Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

This is the way we scrub the floor

This week has been all about cleaning the house because I don’t want the new owner to think I live like a pig when he does the walk through (I’m not sure when that’s going to be. I’m still desperately hoping I’m going to start working again soon, so I’m cleaning now while I have the time), and I’ve come to the following realization about myself:

I have way too many shoes. Really, it’s out of control. I blame my mother, whose motto was ‘never throw anything away because as soon as you do it’ll come back in style and then you’ll have to buy another one so you may as well just keep the old one’ for my current footwear overflow issues.

Hell, I can’t even wear quite a few of them since Dr. Buzzkill put the kibosh on my wearing heels. But I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them.
The doctor has also ordered me to lose as much weight as I possibly can (without becoming one of the lollipop-head set, of course, although years of hauling cable around have left me with enough muscle in my upper body that I’ll never be able to get scary skinny) in the hopes of buying some time for my  knees.

I’m on a pretty brutal workout regime – not only do I have those doctor’s orders to drop some lard, I have to get some of that muscle back on because although I make jokes about being weak and girly, not being able to do my job doesn’t go over so well at work, so when I’ve not been cleaning the house I’ve been pumping the iron and doing the hated cardio in the gym. I’ve basically doubled the workout I normally do – heavier weights, more exercises per body part, longer cardio time (my knees are fucked up because of work, not the gym so the physical-therapist approved workout’s not going to make them any worse).

All this working out has left me sore and cranky. That, and I really hate my gym. I’ve been going to 24 Hour Fitness for years and it used to be a decent, no-frills type place to work out, but now the clubs are oversold, horrifyingly filthy and generally miserable.

They’ve also gotten rid of the gender-segregated spas. I love to sit in the steam room, but I hate sitting in a smelly, trash strewn steam room with guys who stare, make comments and ‘accidentally’ brush up against any women they can corner.

I’ve decided that as soon as work starts back up and I get a steady check, I’m switching. I’m looking at Meridian (no web site that I can find), because they’ve got a club close to me and one of my friends goes there and just loves it.

Of course, the gym I’d really like to join is the Sports Club LA, but it’s so far out of my price range that I can’t even begin to think about it. Damn. They have the best pool ever.

Enjoy a photo from the weekend’s road trip up the coast which I was too tired and sore to write about:

Old San Simeon beach

Also, the couch blog got featured on the LA Times website today.

Filed under: cranky, Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, travel, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Just don’t call it a boat

Since the bulk of my nautical experience has been throwing up over the side of the Channel ferry and watching movies where a shitload of people drown, I learned a lot yesterday. Mostly, I learned what not to call things on a boat – whoops, I mean ship.

We were putting a rig in on a WW2 era merchant ship called the SS Lane Victory in San Pedro, and right off the bat I committed a gaffe by calling it a boat – and then proceeded to make an even bigger ass of myself by not being able to remember which side was port and which was starboard (don’t even get me started on forward and aft – I’m still a little shaky on which way the boat was facing. At least twice yesterday, I was unable to figure out where my boat lingo talking boss was and had to walk around in circles on the deck until I could see him. Luckily, my boss yesterday is a really terrific guy and tried his best to help me get the nautical terms through my thick skull so the next time I’m on the ship there will be less snickering).

The ship’s staff- who we’d nicknamed “The Old Salts” (who were actually not very salty at all. They were a terrific bunch of guys who were really interesting and I’m bummed that I didn’t have enough free time to talk to them. Guess I’ll have to go back on my own time) were there to help us (and were very kind about not making fun of our comparatively rudimentary knot-tying skills) and quickly winched all our cable and lights onto the ship using the 60+ year old equipment. There was no fumbling, no shouting, no confusion – they just whipped that stuff up onto the ship’s deck quicker than we could bring it to them – guess they’ve had a lot of practice.

Luckily, I remembered my knee brace, as there was really no direct route to any where on the ship, and there was a lot of ladder climbing (and stairways that may as well have been ladders and a really steep gangplank that may as well have been a ladder) all day. By the end of the day, both my legs were aching like I’d just had a strenuous workout at the gym.

The day’s big stroke of luck was my not having to climb the masts to put lights up at the top – my boss did it. Good thing too – although I’m not really afraid of heights, I do draw the line at climbing a 60+ year old metal ladder up the side of a mast on a floating ship. Of course, one of the Old Salts does it every day barefoot while smoking a cigarette (and he’s almost twice my age and in better shape than I’ll ever be in even if I were to take a year off work and do nothing but work out all day every day).

