Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

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, , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s there, but I don’t have it

It’s been a very long time since I fell asleep at the wheel while driving home.

The first time, it was after a 16+ hour overnight in the high desert and I dozed off while stuck in rush hour gridlock. I woke up when my face hit the steering wheel, but luckily my foot never came off the brake.

There have been a few more times over the years – mostly just weaving on the road and having to roll down the windows or stomp the floor of the car with my left foot.

It just became a thing. Night work meant a fun drive home trying to out-weave the drunks, but I never felt concerned (if I should have is another post).

But I was really frightened Saturday morning when I dozed off while travelling southbound on the 405 at approximately 80 mph.

Luckily, I just weaved in my lane and then stomped the hell out of the floor of my car and made it home.

Wait.. let me back up.

This time of year work is thin, so when I got a call to work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I said yes before I asked any questions.

It was only after I was booked that the best boy told me it would be all nights on the other side of town.

Nights bother me a lot more now than they did when I was younger – I have a much harder time adjusting, and if I’m flipping between days and nights it’s even worse.

It would have been bad form for me to say ‘no’ after accepting the job, even with the construction in the unit above me (they say they’re remodeling it, but really I just think they’re chopping holes in the walls, patching them and cutting them out again just for practice), so I was stuck.

Lucky for me I was with a wonderful bunch of guys that I really like a lot – but that construction starts up at 7 am and I can’t sleep later, even with earplugs and a white noise machine, so even with the interim days off I spent an entire week on so little sleep I think it might have qualified as cruel and unusual.

As an added bonus, Friday’s pre-call ‘breakfast’ of a seemingly harmless turkey burger resulted in a three-day bout with rotavirus.

I got picked up for this week as well, which is great, but it’s been 7 am call times all week. Between the sleep loss and the power cleanse today was the first day I’ve felt even vaguely human.

Tomorrow, our call time is 6 am in west bumfuck, so I will have to get out of bed at 4:30. AM.

We have 9 pages to shoot, but it’s all day exterior and we don’t have enough lamps to make daylight*, so it can’t go all that late.

Since I didn’t post anything last week, please enjoy an apology photo of uplit trees and a condor with someone besides me in the basket:

P1050103

 

*It is possible to shoot day exterior at night, but you need a lot of equipment. Like a 48 foot trailer full of HMIs. Then, when the sun goes down, we unload the truck and curse our poor life decisions.

 

 

 

 

Filed under: crack of dawn, cranky, locations, long long drives, movies, Photos, up all night, Work, , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Knees, don’t fail me now

During the rare but not unheard of Sunday rigging call, we were in a very expensive boutique hotel on the Sunset Strip, which, given the only reason the hoi polloi shell out to stay there are hopes of catching a glance of a movie star, is surprisingly hostile to film crews.

We weren’t allowed to be in the hotel before 4 pm, which really sucked since the shooting unit had a 5 pm call and since there was no way we were going to get all the cable run in an hour, our boss begged or bribed or something and got us in early – on the condition that we be very, very quiet. Which, when one is rigging, is harder than one imagines.

I suppose it’s possible to gently set down a 100 lb. (45 kilo) coil of cable, but my back just wants me to drop it.

The other thing that slowed us down was the stairs. Oh, the stairs.

This particular hotel was built during an era when handicapped people were fucked (so why even let them out of the house), and therefore has no ramps. Anywhere.

The area we were rigging wasn’t accessible  any other way than stairs, which meant that cable carts were useless – we could get them about halfway to the set, and then had to pick everything up and walk it the rest of the way.

Actually, it was two sets of stairs.

This one:

P1040697

And this beauty:

P1040704

That second set is so narrow two people can’t pass on it, so the person with the lighter load yields. Unless it’s a guest, and then one squeezes to the side and waits, like Atlas, while cursing the universe.

Lucky for us the rig wasn’t that big and it wasn’t too hot – also I was working with a fantastic group of guys that make any situation fun, so it was a good day, even though at the end I would have handed back my entire day’s pay just to sully the hotel’s lovely pool with my dirty blue-collar cooties.

It was only a one-night shoot, so we were back this morning to wrap everything. Upon arriving, we were informed that the shoot had gone past the scheduled out time (shocked. I am shocked, I tell you) and the hotel management were a wee bit cross (something about the location manager’s head and a pike, but I didn’t get details), so we needed to double time it to get out of there.

As we started to gather equipment, it became apparent that, at some point during the wee hours, the hotel management mistook the shooting crew for cats and turned on the sprinklers in the hope that it would make them run away.

If only that worked.

Thirty minutes into the day we were soaking wet and smeared with dirt, and I guess my appearance was scary enough that when I greeted a guest with a cheery ‘Good Morning’ her response was a hissed suggestion that I go fuck myself.

If only I could. I’d never leave the house.

After carrying everything back down the stairs, we loaded the truck and rigged our second location – a theater with ramps. Lots and lots of ramps.

