Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

I haven’t spent an entire day lifting cable in some time.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing.

It’s good because, well, I haven’t had to lift cable in quite some time, and bad because the only thing that gets one fit for lifting cable is lifting cable. Last I checked, they don’t have a 4/0 machine at the gym.

I got a call from the union hall (haven’t had one of those for a while) to wrap a location yesterday at one of our local sports arenas. Arenas are great because they have nice wide ramps and large freight elevators, but bad because most rigging gaffers feel the need to run cable all the way around said arena.

As most arenas are not small,  that’s a lot of cable.

I don’t have any problems pulling (rolling the stretched out cable into a coil – it’s called pulling because one straddles the cable and pulls it into a coil while it’s flat on the ground) cable. I can use the overdeveloped swimmer’s muscles on my back all damn day – plus it increases my sprint speed in the pool, so everybody wins.

What hurts me is lifting the cable – and moving cable from one place to the other is just about the same as it’s always been.

One picks up the 100+ lb coil of cable. One deposits said coil onto some sort of wheeled contraption. Then, one wheels the cable to the truck and lifts it again.

Coil, lift, drop. Coil, lift, drop. Coil, lift, drop. Lunch (light, unless you want to puke while you’re lifting), then repeat.

We were very, very lucky that the temperature stayed relatively low at 78 degrees, so the heat wasn’t the factor that it will be later in the year.

After we finished loading the truck, the best boy asked me if I wanted to unload the truck at the lot today.

I was sore, but work is work – and these are really nice guys that I’d love to call me back again, so of course I said yes.

The sequence for unloading the truck is just about the same for loading it, but without the coiling part.

Lift, drop, count, lift. Lift, drop, count, lift. Lift, drop, count, lift. Lunch (light, unless you want to puke while you’re lifting),  repeat.

Someday I’m going to produce a ‘Get Fit With Cable’ exercise video and make a mint.

Or not. The shipping costs would kill any profit margin.

Since I haven’t been doing many cable lifts lately, I started to hurt a little bit before lunch on Thursday, and really, really started to hurt before lunch today.

Right after lunch, we found out we had to rig two sets, which was a bit of a relief as it would allow me to use different muscles for a couple of hours.

By the time we were dismissed, I was filthy, smelly and sore. I briefly considered going to the Korean spa and soaking myself in the hot tub, but settled for  take-out (I am so not cooking tonight) and got the side-eye from just about everyone in the place.

Fuck them. I’m eating dinner after enjoying a very hot shower and a smearing of the biceps with ointment.

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, long long drives, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , ,

Thankfully, a busy week

This week didn’t start out busy. This week started out with just Monday on a three camera kids show. Let’s call it Sassy Tweens.

Then, as I started the Tuesday morning worry, I got calls for Wednesday and Thursday within five minutes of each other. Sweet.

Wednesday was a condor call, on Been Done Before.  Since it’s been a while since I’ve been up in a condor, I had to  pause for a few minutes at about 50 feet to get my ‘air legs’.  Condor calls are usually 8 hours – so both of us came in before lunch, and helped work the set (a teeny tiny bar. Really teeny) and move back to the lot.

We wrapped about 11 pm, and I hurried home to get to bed as soon as possible because I had an 8 am call on a new TV show that has an unbelievable amount of security – a co-worker told me that one of the background actors tweeted the name of the show and security nailed him 10 minutes later.  A PA actually approached me and checked my name against the call sheet. Wow. Let’s call it Super Secret.

Please no guesses at the name in the comments. Don’t get me blacklisted from a show with a crew I adore.

We had a nice day on an air-conditioned stage (hooray!) and aside from being a little sleepy (I like to try to get at least 6 hours, and I  fell just a bit short), it was a great day with guys I  really like.

Today, I’m back on Sassy Tweens. That gives me four days this week.

Hooray for work!

