Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

I Miss You, Winter. I’ll Never Again Take You for Granted.

Day exteriors are usually pretty uneventful for electricians. We might move around a few lights, but generally the ones getting worked are the grips.

But even if we have an easy day work-wise, this time of year the heat makes everything seem more difficult.

The heat can be not so bad or completely terrible, depending on where one is shooting. Yesterday, we were shooting in the cement-lined quad of a community college.

A few trees, but not even a hint of a breeze and the thing about cement is that it radiates the heat back – even the soles of my feet were hot, and my face got burned under the brim of my hat just from the reflected heat.

The only time I have ever passed out from the heat at work was under similar circumstances – hot day, cement quad, relentless sun.

In addition to the heat, it’s suddenly gotten uncomfortably humid here in Southern California. Not Florida humid, but 40% is like a steam bath to those of us accustomed to the desert.

One of the things I notice about humidity is that I never get any relief from the sweat. It doesn’t evaporate, it just clings to me and makes me clammy and smelly. I also tend to not drink enough water when it’s humid.

This production, in an effort to be ‘green’ doesn’t supply water bottles, only those teeny waxed paper cups.

Luckily I remembered to bring my own bottle, but I clearly didn’t drink enough as by wrap I had no strength left.

Even carrying a head feeder across the quad’s pitiful patch of burned grass made me feel like Atlas.

I downed about a liter on the drive home, and thought I’d be okay, but I woke up this morning sore and feeling hungover, even though I’d had no alcohol.

Today was day two in the heat (in a different location with more trees and marginally less cement) and my strategy was to mix electrolyte powder with every other bottle of water, and to make sure to keep the bottle somewhere I could get to easily – I can’t hang it on my belt as a liter of water is surprisingly heavy, but I kept it near (but not on top of) the HMI ballasts, so as we moved the heads around I would see the bottle and take a swig.

I think it worked as right now I don’t feel terrible and I had to pee about every hour.

I’m still going to try to get through another liter with the powder before I go to bed, though.

Tomorrow, we’re on stage all day – a stage with crappy air conditioning, but at least we’ll be out of the sun.

Call time Monday: 6 am

Wrap time Monday: 8 pm

Drive home: 45 minutes

Call time today: 6:30 am

Wrap time today: 7 pm

Call time tomorrow: 8 am

 

Filed under: crack of dawn, hazardous, locations, long long drives, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Beachside barbeque

It’s hot. Really, really hot.

Normally, in Southern California, it’s hot inland and cool near the beach, which makes said beach an ideal spot for summertime day exteriors.

Unfortunately for most of us, inland seems to be the preferred summertime shooting location, so when I  got a call to work  on a low budget shooting at the beach with a bunch of really wonderful guys, I had a brief moment of joy.

Beach in Ventura? Sure. It’ll be nice and cool. It’s always nice and cool up there. Hell, I might not even have to run my car’s air conditioning during the 90 minute drive.

Except that now it’s not cool at the beach. And we weren’t shooting on a beach so much as a dusty highway turnout on a cliff above the ocean with no shade anywhere – no trees, no tall buildings, nothing. Just the sun, the heat, the wind and a haze of fine dust which permeated any fabric and formed a coating on skin, teeth, eyeballs, toes, etc…

The first day we lucked out and it was a relatively brisk 90 degrees F. Craft service only had one small cooler so most of the bottled water was also a relatively brisk 90 degrees. One of our more intrepid makeup artists put a teabag in a water bottle, set said bottle on a rock and brewed tea. The sun beat down all day. Had there been a way to get to the water, I would have jumped in – and I did briefly consider just jumping off the cliff, but with my luck I’d hit the rocks, break every bone in my body and just bake there because no one had cell service to call an ambulance.

Not even my hat helped me.

I have yet to find the perfect hat for hot weather. Ball caps don’t provide enough coverage, and anything with a brim seems to either just hold in heat (if it’s cloth or felt) or let sun through the holes in the straw.  I’ve got tiny little sun damage dots on my forehead from straw hat leakage.

