Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Friday Photo

Update: Posted this on Thursday. I lost a day in there somewhere. I really have no idea how that happened.

When warning labels rage out of control:

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I get padding the pointy parts of the helicopter when the film crew is around. We’re clumsy and prone to not looking where we’re going.

I can’t help but imagine that the pilot knows damn well to remove those things before flight. Also, you know how people run to the helicopter and duck to avoid the spinning rotor blades?

They’re nuts. Those things are scary and not very far off the ground. I’m not going anywhere near the damn helicopter until they’ve stopped spinning.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, Photos, Work, , , , , , , ,

I didn’t like those clothes anyways.

There are two downtowns in Los Angeles.

The first is the newly gentrified downtown of nice restaurants, microbreweries, amenity-laden lofts and a Starbucks on every corner.

That’s a nice downtown. Nice to visit, nice to work, relatively clean and safe.

Then, there’s the other downtown. The older downtown. The downtown from…before.

The downtown of smelly bars open at 6 am, aggressive entrepreneurs (one of our drivers was solicited and I was informed that I needed to buy some drugs), houseless citizens, and what basically amounts to open sewers.

Why, oh why, when people have an entire city in which to defecate do they always choose to do so on our cable? I’ve never been able to figure it out.

Honestly it wasn’t as bad as it could have been -  we came in to wrap about an hour after the shooting crew had left, but that was still enough time for the locals to… decorate our cable.

In this situation, there’s always a decision to make.

Do we wrap the (relatively) clean cable first, saving the gross stuff for last, or do we dive in and deal with the stuff that might make us sick when it’s before breakfast and we still have empty stomachs?

In this case, we decided to wrap the ‘clean’ stuff first, in the hope that the sun would dry up the worst of the filth, which sometimes happens. Mostly in the summer.

Then, it’s just a matter of avoiding the piles of dried up I don’t want to know*.

At one point, I noticed a discarded syringe a few inches from my foot.

Lucky for me, the needle was gone. One of my co-workers saw a syringe with needle intact, though. Yikes.

Lucky for all of us we finished wrapping and had everything staged by the truck, ready to be loaded, by the time the nice lady who was screaming about invading lizard people started doing what looked like the Watusi while she crapped in the middle of the street.

Ah, downtown. It used to be like this everywhere.

I’ve been on the show where the cable was covered with so much runny shit that the best boy called the rental house and told them if they wanted the cable back, they could don hazmat suits and come and get it.

We loaded the truck, threw away our gloves, and headed out.  I decided to make a stop at an en route Korean Spa to relax and scrub off the worst of the funk.

They almost didn’t let me in, which I sort of understand, given how I must have smelled.

Lucky for me, I had some clean clothes in my gym bag and was able to soak, sweat and shower so I could head home not smelling like skid row.

I’ve got tomorrow off and then Friday I’m working on a nice studio lot where the filth won’t kill me right away.

Hooray!

*I know what it is. I just don’t want to think about it. I’ve never stopped being grossed out by piles of human  excrement on the pavement.

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

Oops.

Have you ever had an entire week disappear? Just vanish – a few fuzzy recollections, but for all intents and purposes, it was only a day.

That’s what happened to this past week. I know it was there, I got some work (hooray!), ate lots of holiday bad-for-me food, drank some wine, but mainly it’s just… gone.  I blame the stuffing.

Yesterday, I got a day with wonderful guys that I always enjoy being around.

We shot in a gym swimming pool, where our hero fearlessly dives into the shallow end to save the drowning scantily clad girl.

No, it really is fearless. Diving into the shallow end is super dangerous.

One of the things that it’s very important to remember about shooting around any sort of water is that said water does not go well with electricity. Sort of like purple and lime green.

So when we shoot around water we use these things called ground fault circuit interrupters when we work around water.

They’re a fairly recent invention, but they’re lifesavers. So much so that we never, ever, ever shoot around water without them. Hell, we use them when there’s a light drizzle three miles away.

So all of us were very surprised when the rental house forgot to send them out.

Oops.

Luckily, we were able to plug into the gym’s outlets, which were all GFCI (like the ones you have in your kitchen – with the little buttons in between the outlets), and this DP doesn’t like to use large lighting units.

