Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

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

Traffic

I will never understand traffic patterns in Los Angeles if I live to be 100.
Yesterday, as I was drinking my morning coffee and watching the amazing commercial-free BBC Olympics feed via a proxy server (NBC will never stop sucking, so why fight it?),  the best boy of Doctors in Love texted me wanting to know if I could come in to cover someone who called in sick.

The answer, of course, was yes, but since Doctors in Love shoots almost, but not quite, all the way across the city, I figured I was in for an incredibly annoying two-hour drive.

Not so much.

I threw on some clothes, headed out the door and didn’t get stuck in any traffic at all.

I’m not kidding. 8 am – the height of rush hour in one of the most traffic-clogged cities on planet Earth and there was no traffic. At all.

I travelled from my house to the set in under an hour.

This, or course,  made me nervously scan the sky for horsemen as I drove onto the lot.

Finding none, I parked, grabbed a walkie and proceeded to have a wonderful day working with people who I like a whole lot and don’t get to see nearly often enough.

Then, driving home at 10 pm on a Tuesday, I got stuck in traffic for an hour and a half.

Filed under: life in LA, long long drives, mishaps, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , ,

…and that’s why I have a cat.

My upstairs neighbors, despite the fact that they play bad guitar and clomp about like Budweiser Clydesdales, are really nice folks who have a very, very adorable French Bulldog.

Aside from being very sweet and somehow managing to smell like a wet dog even when she’s not wet, the dog needs enough attention that at least one of the neighbors must come home from work at lunch every day to let her out to do whatever it is that dogs do on the front lawn.

Said upstairs neighbors want to go to a party tomorrow night which may or may not go late, so just to be safe, they’ve had to line up a dog babysitter.

Yes, you read that correctly.

A babysitter. For the dog. Because apparently one can’t leave a dog alone for more than 15 seconds or they’ll start a land war in Central Asia. Or something.

To me, this seems awfully similar to having children. The difference,  I suppose, is that one can just throw the children in the hall closet and tell them if they move, the clown will eat them. But then they grow up and crash your car right after they borrow money from you, so  there’s that.

In contrast to needing a doggy baby-sitter, my cat, although she acknowledges that I am the one who pours the kibble in the bowl, is largely indifferent to my existence (except when she’s cold), and probably wouldn’t notice if I vanished from the face of the earth, as long as the food bowl was kept full.

I’m so thankful I don’t have to hire a sitter if I’m going to be out for one night.  Or two.

 

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

CicLAvia!!

I love CicLAvia.

I’d love it in any other city, but the fact that car-crazed Los Angeles actually closes streets to traffic so a bunch of bike-riding deadbeats can have fun is nothing short of amazing, and makes me giggle like some sort of a super-villian.

Every time the event is held, it gets bigger and bigger, so clearly I’m not the only one who enjoys it.

This year, it was really crowded, but still fun. Since pictures are supposedly worth a thousand words, please enjoy a novel:

Stationary cyclists

Photo OP

4th st bridge

Pinata District

Double Dutch

Traffic jam

Bike Polo!!!

parking problems

Power Rangers!

Fire hydrant, drinking fountain

Next event is October 14. Awesome.

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

Not getting what I want

As the TV season winds down and the work starts to dry up, I become concerned about hours.

Can I, in any given week, get enough hours to keep my health insurance (now that it’s harder to qualify), and beat what I’d make were I on unemployment.

It’s doable on two days a week, but hard on one. So, yesterday, when I went in for my only day of work this week, I checked the call sheet and was very happy to see, in the director’s slot, the name of someone who is notorious for being excruciatingly slow.

This particular director not only does too many takes, but tries to get creative with the coverage, which is almost never necessary.

The camera doesn’t need to emerge from a bowl of soup and slide past the actor’s dental implants to further the story. Trust me on this one.

It’s television. Master shot, two shot, close up. That’s all one really needs, and it’s all the editor really wants.

Normally, I just shrug and try to stay off my feet as much as possible, but with only one day this week, I was ecstatic at the possibility of a significant amount of double time.

