get a sharp focus, so the screens had to move because the projectors couldn’t. Which meant the stage had to move, which meant the tables (all of which had a lamp on them which had to be powered) had to move – again.

Unexpected obstacles are the nature of the business, but we had so much to do that we would just barely have had enough time to get everything done even if nothing had gone wrong (we’d asked to come in at 4:30 or 5 am, but the production office said no). So, when the stage and tables moved (the first time – they ended up moving twice. Each time, set dressing had to strip off the place settings and then reset them, and we had to move all our lights from around the stage and re-wire the tables) we knew we weren’t going to be ready.

Rigging crews have nightmares about still being on set working when first unit walks on. A great deal of the appeal of working on a rigging crew is that one avoids the chaos, panic and gratuitous random blaming (“we were fine until those bozos got in our way”) that shooting crews sometimes fall into – when one is rigging, the goal is not only to never be seen, but never have the higher ups even notice your work**.

Then, the balloon tech came in half an hour late – the victim of a traffic jam caused by a horrible accident on the freeway – also stuck in the same traffic snarl were the director and our main actor.

So there was no way in hell they were going to start on time, but the Director of Photography, standing on set surveying the chaos at 10 am, chose to blame the rigging crew for the delay.

The first unit best boy pulled our boss aside around 11 am and said “Hey, DP thinks you guys caused the delay, and I’m hearing he wants you all fired. I’m going to sit him down at lunch and try to explain to him what happened.”

Yeah, good luck with that. There are some “shooters” out there who have a really solid understanding of what it takes to get all that stuff set up and the potential for delay, but trust me, this guy’s not one of them.

At our lunch break (which was the first time all day we’d been able to sit down), our boss said it best: “It doesn’t matter what anyone says. If the DP wants us gone, then nothing can save us.”

We all sat for a moment and looked at each other before simultaneously pulling out our phones and dialing – just as our boss got the official word. Note to production: never, ever fire a crew at lunch. We all could have just as easily walked away and told you to go rig your own fucking set – but we didn’t, because that would have been a) unprofessional, and b) would have made the gaffer look bad.

After I’d made a few calls, I ran into our Paramount lot best boy***, and told him the story. “Can you help a sister out?” I asked.

“Lemme see who’s picking up for tomorrow.”

In 10 minutes he had me on the phone with the best boy of another show. “Sure, I’ve got a second unit slot for tomorrow. You want it?” he asked.

Does a bear shit in the woods? Of course I wanted it. My thanks to all of you from the bottom of my black little heart for another day’s employment.

A few minutes after that I got another call (Paramount’s a small lot – word travels fast) “Hey, heard you guys got fired. Sorry to hear it, but I’ve got some days next week for you. Call me Monday.”

Sweeeet.

The fact of the matter is that with below the line crew, firings are completely meaningless. We had all gotten work (and on better-paying shows, I might add) by the end of the day, and to be brutally honest I’m more than a little bit glad to be walking away from that cluster fuck. The only thing I’m going to miss are the crew, who are all terrific folks and with whom I’ve had a lot of fun.

Oh, well. Color me itinerant. I’ll see ‘em all on another show and we’ll have a good laugh.

I’d wanted some overtime, and boy did I get it.

Call time Friday was 6:30 am, wrap time was 10:30 pm. As my feet started to hurt and my reaction times got longer and longer with fatigue, I just kept chanting “double time baby, double time”.

Mama needs a new car soon.

Which brings us to Friday (hey, it was taken on Friday, but after a 16 hour day I’m not coming home and sitting in front of the computer) Photo:

Can you spot the paparazzo?

Paparazzo

More importantly, since I’ve never seen the show, is there anyone on Nip/Tuck who warrants being followed to the bowels of North Hollywood by a stalker photographer?

Just for the record, the guy seemed okay. He stayed hidden, and when a co-worker and I finally spotted him (I have no idea how long he was there) and waved, he waved back. When one of the ADs politely asked him to pack up and move on, he did so graciously.

*Note – the link to Airstar is intended for illustrative purposes only.

**Yeah, yeah. I know that just seems wrong, but it’s true. If a producer or an executive notices me, then I’ve somehow fucked up.

***When you work on a studio lot, your show has two best boys. One best boy for the show, who handles manpower, scheduling and the like, and the lot best boy, who deals with equipment.

Couch of the Day:

From Frances Danger, who also just got fired, but who will also soon have a much better job (I’m sure of it):

Filed under: couches, Photos, Work

Dude, what’s that smell?

