Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.


I saw “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” today.

The movie was okay (part of the problem with seeing movies that you worked on is that nothing’s a surprise. I was sitting there thinking “Oh, it’s about time for them to get stuck in the shed – boy that was a shitty day”), but it made me sad.

“Mr. and Mrs. Smith” was the last movie that my friend Keith worked on (he was Best Boy Electric on first unit) before he died of cancer in October of 2004.

That movie was the last time that I got to spend with him. He was so much fun to work with – he had a wicked sense of humor, and only hired people who ‘got it’, so every day was a riot.

He did a dead-on impression of Eric Cartman, and would launch into these hilarious and completely filthy tirades over the walkie-talkie using Cartman’s voice. I ruined more that one sound take on more than one movie by laughing at whatever Keith was spewing into my headset.

I can’t do him justice in a blog post, so I won’t even try.

He was an amazing person, and I’m so grateful that I knew him at all.

I knew seeing his name was going to make me sad – but as it rolled past in the credits, I lost it and bawled like a baby.

A woman sitting behind me leaned forward, tapped me on the shoulder and said “Oh, c’mon.. it wasn’t that bad.”

That’s something Keith would have said.

Filed under: Work

Yet another photo

Originally uploaded by Peggy Archer.

From the set of “Deadwood”, 2004.

“Deadwood” sucked – and I mean really sucked – to work on.
It was shot at Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita (where they shot “Blazing Saddles”), where it was 80 degrees during the day, and 35 degrees at night.

The uneven dirt streets made use of any kind of cart impossible, so everything had to be picked up and carried over muddy, stinky (horse pee smells horrible), rutted terrain. The aforementioned horse pee meant that even when it was 80 degrees, working crew had to wear waterproof shoes and rain pants, or risk spending 16 hours with horse-pee soaked pants, shoes, and socks.

The only thing that kept it from being completely miserable were the crew- they were a terrific bunch of people, and it ended up being fun, despite the hardships.

Filed under: Photos, Work

Out of the Frying Pan, into the Fire

The Blonde and I agreed to get the short reedited in order to show it to some huge producer guy who might be able to sell it as a TV show – but our editor isn’t available, so we had to find someone else at the last minute.

Someone else is a guy who’s edited a few reality shows already and knows what these people want to see, and what they’re likely to buy. He’s also super cool and we both like him a lot.

He’s going to charge two grand for a cut, and it’s got to be ready in 9 days.

We have to come up with two thousand dollars in 9 days.

Shit shit shit.

Can I make two grand from Google Ads in 9 days?

Filed under: Uncategorized

The Dumbest Man Alive Wears Really Expensive Suits.

We had a pitch meeting today, to see if we can turn our short film into a TV series.

Our short is sort of a “Spinal Tap” type satire – one of those things that you either ‘get’ or don’t ‘get’.

This guy didn’t get it. We were waiting for his partner to come out of another meeting, and he said – in response to my saying that Monty Python’s “Fish Slapping Dance” was one of my favorite bits – “I just don’t understand why you’d hit someone with a fish. Why would you have a fish? Does it take place in a fishmarket?”

That’s when I knew we were fucked.

Sure enough, during the meeting they didn’t get it and kept telling us that the actors were bad (they’re not – they’re actually amazing), and they just didn’t think it was real (it’s not supposed to.. oh, never mind).

This from a company who has a slate of reality shows such as “My Big Fat Mama’s Bikini Wax”, “Mall Night Watchman” and “Turtle Vets”*.

They did give us about an hour (which is unusual – normally if they don’t like your idea, you get the bum’s rush) telling us how we needed to re-edit in order to make it acceptable fodder to feed the machine – we smiled and nodded, and thanked them for the time they’d given us. The Blonde wants to do a recut to see if we can sell something.

Surprisingly enough, I agree. I’d rather sell out one idea so we can get some leverage -which will enable us to get a good show on the air at some point in the future.

I just don’t want to sell to – or deal with – the dumbest man alive.

* These are not actual shows. To reveal this guy’s production slate would be on a par with clubbing baby seals – so these are fake show titles that are about – intelligence wise – what he does have.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Ack! Tabletop!

I got a call last minute to replace a guy who got sick today (with whatever summer cold/allergy/thing is going around right now), and of course I said yes – the call was for a commercial, which is good. Commercials pay incredibly well, but…..

It was Tabletop, which is oh so very bad.

