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, , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , ,

I am so ready for summer to end.

It’s time for the annual heat wave (now with extra humidity!) that turns Los Angeles into Miami West. Although this seems to have taken everyone by surprise, it happened last year and the year before that and the year before that. Before that, I forget. Must be the heat.

Huge thunderheads hang in the sky east of the city, and while they’re very pretty (as clouds go) they’re making everyone completely miserable and smelly. I keep getting invites for afternoon events and there’s just no way in hell I’m going to even bother putting on makeup and trying to look human.

Every morning I wake up early intending to get in a workout and a bike ride before the heat gets really bad, but I’ve just not been able to do it. Maybe it’s because it’s not actually cooling off in my house at night. This is just cruel and unusual, if you ask me. If I had any energy, I’d fire off an angry letter to someone.

What I have been doing is seeing a lot of movies, but I have to be careful because I don’t want to run out of movie passes. I buy them every time I work on a lot where they’re sold (and save them for occasions like this), but I only have a few left so I’ve got to ration, which takes away one source of free air conditioning for a few hours.

Tomorrow, I have my first appointment with the therapist (who seems like a nice lady and I’m not sure I should subject her to me), who will hopefully have an air-conditioned office. After that, since we’re in for at least 8 more weeks of heat, I think I’m going to have to shave my pussy.

Seriously.

She’s obviously really uncomfortable and has been following me from room to room scolding me whenever I happen to be home – you know, just in case I didn’t already know that it’s hot and sticky and she’s wearing a heavy fur coat. She’s also shedding like mad. She should be bald already, but since she isn’t I’m starting to doubt that there’s actually a cat underneath all that fur.

The only problem with this plan should be obvious. The last time I tried this (with a former cat) I ended up in the emergency room. My sister suggested filling the water bowl with whiskey, but I’m kind of afraid to try it – what if something happens mid-clip and I have to take her to the vet?

Then he’ll ask why the cat can’t stand up and I’ll have to explain that she’s drunk. He already thinks I’m horrible because of the whole eye incident, so I think a kitty blood-alcohol level would make him call the PETA hit squad.

You know, the more I think about it the more I become convinced that it’s a really bad idea.  I think I’ll just use my last AMC pass and go see IMAX Batman.

There are rumors of work Saturday night, which, while I’ll have to try to get turned around (since I’ve been going to bed* before 10 every night), will at least be not too hot.

In other news, Los Angeles county is threatening to require that calorie counts of meals be posted on the menu right next to the price, which I predict will, at the very least, cause mass confusion around here (“wait. The hamburger’s 800 dollars? What? It’s only ten dollars? Well why do you have that number there if it’s not the price? I don’t get it”)

*What I really mean is laying in the bed with the fans turned on high, sweating profusely and wishing I lived in Greenland.

Filed under: life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekends can be dangerous

Some locations are only available on the weekends.

Parking garages in business parks, for example. Not shootable on weekdays when workers fill the spaces, but on weekends, they’re a wasteland just begging for some stunt driving, which is what we were shooting on Saturday.

This particular parking garage was in Santa Clarita, which, if you’re not familiar with Southern California geography, is north of the city and approximately three degrees cooler than the surface of the sun. It was so hot up there that I stopped having to pee despite drinking copious amounts of water all day. I’d just go to the bathroom for the opportunity to make a big puff out of toilet paper and desperately dab at whichever body part I could easily reach in a futile attempt to dry off.

We were shooting on the lower levels of the parking garage and were all very grateful for the cover provided by the roof. It was hot inside (and full of exhaust fumes, of course), but not nearly as hot as it was outside with the sun beating down and reflecting off the acres of cement and steel. Near the end of the day there was a shot on the roof of the garage (involving a helicopter and gunfire) but as we didn’t light it (a wide shot during a day exterior means little, if any lighting) our boss was the only one who had to be up there. Poor guy.