By the time we got all our shots, including the giant crane shot that saw the entire world, it was a 14 hour day,

If I’m only going to get one day, it might as well be a long one.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, Work, , , ,

Friday Photo

Windshield, post-explosion

Explosions for movies are all about the sound and fury. Huge colorful flames, ear-splitting noise, and little, if any, debris.

The reasons for this should be obvious. Expensive people standing around, expensive cameras, expensive cars, expensive equipment, and last night a very expensive (I’m not sure but I feel safe assuming here) helicopter.

So one does not, in any way, shape, or form, want debris flying off of one’s perfectly safe explosion.

But sometimes it just can’t be helped.

Cars, for example. One can weaken the frame, strip the vehicle as much as possible and try to minimize the debris, but there’s always going to be crap flying everywhere, and last night was no exception.

We had the ‘hero’ explosion (which shook the bridge!) and then when we went in for coverage, we had to step around a truly impressive debris field.

Unfortunately, this was for the television show that fears and hates free publicity, so no shots of the actual explosion – just the aftermath.

I don’t know about you, but I find safety glass hilarious, especially after it’s been blown 30 feet in the air and slammed into the road surface of a bridge.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, long long drives, Photos, up all night, Work, , , , , , ,

What a difference a week makes

I’ll admit I’ve gotten a bit soft, sitting in my nice dimmer room, chair at the ready, no rain, no cold, wearing slippers on show day (when I can’t leave the board) is a possibility…

Then, the show ended, and after making a few calls, I got five days on a one hour drama which has already aired but has such tight security I’ll call it Sooper Secret.

Five days in a row is great, but after day one (call time: 5 am. Wrap time 8pm. Commute: One hour each way) I wondered how my feet were going to hold up.

The fun part was shooting on a closed bridge in the city of Long Beach.

Working on roads that are closed to traffic is fun – the surface is smooth so carts and stands don’t get stuck anywhere, and there’s enough room so that everyone can get around easily.

Working on roads that aren’t closed is scary as hell – one never knows when a driver will accidentally (or, sometimes purposely) take aim at one of the carts or crew members (I can tell you from personal experience that imported German sedan vs. cart full of HMI ballasts isn’t pretty – and there’s no clear winner), despite the presence of police officers and lots of cameras.

The bad part was the truck being approximately 500 miles away from the set – and no direct route back. So if we needed something that didn’t come up in the stakebed, it took a very long time to get it.

Lucky for us the gaffer’s not a screamer.

Tonight was mainly driving stunts, and tomorrow we blow up a car!

Filed under: hazardous, locations, long long drives, up all night, Work

Saturday Photos

Film crews will sit down just about anywhere.

Dusty? Sure. Hard? Great. Pointy? Awesome. Pile of cow crap? Nice and soft.* Just get me off my feet for five minutes.

Yesterday, we worked at a bus repair yard for a school district. No one sat down all day. It might have been the grease, or the barrels labelled ‘hazardous waste’, or a combination of both, but standing just seemed… prudent.

Wait.. Which kind of waste?

So when we moved inside a bus for a long scene, our boss asked the guy who was stuck inside the bus manning a light if he wanted someone to relieve him so he could go to crafty or the bathroom or whatever.

“Nope. Got a nice seat and a breeze. I’m good.”

Here’s what was creating the breeze:

How to keep a bus cool

Guess it worked just fine. We were all too jealous of the sitting down part to ask.

Call time: 10:30 am. Wrap time: 1 am.

* That one might be a tiny bit of exaggeration, depending on how long I’ve been standing and whether or not I’m wearing rain gear.

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

Sweaty and itchy

Most types of lights have ‘tails’ with heavy rubber jackets, but some units, like striplights, far cycs, and cyc strips, are hung and tilted down (positioning the tail on top of the light where the heat vents) which makes the heat too much for standard coatings, and a special fireproof jacket is used.

Back in the day, these jackets were made of asbestos, but now they’re a type of woven fiberglass cloth stuff:

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I’m not 100 % sure which material we’re looking at here.

