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, , , , , , , ,

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

Nature hands me my ass

I had it all figured out for today – I was going to get up early, pack my lunch, and then walk the two blocks to the bus stop so I could save some gas and get that nice eco-smug feeling. What’s not to love?

The bus was due at 6:05 (have to be across town for a 7 am call), and as I was getting ready to leave, the cat started following me around and crying.

I picked her up and was petting her, then her eyes bulged and a veritable fountain of vomit erupted. She didn’t even make that ‘huk huk huk’ noise. Just puked.

It went everywhere.  Down my shirt, into my bra, in my hair where I turned my head to keep said puke out of my mouth.

Since I definitely didn’t want to spend the next 11 hours smelling like cat barf (or any barf, really), I peeled off my now very gross clothes and hopped in the shower.

So much for that bus ride.

After a frantic wash and clothing change, I looked at the time and went pale. I might make it, I might not, and one can never predict what the traffic’s going to do.

So, I texted the best boy with the information that I might be late because my cat barfed on me.

Worst. Excuse. Ever.

Shockingly, I made it to work with minutes to spare and we climbed up into the perms.

In response to a comment on the last post – not only do rigging crews not get lunch*, they don’t even get air conditioning.

The air is only turned on when the shooting company arrives. Since it’s currently July, it’s quite hot in the perms.

Our boss has made the very sensible decision that we’re only to be ‘up high’ before lunch, and then in the hottest part of the day we come down and do work on the floor (wiring fixtures, labelling equipment, etc…).

So the morning was all about sweat and sore muscles (after two days of carrying cable, I’m in serious pain), and the afternoon was all about frustration as we attempted to re-install some fixtures from last season in exactly the same places they were before.

The clock ran out before we finished, so we’ll have to try to pick it up tomorrow.

After we were dismissed, I walked out to my car, which was parked on the street as this particular lot has the most difficult parking ever so it’s  just easier.

I’d parked under a tree and the avian residents had left their calling card, so to speak.

Although the idea was to get back across town before the traffic got too bad, I had to stop and get the car washed, as I couldn’t see out of the windshield.

Damn animals.

*Film crews can either be on production, which means the shooting unit, or off production, which means anything not actively making the movie. On production means one gets free parking, free meals, climate control and craft service. Off production means you get reasonable hours (usually) and don’t have to carry a walkie, but you have to pay for your own food and parking (depending where you are. Paramount Studios, for example, charges for parking, but if you’re on production you get a voucher. Riggers have to suck up and pay it).

Filed under: long long drives, mishaps, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

Facade with oak tree

Facade with oak tree

One of the movie ranches* in the desert have spent the past few years building some really, really nice facades on their land.

Said facades are mostly metal (excellent for not catching on fire) and have outlets so one can power small lamps without having to run cable.

They’re also relatively new, which means they’re relatively clean inside, too.

Awesome.

Facade interior

Shiny!

*”Movie ranch” means exactly what one would think. It’s a ranch which is there to serve as a movie location.

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

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, , , , , , , , ,

Traffic

I will never understand traffic patterns in Los Angeles if I live to be 100.
Yesterday, as I was drinking my morning coffee and watching the amazing commercial-free BBC Olympics feed via a proxy server (NBC will never stop sucking, so why fight it?),  the best boy of Doctors in Love texted me wanting to know if I could come in to cover someone who called in sick.

The answer, of course, was yes, but since Doctors in Love shoots almost, but not quite, all the way across the city, I figured I was in for an incredibly annoying two-hour drive.

Not so much.

I threw on some clothes, headed out the door and didn’t get stuck in any traffic at all.

I’m not kidding. 8 am – the height of rush hour in one of the most traffic-clogged cities on planet Earth and there was no traffic. At all.

I travelled from my house to the set in under an hour.

This, or course,  made me nervously scan the sky for horsemen as I drove onto the lot.

Finding none, I parked, grabbed a walkie and proceeded to have a wonderful day working with people who I like a whole lot and don’t get to see nearly often enough.

Then, driving home at 10 pm on a Tuesday, I got stuck in traffic for an hour and a half.

Filed under: life in LA, long long drives, mishaps, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , ,

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Halfway through a wrap day

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

Electricity and water

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