Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Hooray! A computer!

After a return and about 15 angry emails, I now have a semi-working computer, which is great.

This one came with a bad SATA cable, but I yanked a good one out of the old machine and it’s fine.

It’s going to have to be fine.  I can’t deal with another return. I’ll murder someone.

What’s also great is that I’ve got a show. Not day playing on a show, but full-time on a show that’s running for 9 weeks.

It’ll take me through Thanksgiving, and it’s shooting at Sony, which is close to my apartment – not as close as Fox, but still under half an hour in the car and once it cools off I’ll be able to bike to work in about 40 minutes.

Sweet.

Since I’m going to be at the same lot for nine weeks, I decided to splurge and join the on-lot gym as it’s right there and instead of going to my gym and then driving back to work I can just show up early, work out and then go hit crafty (hey, I deserve it. I worked out). Also, being able to take a shower after a bike ride to work is awesome.

There’s been this big thing with the studios of going ‘green’ – not allowing bottled water on sets, replacing lawns with fake grass, etc… but not one of them have set ups for bike commuters (lockers and showers), which seems to me would be pretty fucking green.

Guess they can’t get tax credits for having non-smelly bike commuters.

So after work today I waltzed over to the gym, credit card in hand, ready to sign up and work out.

Turns out, it doesn’t work like that.

One has to leave one’s email at the front desk with one’s name, show, guild or union affiliation, and email.

Then, after checking out your (probably bullshit, you sweaty fucking liar) story, someone will contact you and inform you of their decision.

In my case, the powers-that-be have deigned to allow me access.

Hooray.

Before I can go and work out, though, I must fill out a questionnaire, about my medical history, my family’s medical history, my workout history and general fat-assedness, and my primary care physician’s contact information.

Then, in block text, they WILL CONTACT MY PHYSICIAN TO DETERMINE IF I AM ABLE TO BEGIN A WORKOUT PROGRAM.

That one made me blink.

Begin? Begin?

Not to give away my age here, but I began a workout program when leg warmers and butt floss were acceptable gym-wear.

Except for the occasional surgery or distant location, I’ve never stopped working out.

I’ve never stopped riding my bike whenever possible.

I’ve never stopped trying to swim the stress away.

I’ve never stopped working out my problems by lifting weights.

So I have to decide if I want to attach a snarky letter to my application or let them call my doctor and let him be snarky.

I think I should let him be snarky. He so rarely gets the chance.

 

 

Filed under: cranky, humor, life in LA, movies, overspending, rants, studio lots, Work, , , , , , ,

Computerless for what seems like an eternity.

Call me a Luddite, but I love my desktop.

There’s something…civilized about sitting at a desk and writing. Nice big monitor, upright posture, movable keyboard (in case one’s posture becomes less upright), desk lamp (no green shade, though), space for the cat, no sore thumbs or cooked lap.

A little over a week ago, my elderly desktop finally died.

It’s been coming for a while. It got slower and slower, had to think about things longer and longer, and eventually became unable to play internet cat videos, which we all know spells doom.

So, I backed up my data (learned that lesson the hard way), and started browsing eBay for another tower.

The new tower got here the day the old computer died.

So I started to hook up the new tower and then noticed something odd about the monitor output. It was white, not blue, and had extra pins.

Great. More fuckery.

A friend lent me DVI-D monitor, and I turned on the new computer expecting blazing fast cat videos and… nothing.

Not even a peep. Not even BIOS. I tried opening the tower and checking the connections, I tried a different monitor, I tried screaming, I tried threats. Nothing.

So the new tower is DOA – which, I suppose isn’t a surprise given they shipped it parcel post wrapped in one layer of bubble wrap and no ‘fragile’ sticker.

I have a smart phone, but I hate trying to write more than one paragraph on it – the whole picking out letters on the tiny digital keyboard makes me want to find the cutest puppy in the entire world and kick the ever-loving crap out of it.

I now have a newer, much more expensive computer (with a warranty from a higher-rated seller) in transit, but it won’t be here until Monday and that’s the day I’m starting a new show – at a lot close enough to the house to bike!

