Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Oops.

Have you ever had an entire week disappear? Just vanish – a few fuzzy recollections, but for all intents and purposes, it was only a day.

That’s what happened to this past week. I know it was there, I got some work (hooray!), ate lots of holiday bad-for-me food, drank some wine, but mainly it’s just… gone.  I blame the stuffing.

Yesterday, I got a day with wonderful guys that I always enjoy being around.

We shot in a gym swimming pool, where our hero fearlessly dives into the shallow end to save the drowning scantily clad girl.

No, it really is fearless. Diving into the shallow end is super dangerous.

One of the things that it’s very important to remember about shooting around any sort of water is that said water does not go well with electricity. Sort of like purple and lime green.

So when we shoot around water we use these things called ground fault circuit interrupters when we work around water.

They’re a fairly recent invention, but they’re lifesavers. So much so that we never, ever, ever shoot around water without them. Hell, we use them when there’s a light drizzle three miles away.

So all of us were very surprised when the rental house forgot to send them out.

Oops.

Luckily, we were able to plug into the gym’s outlets, which were all GFCI (like the ones you have in your kitchen – with the little buttons in between the outlets), and this DP doesn’t like to use large lighting units.

By the time we got all our shots, including the giant crane shot that saw the entire world, it was a 14 hour day,

If I’m only going to get one day, it might as well be a long one.

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

Friday Photo

Wet Down

For some reason, the accepted visual language of the movies means that all streets are wet at night. Anywhere, anytime, any place. Night = wet street.

Which is fine. These visual cues help movie viewers to figure out time and place without tiresome dialogue about it (“We’re going to go outside at night!” “Swell!”).

To achieve wet streets takes water. On location, it’s water trucks, but on studio lots they use hoses to spray the street with water right before we shoot.

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

Friday Photo

Not Beer

Whenever there’s a scene with actors or background in a bar drinking, for obvious reasons they can’t be drinking alcohol, so any glasses you see are filled with non-alcoholic liquid. The best example is iced tea for whiskey. That bottle of jack is really filled with Snapple.

In this case, this particular glass is filled with watered down Coca Cola.

I feel bad for the actors who have to drink it and smile.

Filed under: camera, Photos, toxic waste, Work, , , , , , ,

Ready, set, shower!

image

Filed under: camera, hazardous, mishaps, Photos, Work, , , , ,

Friday Photo

Italian water-bottle rest

A nice place to put a water bottle – on top of an expensive car that was being used in a scene that day.

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

Special Leap Year Friday Photo

Sunset

My big excitement this week was hauling my bike out to the beach and going for a ride along the oceanfront bike path.

Happy February 29th!

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

Breaking news! Water falls from sky, entire city panic-stricken!

Los Angeles is a desert-ish city.

Sure, we have the baking heat, tumbleweeds and single digit humidity, but we don’t get the monsoonal rains like a ‘real’ desert, so when any water at all comes down, the whole place grinds to a halt.

Drainage is poor, so even a fairly light rain (by the rest of the world’s standards) will result in flooded streets, traffic jams as frantic drivers thumb through their manuals to try and figure out how to turn on those windshield wiper things they vaguely remember being on the car, and hysterical local news anchors warning the good citizens to just stay at home so things don’t get worse as civilization as we know it comes to an end.

This time, however, there really is reason to be concerned as we’re supposed to get several inches of rain overnight – although some of you in wetter climes are snickering right now, this is a big deal around here and is going to result in worse than usual flooding and huge mudslides in those burned areas.

Not where I live though – I’m just going to have to deal with car accidents in front of my house (people seem to mistake my residential street for the straightaway at a racetrack and hit the gas. Combined with a wet street this is fun) and all other news being pushed to the back burner (“Coming up next on Action News! Keeping your latte warm in cold wet weather! Plus, later in the newscast… the heartbreak of hair frizz!”)

Earlier today, I decided to wade out into the apocalyptic afternoon drizzle in order to go swim in the outdoor pool since for some strange reason people won’t swim in the rain (I can’t figure this one out. They’re going to get wet anyway) which meant I’d have an Olympic sized lap pool all to myself and all I had to do was drive a couple of miles through….The Water (cue scary music).
Actually, it wasn’t so bad except that I don’t have windshield wipers – it’s been so long since the last bit of rain that they’d gotten the dry rot and disintegrated as soon as I tried to use them. Oops. Guess I’m making a stop at the auto parts store in the morning.

