Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

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, , , , , ,

The World Keeps Spinningp

The monsoon has arrived.

Not in Los Angeles, of course, but in the desert to the east. The clouds squat over the horizon, threatening.

We don’t get the desperately needed rain, but we do get the heat and humidity.

I’ve been working a lot of long days outside (or in un-airconditioned warehouses, which is pretty much the same thing).

After 14 hours in 100 degree heat I can’t manage to do anything other than come home, take a cold shower and try to find space in the fridge to sleep.

I’d cry, but my tears are too hot.

I was trying to figure out how to write yet another apology post when Twitter blew up with something I so desperately hoped was another celebrity death hoax.

I’ve worked with Robin Williams several times over the years, most recently on the TV show The Crazy Ones. He was an unfailingly nice guy – and I don’t mean celebrity nice.

Really nice. He was a fellow cyclist and we talked about bike trips, the virtues and drawbacks of front racks, and where best to store bananas so they didn’t get all squishy and leaky.

He was like this with everyone – genuinely friendly and interested in whatever everyone else was doing with their lives.

Everyone who ever met him loved him.

It’s been one rotation of the planet – from light to dark and back into light, and I’m still completely devastated.

It tears my heart out that this beautiful person, beloved by so many, in the end, felt he had nowhere to turn and no one to help him.

I can wish all I want that he’d called someone – anyone – and tried to find his way into the approaching light.

But he didn’t.

Meanwhile, we continue to fly through the indifferent void of space as our seven billion little fiefdoms on the pale blue dot rotate into and out of the light.

That’s life. Dark and light, dark and light, dark and light.

Approximately 30,000 people in the United States commit suicide every year.

30,000 souls feel that there is no more rotation and the dark is unending.

Yes, I know that suicidally depressed people aren’t exactly rational, but their friends and family are.

So don’t pass by. Don’t turn your head away and tell yourself it’s none of your business. Get involved. Ask if someone needs help. Listen if they want to talk.

Help them see the light again.

We all owe that to Robin.

 

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 

Suicide Prevention Center

 

NAMI Depression Resources

 

 

 

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

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, , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , ,

I don’t feel so good.

I was ready for the heat Monday. I drank water, I took electrolytes, I stayed in the shade whenever possible. Except for the sweaty smell (and the fact that my bowels stopped working for about 24 hours – TMI, sorry), I was fine.

I came home feeling not nearly as bad as I’d anticipated.  I made it through the hot day, and the next two days would be easy, right? On stage, in the shade where it would only be 100F.. cake.

Then, I woke up.

I rolled out of bed feeling like absolute shit. I felt like I’d been on a three-day long bender in Tijuana and topped it off with 6 am rotgut shots and one of those dirty water hotdogs from a street vendor. No sauerkraut.

I made the mistake of having a cup of coffee, which, instead of making me feel more awake, made me feel worse.

Once I got to the stage and started rigging lights, I didn’t feel any better. I was drinking water and taking more electrolytes and still felt bad.

Four liters of water later and I started to feel semi-human again. We got off work early-ish and I went to the gym, but didn’t work out. I jumped in the pool and the 80 degree water made me shiver – which, by the way, felt great. I then hung out in the cafe and played Words With Friends with one of the personal trainers until it was cool enough to return to my un-airconditioned apartment.

Wednesday, we had a much later call (10 am) because we had to wait for the set dressers to finish before we could start (doesn’t help us to wire up wall sconces when the decorator comes in at lunch and changes everything), and miraculously, I felt pretty good all day.

I kept drinking water just to be safe, though.

Today, it’s finally cooled off enough to be bearable. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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

Yay work, part 2.

After the 14 hour heat-induced extravaganza, a nice rigging job on the lot seemed perfect.

Close to home, with a group of guys that I adore, probably a shortish day.

Although we were rigging outside and it wasn’t much cooler than it was in Pasadena, it was still much easier as if we got too hot, we could sneak inside the air-conditioned stage and stand in front of the fan and cool down.

We ran a small amount of cable, rigged a few lights, and then, when the company moved out to the set we’d rigged, we went into the stage to do some clean-up behind them.

Clean up means wrapping any cable that got run out and left there, replenishing the stinger supply at the distro boxes, replacing any burned out globes and generally getting the set in shape so that the shooting  crew just has to walk onstage and start work.

One of the regular guys told me that when they were putting the rig in for this show, production refused to buy Gatorade (TM) because it was considered a ‘specialty water’.

It should be noted that they were putting this rig in a few weeks ago when it was horribly hot, even for summer.

Welcome to the new Hollywood.

It ended up being a 10 hour day, with fantastic wonderful people, and I was only moderately overheated.
Yay work!

 

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

Seems Legit to Me..

Sometimes, in the zeal to make the notoriously dangerous (no snark intended. Movie folks don’t have the safest jobs in the world) film industry safer, regulations get implemented that are mostly silly but every so often veer into the realm of the certifiably insane.

Currently, all sets with a roof (removable or not), must be equipped with heat detectors. Now, on the surface this may seem reasonable – the set’s roof prevents the fire sprinklers in the perms (which are activated by heat or sometimes by being backed into by a truck, but that’s a different story) from doing their job, so on paper, the detectors make sense. However, since most active movie sets use lights which generate heat, said detectors have added a whole new set of Things We Have To Do Before We Can Go Home.

