Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Memories of ye Goode Olde Days

Everyone who has ever worked low budget anything remembers the struggle to get paid.

Minutes would slow to hours as one sat, face pressed against the window, scanning the street for the elusive postal carrier, hoping against hope that today, finally, that precious check would arrive.

One would call the payroll company and be told that the checks were cut, but that since there was no money in the account, they couldn’t be mailed.

Calls to the production company, of course, would go unanswered.

Then, after two weeks, one had the sinking realization that the check probably wasn’t coming and decide to take a more pro-active course of action.

I personally have planted my ass outside an accountant’s office with my back against the only door, knowing that I could wait longer to pee, eat, drink, sleep, whatever. Get a group of production workers together and every single one of us will have a story about the extreme measures to which we’ve gone to get checks.

The labor board was never much of a help because they didn’t move very quickly, and productions were notorious for closing the office and dissolving the LLC before they suffered any retributions for screwing the crew out of pay.

There was no pain in the world like the “this number has been disconnected” phone message – it meant there was never, ever  going to be a check, no matter what.

So the power got cut off, and the gas got turned off  (the phone could never, ever get cut off because how would one get jobs?), the car insurance lapsed, and the landlord got yet another excuse, and one loaded up on snacks from craft service because there was no money for food.

When one did manage to get a check, one hauled ass to the bank in the hopes of depositing it before it bounced.

Bounced payroll checks were the worst. Not only did one not get money, one had to pay for the bounced check.

I will confess to, on more than one occasion, having contemplated homicide when faced with the consequences of a rubber paycheck.

I will also confess to having accepted dates from men in whom I had no interest just for the free dinner.

Don’t judge me.

My grandmother, who lived through the Great Depression, once told me that hunger and desperation change you forever.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve worked a job where the status of the checks was…indeterminate, but even now, when the check for the mid-month low budget is a few days overdue, the old fear grips me.

The empty mailbox makes me grind my teeth, and I frantically snap off lights while eating a cold dinner so I don’t have to use the stove. My pulse quickens as I try to figure out how to get to work without using any of the precious, precious, expensive gasoline in the car’s tank. I start a mental inventory of anything I own which has resale value.

Yes, thank you, I’m well aware that I’m completely overreacting. Intellectually, I know the checks will show up eventually, and if they don’t I can call our union and they’ll do the work to roll out the legal guns (so to speak).

But it’s so hard to be calm.

I guess now I’ve gained more understanding of my grandmother, who was almost as rich as Midas at the end of her life, yet still spent time clipping coupons and screaming at us to turn off the lights because the meter was running.

I really need that check.

 

 

Filed under: movies, overspending, rants, Work, , , , , , , , , , ,

Tour de Courthouse

A few weeks ago, as I was leaving work, I was pulled over.

I had a burned out headlight, and given how incoherent I was after a 14 hour day, I’m surprised the cop didn’t haul me out and administer a field sobriety test, but he just gave me a fix-it ticket.

As he was finishing up, he told me I could go to any police station in the city to get a sign-off on the repair, and then go to any courthouse in the county to pay the small fine.

Sweet. I currently reside within a ten minute walk of both a police station and a (small) courthouse.

I figured I’d get the headlight fixed, get it inspected, then get it off the books and not even have to burn a gallon of very expensive (for America) gas.

So this morning, I rolled up to the West LA police station, ticket in hand, and asked at the desk to have someone check my car.

I was met with blank stares from the attending officers.

After an uncomfortably long pause, one of the civilian volunteers said “I’ve got this” and handed me a sheet explaining that the LAPD isn’t authorized to inspect vehicles and I’d have to drive to one of the county sheriffs’ inspection stations to get my signature.

Fine.

Except that the nearest inspection station happens to be in Beverly Hills.

I hate driving in Beverly Hills.

Under normal circumstances, the traffic is horrific because it’s apparently déclassé  to time one’s stop lights, but now it’s springtime and the tourist bloom is beginning.

In spring and summer, the normally crowded streets of Beverly Hills become impossibly clogged with tour busses and rental cars.

Which is great – the city and the county greatly appreciate your visit and your tax revenue, but residents tend to snap when traffic speeds drop from ‘slow crawl’ to ‘perambulate’.

This results in tempers accelerating from ‘recreational asshole’ to ‘nuclear war’.

Generally, I prefer to bike or bus it through the area – I can either sail past the problem or be encased in the T.Rex of vehicles and be safe from random punchings or headlocks.

But, if I must drive into the fray, 10 am on a weekday is a good time to do so.

Rush hour’s mostly over, and the lunchers haven’t started stalking parking spaces.

So, off I went – thinking I’d get inspected and paid off and then be back home in time to catch the afternoon talk shows.

I guess I wasn’t surprised when the clerk told me that although I got my inspection in Beverly Hills, because my officer had checked the ‘Chatsworth’ box on the ticket, that’s where I’d have to go to pay the fine.