Of course it has stairs, too, but we didn’t have to deal with them.

I love you, cable carts. I’ll never take you for granted ever again.

Tomorrow, we wrap the theater and then unload the truck at the rental house.

 

 

 

 

 

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

A very nasty surprise

I had a fairly easy day at work today – all on stage, and all in a confined set that one can’t get to crazy lighting. I’m back tomorrow, and it’s with a group of guys that I really like, so when I got home my good mood was shattered by the note taped to my front door.

My building’s been sold, and as of April 1st, I’m to pay rent to a management company.

I  screamed “Fuck” loudly enough to make my neighbor come running out.

The owner didn’t tell anyone that he was selling the building, so these notes are the first anyone is hearing about it, and I’m not the only one who’s confused, but I’m probably the only one who screamed.

A large part of the reason I rented this place is because there wasn’t a management company, and although logically, I know that this management company might not be as horrible as the one at the old place, I’m still concerned. Very, very concerned.

But I can’t afford to move, so my only choice is to sit and wait.

Great.

Filed under: Non-Work, Off-Topic, , , , , ,

What is it with me and fingers?

I need my hands to do my job. So one would imagine I’d be extra careful, but still it’s the body part I manage to mash and smash more than any other.

After waiting a week to get in the ocean after Los Angeles’ torrential skywater catastrophe, some friends and I decided to go for a swim. Our usual spot in Santa Monica wasn’t an option as it was parking for the LA Marathon – and near the street closures – so we went a bit south to Venice beach, thinking that we’d have an easier time with traffic and parking.

Which worked out very well. Plenty of parking, light traffic for those who drove (I rode my bike as I had to traverse the most congested part of Santa Monica to get to the beach).

And then we approached the water, and came face to face with 6 foot waves.

I’m not particularly fearful of the ocean once I get past the surf (if something gets me, it gets me. C’est la vie), but I get a little nervous in surf much higher than my head.

Okay, that’s an understatement. Any waves bigger than about three feet and I’m a panicky idiot who needs supervision to ensure I won’t do anything stupid.

Needless to say, I didn’t get past the surf, and the one swimmer who did had to come back because it took so long to get my heart rate down from ‘coked out hummingbird’ that we ran out of time.

I would have hung my head in shame, but my neck was too sore from getting tossed in the surf.

So, with my proverbial tail between my legs, I slunk off to breakfast and then decided, last-minute, to try to get some sort of workout in and make a yoga class at the gym.

As I was rushing out of the house and using my foot to keep the cat from running outside, I pulled the door shut and didn’t move my finger quite quickly enough.

So it got slammed in the door.

If you’ve never done this, I can assure you it’s excruciatingly painful.

After screaming a few choice words, I looked at said finger and saw the nail turning black.

I’m told that’s bad. There are numerous tutorials on the internet to deal with this in the comfort of your home, but since I am lucky enough to still have insurance, I can go have a doctor do that for me, for only the cost of a very pricey night out.

So instead of going to a yoga class, I went to urgent care.

Where the very nice doctor numbed up my finger (FOUR shots in the nerves) and drilled a hole through the nail to let the blood out.

If you’ve never had a doctor drill (actually, it’s a burn. They BURN a hole though the nail. The smell is… unfortunate. I may never eat again) into your nail, I can assure you it’s really gross and also – take the ‘digital block‘ option. You do NOT want the doctor burning through your fingernail with no pain meds. Trust me.

So now I have a hole in my fingernail. Surprisingly, it’s not that painful. It’s just gross, as we’re over 24 hours on and it’s still bleeding.

Eeeewwww.

Although I think the post-burning photo of the fingernail gushing blood is funny, I’ll be nice and post a photo taken today – the grossest thing about it now is how badly I need a manicure.

2014-03-10 18.39.38

Right now, it’s a pathetic excuse for pilot season here in Los Angeles, so although it’s busy, a day off isn’t a bad thing.

I’ll make work calls tomorrow.

Filed under: humor, life in LA, Los Angeles, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, , , , , , , ,

A rare opportunity makes me silly happy

I almost never get to ride my bike to work.

Usually, I’m working in either some far-flung place or too many hours to brave a bike commute home when the drivers start getting drunk.

So yesterday, when I had a 9 am call for what was predicted to be an eight-hour day at a lot 3 miles from my apartment, I gleefully loaded up the bike bags with my work gear and headed out.

I giggled as I sailed past the traffic on the more than usually clogged up Santa Monica Blvd, and then glided through the full-to-the-brim parking lot (valet on the dungeon level and good luck finding your keys), then dismounted right in front of the catering truck. One egg white omelette (with a side of bacon) later and I rode over to the stage.

Sweet.

I did take the precaution of locking my bike, as I don’t want to lose my commuter to one of the lot bike “borrowers”.

We worked about 6 hours, had a very good time with super nice people, and then I rode home while it was still light – and even managed to make a stop at the pet store to get the cat’s ridiculously expensive (but she’s worth it) food.