Because, you see, it’s not enough to place heat detectors in a set which will be lit by large lights that generate lots of heat. We have to mark the location of the heat detectors with bright orange flags. These flags are about 12 inches (30 cm) long and two inches (5 cm) wide and are affixed to the heat detectors with Velcro ™, so that we, the fire department, and anyone who happens to wander into the set can spot said detectors.

The problem with this is that when we shoot, the flags have to be taken down.

So, first thing in the morning, we send a guy through the set in a manlift to pull down all the flags.

Then, at the end of the day when we’re on double time, we send the guy back around to put the flags back up, even if we’re shooting the same set the next day.

The next morning, we’ll walk into the set and send a guy around in a manlift to remove the flags.

It’s like some satanic Möbius strip. Or something.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy to drive around a set hanging flags while I’m on double time, as is everyone else, but with complaints from the higher-ups about labor costs being out-of-control, this can’t be helping.

Also, the pollen counts here in Los Angeles are the highest they’ve been in years – although my nose isn’t that bad, my ears are blocked so badly that I can hardly hear.  How do I know it’s allergies? Because it’s worse when I’m outside and at the end of the day when the medication’s worn off.

Oh, and Happy Pi Day.

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

Get down, get funky. Or something.

Right after I hauled myself out of bed in the morning, I got a call from the best boy  of Reluctant Porn Star to come in and replace someone who’d called in sick.

They were shooting all the way across town in a roller rink that hasn’t seen a remodel since the Carter administration (perfect for a movie set in the 1970’s). After almost two hours of fighting traffic, I dumped my bags in the truck and started changing gels on the lights we had rigged in the ceiling over the rink.

Roller rinks, in case you’re not familiar, are made of sanded and varnished wood, kind of like a basketball court. Ladders and nice smooth antique wood surfaces don’t really go together very well, so we had to keep layout board (4′ by 8′ sheets of heavy cardboard) under the ladders. Which was fine, except that we had a limited amount of time until the company moved inside and having to move the board does tend to slow one down.

As soon as the shooting crew moved inside, the rink got insanely hot. I guess they decided to rely on the building’s AC instead of renting a stand alone industrial one, which never works when one has close to 200 people inside plus a bunch of really hot lights. The smoke machine didn’t help, either.  The stuff they use to make theatrical smoke is supposed to be harmless, but after a while it makes my chest hurt and my eyes burn.

Some of the extras didn’t really know how to roller skate, and were careening around the rink, out of control – one kept smacking into the wall which didn’t hurt anyone, but another crashed into the dolly and took out one of the camera assistants.  Walking through the crowd of unsteady projectiles while carrying a hot light was an added degree of difficulty for the day. Lucky for me I managed to avoid getting hit.

In addition to the work for the day, we shot a music video for the band who were playing in the scene. One of the things I hate about working on music videos is, well, the music.

It’s not that I don’t like music, it’s that I don’t like hearing the same song over and over and over and over. I’m not sure if it’s worse when it’s a song I like or a song I don’t like.

Our last shot of the night was outside in a parking lot visible form the street, also known as paparazzi Christmas.

As soon as they spotted their thespian prey, they crowded as close as they could to the set without violating trespassing laws. Unfortunately, this made it very difficult for the rest of the crew to do our jobs.

When I’ve got a cart full of equipment, I’d really rather use the sidewalks as walking in the roadway is a hazard, but when there are ‘photographers’ blocking the sidewalk and refusing to move because “it’s public property and you can’t make me”  I go in the street and hope for the best.

Luckily this was late at night on a weeknight.

After wrapping, packing the truck and driving back across town, I got home at 1:30 am. Tomorrow, I have to be at work on Been Done Before at 8:30 am.

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

A short, hot day.

It’s time for the annual “fall” heatwave.

Over the past couple of days, the heat has blasted across the city like a cartoon supervillain bent on destroying life as we know it here in Los Angeles. Even the breeze is hot, and stepping out the door of the house feels exactly like it does when one opens an oven door to check on whatever’s baking in there.

So although I normally don’t like to work super long days, I was really hoping that we’d get at least 13 hours yesterday- with a 7 am call, that would have put us out at 9 pm (the one hour break for lunch doesn’t count) – hopefully after it had cooled off slightly, but instead we got the fastest director west of the Mississippi who shot six and a half pages in nine and a half hours (that’s really, really fast. Six and a half pages normally takes much closer to 12 hours).

Fucker.

Don’t get me wrong, I normally really like this director, but I swore under my breath when they called wrap and the heat poured in through the newly opened stage doors.

I went to the gym after work and swam, but when I got home well after dark it was still hot.

According to the news, the heat should break by the end of the week.

I really hope they’re right.

Filed under: Work, , , , , ,

October 2014
S M T W T F S
« Sep    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Flickr Photos

The space between the cells

Hallway in the afternoon

60s phone

More Photos

Categories

Random Quote

"If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." -Anne Lamott

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 702 other followers

Twitter Updates

Blogroll

Not blogs, but cool

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 702 other followers

%d bloggers like this: