Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Tour de Courthouse

A few weeks ago, as I was leaving work, I was pulled over.

I had a burned out headlight, and given how incoherent I was after a 14 hour day, I’m surprised the cop didn’t haul me out and administer a field sobriety test, but he just gave me a fix-it ticket.

As he was finishing up, he told me I could go to any police station in the city to get a sign-off on the repair, and then go to any courthouse in the county to pay the small fine.

Sweet. I currently reside within a ten minute walk of both a police station and a (small) courthouse.

I figured I’d get the headlight fixed, get it inspected, then get it off the books and not even have to burn a gallon of very expensive (for America) gas.

So this morning, I rolled up to the West LA police station, ticket in hand, and asked at the desk to have someone check my car.

I was met with blank stares from the attending officers.

After an uncomfortably long pause, one of the civilian volunteers said “I’ve got this” and handed me a sheet explaining that the LAPD isn’t authorized to inspect vehicles and I’d have to drive to one of the county sheriffs’ inspection stations to get my signature.

Fine.

Except that the nearest inspection station happens to be in Beverly Hills.

I hate driving in Beverly Hills.

Under normal circumstances, the traffic is horrific because it’s apparently déclassé  to time one’s stop lights, but now it’s springtime and the tourist bloom is beginning.

In spring and summer, the normally crowded streets of Beverly Hills become impossibly clogged with tour busses and rental cars.

Which is great – the city and the county greatly appreciate your visit and your tax revenue, but residents tend to snap when traffic speeds drop from ‘slow crawl’ to ‘perambulate’.

This results in tempers accelerating from ‘recreational asshole’ to ‘nuclear war’.

Generally, I prefer to bike or bus it through the area – I can either sail past the problem or be encased in the T.Rex of vehicles and be safe from random punchings or headlocks.

But, if I must drive into the fray, 10 am on a weekday is a good time to do so.

Rush hour’s mostly over, and the lunchers haven’t started stalking parking spaces.

So, off I went – thinking I’d get inspected and paid off and then be back home in time to catch the afternoon talk shows.

I guess I wasn’t surprised when the clerk told me that although I got my inspection in Beverly Hills, because my officer had checked the ‘Chatsworth’ box on the ticket, that’s where I’d have to go to pay the fine.

To those of you not familiar with Los Angeles, Chatsworth is not near anything.

Not a freeway off ramp, not any sort of landmark, not any sort of train or bus stop or life support.

So because I’d tried to save gas by not driving, I then drove to the edge of civilization.

Where I stood in line for what seemed like an eternity behind a woman arguing with anyone who would listen that her failure to appear for her court date wasn’t her fault because she’d lost her phone and had written the judge a letter proving her innocence.

Lucky for me another window opened and I paid my $25 and then fought traffic back home.

I have work tomorrow (non-union, but it pays and it’s with a bunch of guys that I really like), and since I’m going downtown I’m going to take the bus.

I’ve had enough of the car for now.

 

Filed under: life in LA, long long drives, Los Angeles, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, overspending, travel, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , ,

Finally! Some work!

Today, I was on the rigging crew for the first time in a long, long time. I don’t mind rigging and had the best day working with a really great bunch of guys.  Also, it’s not as hot this week as it was last week. It’s still seasonably warm (which, in August in Southern California is quite warm indeed), but that feeling that someone should be basting me was gone.

Our call time was 7:30, and we all did ‘new show’ paperwork (this is the second episode of the first season of this particular show so this is the first day they’ve had a location), and then went to the lamp dock to pick up our equipment.  When you pull equipment that’s to  be used at one location, it’s called a ‘drop load’, as in ‘we’re going to drop the load there, use it, and then return it’.

The drop load was there, but the truck wasn’t, so we counted and sorted and labeled and eventually drifted back to the stage where we helped the best boy pull some things off his truck for the location.

We then had coffee, and wandered back over to the lamp dock – still no truck.

Turns out, production had, for some reason, told transportation that we wouldn’t be going to rig until after lunch, so no one had gone to get the truck.

Boss: “That’s insane! Why would I wait until after lunch to put a rig in? I’d like to get home before next week.”

So, after our boss talked to the transpo captain, our truck appeared. Since we had a stake bed, which doesn’t have a roof, the truck was full of some sort of smelly, hard fruit and sticks. Guess they’d had it parked under a tree.

