Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Special Science Glasses

After a half-weekend (wrap at 6 am Saturday), I wasn’t really upset about having today off.  It’s nice to have one zombie day, and one day to do things while one’s brain is functioning.

So, I headed over to the garden to plant the last tomatoes of the season and do some weeding while waiting for Southern California’s lackluster version of the eclipse.

I’d planned to do the old-fashioned pinhole/cardboard combo that we used back in elementary school for the last eclipse, but as luck would have it, a show was shooting in the community garden and they were handing out special eclipse glasses. I didn’t get a pair, but the garden master who was working that day as the site representative did, and was more than willing to share.

Holy crap. Why didn’t they have these things back when I was a kid? I might have cared more about that eclipse if I’d been able to see that kind of detail instead of a fucking fuzzy blur on cardboard.

Even through the heavy-duty lenses, though, my eyes still started to hurt after a few minutes, so I was happy to hand them off. Since we didn’t get totality, it didn’t get dark, the light just looked…weird for a few minutes.

Since I didn’t know anyone on the crew, I headed back home to drop off the tomatoes I’d picked and then headed to the pool to swim before doing laundry while being crashed into by a sugar-addled second grader trying to run top speed while wearing eclipse glasses.

Turns out, they gave the kids the day off. Not so much for learning, but due to the fear that the teachers wouldn’t be able to stop the kids from staring at the sun.

Sounds reasonable.

I’ll make work calls tomorrow, and should get something by the end of the week.

It’s busy out there.

 

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

Looks can be deceiving

Sometimes you can look at a set and figure out right away if it’s going to be easy to light or not. Generally, the smaller the set, the worse things go for everyone. Like cramming 10 pounds of shit into a 5 pound sack.

Today’s main set was large,  lots of room, multiple doorways, all the windows opened (sometimes on sets they don’t), etc.. It should have been a breeze.

Except that it wasn’t.

We thrashed around for two hours trying to light it.

For some reason, this particular set was built without any ‘wild’ walls, and a hard ceiling that doesn’t move.

Wild walls are designed to be easily removed from the set, so that one can get certain camera angles or lighting, and a set really needs to have the ceiling raise up (or come off in small bits) so that when we need to have a light, say, in the middle of a room we can just drop power down from the grid and not have to worry about camouflaging cable that’s run right through the middle of the shot.

Of course, since we couldn’t run power up to the grid through the ceiling that didn’t move, we lit an entire scene from above and saw the whole fucking world, every single shot. The grips managed to drill some holes for us, but mostly we used a metric ton of tape and more time than we should have taken to do a fairly simple lighting set-up.

By the time it was over, my boss was rocking back and forth, muttering to himself while clutching his light meter to his chest.

We ended up having to move one scene to tomorrow, which will be nice and refreshing to end our day in the air conditioning, because we’ll be spending most of the day outside in the heat and humidity (okay, it’s Los Angeles humidity, which is dry compared to say, Texas).

Also, work has been so slow that my work shoe calluses went away, and now I have blisters on my feet. Guess I’ll be stopping by the drug store on the way to work to buy a metric ton of moleskin.

 

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

Stress and time to enjoy it

Work is slow right now. Very, very slow. Part of it is just the time of year. The episodics are on hiatus, the pilots are over and nothing will really start happening for another month or two.

I’m feeling it more than usual, though, because the show that I worked on fairly steadily for over a decade is gone. Done, over, kaput, never coming back, sets in the garbage, misty-eyed ‘remember when’ Facebook group formed.

I didn’t really realize how much of my income came from said show until I started wondering why I was so broke in April. I should be doing okay this time of.. oh, wait. That.

So now, because my expenses are now above what unemployment will cover, I’m worrying. Not just about the slow month, but about a potential writers’ strike.

If they strike, all production will grind to a halt and we’ll all be unemployed – potentially for months.

I simply haven’t got the cash reserves to survive extended not-workingness.

Sure, I could get another bunion surgery, but it might be better to get a job. A real job.

Except what I’m able to get via temp agencies won’t cover my expenses, either.

So I’m waiting. And breathing deeply, while trying to quell the rising panic about something that hasn’t happened yet.