Then, I looked at the page count and saw that we were scheduled to do just over NINE pages.

Five pages are a normal day for a TV show, so even a fast director would have a long day with nine.

My first thought was how bad my feet were going to hurt at the end of the day, but the dollar signs quickly took over.

Hey, if I’m only going to get one day, it might as well be a good one, right?

Except that the producer stayed on set and cracked the whip on said director so we were out in 12.5 hours.

Damn.

Oh, well, Maybe next week.

Filed under: Uncategorized, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Happy holidays, everyone!

I’ll spend tomorrow crammed into an airplane being sneezed on by my seatmate, and will spend a few days listening to the same old stories and arguments that I’ve heard a hundred times before.

Also, my sister has informed me that it’s really, really cold where I’m going – which should be fun as I don’t own any clothing that’s suitable for weather hovering near 0 degrees since I live in Southern California.

Hope all of you have a very happy holiday, whichever one you celebrate.  I’ll be back on Saturday.

In the meantime,  enjoy this short video that’s been making the email rounds:

http://video.canadiancontent.net/96156021-sugar-grip-fairy.html

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , ,

Stop me before I kill again.

Although I really wanted to grab the camera, hop in the car and go somewhere scenic and cooler than LA (like up to the redwoods), since unnecessary driving is no longer on the agenda around here I decided to use my holiday weekend to catch up on some of the around-the-house type stuff I’ve been putting off.

My project this weekend was installing some shelving in what I generously refer to as the ‘office’. Really, it’s what is called in Los Angeles apartment nomenclature as a “junior bedroom”, which really means a large closet used to justify a ‘2 bedroom’ rating and thus more rent. Of course, I don’t use it as an office so much as a repository for the flotsam that doesn’t have anywhere else to go – most of which is books, so shelves would give the appearance that I’m organized. Or at least that I care.

So, I drove up into the valley, fought the crowds at the local Swedish furniture warehouse, bought some of the unfinished wood shelving, wrestled it into the truck and somehow got it home.

I decided against trying to finish the shelves – the humidity is still at tropical levels around here, so I’m guessing it would take the varnish about 30 years to dry completely, and it’s still way too hot to even think about sanding anything.

If you’ve never purchased furniture from said Swedish furniture warehouse, it’s all flat-packed and has to be assembled with some of the most fucked-up instructions I’ve ever seen. In an attempt to only print one set of instructions for the entire world, they’ve decided that hieroglyphs are the best choice of instruction for assemble-at-home furniture. There are little line drawings of bits of what I can only assume are the shelves being attached to each other with a hexagonal bolts (wrench not included, of course. Thankfully I happen to have a socket set and a power drill).

The main problem is that the recommended method of assembly and installation is simply not physically possible.

I don’t mean ‘difficult for one person’ or ‘impossible after a few drinks’. I mean it’s not physically possible to put the fucking shelves together the way the stick figures are doing it in the little paper.

Although the idea that the furniture should be assembled while flat on the floor and then ‘Iwo Jima-ed‘ into place looks great on paper, I knew from the get-go that it wasn’t going to go well as I purchased a configuration that has corner pieces, since I needed shelving on perpendicular walls.

If the hieroglyphs were to be believed,  the shelving units also had to be connected to one another for structural integrity which made my original plan of just building them individually and bolting them to the wall unworkable.

I decide to try the recommended method of building them flat on the floor first, and it went well until I got to the corner piece, where it became completely impossible to build as the floor was no longer supporting anything, and to lift and a corner shelving unit with one half-assembled end sticking straight up into the air is surprisingly heavy and unbelievably awkward. Several attempts to lift the thing resulted in a nasty bump on the head, a cut on the shin and several deep gouges in the wood floor.

I then threatened to kill the person who had drawn the instructions.

Next, I tried to just assemble the back side, lift that into place and then bolt the front uprights onto the units while they were, well, upright. That failed as well and resulted in my threatening to find and kill whoever designed the damn things in the first place.