I tried a damp bandana underneath the hat, but I changed my mind and wrapped in around my face as a dust mask in the failed hope of eating marginally less dust.

 

Day two sprouted some EZ ups so there was a bit more shade, and chairs under the shelter became hot property – as soon as one got up for any reason, one’s chair would be occupied.

Also, they only had two bathrooms for 40 people, so the restrooms very quickly became unusable, which meant that people didn’t drink any water to avoid having to brave the toilets, so one PA passed out.

The actor has been 90 minutes (at least) late to work every single day, so we do nothing for the first two  hours we’re there. This particular production team seemingly haven’t caught on to the fake call time trick.

Tonight we’re downtown – and it’s projected to still be 99 degrees in the late afternoon, which is when we’re scheduled to go into work.

Hopefully they won’t run out of water.

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

Just make it work and don’t confuse me

Production on the sitcom graciously allowed me two ‘prep’ days before the actual show starts on Wednesday.

Today was my first ‘prep’ day, and I used it to get the console set up – which required the assistance of the lot’s super amazing IT guy.

A few years ago, dimmer boards (or lighting consoles as they’re now known) had a technical revolution.

The boards used to be pretty simple. Plug in the DMX cable, turn on the power, and  you were good to go.

Not so much anymore.

The newer consoles are much more powerful and flexible, but the downside is the networking.

I understand as much about networking as I understand about derivatives, so the appearance of the IT guy was the happiest I’ve been in weeks.

After about an hour of re-configuring and trying to explain what he was doing (which I pretended to understand but didn’t. I just hope my eyes didn’t glaze over), he had to go back to the shop to get something to make the whole damned mess work.

I used the time to go to the commissary and get a very large cup of iced coffee. I think I might have been shaking my head and muttering “subnet mask” to myself, but I’m not sure.

When he came back with whatever it was he needed (he told me what it was, but I can’t remember. Point and laugh if you want. I’m okay with it), there was some more configuring and a few re-boots, but then… magic.

My console was speaking to the dimmer packs, who were speaking to the lights.

Anything that went wrong from here on out was my fault.

I managed to get through my to-do list (build a few cues, build a few groups, duplicate what was on the old console) by using the manufacturer’s online forums and only making about 10,000 calls with stupid questions to my friend who has the patience of a saint.

The problem with the more powerful consoles is there’s always some programming thing that trips you up – that thing won’t be in the manual, it won’t be in the videos, it may or may not be in the forums, but whatever it is, it’s really, really simple and will fuck you six ways from Sunday if you don’t deal with  it right away.

With this particular console, it’s tracking.

If you’re in concert lighting, tracking is the greatest thing in the world. If you’re in film/television lighting, tracking is the devil. On meth.

This particular console is a tracking console by default, so it didn’t behave the way it was supposed to  and I ended up making a horrible mess of things until my friend told me to turn off the (default) tracking.

After that, everything was much easier than I’d expected and I got the to-do list done in time to sit on the freeway in traffic.

Awesome.

My second prep day is Tuesday, then the DP and gaffer come in to start lighting Wednesday.

Hooray work!

Just hope I don’t do that thing where I forget basic things when I’m under pressure (“What’s your name?” (pause) “I don’t know!!”)

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

Slightly damp Friday Photo

20130823-192853.jpg

This is not my apartment building. It’s the building across the alley, who sometimes (often, actually) leave the pool gate open.

I see nothing wrong with taking advantage of this, especially on a hot night.  The pool’s not really heated, so it’s a very refreshing change from sweltering in my living room.

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

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, , , , , , , , ,

Mid-week status quo update

There’s still no work.

The cat’s still shaved.

It’s still hot as hell.

I still have no air-conditioning.

I still refuse to pay that much money for an iPad.  In the past,  I’ve paid less for cars.

Crabgrass is still taking over my garden despite my ineffective attempts to eradicate it.

The ocean water is still polluted, but it’s so hot I’m jumping in anyways.

I still can’t stay at the beach as long as I’d like because my pasty white skin burns after about an hour, no matter what sort of goop I smear on.