But it’s hard, because the last extended work stoppage was bad. I barely squeaked by, and ended up with a shitload of credit card debt that I do not want again.

Today, I went to the Actor’s Fund and did the intake meeting so I can go to the resume classes and get career assistance – mainly in the form of resume classes, financial planning classes, and job listing.

I found myself in a room full of people just like me – all panicked about different things, and all wondering how we were going to survive.

I was the only jerk in the room to actually mention the strike, and everyone around the table tensed up.

At the end of the meeting, we all shuffled out, planning which workshops to come back to – I’ll have to ride my bike, though, as I’m not sure I can afford to pay the parking, or buy gas.

It’s better to knuckle down sooner rather than later, right?

 

Filed under: life in LA, Non-Work, overspending, , , , , ,

At least I was out of the sun

Normally, the heat comes slowly – getting slightly warmer and slightly warmer every single day, like the frog in the pot of water.

But it’s gotten very warm in about 72 hours. Monday, it was in the 60’s, and today it was 90 on the (un-airconditioned) lamp dock where I was pulling gear for a TV show.

I’m not going to work on said TV show, I was just an extra guy to help pull equipment from the shelves and lay it out so they could test and count it.

Normally, this is not the most exciting thing in the world to do, but it was made more interesting by the lamp dock being organized by someone I’m pretty sure was on crack, so it was an adventure trying to find all the parts of the lamps.

The guys who work there all the time are used to it, but my heat-addled brain wanted to make sense of things, so I just kept wandering around with scrim bags in my hands, saying “Why?”

No one ever answered me.

Tomorrow, I’m going to be outside in the sun all day. I’m afraid.

 

 

Filed under: Uncategorized

The shit zone

I haven’t worked in a shit-covered alley in quite some time. Not because people aren’t shitting in alleyways nowadays, but because Los Angeles has gentrified the shit out of most alleys. The human shit, anyways.

Most, but not all.

Today I got a last-minute call to go help out on a rig for a movie, which is really strange since I didn’t think we shot movies here any longer, but I haven’t worked in a few weeks, and the call was with a group of guys I really like, so off I went.

Our set was an alleyway between tenement apartments in a part of town that’s never seen skinny jeans, horn rim glasses, or pour over coffee – a real honest to God slum instead of a fake hipster slum.

You know what I mean.

No matter how much they steam clean alleys, they never get all the.. material. There’s still a smell, and since most people who shit in alleys do so leaning up against a wall, the walls and gates have to be cleaned about 2 feet up or there’s still a nasty surprise for the person running cable.

That brown crusty stuff on the bottom of the gate? It’s not rust.

The good news is that it’s been cool enough that the smell of baking excrement wasn’t as bad as it would have been in, say, July.

But still. The smell hangs in one’s nostrils, and as I was trying to tie some DMX cable up out of the shit zone, the soles of my shoes got a good soaking in a puddle of what I desperately hoped was water, but realized my error when, at lunch, the smell of piss wafted up from my shoes. Since I’m almost positive I didn’t pee on them, I have to assume the puddle was part of the alley which received insufficient steaming.

I’ve never been so happy to have a nice hot shower.

Tomorrow, I’m at another location with less pee but more toxic mold.

I’ll take it.

 

Filed under: california, crack of dawn, hazardous, locations, movies, toxic waste, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

All night, all night, all night

Night work is never ideal for me, the ultimate morning person.  One night is usually a pain, but doable – I just take a short nap, power through the rest of my day, go to bed early and I’m fine.

But multiple nights are much more difficult, since that pesky body clock thingy insists on waking me up at 7 am every single fucking morning, no matter how late I’ve been up the night before.

I have to get some rest, because I’ll have to function for the rest of the week and even I can’t manage to not sleep for more than a couple of days.

Last night went fairly quickly as we were running around the whole time, and I got home about 6 am, where I miraculously managed to get about four hours of sleep. That’s making me feel, well, not chipper, but semi-human.

I’ve got a 4 pm call about 40 miles away in the high desert, and they’re going to put us up in a hotel somewhere in northeast bumfuck, because driving back home through rush hour traffic and then driving back to work trough rush hour traffic would mean no rest for anyone, even the people who need it.