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, studio lots, up all night, Work, , , , ,

After the rain

Line drying

Since it’s almost never a good idea for lighting equipment to get wet, when there’s the threat of rain (or heavy dew overnight) we have to cover, with plastic, any carts and loose equipment not under some sort of cover.  For a long time, we just cut chunks off big rolls of landscaping plastic and wrapped that around the carts (and no matter how thorough a job one thought one had done, water always leaked in somewhere), but then someone invented these giant sandwich bag things called Bag-its. They come in all sizes and are super awesome, but are far too expensive to be considered a throwaway item, so they get re-used until they’re so battered that they fall apart (this takes a surprisingly long time to happen).

For obvious reasons, we can’t fold them up and put them away when they’re wet, so we have to dry them. The best way to do this is to suspend them from two stands like giant lines of plastic laundry.

We had to keep the sidewalk clear so that the nice people who live in this neighborhood could pass through, so we couldn’t just line them up like we usually do, and we only had enough space to dry three at a time.

Lucky for us there’s no rain predicted for the rest of our very short (due to the Thanksgiving holiday) week.

Filed under: camera, crack of dawn, locations, Photos, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

It’s seven PM and I’m going to bed

Although long days are normal for me, there’s a huge difference between a 12 hour shooting day and a 12 hour rigging day.

On the shooting crew, there are times where one isn’t doing anything and can sit and rest (or go to crafty, or read the paper, etc…). On a rigging crew, there’s no rest except when one is on one of three designated breaks throughout the day ( coffee, lunch, and afternoon) or when one can sneak off to the restroom.

Since we’re working 6 am to 6 pm on a lot that’s all the way across town (no, really) from my place,  and I’ve got a commute on either side (about 40 minutes in the morning and an hour at night), I get up (at about 4:45), go to work, come home, shower and go to bed.

No time for much else, although last night I did sacrifice some precious sleep time to go stand in line at my polling place and vote.

I’m off to bed.

Filed under: crack of dawn, long long drives, movies, studio lots, , , ,

Crack of dark

Over the years, I’ve gotten used to getting up early. Five am is pretty common, four am sucks but is doable, but yesterday I got up at 2:45. In the morning.

In a flash of foresight unusual for me, I have the alarm placed all the way across the room so I have to get up to hit the snooze button. In theory, this means if I get up, walk across the room to turn off the alarm I’ll stay up.  Most times this just means I get up, hit the snooze button and climb back into bed, but the shock of seeing the alarm go off at such a disturbing hour kept me up.

I then shuffled into the kitchen, made coffee and had some breakfast since I correctly assumed there wouldn’t be any food options at 4 am at our location – a high school in the Valley at which I’ve worked many, many times.

The good part about starting work at 4 am is that it’s not hot yet, which is a big plus in September in Los Angeles.  We ran out our cable in the pre-dawn coolness, and although I forgot my headlamp (took it out of the work bag to change the battery, and when I got home I found it sitting right there on the coffee table where I’d placed it so I wouldn’t forget to put it in the work bag), I still managed to see well enough to not trip and fall.

We changed some tubes in the classroom and the hallway, and when the caterer opened we had breakfast.

I couldn’t figure out why I was so hungry, then realized I’d last eaten at 3 am and it was now 7:30.

After wolfing down various egg products, we rigged some lights, ran some more cable, wrapped the first location and then ran more cable in a thankfully not very smelly gym.

Also, we were very lucky that the school had no students that day. It’s not that I don’t like teenagers, it’s just that it’s incredibly difficult to work around them since they tend to form packs.

The other nice thing about really early calls is getting released early. Since this particular show doesn’t want to keep the rigging crew on for more than 10 hours, we were on our way home at 3 pm – before the traffic got bad.

Once I got home, it was a struggle to stay awake until 8, when I gave up and went to bed.

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

Wait, there’s a 4 am now?

It’s been a thin year and not looking to get much better, so of course I’m eternally grateful for every day of work I get.

