Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Time and space

As the show goes on and more stuff gets put into the sets, the stage itself starts to get harder and harder to navigate.

On shows running longer than three months, the boxes, cases, oddly shaped bits of wood, unused couches, etc..  would be tucked away somewhere not the stage (sometimes an office but many times a shipping container).

Since a lot of the stuff we have will only be on camera for one episode and no one has any real estate large enough for storage, everything just gets stacked where ever there happens to be space.

In hallways, behind backdrops, against set walls, in the bathrooms, around our carts, under the audience bleachers.

Which I understand, as there’s just not any room on the stage to store anything, but it’s getting difficult to navigate lifts through the monumental piles of crap.

Add in the copious amount of fake trees in the fake yard and it’s damn near impossible to reach some of the lights.

Of course, the lights that are the biggest pains in the ass to reach are the ones that need the most attention.

So we bushwhack our way back to a point at which we can almost reach the light and then have someone act as a counterweight while we lean out over the debris to change a globe or refocus.

We’ll do a set changeover in a couple of weeks, so at least it’ll be different junk, hopefully in different places.

 

Filed under: studio lots, Uncategorized, Work, , , , ,

Half a weekend

Last week, we had a 6 day week, as we had to re-shoot the pilot episode of this show. Don’t ask why, I don’t know.

Although we were expecting the worst, day 6 turned out to be not so bad (only 10.5 hours), as the director came in very prepared and burned through the stuff.

I was home before midnight, which I hadn’t expected.

The advantage of four cameras is that it’s possible to shoot 26 pages in a day; something that’s completely out of reach for single camera shows (a misnomer, since most single camera shows use two cameras).

This show is 99.9 percent wonderful.

I really like the rest of the crew, the hours are easy, it’s close to the house and I’m really happy to be here.

The main problem I’m having is craft service.

Not the person – she’s a very nice lady who is exceptionally good at her job, but she doesn’t put out the healthiest stuff. She’s trying to make an entire crew of overgrown children happy, so she puts out comfort food.

Pasta, meatballs, chicken fingers, sliders, bacon wrapped bacon, weenie tots, onion rings, pastrami, etc..

Which is fine, as most people like that stuff and won’t complain.

Hell, I like that sort of stuff, but if I spend the next 6 weeks eating deep-fried whatsits three times a day my arteries (and my waistline) are going to explode.

Simply not eating for 12 hours isn’t an option, so I need to figure out a way to bring my own snacks without offending her.

It would be easy if we had a dorm fridge in our gold room, but we don’t.

If I bring food I have to put it in her fridge, so it’s not like I can sneak it past her.

Vegan? Gluten free? Nut allergy? Sanctimonious uber-organic locavore? These are all plausible, but I think I’m just going to tell her that I’m a super picky eater with an extremely sensitive stomach and this way is going to be easier for both of us.

Hopefully, she’ll understand and not poison my bagged lunch.

 

Filed under: Work, , , , , ,

Hooray!

The powers that be finally (after almost two weeks) approved my application and activated my membership, so today was my first day getting use the Sony gym.

I lifted some weights, since we weren’t going to have a particularly strenuous day (then, of course, I had to go up into the perms to drop out cable), and I have to say I really enjoy the gym.

They’re missing a few bits of equipment that the other gym has that I like, but it’s super clean, and they were playing 80s hip-hop on the sound system, which was extra awesome.

The gym I go to – the normal gym – is fairly small and I know everyone, so it’s a friendly place.

I wave and smile at people, ask how they’re doing, chit-chat about workouts, progress, the weather, etc..

People at this gym are less smiley and chatty. Maybe it’s because I went during the lunch rush (we had a 2 pm call time so I got there at 12:30) and maybe folks were just trying to get in that workout on lunch, but they didn’t strike me as a particularly friendly bunch.

One lady, after I’d said hello, started and responded with “Oh, were you talking to me?”

Oops. Guess I’d better cool it with the friendly.

I finished my workout and then stretched on the super awesome weird cage thing that I really wish my gym would buy.

Sadly, it looks like most of the really good classes are at times when I’m going to be working, but I do love being able to work out and then walk five minutes to the stage.

I might regret the expenditure when it’s dead and I’m broke, but right now it’s so worth it.

 

Filed under: studio lots, Work, , , , , , ,

It doesn’t count if it’s not on

The way our schedule on this show works is that we shoot Thursday and Friday, and Monday – Wednesday we light.

