Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

I’m too tired to post. Here’s a photo.

16+ hour day(call time: 8:30 am, wrap time: 12:30 am, and that’s before we had to load the truck), and I have to be back tommorow morning at 10 am.

I can’t think well enough to compose a blog entry.

Filed under: Photos, Work

Back at the VA

Grey’s was back shooting at the V.A. in Northridge today- we were outside for the first half of the day – which was unfortunate as, by lunchtime, the temperature was about 105 F (40.5 C).

There was an indie movie shooting right next to us (the VA rents out their unused buildings to movies, and today there were three separate productions shooting there), and they were doing motorcycle stunts today – tres cool.

We’d get our lights set up, and then run over to the other set and watch the stunts – they had built a long wooden ramp, and were racing down it and doing flips off the end.

At some time during the day I got a burn on one of my fingers – it’s about the size of a pencil eraser, it’s blistered up and I have no idea how or when I got it.

It kind of scares me that I got a second degree burn and didn’t even feel it.

Filed under: Work

Breaking up is(n’t) hard to do.

Mr. Movie Star and I officially called it quits today.

I gave up part of my weekend to help with a rig (an ‘eight and skate’ hardly feels like a day of work at all anymore), and happened to be on the same lot lot as the movie he’s doing, so I swung by to see him, since we’ve not actually been in the same room at the same time in weeks.

As breakups go, this one was pretty painless. I’d seen it coming for a while now.. the phone calls have been petering off, the coversations getting shorter – out of sight, out of mind.

He says he’s not dating anyone else, but just feels like neither one of us have the time to be dating anyone.

This is just what happens, and no, I’m not angry at him. I’m kind of bummed – but not angry.

This is par for the course in the film industry, with it’s 12+ hour days and routine 6 day weeks.

Those hours ruin a lot of relationships. Crew members who haven’t been divorced at least once are rare, and multiple divorces are common – and that’s marriages. I sort of feel like trying to date at all is hopeless, due to the entertainment industry catch-22: if you date someone who’s not in the film industry (a ‘civilian’), they freak out about the hours and dump you, and if you date someone who is in the industry, you split up because you never see each other.

Okay, I lied. I’m sad and pissed off.

The fact is that I really liked Mr. Movie Star, and had hoped that this would last for a long time.. Now I’m back to being afraid of dying alone because my fucking job eats my life.

Filed under: Non-Work

Back at Fox.

Since Grey’s didn’t need an extra guy today, I was back on Bones for a second unit shoot.

The horror stories about that show have been spreading – All the boys on Grey’s want to know who the new gaffer is, who among the crew’s going to stay, etc.. One day back I’m happy to say that I’m able to provide the gossip.

In addition to the electric department jumping* to Fast and Furious 3, the sound department has quit, one of the AD’s has quit and half the grips have quit.

One of the other AD’s came up to me today and furtively asked me if I’d pass his resume over to Grey’s.

The dimmer board operator told me that last week they had 3 9-page days in a row**. That’s got to have something to do with people leaving. It’s busy right now and it’s really easy to jump. Were it slow, people would probably be sucking it up – but I don’t know for sure. At some point, taking unemployment starts to sound better than months and months of 80+ hour weeks.

Another rumor going around is that the entire crew of House quit (for very similar reasons, I’m sure), but I couldn’t find out for sure as we were busy today and I couldn’t get away to go and look on their stage.

Today’s second unit stuff was the new gaffer’s first day (the old gaffer’s last day is tomorrow), which was a good thing – second unit’s always more mellow, and it gave him a nice quiet day to learn the set and to figure out how long it’s going to take for the juicers to move things.***

We still got peeled, though. We only had four people to work that gigantic set. Luckily the new gaffer’s very nice and patient – my one complaint is that he doesn’t use his walkie, and his voice is the exact same pitch and tone of the general hubbub of a working set, so it’s damn near impossible to hear him.

Not my problem, though. I’m back on Grey’s Anatomy tomorrow.

* Quitting one show before it ends to go onto another show is called ‘jumping’.

**Movies shoot about 3 pages a day, TV shows shoot from 5 to 7 pages a day; a page being about a minute of screen time (with notable exceptions such as the infamous “Atlanta Burns” from Gone with the wind. 1/8th of a page, WAY more than that on the screen). A 9 page day is just sadistic, and more than one day in a row of 9 page days is so far beyond horrible that I don’t think a word’s been invented to describe it accurately.

