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

Go on, say it.

Did I say I had steady work coming up?

Whoops.

What I meant was I thought I had a gig but the best boy made a change at the last-minute (as in the Friday before I was to start), and didn’t tell me.

These things happen, and I’m sure he had a good reason – there are so many folks who are really, really hurting right now. It’s possible that whoever replaced me is going to lose his/her house or insurance or become destitute save for this gig.

I’ll never know. It stings a bit, of course, but I just have to let it go and hope that it’ll all work out for the best.

It usually does (most of the time).

The first thing I did was get on the phone and start informing people I was available.

My “I need work” texts must have seemed sufficiently desperate as I’ve managed to scrape up one day this week, which is better than nothing,  but still…

Right now would be the appropriate time for the  ‘I told you so’ chorus.

Remind me to spend the rest of my life at financial DEFCON 1 no matter how well work is going.

On the bright side, I’m now officially too broke to drink so my liver gets a nice vacation. Hooray!

Filed under: mishaps, overspending, Work, , , , , ,

Finally, some good news.

This has been a bad year for work.

Actually, it’s been beyond bad. It’s been an unmitigated disaster – I’ve worked approximately 10 days since January 1st.

Mainly I’ve just been trying to fill my time in between wringing my hands and wondering what’s to become of me.

Texts to various best boys about if they’ve got anything have been met with either “I’m out-of-town” or “I’m looking for work, too!”

The irony is that there does seem to be a fair amount of work out there, it’s just not with anyone with whom I have any sort of professional connection. Guess I need to start attending mixers or that annual bowling party that’s a 90 minute drive east or something.

I’m certain I’ve had a year this bad before, I’m just hard pressed to remember it.

On the bright side, I’ve shaved almost 10 seconds off my 50 meter freestyle.

But starting Monday, I have two solid weeks of work.

It’s rigging on a multi-camera sitcom, and I’m beyond pleased to get it.

Two solid weeks.

It’ll be 100 hours into my health insurance (I have to work 400 hours per semester, and I have until October 10th to get the remaining 300), a paycheck and  a badly needed injection of optimism.

Today, I went to the grocery store and splurged on some chicken, veggies and various goodies (apples, grapes, those teeny little packages of trail mix) to pack  for lunch so I don’t have to eat the overpriced slop at the commissary (in all fairness, calling the commissary food slop is an insult to slop).

I’ll also enjoy working with some wonderful folks that I really like, and I can take public transit and save both the wear-and-tear on the car and the rage-inducing miz-maze that passes for parking on this particular lot.

Except on Mondays – I have swim on Mondays and I’m not going to give up that hard-won 10 seconds.

I have to take the victories where I can get them.

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

No work, but at least I have the interwebs

Finally, I got the computer working. Hooray! Unemployment doesn’t seem so bad when I can watch stupid human tricks on YouTube. The only minor problem still existing is that I had to get a new keyboard (this machine doesn’t have one of those dedicated keyboard ports and I couldn’t find an adaptor so I had to get a USB keyboard), and it’s just a tad bit smaller than the old one so it’s currently typo city around here.

I’m also currently going to physical therapy three times a week for my shoulder – the left one has been sore for quite some time, and I figured it was because the left side was the weaker one.

Imagine my surprise when the PT informed me that the left side is the stronger side as it’s been doing more of the work – meaning the right side is the weak slacker mooching off the hard work of the other shoulder.

Dammit.

I was also surprised to learn that I’ve got some mild disc compression in my spine, which is really odd because I don’t have any kind of back pain at all. I didn’t ask, but I’m assuming this means that my spine is also a moocher and forcing my shoulder to do even more work.

So I do the exercises (which could make suspects at Gitmo talk), and go to the PT, who advises me to ice and then puts that twitchy electric thing on my shoulder and tells me it’s looking better, which, for some reason, doesn’t make me or my shoulder feel any better.

The good news is that I can still swim, as long as I breathe to alternate sides, which does reduce oxygen intake, but I’m not going all that fast anyway, so it’s fine even if the coach does yell at me to speed up.

Apparently going to the Olympics a couple of times will make you all bossy-pants.

Hopefully some work will come along soon. I’m beginning to lose track of what day it is.

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

Imagination is a bastard

Apologies for the lack of posts. I’ve been alternately anxious and busy  or anxious and idle, neither of which really lends itself to any sort of creative thought process.

Work’s been busy – mostly TV, but a few low-budget features (never thought I’d see any of those again), but since the low-budget producers have been out-of-town where costs, in general, are lower, they’re sweating us more and more to cut costs. Since we can only talk the rental houses down so far, this means that the additional manpower we need to do the job efficiently and safely gets cut.