So hopefully I’ll be back online before too much more time passes, and too many more puppies get kicked.

Filed under: computer, cranky, humor, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants, , , , , ,

The Visible Enemy

Work has been busy so I haven’t been paying much attention to the interwebs, but a few days ago something came to my attention via Facebook and it’s literally got my virtual panties in a bunch.

http://applesandbandaidsblog.com/2014/06/11/my-husband-doesnt-need-to-see-your-boobs/

The more I think about this, the more upset I get – not at the sad, frightened woman who posted it, but the people who made her this way.

Parents, teachers, friends, church elders, etc.. but mainly, I’m looking at you, media.

Women are bombarded with not-so subtle messages that we’re not worth the proverbial plugged nickel if we’re not perfect. Turning off the TV won’t help – it’s everywhere. Magazines, books, bus benches, billboards, hell, even the library, and look what it’s done to this poor woman.

Made her think she’s not beautiful just the way she is. Made her think she’s in danger of losing her husband if he looks at a photo of another woman – so he must ‘protect his eyes, protect his heart’ from Instagram.

This is beyond infuriating.

Women’s insecurities have been parlayed into a multi-billion dollar jackpot (Botox! Bleaching! Filler! Tummy tucks! Booty lifts! Plastic fun bags! Glop in a jar! Glop in a tube! Quack weight loss remedies! Enemas – oh, wait… wrong rant) that’s convincing women they’re ‘bound to the tankini with the granny skirt’ because they think they’re not perfect unless they pay dearly for crap in a jar or unnecessary surgery.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have anything against tankinis with skirts. Some of them are adorable.

I’m super sad this is only available in plus size.

And this.

But ‘adorable’ is the reason to wear one, not ‘I have to cover up because I don’t measure up to an image’.

It’s not a sledgehammer, it’s a thousand tiny cuts.

Sister, I don’t know you or your husband, and your marital issues are none of my business, but life is too short to worry about things you can’t control.

I’d like to introduce you to Go Kaleo. Also known as Amber Rogers, she’s a personal trainer who is all about being strong and awesome and not giving a flying you-know-what about the scale or what you think others think of you. Give her site a gander. Trust me.

Let’s talk about regrets for a moment.

You know what I regret? I regret the years I spent being so insecure – that was most of my 20s – when I was young and much hotter than I am now.

I regret turning down an invitation to go cruise on a very, very nice yacht with a very nice, very single guy because I didn’t want him to see how fat I was.

Note: I have never been fat. Ever. Not once in my entire life. But the insecurity caused me to look in the mirror and see only my shortcomings.

I regret allowing myself to be eaten from the inside with the cancerous fear that I wasn’t measuring up to the heavily retouched photos of what a woman should be. That any small imperfection would ruin my life and make me the laughingstock of people whose names and faces I no longer remember.

I regret giving in to the fear that people were judging me all the time. More than once, I ran out of a party to my car, where I would change clothes to appease the madding crowd. Never mind the ignoble strife.

That terrible insecurity did, in fact, for a time, ruin my life, but one day something inside me snapped (which is a story for another post), and suddenly, I no longer cared about other people’s opinions.

For a while my Facebook photo was me, running down the beach in a bikini and a pirate hat, arms aloft in Nixon’s double peace sign, reveling in all my middle-aged glory.

I might not be super hot, but I’m free from bondage.

And that’s worth so, so very much.

I invite you to join me.

 

 

 

 

Filed under: life in LA, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants, , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , ,

What’s a life got to do with it, anyway?

I suppose it’s not a huge secret that film sets aren’t exactly  the safest working environment. We routinely enter condemned buildings, work in extreme heat and/or cold (sometimes on the same day), navigate treacherous  footing, run cable through human waste, inhale asbestos and snack on lead paint chips (oh, wait. That’s just the ‘healthy’ baked potato chips. My bad).

In the past decade or so, there has been a concerted effort to make sets safer for everyone, and it’s been very successful.

But accidents sometimes still happen. Mostly those accidents are just that. Accidental. No fault, no blame just…Oops.

But sometimes, it is someone’s fault. In this particular case, a criminally negligent someone’s fault.