To those of you not familiar with Los Angeles, Chatsworth is not near anything.

Not a freeway off ramp, not any sort of landmark, not any sort of train or bus stop or life support.

So because I’d tried to save gas by not driving, I then drove to the edge of civilization.

Where I stood in line for what seemed like an eternity behind a woman arguing with anyone who would listen that her failure to appear for her court date wasn’t her fault because she’d lost her phone and had written the judge a letter proving her innocence.

Lucky for me another window opened and I paid my $25 and then fought traffic back home.

I have work tomorrow (non-union, but it pays and it’s with a bunch of guys that I really like), and since I’m going downtown I’m going to take the bus.

I’ve had enough of the car for now.

 

Filed under: life in LA, long long drives, Los Angeles, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, overspending, travel, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Go on, say it.

Did I say I had steady work coming up?

Whoops.

What I meant was I thought I had a gig but the best boy made a change at the last-minute (as in the Friday before I was to start), and didn’t tell me.

These things happen, and I’m sure he had a good reason – there are so many folks who are really, really hurting right now. It’s possible that whoever replaced me is going to lose his/her house or insurance or become destitute save for this gig.

I’ll never know. It stings a bit, of course, but I just have to let it go and hope that it’ll all work out for the best.

It usually does (most of the time).

The first thing I did was get on the phone and start informing people I was available.

My “I need work” texts must have seemed sufficiently desperate as I’ve managed to scrape up one day this week, which is better than nothing,  but still…

Right now would be the appropriate time for the  ‘I told you so’ chorus.

Remind me to spend the rest of my life at financial DEFCON 1 no matter how well work is going.

On the bright side, I’m now officially too broke to drink so my liver gets a nice vacation. Hooray!

Filed under: mishaps, overspending, Work, , , , , ,

Too busy for my fridge

Just let me start this out by stating how grateful I am to be working.

The only problem with working is the fridge and its contents.

Right before I got this job, I’d purchased some food.

I was thinking about my budget,  so I  didn’t go too crazy. Veggies, mostly, but also some chicken and assorted toppings. I usually have a bag of brown rice in the cabinet, and I’ll cook a batch as needed about twice a week.

I thought I was set.

Then, I proceeded to spend 12 hours a day on set with craft service and catering.

So today, when I opened the fridge for the first time in.. I don’t know, I was greeted to a big bunch of wilted and moldy garbage, with accompanying odor.

Awesome.

Even the mustard was moldy. How can that even happen?

Since the fridge was empty after I pitched everything, I took the time to scrub it out while I was muttering angrily about wasting food.

I’ve got one more week and then I’ll re-stock with  a shiny clean fridge. Maybe. Hopefully there will still be enough work to justify not buying groceries.

Filed under: overspending, Work, , , , , , ,

The most painful time of year

Once again, it’s the tail end of the ‘dry season’, and my savings haven’t quite managed to stretch (mostly due to some car issues), so I turned to the Motion Picture and Television Fund for an emergency grant so I can pay my rent and, you know,  maintain a place to live.

The times I’ve had to use this option in the past, the Fund have been wonderful and compassionate, but this time I guess they’re dealing with more folks in trouble, because there’s very little compassion (or basic politeness) to be found.

The intake person cheerfully suggested I contact homeless shelters in case I got turned down for a grant (after asking if I had ‘any friends who would give me money’),  and the social worker, in the initial phone call, sternly reminded me of all that I’ve ‘taken from’ the fund in the past and that he’d have to ‘carefully consider’ if the fund wanted to give me any more help.

Great job guys. Way to make me feel like less of a piece of crap. Appreciate it.

I’m fairly certain they’re going to turn me down this time – just a hunch, mind you.

With work not due to start up for a couple of more weeks (my work texts have yielded nothing but other people looking for work, too), I’m starting to go into panic mode.

Unemployment have been waiting as long as possible to pay out claims (although a friend who was having trouble with them last year says they’re being great this year – guess I’m just in the group they’re picking on this time), I may have to pay my landlord in two (or three) installments.

I hate doing this. I hate even having to think about doing this.

The last thing I want is for the guy who owns the building to start thinking I’m not good for the rent. That can’t go anywhere good.

Hopefully work will surprise me and pick up early.  Work needs to pick up early.

Just not to end on such a maudlin tone, I have good news and an informal poll:

 

First, the good news – I may be just about destitute but at least I’ve got a date. Another broke deadbeat whom I met at one of LA’s  numerous free movie screenings. Hooray me!

Also, I’ve been invited to a friend’s birthday party, then informed that I’ll be expected to pay about $70 ‘to help defray costs’. Times are tough all over, but my initial inclination is to be offended about this.

What do you think?

Filed under: dating, life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, overspending

That’s just great.