The first part of the day was really hot, but towards the end of the day it cooled off and there was a really beautiful sunset and a wonderful breeze.

The day’s really big news came from one of the Old Salts – apparently, the US Coast Guard thinks film crews are security risk and has advised the folks running the Lane Victory (and other similar locations) to no longer allow film shoots (obviously, because we’re dirty America-haters and can’t be trusted on locations. Either that or it’s because we don’t pick up after ourselves).

Really, now – terrorist plotting after work is way too much effort. When I got home last night I couldn’t even muster up the energy to make a sandwich.

At the end of the day, the best boy asked me to come back with the shooting unit that’s working today, but I’d already been booked on another show (which is good, but I hate saying no because I’m always afraid they’ll give up on me and not call me again) for tonight.

I left my house at 7:30 am, and just barely made my 9 am call, right under the Vincent Thomas Bridge.

We were released at 9:40 pm, and I got home at 10:15 pm.

My job tonight will give me three work days out of a four day week.

Not bad.

Filed under: locations, long long drives, Work, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Early arrival has some perks

When one works at this particular lot, one has to consider the garage factor into the arrival time.

This lot’s parking garage simply isn’t large enough for all the cars that need to park in it, so late arrivals have to use the valet service. While this may seem cushy, in reality it’s a huge pain in the ass. Since shooting companies work far later than do the valets, the solution is for the valet to park the car in a space that opens up after the garage empties out, and then take the keys to the front gate (on the other side of the lot from the garage) after the garage closes. If one is working on a stage that’s near the parking structure, this means that after wrap one has to traipse all the way across the lot to get the car keys, and then all the way back across the lot (while carrying all of ones work gear) to get back to the car.

Call me a whiner if you like, but after a 14 hour day that double walk across the lot seems more like a 400 mile hike while lugging a boulder.

So, for an 8 am call I got to the parking garage at 7:15 am, and that was almost too late – all the ‘good’ spots were gone, but at least I didn’t have to cruise the garage with my fingers crossed hoping against hope to find a spot that everyone else had overlooked, plus I had time to finish my coffee and stroll over to the stage and raid first unit’s craft service (since they were in an hour earlier than us and the main unit generally gets better stuff than the second unit).

While I was driving to work, I kept having this nagging feeling that I was forgetting something, and I kept going over my work gear checklist in my mind: change of shoes, change of socks, hat, tools, sunglasses, phone, etc..

I couldn’t figure it out until, of course, I’d gotten far enough away that I wouldn’t have been able to turn around and go back and then I remembered. My knee brace. I left it sitting on the bench next to the front door where I’d placed it so I wouldn’t forget it.

D’oh.

So it was really a good thing that I got put on the dimmer board (since the guy who was supposed to be running the board called in sick). I got to stay off my feet (the dimmer board is almost never on set – it’s usually in a small room somewhere, and the operator gets to sit down, although one generally can’t walk away from the board because as soon as the operator steps away, the gaffer will start adjusting light levels) and I didn’t have to do anything more complicated than bring up the lights the gaffer wanted (one can do incredibly complicated things with dimmer boards – but I’m a bit out of practice on this particular model, so requests for something complicated would have sent me frantically paging through the manual while trying to stall the gaffer) and only had to call the first unit dimmer board op a few times with questions. The rig in that stage hasn’t changed in so long that he doesn’t leave notes out because he’s got it all in his head, so every now and then I’d not know something and then have to call, but luckily our gaffer and the DP were calm and no one flipped out.

Plus, I managed to get out of the studio store without shopping myself broke.

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

Fine, I’ll look on the damn bright side.

Although I don’t know how much of this list is optimism and how much is schadenfreude, but sometimes you just have to take what you can get.

Especially from me.

Here ya go:

1) At least I don’t live in the Western San Fernando Valley – if you think I’m whining about the heat now

2) At least I’m not a “pro-family” US Senator with a horrible voting record on gay rights who got popped (pun intended) for hitting on a male cop in an airport restroom (insert derisive snicker). Now there’s a guy with problems.

3) The cat has only thrown up one hairball this week. This is a vast improvement over last week, when she threw up about ten thousand hairballs and kindly left most of them right where I’d step in them during night-time trips to the loo.

