Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Friday Photo

Dimmer board mood lighting:

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Filed under: Photos, studio lots, up all night, Work, , , , ,

Friday Photo

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Prop guns in between takes.

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

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:

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And this beauty:

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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, , , , , , , , ,

A very nasty surprise

I had a fairly easy day at work today – all on stage, and all in a confined set that one can’t get to crazy lighting. I’m back tomorrow, and it’s with a group of guys that I really like, so when I got home my good mood was shattered by the note taped to my front door.

My building’s been sold, and as of April 1st, I’m to pay rent to a management company.

I  screamed “Fuck” loudly enough to make my neighbor come running out.

The owner didn’t tell anyone that he was selling the building, so these notes are the first anyone is hearing about it, and I’m not the only one who’s confused, but I’m probably the only one who screamed.

A large part of the reason I rented this place is because there wasn’t a management company, and although logically, I know that this management company might not be as horrible as the one at the old place, I’m still concerned. Very, very concerned.

But I can’t afford to move, so my only choice is to sit and wait.

Great.

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

Stunts ahoy!

Stunt days are usually slow for us. We light the shot, and then read the newspaper while the stunt guys do… stunt stuff.

Especially in light of recent train track events, stunt people are very resistant to being rushed. The set up takes as long as it takes, and if you don’t like it feel free to stroll over to crafty and help yourself to a big cup of shut the fuck up.

So most of yesterday was sitting and waiting for the stunts to get set up.

To these particular stunt guys credit, they moved pretty fast, but we still had a 14 hour day.

Which was fine with me, since it’s going to be completely dead in about a week.
Our last shot was inside a hallway of an empty building in an office park. It was another stunt, so we were in there well past dark.

When we stepped outside, we heard this:

Night music from Peggy Archer on Vimeo.

Frogs. Such a strange thing to hear in drought stricken Southern California. Not at all unpleasant, mind you, just odd.

Call time: 7 am.

Wrap time: 10 pm.

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

I haven’t spent an entire day lifting cable in some time.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing.

It’s good because, well, I haven’t had to lift cable in quite some time, and bad because the only thing that gets one fit for lifting cable is lifting cable. Last I checked, they don’t have a 4/0 machine at the gym.

I got a call from the union hall (haven’t had one of those for a while) to wrap a location yesterday at one of our local sports arenas. Arenas are great because they have nice wide ramps and large freight elevators, but bad because most rigging gaffers feel the need to run cable all the way around said arena.

As most arenas are not small,  that’s a lot of cable.

I don’t have any problems pulling (rolling the stretched out cable into a coil – it’s called pulling because one straddles the cable and pulls it into a coil while it’s flat on the ground) cable. I can use the overdeveloped swimmer’s muscles on my back all damn day – plus it increases my sprint speed in the pool, so everybody wins.

What hurts me is lifting the cable – and moving cable from one place to the other is just about the same as it’s always been.

One picks up the 100+ lb coil of cable. One deposits said coil onto some sort of wheeled contraption. Then, one wheels the cable to the truck and lifts it again.

Coil, lift, drop. Coil, lift, drop. Coil, lift, drop. Lunch (light, unless you want to puke while you’re lifting), then repeat.

We were very, very lucky that the temperature stayed relatively low at 78 degrees, so the heat wasn’t the factor that it will be later in the year.

After we finished loading the truck, the best boy asked me if I wanted to unload the truck at the lot today.

I was sore, but work is work – and these are really nice guys that I’d love to call me back again, so of course I said yes.

The sequence for unloading the truck is just about the same for loading it, but without the coiling part.

Lift, drop, count, lift. Lift, drop, count, lift. Lift, drop, count, lift. Lunch (light, unless you want to puke while you’re lifting),  repeat.

Someday I’m going to produce a ‘Get Fit With Cable’ exercise video and make a mint.

Or not. The shipping costs would kill any profit margin.

Since I haven’t been doing many cable lifts lately, I started to hurt a little bit before lunch on Thursday, and really, really started to hurt before lunch today.