When I’m working and have a good amount of cash, I buy all kinds of deals on Groupon – which works great, since I can redeem them when I’m not working and not break the bank eating out and pampering myself (not literally, of course. I think that’s a different deal site).

Today, I went for a massage courtesy of Groupon. This particular massage place was one of the medical places that’s got a doctor there, so they did a whole intake questionnaire and had the therapist look me over since I’d mentioned some shoulder pain.

She took a step back, cocked her head and said “that’s odd. Your left shoulder is lower than your right one”.

Ah, crap.

I really honestly thought I’d escaped this particular injury. It’s something that happens to ‘lifer’ electricians. We load heavy stuff on whichever shoulder we like better (for me it’s the left side. Although I’m right-handed, I do just about everything else in a left-side dominant manner), and eventually the shoulder drops, leaving us looking like some Victorian bell tower dwelling monster. Or something.

So now, I’ve got uneven shoulders, and a thumb with a chunk out of it.

There go my dreams of being the world’s oldest supermodel.

Also, work is still dead. Dead, dead, dead. Hopefully, it’ll pick up towards the end of the month.

Filed under: overspending, ,

Some weeks are better than others

This week started out so well. Work’s picking up, the weather’s been gorgeous, etc…

Until Tuesday, when I decided to go to the grocery store, and because I needed some bulky stuff, I took the car.

Midway through my backing out of my parking space in the six-space carport, the neighbor’s little rat-dog ran across the alley and under my wheels, and in an attempt not to flatten said rat-dog, I swerved and hit the support post instead.

Which would have been fine, except my current car is apparently made of vacu-formed tinfoil as the low-speed oopsie resulted in the following:

One torn off driver’s side mirror

One severely dented front driver’s side door.

One fucked up front quarter panel.

One fucked up front bumper.

One $500 deductible.

One rat-dog owner refusing to admit that she’s at fault.

Awesome. So now, I’m on the hook for five Benjamins and my car has to go to the body shop for an undisclosed amount of time.

Also, I’ve spent eons on the phone with said insurance company and will now get a point on my license and jacked-up rates for the foreseeable future.

Lucky for me my insurance covers a portion of the rental car – not all of it, of course, but some of it.

Gods bless America.

So for the next week or so, I’ll be driving a Prius, which is what the rental car company gave me. Side of smug is on the house.

And five days of work turned into three.

How was your week?

Filed under: cranky, life in LA, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, overspending, , , , , , , , ,

A narrow escape from the temple of impulse buying

The last time I worked, I started having problems with my walkie headset – I could hear, but not respond, which might not seem like a problem, but can annoy the hell out of the gaffer if you can’t answer a simple fucking question without climbing down out of the rigging.

I’d put off buying a new one as I haven’t been working, but since things are supposedly picking up (or so I hear) I drove to Burbank and walked into the most dangerous place on the planet.

Filmtools.

A vast air-conditioned emporium full to the brim of all kinds of cool stuff that I don’t need but desperately want more than I’ve ever wanted anything before.

A tool pouch with a little light built-in so you can peruse the contents in the dark!

Special gloves just for wrapping wet cable!

Neat-o stretchy cables that attach your wrench to your belt so if you drop said wrench while you’re in the perms, it won’t fall to the floor and hurt someone!

25 different types of clips to hold your gloves!

Tape in all the colors of the rainbow!

Oh, the colors…

Plus, helpful staff!

Me (glassy-eyed): “What’s that?”

Sales clerk: “That’s a dampening widget that sound guys only use on the 5th Monday of a month ending in -ed”

Me (drooling): “It’s so shiiiiiiny….”

Must. Control. Self.

After stepping outside and taking several deep cleansing breaths of the smoggy air, I managed to escape with just my new headset and a pair of the wet cable gloves (soggy gloves suck so it’s a totally justified purchase), but oh, for the shiny stuff I had to leave behind.

Damn you, Filmtools. Damn you to hell.

Filed under: Non-Work, overspending

Saturday Photo

Sort of impulse buy

Although work’s been slow, I’ve done okay with the money this time (so far), so when I went looking for new bikes – not intending to buy one, just to look – the sales guy pulled some serious ninja moves on me.

I didn’t even see him pounce, and the next thing I knew, my charge card was out and they were loading it into the car for me.

It probably helped that he was very, very cute and enthusiastic about bikes.

So far I’ve only ridden it about four miles, but it’s awesome and I had this big stupid grin on my face while I pedaled through the streets.

I hadn’t realized how hard I’d been having to work on the old bike (cheapie decade-old hybrid ‘mountain’ bike fitted with road slicks) until I got on this one, looked down at the computer and realized I was cruising along with no effort at a speed which used to really make me sweat.

Sweet.

Hopefully, work will pick up so I won’t keep freaking out about money and can just enjoy my fan-fucking-tastic new bike.

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

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

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