4) The maintenance guy has switched from Eddie Money to the Eagles. I don’t really care for the Eagles much, but it’s a change and I have to take what I can get, right?

4) I’m working Friday, but it’s on a stage that’s air-conditioned to the point of qualifying as a meat locker with a crew of folks who, if I start acting bitchy, will just throw something at me and not take it personally. Yay!

5) The MRI for the right knee came back, and besides a bit of fluid, everything is normal. No torn anything, no weird tumors.

And, just for the record, I don’t hate France – I love France. Honestly, I can take or leave Paris, but the south of France is where I really fell in love with the country and the people (who were wonderful everywhere I went, and very patient with my atrocious French), even though every time I go there I gain about three metric tons from eating all the delicious food and drinking gallons of the local vin ordinaire.

Whenever I complain about the excess pounds, whoever I’m talking to gives that dismissive hand wave that only the French can do really well and says “Oh, there is always time to diet later. Here, have another croissant”.

Why, merci. Don’t mind if I do.

Stupid France and their stupid wonderful food and stupid delicious wine and cheese (which is so totally worth eating) and nice people and beautiful light and strong coffee.

Mmmm.. France. I need to go there right now.
But I can’t go to France any time soon because today I lashed out with Mr. Debit Card and bought a Nikon D40.

I blame Nezza for this.

Originally, I had only thought of buying the D80, which is WAY outside my price range, so I’d just looked at them, sighed wistfully and hoped that the DSLR fairies would someday leave one under my pillow if I were very, very good indeed, and moved on. Then, when Nezza mentioned a D40, I looked at it and thought it wasn’t so bad, so when I went by Samy’s Camera today to buy film for my ancient SLR, I saw the sale price on the D40 and before I knew it, I was walking out the door with one.

I hope you’re happy, Nezza.

Now I have a camera but I can’t make an impulse ticket purchase to Paris, where I’d jump on the train and go somewhere with fatty food and stunning beaches and cheap wine and fabulously attractive locals whom I’d probably ignore completely due to my being too busy stuffing my face.

Who am I kidding… Once I factor in the lost work, that would cost about a bazillion times more than a camera.

Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t use normal batteries, so I couldn’t just take it out of the box and start shooting (of course, there was a really awesome couch on the way home), but once it gets charged I’m going to try it out.

And, of course, if I don’t like it I’m going to muster all of my imaginary PMS anger and return it.

Filed under: camera, couches, life in LA, Nikon, Non-Work, Off-Topic, overspending, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A nice, relaxing “weekend”

After working all weekend (on a music video – which means we got run half to death due to lack of planning on production’s part), Monday was doctor day for both me and the car.

The car had to go in because, of course, as soon as it got really hot, the air conditioner stopped working. Normally, I don’t use the a/c that much (it’s really bad for fuel economy in the land of the $3.00 gallon of gas), but lately it’s been sufficiently oven-like around here that I can’t stand to sit in a traffic jam (daily occurrence here in LA) when I feel like I’m going to die from the heat.

The mechanic wasn’t sure if I need a new compressor or not, so he put some freon in and told me to see how the a/c works for the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, the heat will be over in the next couple of weeks and I can proceed to ignore the a/c until next summer.

After I dropped the car off, I went to the doctor about the knee which has been hurting like hell – but it’s the other knee this time. When the he sent me to the x-ray tech, he sighed and said “Well, let’s see what weird thing’s in this knee. I wish you could have something normal go wrong with you”.

Hey, knee problems are totally normal in my line of work.

The good news is that there isn’t anything strange on the x-ray, but the bad news is that there’s no immediate explanation for the pain (other than years of abuse), so I’m getting an MRI on Saturday.

I’m working tonight, but I don’t have to be there until 6 pm (and when I do get there I’m going up in the condor, so I can sleep once everything’s set).

Filed under: life in LA, mishaps, Work, , , , , , , , ,

I just knew this was going to happen.

This is what I foresee happening for the next four (or so) weeks:

I call the physical therapist and arrange to come in on, say, Wednesday and Friday.

(Phone rings) “Hello?”

Best boy: “Can you work Wednesday and Friday?”

Me: “Sure!”

I then reschedule my physical therapy for Tuesday and Thursday.

(Phone rings) “Hello?”

Best Boy: “Okay, you’re not working Wednesday and Friday now. They changed the shots. You’re now working Tuesday and Thursday.”

Me (under breath): “Dammit.”

