Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

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, , , ,

Surprise!

Once upon a time, I bought a dress.

I was working for a now defunct prime-time celebrity gossip show who were known for throwing a lavish Emmy (TM) party, to which they invited the entire crew.

Because the crew were invited, we got a memo stating that this party was a formal affair. No jeans, no T-shirts, no flip-flops, no cargo shorts. You know, the things film crews wear all the time.

Tuxedos if you were male, gowns if you were female.

No exceptions.

I was not about to pass up a chance to attend a genuine Hollywood Soirée (TM), so I skipped over to the local branch of Dior (TM), figuring I’d pay maybe a grand for a killer dress and have the night of my life.

It’s okay to point and laugh. That’s what the salespeople did.

After realizing there was no way in hell I could afford anything really nice, I went to the department stores, who stocked two styles of dresses. Matronly, and Teenage Prom (TM).

Next stop, outlet malls, stocked  with the overpriced dregs of whatever hadn’t sold the year before.

Look, I don’t mind shelling out (within reason) for something well-made that makes me look fabulous, but last season’s dregs which smell of armpits and broken dreams aren’t worth  the cleaning bill.

Dejected, I called The Blonde, who was my plus one.

“Why are you wasting your time?” she asked, in between popping bubble gum “Just go to Ross (TM)”

I contemplated this advice for at least 7 bubble pops.

“They have some okay stuff. Just check it out. You have nothing to lose”

“What are you wearing?”

“I dunno. Something a stylist gave me for free. With flats”

I went to Ross (TM).

And, surprisingly, found a fairly nice dress.

It was a classic black satin number with spaghetti straps,  a nice drape, and a built-in bra.

It cost me the princely sum of $10.

I got my hair and makeup done, threw on my bargain dress and had a great time.

When the night was over, the dress stayed in the closet until the next time I needed to look presentable, and then it came out again. And again, and again.

Over the past decade I’ve pulled it out biennially, and it still looks great.

So, when I got an invite to the Magic Castle tonight (formal attire required), I reached for The Dress.

Something looked off.  Before the cat passed away, she left me with the parting gift of a clawed-to-shit dress.

Either that or I have a poltergeist (TM) offended by bargain fashion.

I managed to patch it up with hem tape, and if anyone asks, I’m going to tell them I’m rocking the Derelicte look.  Maybe I should put paper wads and cigarette butts in my hair for the full effect.

 Tonight will be the last appearance of The Dress (TM).

I guess I got my money’s worth.

 

 

Filed under: Uncategorized

Short and sweet

The past I don’t know how long has consisted of 12 hour rigging days, which leave me so exhausted I can’t do anything other than shower and limp to bed (yup. Getting old), so today was going to be nice.

A day of doing first unit. On a stage. With air conditioning.

I love air conditioning.

About two hours into the day, the best boy asked me if I’d mind going to the other stage to work with the other unit, since they were short-handed.

Of course I didn’t mind. I’m paid the same no matter where I am, and the other stage had even better air conditioning.

I was actually cold.

It was fantastic.

As the day continued, it seemed to me that the other unit were going to have a longer day, so I might get a few more hours in the air conditioning before going back to my sweltering apartment, but when the first unit wrapped I was called to help them load the truck and then dismissed.

So I got eight hours, which is also nice. I figured I’d go for a swim and then go home and watch a movie on the streaming service of my choice.

Only to find my wi-fi DOA.

The hard line to the desktop works fine, but no wi-fi, so no Netflix, no Hulu, no news feed, nothing.

At least I can look at cat pictures on the internet until the tech gets here tomorrow at 5 pm to fix it.

Tomorrow. At five fucking PM. And I was informed by the customer service agent I was lucky to get service that quickly.

At least I got to enjoy the cool air today.

 

 

Filed under: Uncategorized

Friday Photo 

A shaft of light 

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , ,

June

There are two months of the year where work is usually scarce for me – January and June. I always know it’s coming and prepare for it as best I can, but near the end of the month, with rent and bills due, I panic.

I know that there will be more work (and soon), but still. I panic.

I worry that I’m going to drain my bank account on the first of July, never work again, lose my apartment and have to consolidate into a shopping cart.

I worry about not being able to pay my bills and trying to live without electricity.

Or even worse, the internet.

I start looking around for stuff I can sell, even though I don’t own anything of any value.

 

So today I’m in panic mode. I have to pay rent, cell phone, electricity bill, gym, car insurance and union dues all this week.

Yes, I know I’m over-reacting, but I can’t stop myself.

It’s like this every single fucking year.

You’d think I’d learn.

 

Filed under: Non-Work, , , ,

Hearing and Lady Problems

Normally, the gaffer is the head of the lighting department, but on shows with anything more than a passing resemblance to theater (operas, concerts, ice shows, ballroom dancing), there will also be a lighting designer, who is responsible for the theatrical lighting.

Anything that’s part of what would be the theater rig falls under the authority of the lighting designer, so since I was working a follow spot today, I was on the channel with the LD, and not the gaffer.

Normally, the LD sits in a sound proof booth and during the performance, will call out directions to the spotlight operators. The spotlights are given numbers to simplify things, so instead of having to remember names, the LD can just call out “spot 3, pick up downstage left”, or “spot 4, pan up to get the drummer”.

Which is great, when it works.

For this particular show, there was no booth for the LD, so he was sitting next to the monitor, and when they turned on the playback, all we heard over the walkies was something like a radio not quite on the right channel.

KKSSHHHHEHHHGHHLEFTSSSSKKKSHHHHFEETSSHHHHKKRIGHTKSSSHHHSFOURSSKKKKKKKDAMMIT

Since the venue in which we were shooting is not known for stellar acoustics, none of us could even hear what we were thinking.

The LD, once we explained that we couldn’t hear him during playback, sighed and just gave us direction in between takes.

Lucky for all of us there wasn’t too much movement on stage.

The main problem was that our spotlights were on a catwalk that required steep stairs and a ladder to reach – which was fine, except for the lack of a loo.

At this point, I’m sure someone is going to suggest I just pee in the chain bag.

First, eeew.

Second, I have my period, because of course I do. And trust me, no one wants to find that in the chain bag.

I got lucky today that the periods of inactivity coincided with when I needed to slip away, but tomorrow I might be fucked because the call sheet has performance numbers all day.

I’ll have to double up (tampon and a giant pad), and bring up a plastic bag and some wet wipes.

Good thing this show is requiring we all wear black clothes.

I’m back tomorrow and Friday.

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

Friday photo

image

Back side of the Fox lot facades under a cloudy sky. Lucky for us we beat the rain and drove home dry.

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

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