First order of business – find a broom and clean out the back of that truck. Nobody wants smelly crap stuck to the equipment, and more importantly, sticks add a degree of difficulty to loading a truck (some cart wheels won’t roll over them, one can slip on them, etc..)

That done, we loaded, headed over to the first unit truck, loaded some additional cable from there, and then headed out.

Once we got to the location and had a look at where, exactly, the cable run needed to go, it became very apparent due to some changes that had happened since the scout we were going to need more cable – just about double what we’d brought.

So we put in what we had, unloaded the dimmer packs and lights we’d brought, left two guys there to start getting the stuff in place and then headed back to the lot to  pull some more cable off the first unit truck, since apparently production wouldn’t allow any more equipment to be rented for that location.

Which is fine – equipment that rides on the main truck is usually marked with a particular color of tape so that we know not to return it (the bar codes have to match at the end of the season), and it’s not a big deal to lift some more cable.

By this time (about 2 pm) it had gotten hot. And humid (objectively humid, not humid for Los Angeles), and we were standing in the back of a stakebed (that still smelled faintly rancid from whatever that stuff was in the back) trying to get everything loaded in such a way that it wouldn’t fall over and become a big mess by the time we got to the location.

Since the trucks were ‘gate to gate ‘ (the trucks are parked with the cabs in opposite directions with the lift gates touching so that equipment can be rolled off one truck and right onto the other – sort of like a motorized Pushmi-pullyu), we were blocking some of the VIP parking spaces, but figured we’d be out of there soon enough.

Right when we had two heavy head carts on the truck but not tied down and our driver had headed off to the restroom, a man came wandering up, looked at me and said, “Excuse me, that white Mercedes is mine and your truck’s blocking me in. Do you think you can move the truck to let me out?”

I looked around for the driver, didn’t see him, so I told the man (I’m still to hot and tired to make up a clever nickname) that we’d move as soon as we could.

He said nothing, and looked down at his iPhone as he walked a few feet away to wait in the shade  of a fake bus stop while we found the driver.

The driver came out, apologized to the man for the inconvenience. The man ignored him. We strapped down the carts and pulled the truck forward enough for him to back out. He kept his head down, looking at his phone as he walked to the car. He pulled out and then drove off.

Our driver waved and cheerfully warbled “You’re welcome!”

The man didn’t wave back, although I’m fairly certain he was no longer staring at his phone.

We strapped our carts down and returned to the location to run cable.

Call time: 7 am

Wrap time 7 pm

I sweated off my sunblock before lunch so I resemble a cooked lobster. Awesome.

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

Some weeks are better than others

This week started out so well. Work’s picking up, the weather’s been gorgeous, etc…

Until Tuesday, when I decided to go to the grocery store, and because I needed some bulky stuff, I took the car.

Midway through my backing out of my parking space in the six-space carport, the neighbor’s little rat-dog ran across the alley and under my wheels, and in an attempt not to flatten said rat-dog, I swerved and hit the support post instead.

Which would have been fine, except my current car is apparently made of vacu-formed tinfoil as the low-speed oopsie resulted in the following:

One torn off driver’s side mirror

One severely dented front driver’s side door.

One fucked up front quarter panel.

One fucked up front bumper.

One $500 deductible.

One rat-dog owner refusing to admit that she’s at fault.

Awesome. So now, I’m on the hook for five Benjamins and my car has to go to the body shop for an undisclosed amount of time.

Also, I’ve spent eons on the phone with said insurance company and will now get a point on my license and jacked-up rates for the foreseeable future.

Lucky for me my insurance covers a portion of the rental car – not all of it, of course, but some of it.

Gods bless America.

So for the next week or so, I’ll be driving a Prius, which is what the rental car company gave me. Side of smug is on the house.

And five days of work turned into three.

How was your week?

Filed under: cranky, life in LA, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, overspending, , , , , , , , ,

An unexpectedly busy week

Last weekend, I worked on a friend’s vanity project as a favor – they were paying what amounts to pocket change, but beggars can’t be choosers so when they asked of course I said yes. I ended up working Thursday and Friday, too, and couldn’t turn that down either (since that was actual paying work on a ‘real’ show) so  knew I was going to get fucked on the turnaround, but as of late my own death is the only reason I’ll turn down work.   I got home from work about 10 pm Friday, and had to be on the friend’s set around 7 am Saturday morning. So, of course, something went wrong with my car.