Whatever this is sheds bits all over the place, and any contact that it makes with bare skin results in ferocious itching. Should one manage to wash the whatever-they-are particles off the skin, the particles that have lodged in one’s shirt will take up residence on said freshly washed arms.

My first job Monday morning was to circuit (connect to power, label, etc..) the far cycs, and I got that fiber all over me.

Certain types of pain one just learns to live with. I’m standing for 12 hours and my feet hurt. Got it. I’m lifting things all day and my shoulders hurt. Expected. The painters are spraying right under me and my sinuses are clogged. Yup, that’s normal.

But then one thing like itching gets thrown in the mix and it all goes to hell. All of a sudden I notice the aching feet and the smell of paint and the sweat pooling up in my bra. And it bothers me.

Right at the apex of my itchy nightmare, I was sent ‘up high’ to feed some cable out of the perms.

Oddly enough, the sweat rolling off me (no, really. It was about 110 degrees in the perms) was what finally stopped the itching.

Today, I outsmarted the fiber from hell and wore a long-sleeved shirt while I worked. Then, I finished and removed said shirt by pulling it over my head, which deposited the fiber in my hair, so my head itched all day.

I can’t win for losing.

Just for posterity, I’d like to point out that actual asbestos is marginally less itchy than the fiberglass stuff.

How I know that is probably a blog post all on its own.

Filed under: hazardous, Photos, studio lots, Work, , , , , ,

Right down to the wire

Monday and Tuesday were out load out days for the movie, which we’d all taken to calling She Dies in the End.   Loadout days are when we drive the truck back to the rental house, unload it, count it and then call all the other departments to find out if they’ve got any of the items we’re missing, usually extension cords.

We then loaded up the gaffer’s personal equipment and drove it to his storage space (in a hailstorm, of course), and after that I figured I was done for the year. A few days to clean up the disgraceful pigsty that I call an apartment, do the laundry, then get packed up for the annual guilt induced pilgrimage back east to overeat and argue.

But Tuesday, as I was on my way home under suddenly clear blue skies (of course, the rain and hail stopped right as we finished), a friend called me and asked if I was available for Wednesday and Friday for another low budget feature that I suppose we should call Teenage Emo Love.

I thought, for a split second, about saying no, then came to my senses. Of course I was available.

So I spent another 14 hours standing in yet another very small house with only one entrance – a small narrow stairway with no handrail (don’t ask me why they took it off).

Lucky for my knees, I ended up mostly being one of the outside people. I stood on the platform they’d constructed for the big HMIs that were aimed into the second story windows and moved lights around.

I’m back today, for their last day of shooting – which is a split (half day and half night), and then I come home, take a nap and then fly out.

Happy Holidays.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, movies, up all night, Work, , , , , ,

Coming through!

I can’t figure out why so many tiny, tiny bars put themselves in the location books* Even the medium-sized bars are a challenge to shoot in because bars, while they’re designed to accommodate a largish number of people (or not) are generally not designed with traffic flow in mind. Actually, it’s the opposite. If you’re trapped and can’t leave your spot at the bar, you’re more likely to spend money.

Today’s  location was a very small and very, very trendy bar in Koreatown.  We came in on a two-hour precall** to light, and of course everything we did on our rig day yesterday got changed. So when call time rolled around, we weren’t ready but they wanted to rehearse so we got sent to breakfast.

Also of course, production blamed grip and electric for the delay in getting started.

The entire day was an exercise in how many times one could manage to clear a path by yelling over the roar of the loud conversations (oh, for the days when the ADs used to clear the sets for us to work. Long gone, of course.) and the din of the other departments trying to work, while navigating around the bar’s furnishings and various set debris without hurting anyone too badly.

Most of us are really good about  letting each other know that we’re back there (and moving when there’s someone behind us with something heavy), but every now and again someone gets bumped with a stand or a table or a camera front box, and there’s just nothing to be done about it.

We used a lot of the bar’s equipment for set dressing, which saved some money I’m sure, but a disappointing number of glasses got broken – some by me when I was on a ladder adjusting a rigged light, lost my balance and swung my leg around to regain it. Ooops. Put it on our tab.