For folks from single camera world, this is bizarre beyond belief.

Block it, light it, shoot it, move on.

But multi cameras don’t work that way.

We hang some of the big lights, they block. We hang some more lights, they rehearse and change the blocking. We hang more lights after moving all the previous ones, and then finally we shoot.

Which is fine – the rig days are shorter as our call time is after they finish rehearsing, but as soon as the actors and important people leave, they turn off the air conditioning on the stage.

In case you hadn’t been informed, it’s currently hotter than the proverbial four-balled tomcat here in Los Angeles.

So when we rig after the rehearsals, we go up into the lighting rig using either lifts or ladders.

Since heat rises, this makes the temperature in our working environment approximately 500 degrees.

Last night when I came home from work I was able to wring out my bra.

Ick.

Say what you will about desert heat, it’s considerably less sweaty than tropical humidity.

We’re all glad that tomorrow is a shoot day, so we’ll have chilled air for the entire day.

Hooray!

 

 

Filed under: studio lots, Work, , , , , ,

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, , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

When statuary goes terribly wrong:
P1050578

Filed under: locations, long long drives, Photos, Work, , , , , , , ,

Tuesday photos, or that one time I went to jail.

There aren’t a whole lot of options available, if one needs to shoot in a jail. For obvious reasons, shooting in a working prison can be.. problematic, so we’re restricted to closed jails, which, in Los Angeles, means either Sybil Brand or Lincoln Heights, depending on if one wants ‘old timey‘ jail or modern jail.

For the past few days, we’ve needed modern jail, so we’ve been at Sybil Brand.

It’s been shot so much that it’s getting hard to tell what’s the original prison and what’s sets, but please enjoy some photos:
Height of technology, 1963

Hang up

 

Cellblock

Do NOT touch!

What freaks me out so much about Sybil Brand is the complete lack of anything plastic. Due to what I can only assume was budget, the prison wasn’t updated at all before it closed, so it’s a treasure trove of silly looking stuff that was the cutting edge in 1963:

Height of technology, 1963

And now it’s all in limbo, pending a review of how best to spend the taxpayers’ money – renovate or rebuild?

Until then, it’ll stay a shooting location and dog training center:

Whoops.

Dog training course

Filed under: camera, locations, Photos, Work, , , , , ,

On second thought, maybe don’t let it snow.

I’ve worked in all sorts of environments – asbestos-filled, slimy, stinky, smoky, rat-infested, prostitute-infested (oddly enough, not the same place), etc..

But this past week is the worst I’ve ever felt from something on set. My cough has escalated into full-blown bronchitis, and one of the actors got so sick he had to take a day off.

Needless to say, once someone important got sick production put a stop to the paper snow (which, it turns out, wasn’t movie snow, but acoustic insulation – the type that is mixed with plaster and sprayed onto ceilings).

This was a step in the right direction, but what they switched to was shredded styrofoam – and still continued to throw in front of fans because the shakers are ‘for big shows’.

This led to marginally less coughing, but a lot more itching.

I only itched a bit (as in I waited until I got home to claw my clothes off and scrub my skin raw), but two of my co-workers were driven to the brink of madness by the itching.

Instead of the inadequate mask from production, I stopped off at the hardware store and bought a better one, so yesterdays 15.5 hour cluster fuck (oh, that’s a post all on its own) left me with only a mild cough.

Today, we started the wrap, so we were only there for 8 hours – but I still wore my mask as the FX guys were sweeping up the flakes and it was really dusty.

After work, I went to swim, but was almost 15 seconds slower per 100 meters due to the difficulty breathing and the coughing.

Although it’s not being blown around any longer, the snow will continue to be a problem since it’s on (and in) everything. We’re going to have to use the compressed air to blow the stuff out of the lights we’re taking down from the pipe grid.

Outside, of course, and wearing masks.

 

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

Let it snow, let it snow

Back in the days when the film industry was young and innocent, someone clever noticed that real snow, when brought onto a set with really hot lights, immediately melted.

The solution was to pile up a shitload of soap flakes or white-painted cornflakes (no, really), but those had… issues. Bugs and rats love cereal flakes and when humans are exposed to soap flakes for long periods of time the line for the toilet starts to get very long – not to mention the mess when it rains.