I normally prefer to sleep in my own bed, but this time I’m glad to have the hotel. Plus, it has a pool so I can get in a swim Wednesday morning before work.

Tonight, I’m going up in the condor, so I might manage a nap or two, which would be nice, but with this gaffer it’s unlikely.

Also, did I mention the doctor wants me to stop drinking so much coffee? Something about acid something. Whatever.

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

A bird in the hand

Pigeons love old sound stages.

I don’t know why, but there’s almost always one or two lurking up in the perms, crapping on our cable and doing whatever it is pigeons do when they’re not crapping on everything.

Sometimes they get trapped on the stage when we’re shooting and fly around, bumping into things and crapping on everything until they either find their way out or we call cut and open the doors.

Today, right in the middle of a very long, very complex scene requiring concentration from the actors on the dead-silent stage (this show has a really serious AD staff) – the song of the flying rat.

And they kept singing (or cooing, or telling each other where to crap next) during every single sound take.

We tried everything. A laser pointer, a light aimed at them, luring them towards the small door with a trail of bread crumbs, throwing things at them, you name it.

They’d be quiet for a few minutes and then as soon as the stage got nice and quiet  would resume their conversation.

Eventually, the exasperated sound guy decided that it wasn’t worth the headache and they should just ADR the whole thing, and we moved on.

As soon as we opened the big doors of the stage for lunch, both birds flew out.

Filed under: studio lots, toxic waste, Work, , , , , , ,

Surprise, with an aftertaste of ouch

Sometimes one is just not prepared for the day one gets.

It was supposed to be a fairly light day, work-wise, which was just what I needed because tomorrow I know I’m going to get the shit beaten out of me.

We were supposed to change some tubes, run some light cable, then go home. Maybe 6 hours.

We showed up at 7 am, but the equipment we needed to start working didn’t arrive until 10 am, due to traffic.

Fine. Maybe 8 hours.

We changed our tubes, ran the cable we needed to run and were hopeful we might still get out by lunch.

Then, surprise!

We had another set full of fluorescent fixtures that no one knew about before. So we got more tubes, and changed those fixtures.

I suppose I should mention that the standard-issue fixture for drop ceilings (aka troffer), isn’t designed to have the tubes changed very often. The whole point of installing these fixtures is the lack of maintenance needed.

Stick them in the ceiling, and forget they were ever there. They should last for years.

Unless you rent out your space for shoots – then we have to change out the tubes for color balanced ones, which involves wrenching open the bottom of the fixture (the delicate plastic part), wrestling out the tubes by twisting them and swearing, breaking some of the tiny parts that aren’t that fucking important anyways because I have to do 100 more of these fucking things, shoving in tubes that are just a micron too long, so there’s more shoving and swearing and sweating and 20 years of dust from the fixture falls everywhere – which is really bad if you wear a bra, because guess where that dust likes to land?

You haven’t lived until you’ve stood in the shower and tried to scrub off a combo of asbestos* dust and sweat.

But we got it all done, albeit a bit later than we’d originally intended.

Then, we got the call.

Something, somewhere, had changed.

We had to go back to all the fixtures and change the tubes for a different color.

Dammit.

I’d just used up all my baby wipes scraping off the asbestos. Now I was going to get covered in it again and itch all the way home in rain traffic.

The rain isn’t predicted until midnight, but the mere mention of water falling from the sky is enough to send the entire city into a blind panic.

All of us were hoping to be home before said panic.

Alas, it was not to be and I spent 1.5 hours crawling home on a route that should have taken me 20 minutes.

Thanks, rain.

I’ll be standing outside all day tomorrow.

 

 

*If you’re in an office building built before the era of ‘holy shit this causes cancer’, look up. See those white tiles on the ceiling? They’re not the asbestos (maybe). The asbestos is the weird popcorn looking stuff that’s sprayed everywhere between those tiles and the actual ceiling. Calm down, it’s not going to get to you. Unless you’ve rented out the building to a movie, and the riggers came in and changed the tubes. If that happened, your lungs are fucked – but it’s okay, you won’t have any issues until you’re old and decrepit and too old to care. Or so I’m told. Excuse me while I cough. It’s totally unrelated.