Despite the heat and the humidity (storms over the desert, while they’ve given us some lovely puffy clouds in the sky, have made it feel like Miami around here) the day went fairly smoothly – since we were doing driving shots all day the lighting was fairly simple and there’s a huge difference between the ‘artiste’ type of director and stunt directors. Stunt directors just want to get the stuff shot and move on so they can get their day while the drivers are still fairly alert.

Even the fairly simple stunts take a lot of time to set up, rehearse and shoot (and it’s not possible to rush stunt people) so we had a 14 hour day. In one of nature’s cruel jokes, just as we were leaving the temperature dropped and a nice refreshing cool(ish) breeze picked up.

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

Like sticking one’s head in an oven

Summer has officially arrived Los Angeles – early last week the temperatures were in the 70′s, later in the week they were in the 90′s, and over the weekend they broke the triple digit barrier – although today it’s cooled off to a relatively brisk 90.

One of the advantages of living in a place that used to pass for a desert is that it cools off at night- the knowledge that once the sun goes down the temperature is going to be in the high 60′s or low 70′s it’s much easier to cope with 100 degrees during the day.

This past weekend, however, nature played a cruel joke on Los Angeles and it didn’t cool off at night so much as become marginally less hot and miserable, but still too hot to sleep.

If I wanted to toss and turn in my sweat-soaked bed at night, struggling to breathe and wondering how to sleep in a bathtub full of cold water without drowning, I’d go to Florida. Or NYC, but at least I could manage to sleep on the fire escape there.

Although I’m not near the beach, which is the preferred place to be when the weather gets this hot, at least I’m not in the San Fernando Valley, which is 10 degrees (or more) hotter. During the summer, I dread going into the Valley even though I sometimes have to do so.

Since I’m currently on a short enforced vacation due to bursitis in my left shoulder (what I really need to do is take a few weeks off, but right now I can’t do that because there’s not enough money in my account to survive another strike so I’m only taking a couple of days of turbo-rest and I can actually let the thing heal when SAG walk out and I’m unemployed for an entire month. Or four),  I decided to take the time to drive up into the valley to go to Contract Services for the I-9 debacle.

Contract Services are the people who keep track of who in the union is in good standing, up to date on safety training and able to work, and a few years ago someone there had a really good idea.

For those of you not in the USA, when you work here you have to fill out a form called the I-9, which is a proof of citizenship/work eligibility. The information required to prove work eligibility is just about all someone else needs to apply for credit in your name, buy a bunch of expensive shit and then not make any of the payments and leaving you to sort it out, which can take years and years and turn just about every hair you have grey.

So, Contract Services decided that we’d all go there once every three years and fill out the I-9 info at the office and they’d keep it on file and not show anyone and the production companies could just give them the list of names and they’d tell them if we were cool or not, and then we wouldn’t have to fill it out the form for each job and subject ourselves to potential hair-greying problems.  Saving a couple of trees by reducing the amount of paper required would also have been a good thing.

Except that none of the production companies will accept the Contract Services on-file I-9, so we still have to fill one out each time we start a new show, plus since Contract Services simply will not admit that this program, while a good idea, just. isn’t. working.  we still have to go up into the inferno that is Encino once every three years and fill out that stupid fucking redundant form that no one ever accepts.  My complaints about this have so far fallen on deaf ears.

Perhaps I should complain louder. Or write someone a very angry letter which would probably be put in the same file as the I-9 and used against me at a later date.

I’ve been getting up at the crack of dawn and not going to the gym because of my shoulder, so I’m starting to bounce off the walls.  I’m not working tomorrow, either, but that will be the last day I can afford to be off work so that shoulder better hurry up and get better.

Dammit.

Just for a giggle (and because I’ve been home and able to partially catch up on my internets), Laurie at Crazy Aunt Purl has some hilarious pictures of what San Fernando Valley heat will do to a pillar candle:

http://www.crazyauntpurl.com/archives/2008/06/enough_talking.php

I won’t be able to completely catch up on my internets, though – the way I hold my arms when I type hurts that damn high-maintenance shoulder after a while.

Filed under: life in LA, Non-Work, , , , , , , , , , ,

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Halfway through a wrap day

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