It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

My first physical therapy appointment is Wednesday, so I took what I thought was a one day call today (Tuesday). Right after lunch, they asked me to work the rest of the week – I hemmed and hawed about the appointment (after having to tell them that I can’t work Friday because I’ve already been booked that day on a commercial) and was told that it was okay – they’ll just let me take a ‘long lunch’ and then I’ll be the person who stays after everyone else goes home to help the lamp dock guys count in the gear.

Now, it’s really bad form to decline work after concessions have been made for things like physical therapy appointments, so although I hadn’t wanted to work Wednesday (not because I don’t want to work; because I don’t want to show up for my first appointment all filthy, bedraggled, and smelly – which is an apt description of me after I’ve been wrapping cable in the perms all day), I kind of got backed into a corner since I like these guys and would love to not piss them off so much that they never call me again.

Hopefully the physical therapist will understand.

Today was the work test-drive for the world’s biggest knee brace, and it went pretty well. My problem sometimes with doctors is that I’m fairly certain they have no fucking idea what my workday’s really like, so when they say “sure, you can work”, they don’t realize that when at work, I’ll be picking up heavy things and twisting my body while holding them (throwing cable into carts: pick up cable, swing cable over to cart by pivoting at – you guessed it- the knee, drop cable coil into cart), climbing ladders (go up into the perms. Okay, it’s coffee. Come down out of the perms. Okay, break’s over. Go back up into the perms. Repeat at lunchtime, or when supervisor decides to rotate crew out of ‘up high’ to give them a break).

So far, the knee’s been fine, but we’re only in phase one – the ‘clearing the floor’ phase. When wrapping a stage, one wraps all the stuff that’s sitting on the floor first – normally it’s lamps (the most expensive item and the thing that production wants us to get off rental as soon as possible), then distro, and then cable. Only after the floor has been cleared of equipment does the stuff that’s up in the perms gets dropped out -the reason for this is that dropping equipment on top of equipment creates one hell of a mess.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

Filed under: Work, , , , ,

Friday Photo

Knee - side view Xray.

As much as I wanted to title this post “It’s not a too-mah”, that bump on my femur, is, in fact, a tumor.

The good news is that it’s a benign tumor, so they’re going to MRI it again in four months and if it’s not gotten any bigger, it gets to take a trip to the ‘ignore’ file.

In other good news, I won’t be needing surgery on my knee. As best I understand it, I fucked up the thing that goes over the kneecap, and as a result I’ll need physical therapy three times a week for the next four weeks, and I can’t do squats or lunges at the gym (but I can swim as much as I want to and bicycle as long as I raise the seat so the knee’s not bent too much). And – I’m able to work with the aid of the world’s largest knee brace.

Sweeeet.

As much as I might like to joke about sitting around on my ass collecting disability, the fact is that I don’t like being out of work when there’s work to be had.

I was so happy about not having to have surgery, that after I ran some other errands and went swimming for an hour (hey, the doctor said I could) I stopped at Mozza on the way home and had some pizza and a really excellent glass of wine (my last for the next 10 days, as I’m starting back onto the heavy-duty anti-inflammatory drugs).

The consequences I’m currently suffering because of the cheese are totally worth it.

Yay! No surgery!

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

Back in the land of the living, at last.

I know I’ve said it before, but pulling all-nighters just kills me.

They didn’t used to – I’d run around all day, work all night and then the next day I’d just drink a lot of coffee and stay up until early evening and then sleep for 12 hours. The next morning, I’d wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Not so much anymore.

I worked Tuesday night and couldn’t sleep during the day due to too much noise from the construction next door. Also, I had a two hour drive to where we were working (a mothballed children’s prison in Whittier, which should only be a 20 minute drive if the traffic around here weren’t so bad), so I had to leave really early to make my 7 pm call.

The night went pretty well – thankfully my boss put me in one of the lifts hanging lights so I didn’t have to walk on a concrete floor all night. My knee thanks him.

My appointment with the doctor was at 9 am Wednesday, so I rushed out of work (so quickly that I forgot to take my walkie off and now have to get it back to the best boy over the weekend. The really funny part was when it started making dying battery beeps later in the day and I couldn’t figure out what the noise was and went batty in sleep-deprived slow-mo) just in time to hit the morning rush hour gridlock. I did, however, manage get back to LA in time to take a quick shower before seeing the doctor, which was good because I’m sure I didn’t smell too great after sweating all night.