The key got stuck in the ignition and since there wasn’t anything I could do about it at 10 pm on a Friday night (other than throwing a temper tantrum and calling the car some really horrible names, of course. A friend once said that what you yell at the car when you’re mad is it’s name – now mine’s named something I can’t repeat in mixed company), I called and arranged for a ride to work Saturday morning.

The weekend job went fine – everyone was really nice and it was fun. Since it was mainly lit by changing the tubes in the building’s existing fluorescent fixtures, we didn’t get worked very hard which is always the best case scenario when one is working for a very low rate.

Monday, I took the car into the mechanic I usually patronize and was told that he can’t fix it as the newer cars have to be programmed at the dealer when certain repairs are made, which made me very, very nervous since the last time I had a car that needed to have work done at the dealer I couldn’t even walk in the door without it costing me a grand.

I borrowed a car to get to work Tuesday and Wednesday and took the car to the dealer on Thursday – thankfully it wasn’t as expensive as I’d feared (but was more than I wanted to shell out for a car I just bought) and now I’ve got the car back complete with new shifter (apparently some whatyamacallit in the shifter was making some thingamabob in the ignition do something. Or not. It’s all Greek to me).

I also got caught in the Obama traffic cluster fuck three times in two days – once coming home from work on Wednesday night and twice yesterday.

Me: “Why is the street blocked?”

Stone-faced Secret Service Guy: “The president’s staying in this hotel, ma’am. We had to close the street.”

Me: “But I voted for the guy! The worst thing I’m going to do is yell something encouraging out the window of the car.”

Stone-faced Secret Service Guy: “The administration thanks you for your continued support. Please turn around.”

Me: “Fuck.”

It’s all fine now, though. The President’s out of town again and I have a working car once again.  Plus, all I have to do this weekend is take my spent batteries to the electronic waste drop off point and go to the gym.

Filed under: Work, , ,

Finally.

Although I’m  not thrilled about the prospect of having a payment right now, at least the car-shopping portion of the program is over.

I didn’t get what I wanted, but I got a newish (’06) domestic wagon-y thing, that, aside from being a godawful color (I don’t tend to like flashy colored cars. No bright blue, no red, no yellow. I want something that blends), isn’t too terribly obnoxious and will get me to work and back until I can pay it down enough to swap it for something that I really like.

The car had been sitting on the dealer lot for three months (guess I’m not the only one who wasn’t thrilled with it), so the guy was willing to make a hell of a deal just to get it off the lot.

Of course, right after I bought it, a reader emailed me offering a car that was a LOT closer to what I wanted for about the same price.

Oh, well. At least all the drama’s over.

For now.

I’m trying not to torment myself with the thought that if the economy stays bad, used car prices are going to plummet in about a month.  Unfortunately, I just couldn’t wait and risk getting bumped off the call lists because of transportation problems.

Right now the two things that are annoying me are blissfully trivial – the gym being packed to the rafters with the resolution crowd (I really with that they’d make an attempt to teach some sort of gym etiquette) and the new WordPress interface being slow as hell and vastly more irritating than the old one.

I can’t do anything about the WordPress issue, but the gym problem’s been a fairly easy fix – since I don’t sleep for shit anyways, I’ve just been going at the crack of dawn and beating the crowds, which has been nice. Another advantage is that the place is a damn sight cleaner at 5 am than it is later in the day.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , , ,

A soul-destroying New Year’s Day

I started out 2009 by calling in a favor and having a good friend drive me all over town to look  at used cars.

I do not recommend this as anything other than an exercise in futility – unless, of course, you simply have too much hair and would like to thin it by tearing it out in frustration.

After perusing several car lots staffed by salesmen (one of whom I’m fairly certain was missing a few chromosomes) from hell, I had to take a break and get some lunch because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cry or kill someone.*

Part of the problem is me. There’s a huge gulf between what I want and what I can afford.

The car I want:

bmw

The car I can afford:

wreck

It’s not that I can’t afford a nice car, it’s that I can’t afford a nice car right now – no one knows if the actors are going to strike and I can’t saddle myself with a car payment that amounts to much more than spare change if I’m going to be out of work for a few months. Again.

So although the really nice little German-made sport wagon is theoretically within my reach financially (I’m talking 2000 or 2001 models), I just can’t do it now and am going to have to settle for some econobox which I guarantee I’ll hate more than a trip to the dentist.

On the bright side, at least I won’t be sad if it gets stolen.

