Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

It’s beginning to look a lot like I’m not sure what.

Normally, fall is a very busy time of year – production cranks up and I bounce around between TV shows and movies and while I’m tired, it’s all good as I’m on a mission to bank cash for the lean months that follow the holidays.

Except this year. This year, it’s dead when it should be busy. Since no one knows if SAG are going to strike or not, nothing is starting up right now out of fear of being shut down. There are no movies shooting right now, and many of the TV shows are going down early and taking extended breaks.

Of course, the producers are saying SAG are unreasonable, and SAG are saying the producers won’t talk.

Guess who I believe?

Tomorrow, a federal mediator comes out to try to salvage… something, but no one I know has much hope.

In the interest of not having a poverty-line Christmas this year, I’d like to offer my mediation services.

Bring me the SAG reps and the person who’s ‘negotiating’ for the producers and lock us in a room. No sleepy time, no bathroom breaks, no food.

Also, I’ll need the following items:

Three rolls of duct tape.

Two sets of those unbreakable golf clubs (with extra drivers).

One police-issue taser.

An unlimited supply of air cartridges.

One box of cookies (no, they’re not for me. Bad thoughts = pain. Good thoughts = cookie. Even producers need occasional positive reinforcement).

Using my patented method*,  I will guarantee a contract agreement in 48 hours.

Of course, I suppose I’ll also need immunity from prosecution and/or two suitcases full of hundreds and a fake passport.

You know where to find me if that federal mediator dude doesn’t work out.

*violates Geneva Conventions

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , ,

Trade-offs

I hate turning down work from best boys who call me regularly. What’s happened to me more than once is that said best boy decides that since I’m never available, he (or she) just isn’t going to bother even trying anymore.

This is a total burn as by the time I’m off whatever I was on that was keeping me too busy to come in and work, I’ve been replaced on the call list by someone else – and folks have a list that they go down when they have work. The higher up on that list one’s name is, the more often one gets work calls.

So, as much as I hated to do it, I had to turn down an offer of a day on a fairly regular gig Friday because of numbers.

It was for a one day call, and since the show I’m currently working for shoots on a lot which gives hiring priority to their own people, were I to lay myself off for that one day to go do another show, I’d probably not be able to get back on so I’d be giving up the five days of work I’ve currently got (on a lot that’s so close to my house I don’t have to drive and use expensive gas) for one day on another show.

Normally, I’m not hesitant to give up two days for one or to work for a lower rate if it’s someone who calls me regularly – the trade off being that I continue to be on that person’s call list and maintain relationships so I make more money in the long run.

But five days is a lot of money, and with a SAG strike looming, I’m in mercenary mode. Right now, it’s all about the money and my banking as much of it as I possibly can before I’m once again unemployed and watching news coverage of picket lines from the comfort of my living room.

If the SAG strike doesn’t happen after all (something we’re all desperately hoping), I’d love to have enough money by the end of the year to buy a car. I had enough right before the WGA strike, but had to use it to keep a roof over my head instead (before the comments about my extravagant lifestyle commence: not a new car. A new-to-me car).

Hmm.. I wonder if I can use the “you put me out of work” guilt to get John August to buy me a car.

Probably not worth the effort. I’m guessing it’s going to be much easier to guilt one of the actors.

Filed under: Work, , , , ,

A week of cautious optimism

Right in the middle of this week full of highly amusing election snark (bye bye, Rudy! Bye bye, Romney! Also, sadly – bye, bye Edwards – the only really pro-labor candidate) , there are rumblings that the WGA might have reached a deal.

Admittedly, this would be totally sweet, but do remember that most of your friendly crew people will continue to be unemployed for about a month after the official end of the strike – it takes time to get a production of any size moving, so although it’ll be over for the WGA, it’ll still be rough for me for a while longer.

Especially since unemployment seem to be stalling me – guess it’s their way of dealing with California’s budget shortfall.

Also, there are now multiple offers on my building (all from developers, of course), so tomorrow’s project is to find a lawyer. I have a feeling I’m going to need one if I don’t want to get screwed.

Also, I still have not gotten tax paperwork from Axium, which doesn’t really surprise me.

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

Okay, I promise I’ll stop freaking out. For now.