Oh, and the orthopedist did exactly what I thought he was going to do. He took one look at the xray and ordered an MRI, which I’ll get Saturday morning at 7 am.

The rest of the day is kind of a blur. At some point I did go to sleep and when I woke up Thursday, I was still tired and fuzzy – so I went to see the Harry Potter movie, which probably would have been confusing to me even if I’d been 100 percent. Unlike Fellini movies, Harry Potter does not improve with sleep deprivation – but I suppose that’s what you get when you try to condense a 700 page book into a movie.

I’m feeling much better today, and may even attempt to do some thinking (or go see the Simpsons movie). The knee’s better too – I can walk normally now instead of gimping around, leaning on a cane.

Filed under: crack of dawn, life in LA, locations, long long drives, Non-Work, up all night, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!

Thursday night was supposed to be a fun night – I was on a show that’s got a fantastic crew with whom I always have a great time. Plus, once they moved outside for the big night exterior, I was going up in the condor, which meant even if I couldn’t catch a nap I’d still be able to enjoy the cool breeze that blows 80 feet above the lot on summer nights.

But it didn’t work out like that.

I suppose at this point I should rewind about 10 years (or so).

One night (dark and stormy, of course) before I’d gotten into the union, after a 16 hour day on a low-budget nightmare, our truck broke down and we had to move all our equipment into a replacement truck after wrap but before we could go home (on locations camera, lighting and grip almost never get to go home at wrap – we have to shove all our crap back into our trucks and that can take a while).

The method for doing this is to back the trucks up so the rear ends face each other and the lift gates overlap (in the ‘up’ position about four feet off the ground), and just schlep the stuff from one truck to the other. If you put the trucks side-by-side and go up and down and up and down on the gates, it takes forever and your gates drain their batteries and die right before it’s time to load the really heavy stuff.

At some point during the transfer, I lost my footing on the wet lift gate and fell off the side. On the way down (or maybe when I fell on the surface of the parking lot) I seriously fucked up my left knee (as opposed to my right knee, which I only mildly fucked up) and spent the next couple of hours sitting on the ground, trying to keep from crying as my co-workers finished swapping trucks (I’d car pooled with my boss that day and had to sit there and wait. Not that I’d have been able to drive anyways – I had a stick shift at the time and my left knee wasn’t really working very well).

Production, of course, had sent the medic home at wrap as they didn’t want to keep paying him to sit around while those sweaty people worked.

The next day, I called in sick and went to a doctor who listened to the tale and took one look at my pitiful attempt to walk then started a workmen’s comp claim. He’d gotten to the point where he was ready to order MRIs and figure out exactly what was wrong, then the production company contested the claim (since heaven forbid they pay for an injury), and since I couldn’t afford health insurance, I couldn’t get it treated – I just iced it and stayed off of it for a couple of weeks, and then used a brace at work for a few months while I became better acquainted with over-the-counter painkillers.

After a while, it became normal – I just had a bad knee, and every so often it would act up and I’d have to stay home on the couch, with an ice pack and the remote control waiting for it to settle down. It’s amazing how quickly we learn to live with certain things.

Then, on Thursday night, the knee became incredibly painful – worse than it’s ever been before, and for the life of me I can’t remember doing anything to make it start. I didn’t fall, didn’t run up a bunch of steps, didn’t twist with my weight on it, didn’t kick anyone (hard). I just reported for work and it started hurting right before lunch.

Maybe my knee doesn’t like the commissary.

Lucky thing I went up in the condor because by that time I wasn’t sure if I could even finish out the night and getting off my feet for a few hours bought me some time (now would be a good time to mention that quite a few of us keep working when we’re injured, as we don’t want to be perceived as whiners or ‘high-maintenance’. Generally, the only time I’ll go home is if I’m vomiting so much that I can’t stand up).

It hurt even worse Friday, so I went to the doctor and he x-rayed it, became extremely agitated by said x-rays (he jabbed the image with his finger and said “What the hell is that?”) and then gave me a referral to go see an orthopedist.

My appointment’s Wednesday morning, and I’m going to strap a brace on the knee and try to work tomorrow night. I should be done by 7 am, and then it’s just a not-so-quick drive across town to the doc. Don’t bother telling me I’m nuts, I already know.

Hopefully I won’t have to climb any stairs.

Filed under: mishaps, studio lots, up all night, Work, , , , , , , , ,

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