Even tomorrow, with a call time of 4 am in west bumfuck (take freeway until it ends, drive another 10 miles), which, since it’s a long commute, will require me to leave my house at 3 am, which means I have to get up at an hour I don’t want to think about.

Which means I should be in bed right now, except that it’s not dark yet and for some reason I have a real problem falling asleep when it’s still light out.

Also of course, I have zero idea of how long a day tomorrow will be, so I have to assume that I’ll need as much sleep as possible – which, if I’m lucky, will be about 6 hours.

Lucky for me I’m working with a group of guys that I really like so even though I have to be there at the crack of dark, I’ll still have a great time.

I’m off to bed.

Filed under: crack of dawn, long long drives, movies, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Yay work! Pass the ice water.

I’m always happy to get a day of work, but lately I’m downright joyful, even if I’m working somewhere that’s going to make me very, very uncomfortable, such as Pasadena.

In case you’re not familiar, Pasadena is east of Los Angeles, and, in the summer, is hotter than the surface of the sun.  No, I’m not exaggerating.

Our call time was 6 am, which meant there was no traffic, so I got there in about 20 minutes, and then had another 20 minute van ride up to the top of a hill in a park I didn’t know existed.

Of course, the director changed the location of the first shot to a part of the park that hadn’t been scouted at all – so right when they were ready to start rehearsing, the sprinklers came on.

Then, the sun came up.

The heat was tolerable as long as one stayed in the shade, but any venture into the sun resulted in a very uncomfortable frying sensation.

After the first half of the day in the park, we moved to a home in Pasadena. A very lovely hillside home with a very lovely view of the city.

A hillside home, though, means that we have to push our carts up a hilly driveway and fight with all the other departments for level ground on which to stage equipment. In this case, it was a parking deck which, on the scout, it was determined we’d never, ever see so it was, in theory, safe.

Of course, as soon as he walked on set, the director decided that the parking deck was the best looking part of the stunning mid-century modern home and that he absolutely had to have the shot include it.

So, we pushed our carts back down the hill.

The good news is that the home was on an east-facing hill, so the yard was out of the worst of the sun. The bad news was we were shooting day for day so the east facing home would lose any usable light far earlier than we were going to finish shooting.

So, when we were finished shooting in the direction of the parking deck, we pushed our carts back up the hill.

Which was a good thing, since as we lost the light we started pulling out the HMIs to create light that was dissapearing behind the hill.

Once the light started to go, the director kicked it into high gear and we finished just as it was getting really, truly dark.

Then, we had to wrap out of the house – which was fine as the heat, finally, was gone.

Cruelest moment of the day: The pool. One can never, ever, EVER jump into a pool at a location. Firstly, because the homeowner doesn’t want a sweaty film crew clogging up the filters, and secondly, because one doesn’t want to work in wet clothes, but when one is really overheated the sight of an empty swimming pool is pure torture.

Oh, sweet cold water.. how I want you.

Call time: 6 am:

Wrap time 7:30 pm.

We closed our truck doors at 8 pm.

Yay work!

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, Work, ,

More good news and bad news

Good News: I’ve got two days work – tomorrow and Thursday. This is extremely good news, as every little bit helps.

Bad News: It’s on the complete opposite end of Los Angeles county from my apartment. No, I’m not exaggerating. Hello, two-hour commute. If I’m lucky.

Good News: The crew I’m working with tomorrow are the nicest, most wonderful folks ever, so I’m guaranteed to have a fun day.

Bad News: When the best boy booked me, he warned me “wear your walking shoes” which means there’s going to be an awful lot of moving stuff from one end of the lot to the other, so I’ll probably be in horrible pain by, oh, say, lunch.

Good News: Episodes of the old A-Team TV show are on Netflix.

Bad News: Episodes of the old A-Team TV show are on Netflix.

Good News: After about a month of trying to live off my bi-weekly CSA box, I’ve lost about 15 lbs.

Bad News: It all seems to have come off my boobs. This is unfair.

Good News: My now quite elderly cat is still alive and very healthy.