Tabletop is product shots. The product (Barbie, GI Joe, Tampons, Pepsi, etc) is set on a table top and lit, and then you sit there for 15 hours while the advertising agency people tweak and tweak and tweak. It’s like watching grass grow.

Food shoots at least are fun – just because you get to watch the food stylists go batty and see some cool stuff (did you know the milk in cereal commercial close ups isn’t milk? It’s Elmer’s Glue – milk sours and clumps instantly under hot lights. Diluted Elmers White Glue doesn’t).
No, you can’t eat the food. It’s been glued to the spoon, shellacked, sprayed and otherwise rendered inedible – unless actors are eating it, and then the little bit that they’re eating is edible, but nothing else is.

This was not a food shoot. It was some overpriced watch that was mounted on a white cube with a white background. It took us THREE hours to light it to the satisfaction of the agency people, and then we sat there for another 12 hours while they shot the watch from a million different angles – “Now, can you tilt the face down and to the left and can we change the time to read 3:15.”
“Now, tilt the face up and to the left and can we change the time to read 10:30.”
“Now, tilt the face up, to the right, but not too far to the right and can the time read 6:15”.


I read the LA Times, the NY Times, my book, reorganized the ‘ditty cart’, restocked the gels alphabetically, and used my dikes to trim off most of my split ends.

The problem with working film production is that it creates adrenaline junkies. I’m so used to lighting a new scene every three hours that I go insane if I’m not doing the hustle all day.

I always forget how tedious commercials are. You have 15 people from an ad agency who are paying for (and micromanaging) the shoot, so you work at a veeerrrrry slow pace.

It’s not a bad thing (and I’ll be really happy when I get the check), I’m just used to a bit more action.

Filed under: Work

It even hurts when I smile.

Tuesdays at 11 am is the Pilates class from hell at the 24 Hour Fitness in Hollywood. It’s taught by an Asian guy named Leo who I call “The Happy Sadist”.

He’s happy ’cause you’re in pain while you’re trying to keep your back on the ground and your feet precisely 6 inches in the air.

Leo offers encouragement, too: “See, this is easy! Big Smile! It’s easier when you smile! DO IT RIGHT! See? Easy!”.

I keep going to Leo’s class because I’m determined to get my abs back (I lose them when I work 15 hour days), even though I know I’ll be in a lot of pain for the rest of the day.

However, I do have the “Guest Blogger” thing today at Assistant/Atlas‘ blog.


I’m off to soak my sorry ass in the tub.

Filed under: Non-Work

And now for something completely off topic

Catherine sent me this list of questions that are going around, so here we go.

#1 Total number of books owned – not that many anymore. In an effort to reduce the clutter in my life, I gave a bunch of them to the library. I can visit them anytime I want. I’ve probably got about a hundred left.

#2 The last book I bought – I can’t remember.. I found out I could read them for free from the library.

#3 The last book I read – “How to Build a Time Machine” by Paul Davies

#4 Five books that mean a lot to me –

“Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Damn Terry Gilliam for not being able to get the movie off the ground.

“Watership Down” by Richard Adams. It was the first “grown up” book I ever read (I think I was about 8 or 9).

“Lullaby” by Chuck Palahniuk

“The Wasp Factory” by Iain Banks

“Chuck Amok” by Chuck Jones. An autobiography by the guy who came up with all those really, really cool Warner Brothers cartoons in the 50’s.

Filed under: Non-Work

Big Geeky Trade Show Weekend!

I do love a good trade show. It’s a chance to see some cool stuff, and catch up with buddies.

The only film industry trade show used to be “Showbiz Expo”, but they pissed a lot of people off (jacking up the rate for booths, and just generally being unpleasant to exhibitors), so a couple of new shows started – Molepalooza and Cinegear. Molepalooza was never that good (and they had permitting problems because Mole Richardson – where the show was held – are located in a really high traffic part of Hollywood), so the main one now is Cinegear. It gets bigger every year – this year was on the “Ranch” part of the Warner Brothers lot. It used to be on the Universal lot, but I like this location better – I hope it stays at Warner’s.

Cinegear’s always been really tech heavy – mostly lighting, grip and camera, although this year there were a few computer booths, the FTAC and some film location commissions.

Highlights of the show were Hydroflex (they make underwater camera and lighting systems) passing out illicit rum shots in their promotional shot glasses

Hydroflex’s extremely cool tropical-themed poolside booth.

