Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Knees, don’t fail me now

During the rare but not unheard of Sunday rigging call, we were in a very expensive boutique hotel on the Sunset Strip, which, given the only reason the hoi polloi shell out to stay there are hopes of catching a glance of a movie star, is surprisingly hostile to film crews.

We weren’t allowed to be in the hotel before 4 pm, which really sucked since the shooting unit had a 5 pm call and since there was no way we were going to get all the cable run in an hour, our boss begged or bribed or something and got us in early – on the condition that we be very, very quiet. Which, when one is rigging, is harder than one imagines.

I suppose it’s possible to gently set down a 100 lb. (45 kilo) coil of cable, but my back just wants me to drop it.

The other thing that slowed us down was the stairs. Oh, the stairs.

This particular hotel was built during an era when handicapped people were fucked (so why even let them out of the house), and therefore has no ramps. Anywhere.

The area we were rigging wasn’t accessible  any other way than stairs, which meant that cable carts were useless – we could get them about halfway to the set, and then had to pick everything up and walk it the rest of the way.

Actually, it was two sets of stairs.

This one:

P1040697

And this beauty:

P1040704

That second set is so narrow two people can’t pass on it, so the person with the lighter load yields. Unless it’s a guest, and then one squeezes to the side and waits, like Atlas, while cursing the universe.

Lucky for us the rig wasn’t that big and it wasn’t too hot – also I was working with a fantastic group of guys that make any situation fun, so it was a good day, even though at the end I would have handed back my entire day’s pay just to sully the hotel’s lovely pool with my dirty blue-collar cooties.

It was only a one-night shoot, so we were back this morning to wrap everything. Upon arriving, we were informed that the shoot had gone past the scheduled out time (shocked. I am shocked, I tell you) and the hotel management were a wee bit cross (something about the location manager’s head and a pike, but I didn’t get details), so we needed to double time it to get out of there.

As we started to gather equipment, it became apparent that, at some point during the wee hours, the hotel management mistook the shooting crew for cats and turned on the sprinklers in the hope that it would make them run away.

If only that worked.

Thirty minutes into the day we were soaking wet and smeared with dirt, and I guess my appearance was scary enough that when I greeted a guest with a cheery ‘Good Morning’ her response was a hissed suggestion that I go fuck myself.

If only I could. I’d never leave the house.

After carrying everything back down the stairs, we loaded the truck and rigged our second location – a theater with ramps. Lots and lots of ramps.

Of course it has stairs, too, but we didn’t have to deal with them.

I love you, cable carts. I’ll never take you for granted ever again.

Tomorrow, we wrap the theater and then unload the truck at the rental house.

 

 

 

 

 

Filed under: locations, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Crack of dark

Over the years, I’ve gotten used to getting up early. Five am is pretty common, four am sucks but is doable, but yesterday I got up at 2:45. In the morning.

In a flash of foresight unusual for me, I have the alarm placed all the way across the room so I have to get up to hit the snooze button. In theory, this means if I get up, walk across the room to turn off the alarm I’ll stay up.  Most times this just means I get up, hit the snooze button and climb back into bed, but the shock of seeing the alarm go off at such a disturbing hour kept me up.

I then shuffled into the kitchen, made coffee and had some breakfast since I correctly assumed there wouldn’t be any food options at 4 am at our location – a high school in the Valley at which I’ve worked many, many times.

The good part about starting work at 4 am is that it’s not hot yet, which is a big plus in September in Los Angeles.  We ran out our cable in the pre-dawn coolness, and although I forgot my headlamp (took it out of the work bag to change the battery, and when I got home I found it sitting right there on the coffee table where I’d placed it so I wouldn’t forget to put it in the work bag), I still managed to see well enough to not trip and fall.

We changed some tubes in the classroom and the hallway, and when the caterer opened we had breakfast.

I couldn’t figure out why I was so hungry, then realized I’d last eaten at 3 am and it was now 7:30.

After wolfing down various egg products, we rigged some lights, ran some more cable, wrapped the first location and then ran more cable in a thankfully not very smelly gym.

Also, we were very lucky that the school had no students that day. It’s not that I don’t like teenagers, it’s just that it’s incredibly difficult to work around them since they tend to form packs.