Said genetic-material challenged salesmen (and of course, they’ve all been men) have been no help at all. One showed me cars that were all $5,000 above what I told him was my maximum price, and another showed me a few cars that were in worse shape than my truck (you know, the one that doesn’t run), but were admittedly in my price range.

Ugh. I didn’t really even want a wagon, but the gas mileage on the SUV models I’ve looked at is so shockingly bad I can’t in good conscience buy one (shame, too.  I really, really like the Chevy Trailblazer, but it’s fuel economy is disgraceful at best). Although several manufacturers do make SUV type vehicles that get good mileage, they’re either not readily available or out of my price range.

No resolutions this year. I don’t have the energy and self-improvement can suck it.  Or maybe I’m just in a bad mood.

Here’s to ’09 being a damn sight better than ’08.

* Who am I kidding? I’d much rather kill someone than cry.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo and Apology

Stairway to the perms

This is the extra steep stairway to the perms – a few times up and down these and my knees will hurt for the rest of the day. At least it’s got good handrails. Some of the stairways have old wooden handrails which throw off weapons-grade splinters – which, of course, renders said handrails useless.

I’d also like to apologize for the disappearing act – I’ve been having car problems.

Not normal car problems, but car problems so teeth-grindingly annoying that when the tow truck finally drops me off at home all I can manage to do is drop to my knees, shake my fist and scream a word so bad  I’m actually afraid to type it.

The problem is that they can’t figure out what, exactly, is wrong with my car.  It’s started dying for no reason and the mechanic determined that it was a bad fuel pump, which he replaced.  The car ran fine for a couple of days and then died again – at a location 30 miles from my house. At 10 pm.

I had it towed to the mechanic (who was, of course, closed at 10 pm so I had to have the tow truck driver drop the car in a parking space in the street and push it in the next morning after they’d opened), who determined that they’d installed a bad fuel pump and put in another one.

The car ran fine for about a day, and then died again. At 2 am on the way home from work in the middle of a busy street. A kind policeman used the push bar on the front of his car to push me off to a side street and said pushbar tore off the rear bumper cover which might have really irritated me any other time but I was just too tired and beaten down to care.

Then, they decided that the aftermarket fuel pump was the problem and ordered one from the dealer.

The car went 20 miles before dying again, but at least this time it was during business hours. Okay, it died 40 minutes before the mechanic closed for the night, so I had to beg the auto club to get a tow truck there quickly and we barely made it.

At this point the mechanic sighed heavily and admitted that he hadn’t a clue what was wrong and was planning on opening the hood and replacing damn near everything he saw.

To date, they’ve replaced the fuel pump relay, the oil pressure sending something-or-other, a couple of other doodads and have scraped a shitload of carbon out of something called the EGR valve. At this point, he thinks he’s got it fixed, but he’s going to keep it and use it as his daily driver while I’m out of town in an effort to put this whole nasty mess behind us. For now.  He’s a nice guy and he’s trying his best, so I really do hope that he doesn’t get stranded in bumfuck in the middle of the night.

My friends and co-workers have been well-meaning but spectacularly unhelpful in informing me that I need a new car.

Tell me something I don’t know.

I know with every fiber of my being that I need to buy another car. I know it every time I cross my fingers and hope I’m going to get home. I know it every time I get stranded in some gas station parking lot in the middle of the night. I know it when I walk into the rental car place and the guys that work there greet me by name.

The problem is that until our friends at SAG get this strike business resolved, I can’t afford to buy anything more involved than groceries.

If the actors walk and I’m out of work for another four months, I’m going to be so broke I’m going to have to put McNuggets on layaway, so buying a car right now is completely out of the question.

I have to work tomorrow and the rental places are all out of cars (fucking holidays), so I’ve got to hitch a ride with a co-worker, which I hate because I always feel like I’m putting someone out.

The lack of car has foiled my plans to overeat at a few holiday parties Sunday, but on the bright side it gave me an excuse to turn down an invite to a screening of a truly dreadful movie.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , , , , ,

Speaking of being late

I thought I had Monday off, but I got an early morning call to come in and cover someone who had called in sick. Unexpected work is my favorite reason to be pulled out of a dead sleep at 7 am.

I gathered my things, jumped in car, and after a stop for coffee, decided to get some gas for the drive across town and back. As I was pulling out of the station, my car died. No smoke, no clunk,  nothing – it just shut off.