Then, someone very, very, clever devised a solution. A substance called Phoamaide or Foamite, very similar to the stuff in fire extinguishers, mixed with asbestos or those trusty soap flakes.

This is what we used for years – well, except the asbestos. I think they stopped using that last year*.

Then, someone came up with the brilliant idea to use small flakes of plastic. It won’t melt, it glitters just like real snow and it wafts gently to earth just like those nice big perfect flakes you want to see on Christmas morning unless you have to drive.

Also, it can be quickly vacuumed up (and reused) and won’t attract vermin or give your expensive actor a weapons-grade case of the shits.

The plastic is still used in cases where the snow needs to fall from the sky.

But if the snow is just sitting on the ground productions usually use a combination of paper snow, blankets, and foam (keep it away from animals and foliage). It doesn’t fall nicely, but it won’t kill fish if it washes into the watershed (okay, maybe the foam will make them sick but they’ll get better), so there’s a satisfying lack of guilt.

20140708-202549-73549792.jpg

But the paper stuff is extremely dusty, and creates a haze in the air which even the manufacturers warn not to breathe.

It doesn’t bother me when we’re outside (unless it gets wet and I walk through it. Then it has to be chiseled off the bottom of shoes and good luck getting it out of the car), but as soon as I get on a closed stage with it, its non-stop misery.

My eyes itch, my nose stops up, my head hurts, my throat burns and I start to cough like a tubercular Victorian poet.

And that’s just with the stuff lying on the ground minding its own business.

This particular show is using effects fans to blow the flakes into the air, creating even more dust. They’re also spraying the shit out the “realistic” plastic ivy with foam, but I suspect that’s the least of my worries.

Today is day two of the episode and I already feel like crap – the last day of the show is Monday, so I have four more days of this to endure.

*I’m joking. I think they stopped using the asbestos in the late 1980s.

Filed under: crack of dawn, hazardous, Photos, studio lots, toxic waste, Work, , , , , , , , , , , ,

I Miss You, Winter. I’ll Never Again Take You for Granted.

Day exteriors are usually pretty uneventful for electricians. We might move around a few lights, but generally the ones getting worked are the grips.

But even if we have an easy day work-wise, this time of year the heat makes everything seem more difficult.

The heat can be not so bad or completely terrible, depending on where one is shooting. Yesterday, we were shooting in the cement-lined quad of a community college.

A few trees, but not even a hint of a breeze and the thing about cement is that it radiates the heat back – even the soles of my feet were hot, and my face got burned under the brim of my hat just from the reflected heat.

The only time I have ever passed out from the heat at work was under similar circumstances – hot day, cement quad, relentless sun.

In addition to the heat, it’s suddenly gotten uncomfortably humid here in Southern California. Not Florida humid, but 40% is like a steam bath to those of us accustomed to the desert.

One of the things I notice about humidity is that I never get any relief from the sweat. It doesn’t evaporate, it just clings to me and makes me clammy and smelly. I also tend to not drink enough water when it’s humid.

This production, in an effort to be ‘green’ doesn’t supply water bottles, only those teeny waxed paper cups.

Luckily I remembered to bring my own bottle, but I clearly didn’t drink enough as by wrap I had no strength left.

Even carrying a head feeder across the quad’s pitiful patch of burned grass made me feel like Atlas.

I downed about a liter on the drive home, and thought I’d be okay, but I woke up this morning sore and feeling hungover, even though I’d had no alcohol.

Today was day two in the heat (in a different location with more trees and marginally less cement) and my strategy was to mix electrolyte powder with every other bottle of water, and to make sure to keep the bottle somewhere I could get to easily – I can’t hang it on my belt as a liter of water is surprisingly heavy, but I kept it near (but not on top of) the HMI ballasts, so as we moved the heads around I would see the bottle and take a swig.

I think it worked as right now I don’t feel terrible and I had to pee about every hour.

I’m still going to try to get through another liter with the powder before I go to bed, though.

Tomorrow, we’re on stage all day – a stage with crappy air conditioning, but at least we’ll be out of the sun.

Call time Monday: 6 am

Wrap time Monday: 8 pm

Drive home: 45 minutes

Call time today: 6:30 am

Wrap time today: 7 pm

Call time tomorrow: 8 am

 

Filed under: crack of dawn, hazardous, locations, long long drives, Work, , , , , , , , ,

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