One of the things that’s really affected us is the industry ban on zip line. Zip line (lamp cord to you, buddy) is what we used to use when we had a bunch of practical lamps in the center of a room – zip line’s damn near flat and it’s easy to tape down so the actors won’t trip on it. Because it’s flat and easy to tape down it’s very easy to hide from the camera even when it’s running across the middle of the floor.

Now, we have to use standard heavy-duty extension cords (“stingers“), which are safer, but harder to hide from the camera and much more of a trip hazard (even when taped down). Some studios will let you run zip line for a few feet, and some won’t allow it’s use at all, but we can’t run hundreds of feet of it anymore no matter where we are.

Most of our work today was wiring the small table lamps in the center of the club, aiming the lamps that we hung yesterday, making sure that the stingers were well-hidden and taped down, and making sure that we got power to all the last-minute lamp additions.

Yesterday, one of our guys had to leave early because of the paint fumes. He came down from the perms, told us that he felt like shit and went to see the nurse.

What he didn’t tell us is that he threw up somewhere in the upper levels of the facade where he was running cable.

Now, I certainly can’t blame the poor guy – there are some bodily functions that just won’t wait, and sometimes you feel like crap and just forget to tell people things (had I been vomiting I don’t know that I would have remembered to inform my supervisor about it – “Hey, I just hurled upstairs somewhere! Have a great day!”). No biggie, except for the smell.

It smells like, well, puke. It wasn’t so bad first thing in the morning, but as soon as we turned the lights on and it got hot up there – icky, icky poo (or icky, icky puke as the case may be).

We’re not exactly sure where he puked, although we can make an educated guess from where the smell’s strongest (none of us were really all that eager to find a puddle of vomit, anyway).

So of course, that’s where we put our dimmer board operator’s table*. We even made sure it was safely secured to the deck by bolting it down.

Wasn’t that nice of us?

* We all love our dimmer board operator – he’s a great guy, and we’ve all known him for years and had some great times with him on various shows. Don’t feel bad for him. It’s really easy to re-locate a dimmer board, so he won’t be in the smell for long, but that five minutes or so are just going to be priceless. My only regret is that we won’t be there to see it.

Couch of the Day:

Couch

Filed under: couches, Work

Trash can insides and a contact high.

Today, we were rigging on New York Street – there’s a little nightclub set that’s being dressed to look like a cross between CBGB and The Limelight.

Whatever the painters were using to make the fake stained glass windows made me see purple puppies and rainbows – I ended up having to run home at our coffee break and get my respirator (that I got on the last show where they were spraying something toxic). I took it home with me tonight as I’m afraid that if I leave it in our gold room (where we store small things like lightbulbs, color-correction gels, etc.), by morning one of our pranksters will have removed the filters and soaked them in something disgusting before replacing them.

Right after they did the stained glass effect, they started spray painting the graffiti on the walls, so it was a paint fume smorgasbord – it was so bad even the painters were commenting on it.

After lunch, when I finished my coffee, and went to throw the cup away – only to stop when the trashcan I was about to use seemed suspiciously clean.

Turns out, it was a prop trash can (which, of course must be returned to the rental house free of garbage) – another show was shooting a few yards away and had put out trash cans in order to make New York Street look, well, urban.

So I wandered along the ‘street’, peering into the trash cans, looking for the one that was actually full of garbage – one of the other show’s PAs came up to me and wanted to know what the hell I was doing.

“I’m looking for a real trash can”, I answered, wagging my empty cup at her for emphasis.

“Just throw it in the one that’s actually got trash in it”.

If only it were that easy- they look alike from the outside, and if I throw trash into a prop trash can and let it sit in the 90 degree heat all day, I’m going to have the other show’s set dressers coming after me with thumb screws.

We’re back in the club rigging again tomorrow – hopefully all the painting will have been done so I don’t have to spend another day with that creepy rubber fetish thing on my face.

Couch of the Day:

Couch

Filed under: couches, Work

Toy store, here I come!

Well, I failed in my mission, but the Pink Princess has learned a hard lesson about negotiation.

Some background:

Back when we all had Shawn Cassidy posters on our walls, one of my Roosevelt-era (or so) great aunts decided that toys cost too goddamn much nowadays and she wasn’t going to take the bait.

In a fit of pique about those bastards charging $5 for something that was just going to get fucked up anyways, she broke out her ancient Singer and made me two dolls – an Eeyore and a standard early 20th century-looking girl doll (sans creepiness, of course. Her face is hand-embroidered so no evil little eyes). Both were made solely from materials in her rag-bag.

Eeyore was made from brown tweed (which is probably closer to the color of an actual donkey after all), and had white corduroy tummy. The best part was that his tail actually came on and off with the button. The worst part was that I immediately lost the tail, and spent the next 20 years telling people that Eeyore was sad because his tail was probably rotting somewhere in a landfill in Sunland.