After swearing and trying unsuccessfully to restart it, I called a tow truck. Luckily I broke down a few blocks from the mechanic where I normally take my car, so I figured I could get a tow fairly quickly, get a rental and get to work. I then sat and sat while said tow truck failed to show up.

At some point when dust started to settle on me, I called my boss and suggested that since I was going to be a while he might be better off to call someone else who would be able to show up before lunch.

Right after that, the tow truck showed up and hauled my car to the mechanic.

Although I’d reserved a rental car at a company with an office near the garage, I didn’t bother to pick it up as I thought I wasn’t working, and figured I could cancel it from the land line once I got home and had some breakfast.

I started walking the mile (or so) home and when I was about halfway there, my boss called and told me the other day player who they’d called had also broken down on the way to work and couldn’t make it in at all, so  I had to do an about-face and march to the rental place to get the car – and still no breakfast.

After getting stuck in line behind the tourists with endless questions, I grabbed the keys to my econo-sedan, got on my way and showed up at work about two hours before lunch.

Luckily everyone seemed to think the entire episode was hilarious.  Except me, of course.  At least the car didn’t die late-night in the parking lot of some godforsaken cell-service free movie ranch at 2 am.

The car needed a new fuel pump so between that and the rental I worked for free Monday.

I turned the rental back in this morning – it was kind of fun to turn corners at speed, although I’m used to an SUV so sitting down that close to the road kind of freaked me out.

What I want now is one of those nifty GPS units. I had fun programming in a destination, driving off of the planned route and listening to it freak out (“please return to the highlighted route” pause “please return to the highlighted route” long pause “recalculating”).

It takes so little to amuse me these days.

Filed under: mishaps, Work, , , , , ,

Reflections of late

Nothing will make me panic faster than thinking I’m going to be late to work. Not only do I hate being late in general, but being consistently tardy is something that will get one’s name dropped from the call list in fairly short order.

I wasn’t late this morning, but I was cutting it a bit close (generally, I try to get to the lot about 1/2 an hour early, so I can find parking, wander over to the stage and then have  breakfast and not have to rush. Getting to work later than 15 minutes before call time is cutting it too close for comfort), so when I pulled up to the guard gate, I was happy to see only one car in front of me.

A car which pulled up just short of the gate and then stopped while the driver made a phone call. Of course, he was close enough to the gate that I couldn’t drive around him.

Normally this wouldn’t have bothered me, but that cold clock-related fear gripped me after a couple of minutes of waiting on Mr. Phone Call I did something that I almost never do: I leaned on the horn.  Then, I stuck my head out of the window and yelled at him to either move forward or get out of the way so I could go through the gate and get to work.

He looked startled, and then gave me that weak sort of ‘I know this is my fault but go away’ wave and didn’t pull forward, so I leaned on the horn again. By then, I was really freaking out about sitting there just outside the guard gate while the clock ticked. Not only did I have to find parking, but I had to walk all the way across the lot to the stage.

It’s hard to explain just how frowned upon tardiness is in film crews, but it’s easy to explain why.  Mainly it’s because we have to a lot of work right at call – if we’re on location, we’re unloading our trucks right at our call time and showing up late means that we’re short a guy just as we get to push heavy carts up a hill or run additional cable or change all the tubes in the the Kinos.  On stage it’s not quite so frantic but we’re still usually busy clearing out whatever set they’re using to rehearse or setting up some light we’re going to use later so it’s unfair to the rest of the crew to be late, and that gets noticed.

Smelly? Toothless? Wearing an offensive T-shirt? Covered in boils? Had a stroke last week and can’t use one arm? Fine, fine.. we’ll work around it. But show up after call time without a damn good excuse and word gets around.

“Yeah, he’s an okay worker, but he was… late.”

Some crews are more tolerant than others, of course, but no one counts ‘tardy’ as a quality they’re willing to overlook.

For someone who gets work based on repeat calls and referrals, this is the stuff of nightmares.

After a few more excruciating minutes during which I contemplated using my car to push his to the gate, the guard came out and got my chatty friend to move. He pulled forward and got his pass, and then drove veeeerrrrrry slowly into the parking garage.

I tore like hell through the garage, found a parking space fairly quickly and then hightailed it across the lot as fast as I could, got to the stage with a few minutes to spare and then found out that the gaffer was late that day.

At least it wasn’t me.

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

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