About a week ago, a film crew in Georgia were trying to get a shot for a Gregg Allman biopic – a dream sequence with a bed on railroad tracks.

At first it was just a terse announcement on some of the film-worker centric Facebook circles.

Camera assistant killed while shooting. No details.

Then, an ID. Sarah Elizabeth Jones, age 27.

Then, more details started to  emerge, and I began to suspect that this was going to get really bad.

Sadly, I was right. I hate being right.

The production company had requested a permit to shoot on the train tracks, and had been denied.

Someone decided to order the crew to set up the shot on the tracks anyhow.

Just stop and think about that for a second. Someone – we don’t know exactly who as the production company has suddenly gotten very, very tight-lipped and lawyered up – knew that they were not allowed to be on a live fucking rail line and decided to do it anyways.

A train came. About 15 minutes later, another train came. The crew began setting up, and in about 20 minutes, another train came. There was approximately one minute of warning. The crew tried desperately to clear the track in time, but one young woman was unable to do so and was struck while one of her co-workers tried to save her.

And died.

Died. For a stupid fucking movie. Produced by a fucking waste of carbon about a fucking has-been waste of carbon whose claim to fame is fucking Cher.

I jest, of course. The subject of the movie is completely irrelevant. It wouldn’t matter if it was a movie about a paralysed nun who saved a busload of adorable orphans from Nazis.

It’s not worth a life. Any life – even the life of someone who has chosen to wear a toolbelt and not get any glory or residuals.

The “Slates for Sarah” thing is very sweet, but the person who is responsible for this needs to suffer, and greatly.

Sadly, I don’t see that happening.

What I do see is (hopefully) more people saying ‘no’.

As in: “I’m sorry, Mr Producer. This isn’t safe. Oh, you want to fire me? Fine. I’ll live to work another day, and you can burn in Hell.”

Oh, wait. My bad. Burning in hell is too good for some people.

Filed under: mishaps, movies, rants, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Streets of Beverly Hills

For the past few months, I’ve been taking part in a visual survey documenting road hazards for cyclists in Los Angeles.

That translates into riding my bike around and taking pictures of the shitty roads crisscrossing our fair city.

I don’t understand when and why Los Angeles county decided that having usable roads was near the bottom of the priority list, but cycling here can be an adventure.

There’s a choice if one is going to commute by bike – road tires or fat knobby mountain tires? There are advantages to both. The road tires, which is what I ride on, roll easier so you can go further, faster with less effort, but the fat tires can roll over the city’s plentiful potholes with less of the breaking and crashing.

I like the lower rolling resistance of the road tires – I made my choice, and I’m happy with it, but I do have to worry more about pavement than do the mountain bikers.

Today, as I was riding home from the garden, I spotted this:

P1040305

And this:

P1040307

And this:

P1040309

Oh, and this:

P1040313

And last but not least, this beauty:

P1040318

These are not so much potholes as they are small canyons. All of them on the same 2 mile stretch of road in the glamorous metropolis of Beverly Hills.

I’m not even sure a mountain bike could roll over those top two, and while I can roll over the last one I’m not sure I’d be able to keep all of my fillings in my head.

So what I have to do – since this stretch of road has no sidewalks – is veer out around the potholes into the path of the luxury SUV driven by the guy talking on the cellphone and simmering road rage.

There’s a residential street just north which has better pavement, but since there’s a stop sign every block it’s slow and frustrating.

Happily, though, the roadway is due for a reconstruction project which will mean a complete repaving (not just shitty asphalt patches), and there seems to be support for bike lane striping.

This is especially wonderful news since Beverly Hills has historically been, um, resistant to bike lane striping (and bike racks, and people on bicycles), even though the city’s streets are wide enough to accommodate bike lanes without giving up traffic lanes or parking (both are legitimate concerns for motorists).

But of course, the consultants hired recommended some weird mixed use travel lane which will just put cyclists and other undesirables in a center lane and right in the path of angry drivers.

But until whatever happens happens, I’ll still marvel at the crappiness of the street right in the middle of Beverly Hills.