Today I got a very important piece of mail – the statement from the pension and health plan which tallies my qualifying hours for the previous semester.

As previously mentioned, we have to work at least 300 hours every semester in order to keep our health insurance – we can ‘bank’ hours in excess of 300 (up to 450), so we have an emergency pad just for times like this (although just about everyone I know desperately wants to avoid having to pull hours out of the bank).

Last semester, I worked 760 hours, so even if half of them are retroactively disqualified due to our good friends at Axium, I’m still okay, and since my bank’s full I’ll at least have insurance for the next year, even if the unthinkable happens and I don’t work until June or July (remember SAG? They have contract negotiations coming up in a few months and they’re also tired of getting screwed by The Man).

Thank heavens. Of course, possibly losing 400 pension hours is going to matter a great deal to me when I’m 105 and running out the clock while trying to avoid the jobs which will require me to pull cable 14 hours a day*, but for now it prevents the total meltdown that I was working myself into.

On a happier (if unrelated) note, last night I went to a free screening of the movie Once (which I really liked), and then on the way out of the theater, stopped by the Virgin Megastore which is closing (word on the street is that the landlord jacked up the rent – there seems to be a rash of that happening all over Los Angeles these days), and took advantage of the half-off sale to pick up the new Radiohead CD. I don’t normally buy CDs because of that thing that they do where there are only two good songs and the rest are crap, but Radiohead (if they’re your thing) seem to be consistently good.

I figured I could spare the 8 bucks because I haven’t driven the car in almost a week, which means that I’ve not spent 50 bucks on a tank of gas.

*Actually, since I didn’t get into the union until I was almost 30, the chances that I’ll be able to work enough to qualify for full retirement are slim to none.

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

Weekends mean nothing to me now.

Since I’m currently unemployed between projects, the whole “Saturday/Sunday off ” thing is totally meaningless – every day is Saturday now.

What I’ve been dealing with during my endless string of Saturdays is the suitcase explosion in the living room and the fact that I’m really, really cold.

I don’t mean that I’m colder than I was in France – I mean that my house has no heat because apparently I’m too dumb to light the pilot light on my heater. It’s got this complicated little mechanism where one has to turn the gas on and then hold a button in while shoving a match into a teeny hole and hoping desperately that the pilot light will somehow come on (“Ooog see fire! Fire good!”) and then giving up once fire does not appear after repeated attempts and the room begins to smell like gas – although I’m certain that I’d be able to keep warm were I to simply create a bonfire out of the suitcase flotsam that’s currently covering the living room.

I’m saving all my receipts in the hope that somehow I’ll be able to write the trip off on my taxes.

Of course we knew about the transportation strike before we left, but I think all of us were hoping that it would be over before we landed – no such luck. When we landed at the airport, we had to wait 45 minutes for the airport bus to take us to a city train station that was kind of near our hotel, and then taxi it the rest of the way.

One thing I’d forgotten about Europeans is that they don’t line up – they just crowd around and shove each other. I will never understand this, but I’m really good at shoving people without being too obvious about it (an important skill when the producer’s having a conversation in the only doorway into the set and I’ve got a 60 lb. light on my shoulder that’s hotter than the surface of the sun), so we got on the first bus out and managed to arrive at our hotel in about the same amount of time it would have taken had we gotten on the train.

Our first night in Paris, we just walked across the street from the hotel and grabbed dinner at a cafe which was really smoke filled (another thing I’d forgotten about Europe) but had good food. With the exchange rate, dinner cost approximately $17,000. Each.

Because of the transportation strike, we were pretty much limited to stuff in the center of the city – there was some train service, but it was unpredictable and the lines were being shut down with very little notice. I, for one, didn’t want to get stuck in some far-flung corner of the city when the subway line went down and have to pay a small fortune to take a taxi back to the hotel.

Our hotel was on the left bank near the Luxembourg gardens, which seemed fairly central when I booked it, but when faced with the whole walking thing, I really wish I’d been able to afford something even closer to the center of the city.

Oh, well.

The advantages of travelling in the off-season were the lack of huge lines. We got into the Louvre right away, although I skipped the paintings, which I’d seen before and went straight to the old fortress that’s on the lower level.

Louvre

So. Cool.