America is still in an election year, so I’m still afraid to turn on the television or pick up a newspaper.

I still can’t watch the Olympics due to NBC being dicks and not allowing people with no cable access to view the online streaming.

I still hate you, NBC.

I’m still calling around and being told people aren’t picking up crew just yet, but call back next week and there may or may not be something, depending on how the scout goes tomorrow.

There’s still no work.

Still, maybe next week.

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

Friday Photos, or why I’m afraid to go to sleep tonight

This is the cat, in her normal state of fuzzy resplendence:
Pussy, with hair

Except today, when she looks like this:

Shaved pussy

I still have no air conditioning and it’s been incredibly hot and she’s been incredibly miserable, so off to the groomer (a new one, since it’s too far to drive back to Hollywood with a wailing cat in the back seat) we went.  Now, I’m left with half a cat.

No, seriously. The pile of hair was bigger than the surprisingly small cat.

The new groomer loves said cat. Kept feeding her bits of chicken salad because she was ‘stressed’ (no idea if that applied to the cat, the groomer, or both).

Hopefully this means she’ll be too full to kill me in my sleep (the cat, not the groomer).

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

The day after the day after the day after the fifth of May

As the Cinco De Mayo cleanup winds down and the city sweeps away the piles of vomit and cheap plastic novelty sombreros from the streets, the annual panic to get enough hours to keep the health insurance ensues.

As I’ve mentioned before, we have to work a certain number of hours per semester to keep our health insurance. For years, this was 300. Recently, in an effort to force as many people as possible off the insurance, the producers upped that to 400.

800 hours a year doesn’t sound like that much, until you remember that most of us don’t work full-time – we bounce around, and even when we’re full-time on a show, we don’t work the whole year.

So it’s not as easy as it seems.

I have to call tomorrow and find out for sure, but I think I’m about 30 hours short – which doesn’t seem like much except that I have to get them by the end of June and there’s currently not very much work.

It used to be that when TV ended, the low-budget movies would start up, and although no one really liked working for the tier 1 wages (the less they pay you, the worse they treat you), it filled out our bank accounts and qualifying hours nicely.

Now, there’s nothing. Other states, deciding they want some of the magic movie money, are handing taxpayer dollars over to studios in the form of subsidies (or, as we like to call them, bribes) to re-locate the productions to their states.

I’m certainly not begrudging anyone else any work, mind you. We all need to make a living.

I just miss the days when it was easy to get and I didn’t spend so much time worrying about if I’m going to keep my insurance.

Actually, scratch that. I know I’m going to lose it. It’s just a question of how long I can hang on.

Filed under: life in LA, Los Angeles, , , , , , , , ,

The Derp is Deep.

Oh, did I say ‘get a job’?

What I really meant was ‘send around a resume and make a million calls only to be told that film industry work experience doesn’t transfer over to the real world’, which I kind of already knew.

One person did tell me that I’d make a really good insurance salesperson, which I’m not sure if I should interpret as an insult or not.

For some reason I always thought jobs paying only commission were illegal, but there seem to be a whole lot of them listed. Or maybe it’s just Craig’s List.

Or maybe it’s just me.

I won’t take anything that’s going to pay less than unemployment, as the state’s UI is just barely more than my bills, so slinging fast food at the drooling masses isn’t on the card, and speaking of drooling masses, what the hell is up with people wanting a photo of applicants? Is that not also illegal?

Also, if you’re going to list a job for copywriters on the internet, the very least you could do is make sure your follow-up email is correctly spelled.

In other news, the entire town is currently in the grip of a rain related panic. Not only is the predicted hellstorm of skywater going to moisten the city like it’s never been moistened before, but it’s coming from the south so it’s warm.  The good citizens of Los Angeles can’t seem to wrap our collective minds around the concept of warm rain.

“It’s sort of like a shower, right? Except outside tand I have to wear clothes.  And it’s all sticky. Like humidity, but we’re in California so that can’t happen here.”

Save us all.

Filed under: Los Angeles, Non-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, , , , , ,

September 2014
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