By this time the cat and my neighbor had both wisely hidden (guess the screamed obscenities rattled them. The neighbor, at least. I would imagine the cat’s used to them by now) somewhere while I had a temper tantrum, threw some things, threatened to kill a few more Swedes just for practice and then decided that if I’ve ever really, truly needed a drink, that was the time – medication be damned.

After I’d calmed down, I made the trek back up to the store, bought extra uprights and made each section a stand alone bookcase, lined them up and bolted everything to the wall, despite the warnings from the store’s personnel that this would create a dark, unstable-shelving magic which would lead to a politician selecting a completely unqualified redneck as a running mate in the presidential race…

Whoops.

Sorry about that. But I did get the shelves in and they’re loaded up with books (and camera gear, and painting stuff) and they’re still holding.

So far, I’ve only got one day of work this week, but it’s a short week so I didn’t have my hopes up to begin with.

How was your weekend?

Filed under: cranky, humor, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Living it up at the Hotel California

The two things one must watch out for when shooting in hotels are sprinkler heads and guests.

During the first part of the day we were shooting in an unused conference room which had low ceilings, so although there were no guests lurking about there was a real risk of setting off the building’s fire sprinklers.

Since our lights burn at very high temperatures and the fact that we usually want to light the actors with the lamps above them (unless it’s a horror movie), usually this means having a 300+ degree lamp 2 inches away from a fire sprinkler with a melt point of 150 or so.

In case you’ve never been in a building that’s had it’s sprinklers set off, the water smells horrible (it’s been sitting in the pipes for years), and once it starts sprinkling it can’t be shut off. The firefighters have to shut off the water main, but even after that happens, the water comes out of the sprinklers until the pipes are completely dry.

Needless to say, no one ever wants to set off the sprinklers, so we do take every possible precaution to avoid it from happening.

We never put lamps directly under the sprinkler heads and we used a thermometer to keep track of the temperature, kept heat shields over the top of the lamps – plus we had the hotel’s engineering guys with us, who also had infrared thermometers and the morning was incident-free.

Back in the day, we used to tape a Styrofoam cup over the sprinkler head itself, but that seems to upset the fire marshall (and doesn’t work as well as you’d imagine unless you fill said cup with dry ice, which also seems to upset the fire marshall), so I haven’t seen anyone do that in a long time. Nowadays we just have to be aware of the location of the sprinkler heads and make sure that we don’t put any of our equipment too close to them.

This can be a bit frustrating for the gaffer as he or she sometimes can’t get the lamps in the exact right spot, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who has had a ‘damn the torpedo’ attitude about fire suppression systems – everyone in this industry has either been on The Show That Set Off The Sprinklers or has heard the stories*

In the afternoon, we moved down for a shot in the hotel’s lobby and had to contend with the second part of the equation – the guests. For some reason the amount of common sense displayed by hotel guests is in direct inverse proportion to the amount of money they shell out for the rooms.

Guests in low and mid-priced hotels will carefully watch their step, ask if we’re shooting and if it’s okay for them to walk through a work area. Guests in expensive hotels? Not so much.

The guests at expensive hotels walk around not paying attention to where they’re going, and then when they run into something they scream at the staff, who have understandably become insanely paranoid about movie crews.

Hotel Employee: “Excuse me. You’ll have to move that light”.

Me: “The one that’s over there in the corner with red flashing “danger” signs around it being guarded by three dobermans and a nest of trained hornets?”

Hotel Employee: “Yes, that one. A guest could walk into it and get hurt”.

Guests in expensive hotels also refuse to move out of the way of anyone carrying anything or vary their planned route for any reason at all – even if said planned route means that they have to clamber over the lower rungs of a ladder which is blocking a door to an outdoor patio instead of diverting four feet to either side and using an unobstructed door.  Really, at that point if you’re that invested in not veering to either side you may as well just walk under the fucking ladder.

Luckily, none of us were injured by errant guests and we only damaged the hotel a little bit.

We got finished early enough for me to go to the gym and swim for an hour, which was nice except the network hysteria about the swim team has led to a bunch of people with no clue about pool etiquette to have decided to try to break a world record after they get off work.