The girl doll (whom I never bothered to name – despite my father’s attempt to beat some girliness into me, I was never much for dolls, frills or pink things) lost her pantaloons immediately (I pulled them off to see if she was anatomically correct. Hey, cut me some slack – I was 7), although for some reason she still has all her petticoats under her gingham dress.

I lost Eeyore in my late 20′s. My ex, The Devil (no, really, he is the devil), took Eeyore when we split up – not because he wanted Eeyore, but because he knew that was the one thing he could take that would really hurt me (I got him back, though. I burned his baseball cards in his driveway while he watched, horrified, from his deck. I even roasted a marshmallow over the little bonfire while I laughed. Don’t even start with me about it. Looking back, I’m deeply ashamed of the way I behaved, but hell hath no fury, I guess).

So the only memento I have from an aunt that I adored (who died early in the Reagan administration, and who was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise completely miserable childhood) is that doll.

The Pink Princess wants the doll bad, and that was what she demanded in exchange for the basket.

I counter-offered with my entire collection of Bugs Bunny DVDs but she wouldn’t budge.

“Sorry”, I said. “You can’t have her. She and I have history.”

“But I want her!”

“Well, I want world peace and perky tits without having to have surgery, but that’s not going to happen either.”

“Then you can’t have my basket.”

“Fine. I’ll go buy one.”

I could tell from the look on her face that The Pink Princess hadn’t thought of that one.

“Well, that’s what you get for being inflexible” is what her mom said as I said my goodbyes after dinner and kicked at the tumbleweeds on the side of the road as I marched towards my car, empty-handed, wondering about the location of the nearest “Toys R Us”.

Hey, sparkle glue and handlebar baskets are still cheap and plentiful, aren’t they? ‘Cause I haven’t got a sewing machine.

Couch of the Day:

Couch

Filed under: couches, Non-Work

The free time’s great, but the payout not so much.

When my boss called me to work on this show, he told me we were going to be working 10 hour days, but then production decided to save some money (they’re over budget on the lighting package) by only allowing the rigging crew to work 8 hour days.

An occasional 8 hour day is a treat – it’s like a mini vacation, or that time when you found a whole candy bar on the floor of the car and managed to eat it before your mom made you give half of it to your sibling.

An occasional 8 hour day inspires the same sort of giddiness as a really good rollercoaster, but a whole string of 8 hour days loses the charm fast and hits me right in the bank account.

I think I cried a little when I got my paycheck today. Don’t get me wrong – 16 hour days hurt me as well, but in a much different manner.

The other problem with short days is that the best boy can’t keep a crew – people won’t stay around for the reduced hours when they can jump to a crew who are working 10′s or 12′s. Best boys don’t like a constantly changing crew either – imagine having hire three or four new people and explain the inter-office politics to them every single day.

When the crew stays the same, then the riggers know how the gaffer likes things marked, where the carts get set up on stage, which actors we’re not supposed to look at, who the UPM is (so we can look busy whenever he or she’s around) and how to sneak up on the craft service guy so we can get a sandwich off his truck (rigging crews aren’t normally allowed to eat at craft service). We get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and this helps us to work better as a team.

Then there’s set dressing. Somehow they managed to get on a 12 hour day, and since this DP comes from theater, he wants a ‘down light’ over every practical (a practical is a lamp that you can see in frame) in the set, so we’re hanging a lot of lamps and there’s some freaky movie thing that if there’s a practical lamp in a scene then the cord to plug it in must be hidden from camera (even if the lamp’s in the center of the room with no outlet anywhere near it), which means that each practical lamp takes us some time to fix up – we have to hang a lamp over the top of it, and then power it up while making sure the cable is concealed from camera.

This is all fine, and it’s part of the job, but since the set dressers are there four hours longer than us each day, they put in lamps after we leave, so when first unit walks on the set, there are a ton of lamps that aren’t ready (since they were put there after we had to quit working), and it’s making us look like idiots. The set dressers know our predicament and are trying to work with us, but sometimes they have last-minute changes, too.

No amount of begging or pleading on the part of my boss will make the production office extend our hours.

My job for this weekend is to convince (okay, bribe) the Pink Princess to part with her handlebar basket.

Couch of the Day:

Couch

Filed under: couches, Work

Big Boring Day Off

I had today off, and I spent it cleaning my house, despite wanting to go to the beach.

6:30 am call time tomorrow, which means I might just get off early enough to have some fun, but not likely.

When I have a call time that early, I’m usually tired before 10 pm.

Couch of the Day:

Couch

Filed under: couches, Non-Work

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