Right after lunch, we found out we had to rig two sets, which was a bit of a relief as it would allow me to use different muscles for a couple of hours.

By the time we were dismissed, I was filthy, smelly and sore. I briefly considered going to the Korean spa and soaking myself in the hot tub, but settled for  take-out (I am so not cooking tonight) and got the side-eye from just about everyone in the place.

Fuck them. I’m eating dinner after enjoying a very hot shower and a smearing of the biceps with ointment.

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

What is it with me and fingers?

I need my hands to do my job. So one would imagine I’d be extra careful, but still it’s the body part I manage to mash and smash more than any other.

After waiting a week to get in the ocean after Los Angeles’ torrential skywater catastrophe, some friends and I decided to go for a swim. Our usual spot in Santa Monica wasn’t an option as it was parking for the LA Marathon – and near the street closures – so we went a bit south to Venice beach, thinking that we’d have an easier time with traffic and parking.

Which worked out very well. Plenty of parking, light traffic for those who drove (I rode my bike as I had to traverse the most congested part of Santa Monica to get to the beach).

And then we approached the water, and came face to face with 6 foot waves.

I’m not particularly fearful of the ocean once I get past the surf (if something gets me, it gets me. C’est la vie), but I get a little nervous in surf much higher than my head.

Okay, that’s an understatement. Any waves bigger than about three feet and I’m a panicky idiot who needs supervision to ensure I won’t do anything stupid.

Needless to say, I didn’t get past the surf, and the one swimmer who did had to come back because it took so long to get my heart rate down from ‘coked out hummingbird’ that we ran out of time.

I would have hung my head in shame, but my neck was too sore from getting tossed in the surf.

So, with my proverbial tail between my legs, I slunk off to breakfast and then decided, last-minute, to try to get some sort of workout in and make a yoga class at the gym.

As I was rushing out of the house and using my foot to keep the cat from running outside, I pulled the door shut and didn’t move my finger quite quickly enough.

So it got slammed in the door.

If you’ve never done this, I can assure you it’s excruciatingly painful.

After screaming a few choice words, I looked at said finger and saw the nail turning black.

I’m told that’s bad. There are numerous tutorials on the internet to deal with this in the comfort of your home, but since I am lucky enough to still have insurance, I can go have a doctor do that for me, for only the cost of a very pricey night out.

So instead of going to a yoga class, I went to urgent care.

Where the very nice doctor numbed up my finger (FOUR shots in the nerves) and drilled a hole through the nail to let the blood out.

If you’ve never had a doctor drill (actually, it’s a burn. They BURN a hole though the nail. The smell is… unfortunate. I may never eat again) into your nail, I can assure you it’s really gross and also – take the ‘digital block‘ option. You do NOT want the doctor burning through your fingernail with no pain meds. Trust me.

So now I have a hole in my fingernail. Surprisingly, it’s not that painful. It’s just gross, as we’re over 24 hours on and it’s still bleeding.

Eeeewwww.

Although I think the post-burning photo of the fingernail gushing blood is funny, I’ll be nice and post a photo taken today – the grossest thing about it now is how badly I need a manicure.

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Right now, it’s a pathetic excuse for pilot season here in Los Angeles, so although it’s busy, a day off isn’t a bad thing.

I’ll make work calls tomorrow.

Filed under: humor, life in LA, Los Angeles, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, , , , , , , ,

What’s a life got to do with it, anyway?

I suppose it’s not a huge secret that film sets aren’t exactly  the safest working environment. We routinely enter condemned buildings, work in extreme heat and/or cold (sometimes on the same day), navigate treacherous  footing, run cable through human waste, inhale asbestos and snack on lead paint chips (oh, wait. That’s just the ‘healthy’ baked potato chips. My bad).

In the past decade or so, there has been a concerted effort to make sets safer for everyone, and it’s been very successful.

But accidents sometimes still happen. Mostly those accidents are just that. Accidental. No fault, no blame just…Oops.