So, a day which would normally need five guys gets three, and only then after the best boy fights with production about it. When things don’t get done right away because we don’t have enough people, we get yelled at. (“You had eight hours to wrap that set! What the fuck is wrong with you?” “Well, that eight-hour estimate was with 4 guys and you cut us down to two. What do you expect?”)

The threat of taking the production out-of-town hangs over our head like some dangling sharp thing in some disputation which I forget these days.

No matter how busy it gets, we’re all worried about how long it’ll last. It used to be so predictable. Busy until the holidays, then a couple of weeks off, and then picking up in mid-January, going through May, a month or two off, and then picking up again.

No longer. We all know this isn’t going to last, and it’s stressful. I’ve heard  far too many stories about lost insurance, lost houses, and kids having to go live with ex-spouses for stability and consistent meals.

Also, I’m fighting with California’s unemployment department. They’re threatening to revoke my eligibility to get benefits for three years due to a clerical error on my part which amounts to pocket change. Awesome.

So I sit down in front of the computer and try to write something and all I can do is worry. About my bills. About my future. About my co-workers, who are all in the same boat.

And I can’t write anything because I can’t stop worrying.

So I turn off the computer and I sit in front of the TV, watching stupid movies because I just want some sort of distraction so I can spend an hour or so not being so fucking worked up.

On the bright side, I’m very glad that I don’t eat when I get stressed, or I’d weigh 780 lbs right now. I have no idea how much that is in Kilos, other than a fuckload.

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

So now I have to think.

I hate it when I break down and cry in front of a complete stranger.

Actually, I hate it when I cry in front of anyone, as I’m not one of those women who can cry and look halfway decent. When I start crying, my face turns beet red, I get the hiccups, my nose runs and for some reason my hair frizzes out and makes me look like Rosanna Rosannadanna.

But today, in the office of the career counsellor at the Actor’s Fund, I did just that.

Broke down and cried instead of doing something productive with the nice lady’s time.

What started the waterworks was when I was given the well-meaning offer of help to build a resume and get a job.

I’m sure most of the folks who come through the Actor’s Fund have had it up to here with the film industry and can’t wait to get out.

I’m not one of those. I love my job. I really love it, and I adore the people I work with. I don’t want out.

That I even have to consider not being able to continue making a living at it hurts.

Really, really hurts.

Hence the tears.

After offering me a tissue,  the counsellor said “You know, you don’t have to leave entirely. Maybe you just need to think about what I like to call a parallel career where you still work in the industry but have something else generating income.”

I peered through my fogged up lenses at the soothing blur and, except for the hiccups, stopped crying as I thought about this.

I must confess that this had simply not occurred to me.

“Think about what you’re passionate about and what you want and then, once you’ve figured that out, then you find something that will work for you”.

She then asked me if I’d thought about going back to school.

I had not, but in today’s America, that would require much more financial… ooomph than I currently possess.

“Well,” she replied, “think about it and the next time we meet make a list. Make two lists. One of the things you’re passionate about and the other of the things you want from life and we’ll go from there.”

Wow. She’s good.

So now I just have to make lists.

I’m guessing she won’t allow ‘rich husband with a weak heart’  or ‘professionally slapping sense into people who desperately need it’ as bullet points, though.

Although, when I think about it, that second one would require relocation to Washington DC, and I really don’t want to live there, either.

 

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

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, , , , , , ,

If I’m going to get screwed, could someone at least buy me a drink first?

Inconsistency is the nature of working freelance in any industry, so of course I have good years and bad years, but I’ve been extremely lucky in that I’ve always been able to earn enough to make ends meet.

Work like hell in the good years, save it up for the bad years.

However, this last 16 months have been terrible for just about everyone.  When it should have been busy, it was dead, and when it was normally dead, it was stone dead.  Although a lot of us had hoped it would pick up in March, unfortunately this doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

Although I’ve been able to scrounge up a day or two each week (which is a lot more than others have managed), I’ve completely run through any savings I had and am now dependent upon my state unemployment insurance to fill in the gaps.

Which is fine – by pinching my pennies and foregoing all the things that make life extra wonderful (sushi, wine, periodicals, etc…) I’ve managed to scrape by.

Until today, when I opened the mail, expecting to get an unemployment check and finding that they’ve invented a new ‘waiting period’ out of the blue – which, of course, fell on a week when I didn’t work and was due the full amount.

For those of you fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with unemployment, when one first files a claim one is forced to endure a waiting period of a week during which no benefits are payable – I don’t know why that is. I guess they hope I’ll find a job and won’t  bother to file the rest of the paperwork.

Normally, though, there’s only one withheld week per claim, and my ‘fuck you, loser’ week was in January, so this random withholding of benefits confuses and angers me, but at least I’ve got company.