Of course, Trader Joe’s was a complete madhouse – shelves emptying as people grabbed for the last package of lemon basil pasta, puddles of rainwater everywhere inside because no one wanted to leave an umbrella in the provided rack (include me in that – the last time I put my umbrella in the rack it got stolen and there weren’t any good ones left. I had to wait months before I could find a good umbrella to, um, Karmically replace the old one).

I got my coffee (I ran out this morning), more martini fixins and some fresh basil (now I can make pesto while I drink), so I’m set for the night.

Until tomorrow, when I venture out again, because I just can’t resist that empty swimming pool.

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

Lawn care mishaps

Yesterday’s best boy is someone for whom I’ve not worked in a long time, but I’m always happy to hear from him since he’s a terrific guy. I’ve never once seen him get angry or blow his cool, which is remarkable given how high-stress the best boy position can be.

So when he got on the walkie sounding extremely stressed and upset, we all knew something was terribly wrong.

“Get over to staging, now.. move!”

Then, as we all started to walk very quickly, he said the ‘s’ word – sprinklers.

You know, sprinklers. Those things that you put on a timer so your lawn gets watered and you don’t have to think about it ever until a movie crew comes in to shoot in your house and you don’t know how to turn off the sprinklers because they’ve been set for years and you lost the manual so you lie to the location manager and tell him they’re turned off when really they aren’t*.

Then, said film crew comes along and parks our equipment right where it’s going to be easy to get to once we start running in and out of the house (which is usually in the driveway somewhere) and then after we get all settled in… it’s sprinkle time.

Although we always try never ever to appear panicked on set (makes everyone else nervous and it makes it seem like we’re not in control of the situation), having a lawn sprinkler go off right next to our head carts and distro boxes will make us scramble like, well, like people scrambling to get expensive lighting equipment out of water. When there’s a threat of rain, we carry these big plastic bags that go over the carts, but we generally leave them on the truck if the weather forecast is for clear skies.

The funny thing about this is that whenever there’s any kind of water, most non-set lighting people freak out about the cable getting wet. Really, this is no big deal – the cable itself is waterproof, and can get as wet as it likes – hell, the cable itself can be submerged in water and it’s fine. It’s the place where one piece of cable connects to the next that’s the problem (or when a piece of cable connects to a distro box).

Also, there are other, more expensive pieces of equipment that don’t like to get wet under any circumstances.

Like yesterday – the real panic was about the HMI lamps – those things can’t get wet under any circumstances**, and since we were told the sprinklers were off, we parked the cart right next to a sprinkler head (we weren’t even thinking about it – locations had told us they were off, so we picked the best spot).

Hence the scramble.

After we’d moved our carts (and put traffic cones over the sprinkler heads to contain the spray), we surveyed the damage, and luckily only two of the heads (the light itself) got wet and none of the ballasts, so we just didn’t use those, which wasn’t a problem since we were working for one of the (increasingly rare) DPs who don’t overlight, so we only used about half our stuff.

The real tragedy was that my newspaper got soaked before I had a chance to read it.

Note to homeowners: If you don’t know how to turn off the sprinklers, please for the love of all that’s holy tell the location person that – no one’s going to think you’re stupid. Hell, they probably don’t know how to turn off their sprinklers at home, either, but instead of letting it go and potentially causing tens of thousands of dollars of damage to equipment (because set lighting’s not the only ones who have stuff that doesn’t like water), just say something and someone will figure out the system.

Please.

Once my boss got to the sprinkler control panel, it took him about 90 seconds to turn them off.

*After the panic died down, the homeowner finally confessed.

**Tungsten lamps – which are the same color temperature as your indoor light bulbs and are much less finicky than HMIs – can get wet (when they’re not burning, of course – when they’re burning they shouldn’t get too wet because the lens can crack and if water gets inside it can cause a short) and they’re fine, because they have no electronic parts in them.  HMIs are full of electronic gizmos that react really badly to water – or getting too hot, or getting too cold, or getting power that’s not the exact right kind.