Filed under: life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, rants, , , , , , , , , ,

A Man Explains Things to Me

As much as I’d like to panic about the lack of work, it’s pretty normal for January (ish), so I’ve been doing some physical therapy on my shoulder while I have the down time (I’m determined to be positive about the work prospects for this year).

Said physical therapy has me doing some strange-looking (and painful) exercises with one of those resistance bands.

I usually opt to do my exercises at the gym, mainly because I’m more likely to do them if I make myself get up and go somewhere that’s not my apartment. Also, while I’m there I can swim (sort of – mostly kick sets for now) and sit in the steam room.

My gym used to have resistance bands available for use, but they were removed a couple of years ago, presumably due to concerns about members using them to strangle the sweaty bastard who refuses to wipe down the equipment after use.

So I bring the bands that the physical therapist gave me, and work through my exercises, usually with no issues other than failure to keep the obscenities to a discreet volume.

Except today, when I got mansplained.

The phenomenon is recounted in this article* by the utterly brilliant Rebecca Solnit  (to whom I humbly offer hommage with the title of this post).

As I was doing the exercise that I like to call the Sieg Heil (exactly what you’d imagine, only with a resistance band), a man swathed in overpriced brand-name tech fabric offered some unsolicited advice after staring at me for a full five minutes.

“You really shouldn’t do that,” he began (whatever happened to ‘hello’) in that tone. “You could hurt yourself. If you like, I can show you how to work out.”

“It’s a physical therapy exercise. I’m pretty sure she told me to do it this way for a reason.”

“You see,” he continued “your shoulder is a very complicated joint and you have to be very  careful, especially with those dangerous bands. You know the gym got rid of them.”

“The physical therapist told me to do this. I think she might have gone to college.”

“Maybe you could start with the easy pushups. You know, the ones on your knees.”

It became clear he wasn’t going to listen to me. As I tried to decide if I wanted to fart loudly, belch, or resume swearing (if you can’t reason with them, scare them off), I was saved by the swim coach, who ran up and jokingly yelled “Five more! Your butterfly sucks!” while holding her hand at a height that I wasn’t going to be able to reach without dropping the band (or maybe even if I did).

At the sight of my exercise being legitimized by  an actual staff member, he slunk off… somewhere. I was laughing too hard to really pay much attention.

*I highly recommend River of Shadows, the book referenced in the article.

Filed under: humor, life in LA, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants, , , , , , ,

Imagination is a bastard

Apologies for the lack of posts. I’ve been alternately anxious and busy  or anxious and idle, neither of which really lends itself to any sort of creative thought process.

Work’s been busy – mostly TV, but a few low-budget features (never thought I’d see any of those again), but since the low-budget producers have been out-of-town where costs, in general, are lower, they’re sweating us more and more to cut costs. Since we can only talk the rental houses down so far, this means that the additional manpower we need to do the job efficiently and safely gets cut.

So, a day which would normally need five guys gets three, and only then after the best boy fights with production about it. When things don’t get done right away because we don’t have enough people, we get yelled at. (“You had eight hours to wrap that set! What the fuck is wrong with you?” “Well, that eight-hour estimate was with 4 guys and you cut us down to two. What do you expect?”)

The threat of taking the production out-of-town hangs over our head like some dangling sharp thing in some disputation which I forget these days.

No matter how busy it gets, we’re all worried about how long it’ll last. It used to be so predictable. Busy until the holidays, then a couple of weeks off, and then picking up in mid-January, going through May, a month or two off, and then picking up again.

No longer. We all know this isn’t going to last, and it’s stressful. I’ve heard  far too many stories about lost insurance, lost houses, and kids having to go live with ex-spouses for stability and consistent meals.

Also, I’m fighting with California’s unemployment department. They’re threatening to revoke my eligibility to get benefits for three years due to a clerical error on my part which amounts to pocket change. Awesome.

So I sit down in front of the computer and try to write something and all I can do is worry. About my bills. About my future. About my co-workers, who are all in the same boat.

And I can’t write anything because I can’t stop worrying.

So I turn off the computer and I sit in front of the TV, watching stupid movies because I just want some sort of distraction so I can spend an hour or so not being so fucking worked up.