 

 

Filed under: crack of dawn, cranky, hazardous, locations, movies, toxic waste, Work, , , , , , , , , , , ,

An election season repost

I don’t usually repost things, but this is still relevant. Just change the name from Jian Ghomeshi to Donald Trump, and ‘BDSM’ to ‘vanilla flavored sexual assault.’

Original title was “Money, Power, and Silence”.

Anyone who works in media in any capacity keeps secrets.

Most of them are harmless: the vegetarian who eats bacon, the studio exec with an 8th grade education, the erudite gangster rapper.

But some people do very, very bad things and get away with it. For years.

Because they’re powerful. Because they’re rich. Because if you dare challenge them they’ll litigate you into a special kind of hell from which you will never re-emerge.

Even if you do win, you’ll be demonized by the unwashed internet masses because how dare you speak ill of Mr (or Ms.) Perfect? They make great media!

Since he’s Canadian, you’ve probably never heard of him, but Jian Ghomeshiis rich, powerful, beloved, and an alleged serial date-beater.

The accusations span a decade, and the women in his media circles have beenwarning each other to stay away for about that length of time.

But no one went to the police, because apparently the police in Canada aren’t any better at dealing with this sort of thing than the police here in Los Angeles, where they warehoused rape kits for years.

And that’s women who were assaulted by the hoi palloi, not the rich and powerful.

Here in our little Southern California media community, there is at least one serial rapist – not a sad sack who confuses BDSM and battery, an actual rapist – who has been at it for at least 8 years. Maybe longer.

No one that I know of has gone to the police because this person is very, very powerful and, well, that’s why. Even those who are raped by poor people face victim blaming, accusations of being liars and whores who secretly wanted it, etc..

Imagine how that gets magnified when one’s claim involves part of the city’s economic elite, or very, very famous.

Is it any wonder that we just quietly warn each other to stay away from Mr. (or Ms.) Nightmare?

Glances get exchanged, texts get sent, private messages fly around – stay away.

But it’s not a perfect system. Some don’t get the warning. And they have to suffer through the cycle of shame, anger, grief, guilt.

And said abuser walks free.

Because the abuser is above the law. And will likely never face the consequences.

And one could lose faith in the human race, except that Jian Ghomeshi is, finally,  facing some (admittedly mild so far) consequences.

It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing, right?

 

P.S. For fuck’s sake – no comment guesses at any names, even if you know who it is. I can’t afford that kind of lawyer.

 

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

Power problems

Back before modern technology, the gaffer used hand signals to direct the lighting techs, which  meant that said techs had to stay on set and pay attention.

Now, with the advent of communications technology, we have walkie talkies – we can hear the gaffer talk, to we don’t have to stand at attention all day – we can go get coffee, go play Candy Crush, read a book, whatever. As long as we’re back in the set when it’s time to light.

Handy? Sure. Even with the side effect of deafness caused by  that one person on every crew who is super loud and won’t move the damn mic away from his or her face even after being asked a thousand times.

We always get the same type of walkie – heavy, but with  a decent battery life. If there’s a lot of chatter on the channel, one may have to change at lunch. When the battery gets low, there’s a beep in the ear.

Out work today was what’s called a Pilot Presentation. It’s what you shoot before you shoot the pilot, so you can shop the show to the sort of people who will hand over wads of cash to create some fine, American-made entertainment.

On this particular day, production have tried to save money by using non-standard walkies. They’re much smaller, and have a fun feature where an actor’s voice announces  “channel one””channel two”, etc… If you spin the dial really fast, you can make him say “chanchanchanchan”, which is kind of fun.

It also announces when the battery is dead with the same actor saying “low battery”. Which is nicer than the beep, but happens way too often. By lunchtime, I’d had to change twice. Oddly, the voice did not let me know that battery death was imminent. Seems like a feature they’d want to add.

Other than fun with the walkie voice guy, it was a quiet day. Most of these presentations are only a short bit so once we’re lit, we’re sitting and waiting for wrap.

Tomorrow will be our long day, as they’ll shoot for 12 hours and then we’ll have to wrap the stage after that.

Filed under: locations, Uncategorized, , , ,

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