Upon making a few phone calls, I discovered that just about everyone I know has had benefits withheld for that week, so I’m guessing the the state of California, in a desperate attempt to save money, has just decided to screw the unemployed people out of a week’s worth of benefits.

Normally, this would just make me roll my eyes at the stupidity of it all, but last week I made some promises to the utility company which I now can’t keep – so I may lose my internet again if calling and begging to keep the power on  doesn’t help.

Thanks, California. Thanks a lot. This is much better than a 2.5% tax increase on people who have a net income of over $250,000. Bleed me dry instead. I totally understand your logic one this one. Assholes.

Speaking of economic uncertainty, one of my aunts who lived through the Depression (the real one in the 1930’s), has agreed to take questions about how to stretch your dollar (or pound, or euro, or whatever) and what life was like back then. Although it’s for something that will go on LAist (I’ll happily crosspost here if you all would like),  if you’ve got a question for her, feel free to either email me or post it to the comments and I’ll relay it.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , ,

Watch me try to stay awake

One of the things that still remains tough to adjust to after all this time is the unpredictable hours that I sometimes have to work.

Under normal circumstances, if I’m so tired that I feel I’m not safe I’ll turn down the call, but since my policy right now is to only turn down work if I’m dead, I’m taking anything at any time I can get, which means if I have to go without sleep I’m just going to have to deal, since the shadow of another potential work stoppage is still hanging over all our heads.

Thursday: 2 pm call time. I got to bed around 2 am and got up around 7 am in order to keep on a day schedule. I figured I’d stay up all day and just go to bed early.

Then, on Friday around noon I got a last minute call to report to work at 2 pm (missed seeing Nezza on her last day here, but a girl’s gotta pay the bills), so right out of the gate I was completely wiped out and the best boy will probably go to his grave being convinced that I’m either perpetually stoned or exceptionally slow on the uptake.

Monday: 7am call time, which adds up to one of those one-day weekends since I totally lost Saturday. I’m sure I did something, but I have no idea what that something was.

I was off today, and I got up early hoping to stay on a day schedule, but no such luck.

Tomorrow: 5 pm call time, so although I got up at 6 am today, I’ll have to try to stay up until at least midnight in the hopes that I’ll sleep until at least 8 am.

8, for me, is the magic number. I can’t seem to sleep much later unless I get home from work at 7 am.

What will probably happen is that I’ll fall asleep at 10, wake up at 6, be unable to get back to sleep and then be up until sunrise Friday morning, which means I’ll have to down enough coffee to kill Juan Valdez and his donkey in order to stay functional.

It’s all going to be fine. I’m just happy to be working, and worse comes to worse I’ll catch a nap in the back seat of my car after work. Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done that.

On the bright side, I got my refund checks from the unemployment fracas:

Winning feels gooood.

I have big plans for this money. First, I’m going to trowel on enough makeup so that I topple over when I try to stand upright. Then, I’m going to don an obscenely tight dress, make a beeline to the trendiest nightclub in town and sit at the bar while I bat my eyelashes and fan myself with $2,000 in twenties before going home with four or five cheap male models. Or maybe one really expensive one.

Just kidding. I’m going to use it to pay bills and rent. Whatever’s left over goes in the savings account in case the actors decide to strike.

Although when I think about it, if I have four or five cheap male models, do I really need a place to live? Or food?

Filed under: Photos, Work, , , , , , , , ,

A nice Friday surprise.

When I staggered out to the mailbox this morning, there it was, waiting for me – the judge’s written decision in the unemployment case.

I won! The judge ruled that my mistake (which resulted in an overpayment last year and caused a delay of benefits and a fine this year) was made because of poor organizational skills and sloppy accounting on my part and not a deliberate attempt to defraud the state of California.

Although I’m not sure how thrilled I am about having a judge pretty much call me an idiot in a written decision, at least the state has to refund the penalties to me now.

If I’ll ever get them is another story – the California unemployment folks seem to be doing anything they can to avoid paying out claims. I know one person who is owed almost 8 weeks worth of checks and can’t get an explanation as to the cause of the delay, another who has had to go to three different offices to verify his identity in person and still hasn’t been issued a check, and another person who is getting one check out of every four that she’s owed – also with no explanation of why.

Even if I never see any of the money, at least now I’m not viewed as a criminal by a group of bureaucrats who may or may not have souls.

Speaking of surprises, I saw this while riding my bike the other day:

Not a couch, but still odd.

I wonder if the homeowner was hoping that some passerby would take them. When she saw me taking pictures of them, she ran out of the house to yell at me in what I think might have been Russian, but I’m not entirely certain.

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

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