Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

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, , , , , ,

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

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

Electricity and water

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