On the bright side, I’m very glad that I don’t eat when I get stressed, or I’d weigh 780 lbs right now. I have no idea how much that is in Kilos, other than a fuckload.

Filed under: Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants, Work, , , , , , , ,

The beginning of the end, maybe?

This past weekend was a real eye-opener for me. I knew the industry was slow here in Los Angeles, but when I sat in a continuing education classroom at Contract Services with a bunch of guys who are usually always busy (and I mean always), all anyone could talk about was  how thin work has gotten around here.

Yikes. If the heavy hitters aren’t making ends meet, what hope do the rest of us have? I’m currently getting enough work to keep the wolves at bay, but that, of course, can change at any time.

For those of you not familiar, over the past few years several other states (and countries) have been handing producers suitcases full of cash in order to lure film production away from California. I think the technical term is incentives, but really it’s a bribe.

And it’s worked very successfully.  There is currently almost no production in California, but Louisiana and Georgia (the newcomer to the world of corporate kickbacks) are hopping.

I love my job and I’d like to keep doing it, but I’d rather drink poison than move to Georgia or Louisiana (nothing personal, you understand), so the question is how long I can hang on. An added complication is my being  well past the age of being able to snag a rich husband.

Note to parents of girls: Look at my life. This is what happens when you teach your daughters self-reliance. They end up alone, without  Botox, veneers, or overpriced sports cars and worrying about how to pay the bills.

I just have myself and the cat, so as long as I can get enough hours to keep my health insurance, I’ll tighten my belt and soldier on.

But what about the people with families?

One state ends their sop and another starts up. Since most of these subsidies actually cost the states money (currently for every dollar of film revenue that Louisiana brings in, it spends $7.30*), it’s baffling that they keep doing it, but I’m certainly not one to underestimate the capability of humans to not in any way, shape or form learn from our mistakes.

Most of us who have spent our entire working lives in the film industry have skills that don’t easily translate to the real world, and even if we do decide to branch out, we have resumes that are confusing and frightening to anyone not familiar with the transient nature of film production (“No, it’s the same job, for the same people.. just with a different name on the letter head”).

So Wednesday, I have a career counseling appointment at The Actors’ Fund to see if I have any chance of any sort of work at all once production in California dries up for good.

Or, even better,  if I can manage to start some sort of business that legally appropriates taxpayer money just like the studios are doing.

I suspect not, but we’ll see.

*http://www.labudget.org/lbp/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/LBP-Report.Louisiana-Film-Tax-Credits.pdf

Filed under: cranky, life in LA, rants, , , , ,

Gaaah!

All this internet synchronicity stuff is supposed to make everyone’s lives easier.  Applications talk to each other, share bookmarks, recipes, plans for world domination, etc..

Everything’s automatic, so humanity can waste away our lives playing video games. Or something.

Until it stops working.

Now, all of a sudden, Twitter and Facebook aren’t speaking to one another and despite my telling them to work it out and get over it, there’s still an internet stony silence.

After upgrading my cell plan,  I now have a smart phone (which is turning out not to be all that smart). I’m told that I can do all sorts of things with it, except when it posts something to a blog (this one or the couch blog), Twitter, Facebook and the RSS reader don’t see it.  Also the formatting’s seriously fucked up.

Which sucks, because one of the reasons I got the smart phone was to make updating the blog easier. And to play time-wasting games.

Of course, there’s no way on any of the mobile apps to change this sort of setting, and no matter how hard I press the buttons on the ‘real’ computer, nothing changes.

The ‘smart’ phone also has a battery life of approximately 15 seconds, so instead of uploading clever shit to the internet, I now spend most of my day frantically searching for someplace – anyplace – to charge the damn phone before it dies and I can’t call ‘911’ when some axe murderer appears out of nowhere and attempts to say hello.

Stupid phone. Stupid internet. Stupid technology.

I’d also like to take this time to mention that any ads you see on the blog are placed there by WordPress. I have nothing to do with them, I get nothing from them and I can’t turn them off no matter how hard I try.

Filed under: cranky, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants

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