I wish I could do this more often.

Unfortunately, although I’m working on the same lot tomorrow, I’m going to make a long day longer by going to masters swim before work, and I can’t make the ride from the pool to the lot in time.

So, car it is. But the swim makes it totally worth it.

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

Friday Photo

Update: Posted this on Thursday. I lost a day in there somewhere. I really have no idea how that happened.

When warning labels rage out of control:

IMG_1612

I get padding the pointy parts of the helicopter when the film crew is around. We’re clumsy and prone to not looking where we’re going.

I can’t help but imagine that the pilot knows damn well to remove those things before flight. Also, you know how people run to the helicopter and duck to avoid the spinning rotor blades?

They’re nuts. Those things are scary and not very far off the ground. I’m not going anywhere near the damn helicopter until they’ve stopped spinning.

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

The Streets of Beverly Hills

For the past few months, I’ve been taking part in a visual survey documenting road hazards for cyclists in Los Angeles.

That translates into riding my bike around and taking pictures of the shitty roads crisscrossing our fair city.

I don’t understand when and why Los Angeles county decided that having usable roads was near the bottom of the priority list, but cycling here can be an adventure.

There’s a choice if one is going to commute by bike – road tires or fat knobby mountain tires? There are advantages to both. The road tires, which is what I ride on, roll easier so you can go further, faster with less effort, but the fat tires can roll over the city’s plentiful potholes with less of the breaking and crashing.

I like the lower rolling resistance of the road tires – I made my choice, and I’m happy with it, but I do have to worry more about pavement than do the mountain bikers.

Today, as I was riding home from the garden, I spotted this:

P1040305

And this:

P1040307

And this:

P1040309

Oh, and this:

P1040313

And last but not least, this beauty:

P1040318

These are not so much potholes as they are small canyons. All of them on the same 2 mile stretch of road in the glamorous metropolis of Beverly Hills.

I’m not even sure a mountain bike could roll over those top two, and while I can roll over the last one I’m not sure I’d be able to keep all of my fillings in my head.

So what I have to do – since this stretch of road has no sidewalks – is veer out around the potholes into the path of the luxury SUV driven by the guy talking on the cellphone and simmering road rage.

There’s a residential street just north which has better pavement, but since there’s a stop sign every block it’s slow and frustrating.

Happily, though, the roadway is due for a reconstruction project which will mean a complete repaving (not just shitty asphalt patches), and there seems to be support for bike lane striping.

This is especially wonderful news since Beverly Hills has historically been, um, resistant to bike lane striping (and bike racks, and people on bicycles), even though the city’s streets are wide enough to accommodate bike lanes without giving up traffic lanes or parking (both are legitimate concerns for motorists).

But of course, the consultants hired recommended some weird mixed use travel lane which will just put cyclists and other undesirables in a center lane and right in the path of angry drivers.

But until whatever happens happens, I’ll still marvel at the crappiness of the street right in the middle of Beverly Hills.

Filed under: life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, rants, , , , , , , , , ,

A crash and a bang and that’s lunch.

I’m starting a show next week (hooray for work!), so I’ve not really been looking for work – just getting some random projects done around the house (fun fact: the walls in my apartment are not plumb, as I discovered when I tried to anchor a bookcase to the wall. Awesome).

But I’m certainly not going to turn anything down, so when I got a call to work a stunt unit yesterday, of course I agreed.

Stunts are a producer’s nightmare – they take forever and you cannot for any reason rush a stunt performer. Because if you do, and there’s an accident…

I don’t really need to finish that sentence, do I?

So we set up, lit the very small set and then we sat. And sat and sat and sat. Then, we went to lunch, came back and sat some more. The actors sat. The camera people sat. The producer sat and gnashed his teeth.

This particular movie had a very bad experience with a thing called an accelerator rig (cable system to pull a stunt performer through the air rapidly), so they won’t use them any more* – the ‘kick the bad guy right through the ceiling’ scene had to be shot in little bits, which isn’t a bad thing as we got to do some lighting.

The last shot of the day was a fist fight on top of a train scene – which was really a fight in front of a greenscreen with fans blowing for extra realism. Aside from the scuffing of a very expensive costume, it was uneventful.

The main challenge was to light the actors without casting shadows onto the greenscreen. Easy on really big greenscreen set ups (you can get the actors way away from the walls), not so much on small ones – you can’t get your action far enough away from the screen to make it easy (the screen has to be lighted separately from the actors, and there can’t be any cross contamination – the actor light has to stay on the actor, and the greenscreen light has to stay on the screen).

But again, once it was done, we sat. Lucky for me my co-workers were really wonderful folks and we had a very good time.

I have to give the director credit – we did three really huge, complicated stunt scenes in under 12 hours. That’s amazing.

* I wasn’t there, but I’m told a part of the rig failed (mechanics, not human error) and almost bruised a very expensive actor.

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

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