The other nice thing about really early calls is getting released early. Since this particular show doesn’t want to keep the rigging crew on for more than 10 hours, we were on our way home at 3 pm – before the traffic got bad.

Once I got home, it was a struggle to stay awake until 8, when I gave up and went to bed.

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

That’s just great.

When I’m working and have a good amount of cash, I buy all kinds of deals on Groupon – which works great, since I can redeem them when I’m not working and not break the bank eating out and pampering myself (not literally, of course. I think that’s a different deal site).

Today, I went for a massage courtesy of Groupon. This particular massage place was one of the medical places that’s got a doctor there, so they did a whole intake questionnaire and had the therapist look me over since I’d mentioned some shoulder pain.

She took a step back, cocked her head and said “that’s odd. Your left shoulder is lower than your right one”.

Ah, crap.

I really honestly thought I’d escaped this particular injury. It’s something that happens to ‘lifer’ electricians. We load heavy stuff on whichever shoulder we like better (for me it’s the left side. Although I’m right-handed, I do just about everything else in a left-side dominant manner), and eventually the shoulder drops, leaving us looking like some Victorian bell tower dwelling monster. Or something.

So now, I’ve got uneven shoulders, and a thumb with a chunk out of it.

There go my dreams of being the world’s oldest supermodel.

Also, work is still dead. Dead, dead, dead. Hopefully, it’ll pick up towards the end of the month.

Filed under: overspending, ,

I’m not sick, I’m just full of pool water

There must be something going around.

I can assume this because all of a sudden everyone around me is completely paranoid about anyone being sick, even slightly.

Today, I spent an hour in the pool attempting to correct my piss-poor upper body position, which meant keeping my head down much further than I’m really used to, which resulted in an unfortunate amount of pool water filling my sinus cavity.

So much water got up there that I’m reasonably certain even my parietal lobe got some swimmies.

So, after sitting in the steam room and showering, I meandered back to my locker and began to get dressed and pack up my stuff.

Since I still had some water sloshing around in my skull, I was sniffling periodically, and the lady three lockers down would glare menacingly at me each time I did.

Finally, she turned to me and hissed “Stay home if you’re sick! What about the rest of us?”

I tried to assure her that it was just a sinus meets pool water issue, but since she hurriedly grabbed her stuff and moved across the locker room, glaring at me all the time, I’m guessing she didn’t believe me.

In other news, I’ve got two days of work this week due to a very good friend being a mensch and helping me out.

I love everyone right now. Even the angry lady.

Filed under: humor, life in LA, mishaps, Non-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, , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , ,

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

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, , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , ,

If it’s 1 am where I was, what day is it where I am now?

I’m back, I had a great time but right now I’m incredibly tired.

I have three gigs of photos (and that’s just the digital stuff – I won’t get the film back for a few days) to go through, but all I’m going to try to get done today is laundry. Plus, I have to eat some vegetables – I think my cholesterol’s gone up 100 points in the past 10 days.

As much time as I spend bitching about my fucked up sleep schedule, this time it worked to my advantage – I adjusted to the time change really quickly, so I’m hoping today is the only day I’ll only feel like boiled gym socks.

In brief because my brain’s not really working right now:

Of course, when we were in Paris, there was a transit workers strike, so I missed some stuff I’d wanted to see (also because things were opening late and closing early) and it took us three hours to get from our hotel near the Luxembourg Garden to Orly airport (which was where we picked up the car).

Speaking of cars, we didn’t get one with an onboard navigation system because we thought we’d be fine with a map. Oh, how wrong we were. I don’t think any of us are going to make that mistake again – and probably wouldn’t have made that choice in the first place if someone had warned us in advance that in some of the smaller towns in France there aren’t any street signs. I’m sure this made good sense in the past (confuse the hell out of the invaders and they might just give up and go home), but now it’s just annoying. I’m not going to take over – I just want lunch.

Leaning out over the battlements of a medieval castle and yelling “I fart in your general direction!” is exactly as much fun as I’d imagined.

I can’t. eat. any. more. bread.

Oh, and because I know there’s one picture everyone’s dying to see:

Paris Couch

More later, when I feel more like a human being.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , ,

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