I hate working nights, but what I hate more is when I psych myself up for a long night and it turns out to be a short night.
Los Angeles closes down after 2 am, so if you get all hopped up on coffee like I did (in anticipation of an 8 hour worknight), and then only work for two hours, you’re fucked – sitting at home with coffee jitters and nowhere to go.
I had a midnight call at CBS in the Valley (CBS has two lots – the one on Fairfax where they shoot “American Idol” – yes, I know it airs on Fox, but it’s shot at CBS, and the Radford lot in the Valley where they shoot just about everything else), to wrap a TV pilot. This particular pilot was a ‘three camera’ show, which means exactly that – the sets are all in a line, with the open side facing the same direction and a ‘camera isle’ right in front of them were the three (actually four – there’s a camera on a boom up above the set as well) cameras are. The cameras all shoot into the set from the same direction. Movies and ‘single camera shows’ don’t work like that.. you have full sets and they shoot from different directions. Single camera shows also never have an audience, and three camera shows almost always do.
We got there after they’d wrapped and gone home, which is fine except that all the good stuff at crafty has been taken away – I anticipated this, and had a big cup of coffee on my way over to the lot – I’d gotten a second cup that I was planning to keep in the car and drink about 4 am when I needed a little lift – drinking cold coffee is one of the dubious skills that I’ve picked up during my time in the film industry.
The thing about wrapping sets is that the faster you work, the sooner you’re done – in this case, we got everything struck (we just took all the lights off the pipe grid. The cable’s all staying up as another pilots shooting in that stage next week) in two hours.
I didn’t know anyone on this crew at all, though. I don’t work at the Radford lot very often, and most of these folks have spent their entire careers there – I met a woman who’s been in the union for 27 years – she got in the year after they were forced to admit women, and she’s a scream.
She’s bitter (as are most folks who’ve been in this industry for more than 10 or 15 years), but she’s smart and funny about it.
Her topics for the night were: ‘They’re screwing us out of our health insurance” (this is true.. the producers can’t cut our pay, so they chip away at our health insurance, even though the ‘craft’ people – grip, electric, and construction – have the most wear and tear on our bodies and are the most likely to be seriously injured or killed on set), “Those men are jerks – they can talk about tits, but we can’t talk about politics”, and “Women don’t ever make it to full retirement, and here’s what those fucking men need to do about it” (this is also true – to retire from our union, you have to work 30 years and 60,000 hours. Very few people of any gender get the hours they need to retire. They get the years, but not the hours. What the ‘fucking men’ need to do is to lower the number of required qualifying hours, but that’s not going to happen).
I told her she should run for our executive board (the folks who set policy for the local), and she launched into an even funnier variation of the “Fucking men and their bullshit” speech.
I was entertained, and I did actually learn a few things!
Stopped off at the Vons near CBS on the way home and had a conversation with the checker about our respective fucked up unions, how she’d coped during the grocery store strike here in Southern California, and if the grocery stores really are tracking your spending with those club cards.