Bad News: The shedding is out of control. I woke up this morning with cat hair in my sinus and both eyeballs. Gonna be a hot summer.

Good News: My newish digital camera is safe from harm.

Bad News: Because I don’t know where it is, so I can’t take it to work or on bike rides. Damn.

I’m sure it’ll turn up.

Filed under: crack of dawn, life in LA, locations, long long drives, Work, ,

You’re driving us where?

One of the tricks productions use to avoid paying mileage is the bus-to.

One reports to the lot, and then gets in a van and is driven for an eon or so to some place that isn’t featured on modern maps.

Generally, this means showing up at work at the crack of dawn in order to beat the traffic.

Tomorrow, my call time is 4:30 am. In case you’re keeping count, that’s before the sun comes up.

We’ll then load a stakebed with either too much equipment or not nearly enough and get driven out to the location were the ADs have promised they’ll have breakfast for us.

From McDonalds.

Which I won’t eat*, so I have to get up early enough to make breakfast before I leave, which means I’m  going to set the alarm for an hour I don’t even want to think about.

Which means I have to go to bed right about now if I want to have even the slightest hope of being even semi-coherent in the morning.

*I’m certainly not implying that you shouldn’t eat McDonalds if you like it, but I think it tastes like boiled cats prepared with water from a Superfund site.  Plus, it makes me shit out stuff I ate three weeks ago, which isn’t fun for anyone.

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, Work, , , , , ,

Time flies when you’re busy

January has been crazy (the good kind, not the drama kind). I’m getting multiple work calls almost every day, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is unheard of this time of year.

Tuesday, I missed a work call for Wednesday as I was swimming when the call came. Since I have yet to figure out how to bring my phone into the lap pool with me, by the time I dried off and got back to the locker the job had been given to someone else who called back sooner.

“Oh, well” I thought “I’ll just clean the house and hopefully I’ll get a day near the end of the week”.

Wednesday  morning at 6:45, the phone rang and the best boy from Doctors in Love* asked if I could come in right then as someone had called in sick.

Normally, I don’t like to jump out of bed, throw on whatever clothing smells the least and haul ass out the door. I like to get up, have some coffee, putter around and generally make a leisurely exit, but since Doctors in Love shoots across town (literally all the way across the city) and it’s an hour drive with no traffic,  I hurried as waiting too much past 7-ish would result in a multi hour stop-and-go nightmare.

It turned out to be an easy day (one set, two actors) with a bunch of really awesome guys. The only bad part about working with this particular group of guys is that they use a bunch of custom rigged lights, and as such have odd names for them.

Normally, there’s a bit of variation in what stuff is called (some people call a 4 foot, four tube Kino Flo a ‘fat boy’, some call it a ‘tall boy’), but it’s all basically the same.

Custom lights, however, are, well, custom, so there’s no frame of reference.

When the gaffer gets on the walkie and asks for a “Long John Silver on a teeter totter**” I have no frame of reference and stand there, halfway between the staging area and the set, blinking rapidly and wondering if I want to ask for clarification on the walkie, thus making everyone think I’m a bit slow, or wait to ask a co-worker, making the gaffer think I’m lazy.

Awesome.

It all worked out well, though (crazy light names aside), and I got picked up for the next day as well, so I got to go back today.

Today as also an easy day with fun people, even if the work was a bit more complex (multiple actors, a stage move, etc..), but I was inside a heated stage all day – a good thing since it’s currently really cold here in Los Angeles. Objectively cold, not California cold.

During lunch today, I got a text from the best boy on Reluctant Porn Star* asking if I could work Friday and Saturday. Both days on the beach, both days splits (afternoon call so the day’s half day, half night).

I predict both nights to be cold and damp (and working on the beach sucks balls), but hey, it’s work, right?

*Not a real show name

** An LED strip in an aluminum housing with the ballasts rigged to hang off of it. It looks like a penis on a surfboard.

Filed under: crack of dawn, long long drives, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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