Speaking of tabs, one of our actors decided to indulge in some stress relief and downed a few shots of the bar’s top shelf  liquor. Before lunch.

We were all very impressed that she managed not to flub too many lines or miss too many marks. I don’t know that I could do as well after drinking that much.

The caterer’s food is great, but it’s a bit heavy, so because we were shooting in Koreatown, I walked a couple of blocks to a noodle house  and had a bowl of delicious noodle soup with veggies and some spectacularly hot Kimchi. Despite downing mints, I’m pretty sure I could have cleaned the kitchen’s ovens with my breath, but it was so worth it. So much so that I might go back tomorrow.

Also, I’ve resigned myself to having a sore throat (and the voice of a boy in the throes of puberty) for the next couple of days as for some reason the zeitgeist has decreed all bars must be full of smoke, despite the fact that most bars don’t allow smoking any longer. But smoke we must, so they bring in a guy with a smoke machine and a fan and he fills the bar with this… stuff that’s not supposed to be bad for you but it makes me sick every time. Plus, it smells like my grandmother’s mothbally closet, and I certainly wouldn’t want to spend 14 hours in there.

* One can go to the film office of LA (or any city) and ask to see the location books – these are binders full of potential filming locations all over the city, usually categorized by area and specifics (mansion, tenement, hipster bar, etc..). Many of these locations are insanely difficult to shoot at and should be removed from the books immediately.  When I rule the world….

**Exactly what it seems. Because we have so much work to do, our call is earlier than general crew call.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, movies, Uncategorized, Work, , , , , ,

And why wouldn’t it?

Today was our last day in our ‘hero’ house, so we had, in addition to the day’s work, some scenes to re-shoot (one because the producers didn’t think our stunningly beautiful lead actress looked ‘pretty enough’), and about a million inserts.

The call sheet looked like a Tolstoy novel before editing, and we all knew it was going to be a long day – even if they wrapped on time, we still had to load our truck. In the rain, of course, because why wouldn’t it be raining on the day we had to clean up and load our truck?

After several weeks at a location, you get comfortable and stuff spreads out despite efforts at housekeeping, so there’s a massive last-minute expedition to hunt down the scattered gear and organize it (Boss: “Why are the tweenie* doors on the back of the toilet in the bathroom?” Me: [pause] “I. Don’t. Know.”)

After they finally called wrap – at the last minute before the producer stomped on set and pulled the plug, because why wouldn’t they use every minute they had to finish the massive call sheet – we were cleaning out the house, happy to be done with the place, but trying to work as quickly as we could as the siren call of home and a hot shower was too much to resist.

The homeowner had thoughtfully provided wooden ramps so we could wheel carts up the low stairs into the house, as I was carrying one of the aforementioned tweenies down the ramp, I slipped on the wet wood and landed right on my knee.

Of course. If I’m going to get hurt at work, why wouldn’t it be right at wrap when my co-workers really need me? I’m told I screamed like a girl when it happened, although I have no such recollection.

Our medic iced the knee, gave me some painkillers and some paperwork to fill out (in that order. Hope I did it right), then wrapped it (the knee, not the paperwork) so it would hold weight and I hobbled out to help load the carts.

One of my co-workers had slipped on the same ramp a few hours before and injured the opposite leg, so we joked that between us we made one complete electrician.

I’m icing the knee now in the hopes that the swelling will go down – I’m officially in 10 hour turnaround (the elapsed time between when one is dismissed for the day and when one must report back to work the next day), so I can’t ice for too long.

That sleep thing needs to happen.

Tomorrow’s work is in a hospital, so if the knee really hurts I know where there will be a doctor or three.

Call time: 9:30 am

Wrap time: 9:30 pm

We closed the doors of our truck at 11:00 pm.

*The tweenie is one of the workhorses of the lighting department. It’s a 650 watt light that’s small enough to hide easily, but puts out a nice amount of light, and no matter how many of them we order, it’s never enough.

 

Filed under: hazardous, locations, long long drives, mishaps, movies, Work, , , , , , , ,

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Flickr Photos

Halfway through a wrap day

Get something out of those jockey boxes, I dare you.

Electricity and water

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