Later the same night, we went up the Eiffel Tower – when we got up to the top, there was freezing rain and the wind was howling around us. I stayed in the lee of the elevator shaft, but still managed to get some great photos before my hands stopped working because of the cold:
Night cityscape

The blue beam was coming from the tower itself – it rotated around, and I’m still not sure why, but the tower was definitely the highlight of Paris for me. The last time I was in Paris, it was the summertime and it was so crowded with tourists that you had to wait hours to go up, so I didn’t get to go.

Eiffel Tower

Although I had a good time, I still stand by my statement that I can take or leave Paris. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that it’s, well, it’s a large city – it’s crowded and dirty and the stairwells all smell like piss. Just like LA, just like New York, just like Berlin, just like London.

Everyone was really nice, though, and they were very understanding about my atrocious French.  We had some wonderful hot chocolate on the Ile St. Louis (someone at work had recommended Angelina, but the place we found had better hot chocolate and now I can’t remember the name of it although were I there I’d be able to find it again just by following the smell), and I ate a bunch of stuff I really shouldn’t have and didn’t gain any weight because I was walking 50 miles a day.

On Monday morning, we packed up and headed out to pick up the car and start driving south – which is where I’ll pick up tomorrow (or Monday, depending on how lazy I’m feeling), since this is getting a bit long.

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

So now I’m out of a job along with everyone else.

Today marked my last day of work until all this strike business blows over.

The show that I was working on is an unfortunate victim of the downsizing that’s been happening all over town – a lot of shows are getting the axe because, well, because it’s an excuse to cut some fat and cancel expensive shows that are not expected to do well for one reason or another, so we were completely wrapping out the stages – which meant having to return all the equipment and tear out the rig that’s up in the perms so as to leave the stage ‘clean’ for whichever show comes in next.

As we dropped the cable out of the perms, the talk turned to what we’re all going to do if this strike outlasts our unemployment checks. I’m at a distinct disadvantage here because I’m single – most of the guys on the crew have wives that work in other industries, so they’ll get by on one check.

After spending my entire adult life in the film industry, I’m not sure exactly what it is that I’m qualified to do in the real world. I’ve been making jokes about supplementing my unemployment check with the occasional spot of pole dancing, but the reality is that even if I could find someone to pay money to see me in a bikini my knees would probably give out and I’d make an ass of myself.

Even more so than usual.

The upside was that I was working at Sunset Gower studios, where it’s way easier to park off the lot and walk in (the parking structure fills up super fast) – which meant I was able to make  a face-to-face apology to the writers for crossing the picket line (something I’m deeply uncomfortable doing, but I have to bank every cent I can right now).

Filed under: Work, , , , , , ,

Fan, meet Shit. Shit, meet Fan.

Well, it’s official. The writers are going to strike.

Since today’s work was on a stage with internet access, everyone who had a computer kept checking every 90 seconds to see what was going on, and we got the word via the LA Times website around 8 pm.

This show will finish it’s current episode (which runs through Friday), and after that who knows what will happen? It depends on if they have a script that they can shoot without re-writing it (which is absurd – stuff gets rewritten on the fly all the time).

By 8:05, a couple of people were starting to really freak out, but I’m just going to try to scrounge enough work to get me through the next couple of weeks and then hope for the best.

I suppose the next few weeks would be a great time for me to get the bunion surgery that I need (and the accompanying 10 – 12 weeks of disability), or I could go get a regular construction job, or go pull cable on one of the event crews.

I guess that’s where those of us that are below the line have an advantage (and it’s probably the only advantage we have) is that the skills we have translate into being able to go and get a job somewhere else if we absolutely have to.

Who am I kidding? Although I like to think I’d be able to march up to a construction site and get a decent paying job that uses a similar set of skills to mine, the reality is that I’ll probably end up back on the low budget non-union movies.

Who, when you think about it, are going to be the clear winner in this mess. They’re going to get the crews (and the writers) they normally can’t afford, and none of us can leave and go work a ‘real’ show because there won’t be any.

Gods, I hope this gets settled quickly, although the pessimist in me is pretty certain it won’t.

Filed under: Work, , , , ,

April 2014
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Halfway through a wrap day

Get something out of those jockey boxes, I dare you.

Electricity and water

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