But sometimes, it is someone’s fault. In this particular case, a criminally negligent someone’s fault.

About a week ago, a film crew in Georgia were trying to get a shot for a Gregg Allman biopic – a dream sequence with a bed on railroad tracks.

At first it was just a terse announcement on some of the film-worker centric Facebook circles.

Camera assistant killed while shooting. No details.

Then, an ID. Sarah Elizabeth Jones, age 27.

Then, more details started to  emerge, and I began to suspect that this was going to get really bad.

Sadly, I was right. I hate being right.

The production company had requested a permit to shoot on the train tracks, and had been denied.

Someone decided to order the crew to set up the shot on the tracks anyhow.

Just stop and think about that for a second. Someone – we don’t know exactly who as the production company has suddenly gotten very, very tight-lipped and lawyered up – knew that they were not allowed to be on a live fucking rail line and decided to do it anyways.

A train came. About 15 minutes later, another train came. The crew began setting up, and in about 20 minutes, another train came. There was approximately one minute of warning. The crew tried desperately to clear the track in time, but one young woman was unable to do so and was struck while one of her co-workers tried to save her.

And died.

Died. For a stupid fucking movie. Produced by a fucking waste of carbon about a fucking has-been waste of carbon whose claim to fame is fucking Cher.

I jest, of course. The subject of the movie is completely irrelevant. It wouldn’t matter if it was a movie about a paralysed nun who saved a busload of adorable orphans from Nazis.

It’s not worth a life. Any life – even the life of someone who has chosen to wear a toolbelt and not get any glory or residuals.

The “Slates for Sarah” thing is very sweet, but the person who is responsible for this needs to suffer, and greatly.

Sadly, I don’t see that happening.

What I do see is (hopefully) more people saying ‘no’.

As in: “I’m sorry, Mr Producer. This isn’t safe. Oh, you want to fire me? Fine. I’ll live to work another day, and you can burn in Hell.”

Oh, wait. My bad. Burning in hell is too good for some people.

Filed under: mishaps, movies, rants, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A rare opportunity makes me silly happy

I almost never get to ride my bike to work.

Usually, I’m working in either some far-flung place or too many hours to brave a bike commute home when the drivers start getting drunk.

So yesterday, when I had a 9 am call for what was predicted to be an eight-hour day at a lot 3 miles from my apartment, I gleefully loaded up the bike bags with my work gear and headed out.

I giggled as I sailed past the traffic on the more than usually clogged up Santa Monica Blvd, and then glided through the full-to-the-brim parking lot (valet on the dungeon level and good luck finding your keys), then dismounted right in front of the catering truck. One egg white omelette (with a side of bacon) later and I rode over to the stage.

Sweet.

I did take the precaution of locking my bike, as I don’t want to lose my commuter to one of the lot bike “borrowers”.

We worked about 6 hours, had a very good time with super nice people, and then I rode home while it was still light – and even managed to make a stop at the pet store to get the cat’s ridiculously expensive (but she’s worth it) food.

I wish I could do this more often.

Unfortunately, although I’m working on the same lot tomorrow, I’m going to make a long day longer by going to masters swim before work, and I can’t make the ride from the pool to the lot in time.

So, car it is. But the swim makes it totally worth it.

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

Friday Photo

Update: Posted this on Thursday. I lost a day in there somewhere. I really have no idea how that happened.

When warning labels rage out of control:

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I get padding the pointy parts of the helicopter when the film crew is around. We’re clumsy and prone to not looking where we’re going.

I can’t help but imagine that the pilot knows damn well to remove those things before flight. Also, you know how people run to the helicopter and duck to avoid the spinning rotor blades?

They’re nuts. Those things are scary and not very far off the ground. I’m not going anywhere near the damn helicopter until they’ve stopped spinning.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, Photos, 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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  • New blood pressure medication. Lightheaded and having trouble standing for more than a few minutes doc sez tough it out. Oy. 2 days ago
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