*Just because I know you’re wondering – I have, in fact, been on The Show That Set Off The Sprinklers. Twice.

Filed under: locations, Work, , , , ,

Yet more vacation photos

Although it was cold, I highly recommend visiting France in November – the few tourists there were were French, and although a lot of stuff was closed, what was open didn’t have any lines. We went through the caves at Lascaux and only had about 8 people in the group with us.

We got there before the caves opened and debated if we wanted to skip it or not, but it wasn’t like we could easily come back another day, so after I took some photos of the foggy forest, we drove back into the town and had breakfast.

Foggy morning in Lascaux

Fog and spiderwebs

The funny thing about the Lascaux caves is that it’s not really the cave – it’s a set that was built in the 1960’s because the real paintings were being destroyed by people being in the cave with them; which is why I was really surprised that they wouldn’t let me take photos even if I promised not to use a flash. It was an interesting tour, and then we went into the next town to see another cave.

This whole area of France is full of cave paintings and prehistoric findings. I guess the Neanderthals found it as pleasant a place as modern people do. What was really, well, funny for lack of a better word was that every single gift shop in the area had books about evolution (which makes sense given that the caves were painted during prehistoric times) – in the US, if you even mention evolution or Darwin you run the risk of some jackass running at you and beating you about the head and shoulders with a Bible (or a stick – whichever they have closest).

Of course, the museum of prehistory was closed for the winter, but we still got a good shot of the Neanderthal statue in the town of Les Eyzies de Tayac, which is a very pretty place. We also had some fantastic cassoulet at a roadside eatery while we were waiting for the second cave to open.

Neanderthal statue

River View

On the way to the second cave, we saw this guy:

Plastic Wrapped T Rex

Because no vacation is complete without a T Rex wrapped in garbage bags.

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

And the days keep slipping by.

 Part of the problem of being totally unemployed with no work prospects coming down the pipe is inertia – seems that the less I have to do, the less I’m able to do. I sink into a sort of slug-like state where it’s a Herculean effort just to haul myself up off the couch at all, and going to the gym feels like a grueling expedition to some far-off place.

When there’s work, I get a lot of stuff done because I know I only have the one day (or two days) to squeeze in everything – I get up, get moving and start going down the list of stuff (gym, laundry, projects, etc…)

Since my immediate future is a blank slate of nothing there’s no urgency to do anything. That, and I’m broke.

Well, not completely broke yet, but unemployment are dragging their feet about cutting me a check so I can’t even go out and do anything that costs any money (a great source of amusement which costs money is hanging out in Z-list celeb infested holes on weeknights. It’s way more entertaining – in a train wrecky kind of way – than anything that’s on TV. Really, now. Who raises these people? Wolves?). I’ve got some movie passes to some theaters, but everything I want to see is playing somewhere that doesn’t take the passes I bought at Universal the last time I worked there. Dammit.

At some point the awards season screenings will start, but I’m not even sure how many of those I’m going to care about enough to haul my ass outside.

I’d start squawking about a deal between the writers and the producers needing to happen, but honestly at this point it doesn’t matter – by now just about everyone’s scrapped the remainder of the season (it’s just a 4th quarter loss, after all), so I, at least, am completely fucked and not in a happy way.

Speaking of fucked in a happy way, the only romantic prospect on the horizon is a guy who… get ready for it… is in jail for DUI.

Him: “Can I call you when I get out of jail?”

Me: (heavy sigh) “Sure, why not?”

Friend (after hearing this): “Are you insane? He’s a drunk!”

Me: “Yeah, but he’s got all his teeth. That counts for something, right?”

On the vacation recap, the next couple of days consist of us getting hopelessly lost and swearing a lot. Someone – and I think it might have been me – actually burst into tears at one point.

Here’s some photos:

This was the first sunny day of the trip at the Chateau Chenonceau

Clouds above Chenonceau

View of Chateau Chenonceau

This is the town of Montrichard. Everything was closed because it was lunchtime in November.

Montrichard was closed

Montrichard Fountain

Montrichard Roses

On the bright side, I just did all my holiday shopping by ordering prints off Flickr.

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

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