Plus, some very, very cool LED lighting systems – lighting wise, LED’s are the wave of the future. They don’t pull much power, and they don’t generate as much heat as traditional lighting units. They’re not capable of putting out a whole lot of light, so they’ll never replace the larger units, but for small units they’re much nicer than flourescents (the other lightweight light).

Coolest gadget ever
This is an LED “Diva Light”. Lights mounted to the lens smooth out wrinkles, and are a favorite of aging actresses – hence the name.

One of the major technical difficulties (movie wise, that is) is shooting actors in moving cars. For years, all you could do was strap a camera to the hood of the car and shoot through the windshield, or hang the camera off the side of the car on a really horrifying contraption called a ‘hostess tray’. Then, along came the shotmaker (which is basically a flatbed trailer with some railing around it), but the problem with those is that you have 15 people sitting on the platform as you’re driving around, so high speed stuff just isn’t possible (I think the fastest you can go with a Shotmaker process trailer is about 20mph). Also, since the car’s sitting on a flatbed you are limited in what the camera can see.

This year, there were three or four different camera/car systems – one of which I’ve seen before (The “Go Mobile” from Go Stunts was used on “The Bourne Supremacy”, and it enables one to do really high speed stuff. Plus, there’s no trailer, so you don’t have to worry about framing. If you rent the “Bourne Supremacy”, there’s a behind the scenes special feature about stunts and the Go Mobile), and two which I haven’t.

This is the “Go Mobile”, and yes, that’s the General Lee from the “Dukes of Hazard”.

Cinegear - Car system
This is another type of car mounted system, but I can see a problem with the front clearance – there’s about an inch of it. Can you say “crunch”?

Cinegear - more car stuff
This is just scary.

The other recent (within the past 5 years) technical breakthrough – lighting balloons. They’re big balloons filled with helium and lighting units, so they cast a nice, even light. Just about every movie or TV show who shoots at night uses them now. The advantage to using them is that they’re easy to position, and all you have to hide from the camera is a couple of head feeders.

Airstar” lighting systems booth

I had a great time, even if it was hot – I really wanted to jump in the pool.


More photos are on Flickr.

Filed under: Non-Work, Photos, Work


About 10 years ago, a good friend of mine was going through a nasty divorce and, in a successful attempt to piss off her husband, sold me (for a thousand bucks) the Range Rover he’d bought her instead of an engagement ring.

I was stoked. A five year old Range Rover was a huge step up from my geriatric Volvo wagon that smoked, drank and passed out cold in the street every so often – usually during rush hour when I was on my way to work.

In a fit of early 20’s irony, I named my shiny new Rover Nigel – and aside from the occasional overpriced British breakdown, he ran reliably (which, for a Range Rover, is unheard of).

Despite having only 11 inches of clearance, Nigel tore up dirt roads – I never met a jeep trail that Nigel couldn’t take – most of the time without even heating up his engine, and he still looked good in Beverly Hills even when he was really dirty.

I tied all kinds of things to his roof, stuffed him full of all types of work gear, estate sale finds, lumber, electronics and in one memorable day – three cheap ‘street corner’ area rugs and a full set of patio furniture.

Over the years, Nigel’s paint faded from a snappy British Racing Green into sort of a just puked pea soup with a side of rust flakes – I never had him repainted, though. I still loved him – faded paint, torn stained upholstery, non-working rear windows, cracked dashboard – even the occasional part falling off as Nigel got older.

A few days ago, his engine died, and Nigel left me stranded on the side of PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) in Malibu.

I got the bad news from Mike the Mechanic (yes, that’s really his name). To get Nigel running again will cost about twice what he’s currently worth – and since Range Rover didn’t make big changes to their body style for over 10 years, Nigel’s worth more in pieces than he is as a whole. Mike hooked me up with a local junkyard, who gave me a surprising amount of money for Nigel.

The flatbed took Nigel away yesterday. I went and cleaned out all my stuff (My CD’s, the mini disco ball hanging from the rearview mirror, an “Austin Powers” action figure under the seat that I thought I’d lost) and said goodbye, then stood there in the middle of the street, watching Nigel get towed out of my life.

I’ll miss you, Nigel. It’s not going to be the same around here without you.

Filed under: Non-Work


“Material Girls” production office didn’t issue me a check, as they lost the timecard.

My boss just told me that he’ll reissue the timecard, which means that it’ll go in today, get processed over the weekend, and the check will get cut on June 9th.

Paid on June 9th (actually, by the time I get the check in the mail it will be June 14th) for a day of work on May 15th.


Filed under: Work

June 2005
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