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

Just don’t call it a boat

Since the bulk of my nautical experience has been throwing up over the side of the Channel ferry and watching movies where a shitload of people drown, I learned a lot yesterday. Mostly, I learned what not to call things on a boat – whoops, I mean ship.

We were putting a rig in on a WW2 era merchant ship called the SS Lane Victory in San Pedro, and right off the bat I committed a gaffe by calling it a boat – and then proceeded to make an even bigger ass of myself by not being able to remember which side was port and which was starboard (don’t even get me started on forward and aft – I’m still a little shaky on which way the boat was facing. At least twice yesterday, I was unable to figure out where my boat lingo talking boss was and had to walk around in circles on the deck until I could see him. Luckily, my boss yesterday is a really terrific guy and tried his best to help me get the nautical terms through my thick skull so the next time I’m on the ship there will be less snickering).

The ship’s staff- who we’d nicknamed “The Old Salts” (who were actually not very salty at all. They were a terrific bunch of guys who were really interesting and I’m bummed that I didn’t have enough free time to talk to them. Guess I’ll have to go back on my own time) were there to help us (and were very kind about not making fun of our comparatively rudimentary knot-tying skills) and quickly winched all our cable and lights onto the ship using the 60+ year old equipment. There was no fumbling, no shouting, no confusion – they just whipped that stuff up onto the ship’s deck quicker than we could bring it to them – guess they’ve had a lot of practice.

Luckily, I remembered my knee brace, as there was really no direct route to any where on the ship, and there was a lot of ladder climbing (and stairways that may as well have been ladders and a really steep gangplank that may as well have been a ladder) all day. By the end of the day, both my legs were aching like I’d just had a strenuous workout at the gym.

The day’s big stroke of luck was my not having to climb the masts to put lights up at the top – my boss did it. Good thing too – although I’m not really afraid of heights, I do draw the line at climbing a 60+ year old metal ladder up the side of a mast on a floating ship. Of course, one of the Old Salts does it every day barefoot while smoking a cigarette (and he’s almost twice my age and in better shape than I’ll ever be in even if I were to take a year off work and do nothing but work out all day every day).

The first part of the day was really hot, but towards the end of the day it cooled off and there was a really beautiful sunset and a wonderful breeze.

The day’s really big news came from one of the Old Salts – apparently, the US Coast Guard thinks film crews are security risk and has advised the folks running the Lane Victory (and other similar locations) to no longer allow film shoots (obviously, because we’re dirty America-haters and can’t be trusted on locations. Either that or it’s because we don’t pick up after ourselves).

Really, now – terrorist plotting after work is way too much effort. When I got home last night I couldn’t even muster up the energy to make a sandwich.

At the end of the day, the best boy asked me to come back with the shooting unit that’s working today, but I’d already been booked on another show (which is good, but I hate saying no because I’m always afraid they’ll give up on me and not call me again) for tonight.

I left my house at 7:30 am, and just barely made my 9 am call, right under the Vincent Thomas Bridge.

We were released at 9:40 pm, and I got home at 10:15 pm.

My job tonight will give me three work days out of a four day week.

Not bad.

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

There’s holes in them thar walls!

Somewhere along the line the people who own my building decided to replace all the plumbing.

Now, I don’t inherently object to this as in some parts of the house my water pressure is non-existent, but since the plumbers are knocking holes in the walls in order to access the pipes and are making some serious noise, of course I have to work tonight and with the destruction (right now they’re jackhammering up part of the patio) happening around me, there’s absolutely no way in hell I’m going to be able to take a nap before my 6 pm call time.

Dammit.

Holes in the walls

When I told the maintenance guy about my having to work tonight, he sort of stared at me for a moment and then asked “What are you going to do if you can’t take a nap?”

I’m just going to have to suck it up and consume as much caffeine as I can without actually having a heart attack, that’s what I’m going to do.

On the bright side, if society collapses any time soon, the ability to stay awake for a really long time will definitely be a major asset in a post-apocalyptic world. Also, the plumbers (there are four of them) are all in really good shape so there’s no half-moons going on.

Plumbing work

Filed under: Photos, up all night, 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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