***While this sounds trivial, it’s really, really important for a gaffer to know that it takes 15 minutes to set up a BFL on the catwalk, or that in order to move a 10K on a rolling stand across the room, we have to have furniture moved – which entails getting the set dressers, who usually hide and have to be tracked down. This way, when he’s on first unit – which is WAY more pressure, he’ll be less likely to start screaming into the walkie that things are taking way too fucking long.

Filed under: Work

Someone I don’t miss at all.

Prospect Studios must have had too many complaints about “The Evil Guard”.

Back in the days of The Shield (several seasons ago), which shot at Prospect, this one particular entry-gate guard was always nasty, sour, angry, and seemed to look for ways to delay people at the gate. I remember having to get to the lot at least 20 minutes early every day because of this woman. One day, when I forgot my I.D. card at home, she kept me at the gate for over 30 minutes while she tried to “find a call in pass because how do I know you really work on this lot” (this after seeing my face every day for weeks), while shooting me dirty looks and every once in a while muttering something derogatory about people who forgot their cards and messed up her day. Then, as I finally drove past (muttering something about being late to work), snarled “That’s what you get!” at me.

If she’s still at Prospect, she’s not working the east gate anymore.

The entry-gate guards these days are sugary sweet to the point that I’m afraid I’m going to fall into a sugar coma just by talking to them.

I don’t have a Prospect Studios I.D. anymore (it’s long since expired, and it’s not for Grey’s Anatomy, so it wouldn’t do me any good even if it were still current), so the younger guard (it’s always the same two) comes out to the car and says “Good Morning”, then takes my drivers license with a heartfelt “Thank you”; while the older guard – who stays in the shack and smiles – prints out my vehicle pass and personal pass.

The happy younger guard then hands me my personal pass and drivers license, sticks the vehicle pass to the inside of my windshield, and warbles a “Have a great day, ma’am!” as the gate lifts and I drive into the parking lot.

It’s certainly a nice change.

I don’t miss her at all.

Filed under: Work

Tuesday at the VA

The real gaffer was back today – he’s been out on ‘personal business’.

One of the other juicers who was also out on ‘personal business’ who’s back today is an old friend from a TV show called “The Division” that we both worked on years ago. He’s a scream, and I was glad to see him again – plus I got tons of good gossip on the old gang.

We were shooting at the V.A. hospital in Northridge – it’s pretty new since that whole area got flattened by the earthquake in ’94. We were shooting in the atrium, so the sun shone down through the three story glass windows and heated up the set like a microwave (well, it is Northridge, and it is August).

This show’s craft service guy puts out the same type of snack tray every day – it’s crackers, cheese (which I can’t eat), deli meats, dips, and – my personal weakness – hearts of palm. I LOVE hearts of palm and it takes every ounce of self-discipline I have to only take a couple of them. I really want to eat them all, and the damned deli tray only has about six of them (a light snack for me. I’ve been known to eat two cans of the damn things in one sitting), so taking three is massively uncool. One of the other juicers likes them too, so maybe I’ll just bring my own tomorrow so we can both pig out.

Who am I kidding – I’d eat the whole can in front of him and giggle.

Call time: 8:42 (?) am
Wrap time: 11:45 pm

Filed under: Work

Watch out for the bee in my bonnet.

Although I do try to keep the politics out of the blog, this one I can’t let go.

As a union member, let me just say that power wise, strikes are all we have – the point of joining a union is that you have the power of the masses behind you, and the group speaks louder than an individual.

United we stand, divided we get it in the ass with no lube.

What’s happened to us? Union members didn’t used to be afraid. We stood together – even when some of us got killed, because we knew that we had to.

Yeah, yeah, I know…corruption, organized crime, etc…

I still truly, deeply, with all my heart and soul believe in the labor movement.

If you cross a picket line, or accept contract work from a company who’s being picketed by a union – I hope you get a full-body skin rash that itches like hell and doesn’t respond to any medical treatment.

Filed under: Non-Work

No, I’m not crazy. I’m laughing at a conversation you can’t hear.

Today, just after lunch, I almost spewed an entire cup of coffee all over one of the medical consultants, who couldn’t figure out why I was laughing like a maniac at nothing, but was, in fact, the following conversation – misunderstanding courtesy of the headsets we all wear:

Juicer #1: “Just so everyone knows, there are a bunch of FEV’s* in the set cart’s top drawer if you want them.”

Gaffer: “What if I want something different and exciting?”

Juicer #1: “Well, if you’re looking for a good time, call [gives the production office phone number]”

Gaffer: “Don’t you ever give out my mother’s number over the walkie again.”

Juicer #2: “That was your mother? [pause] Damn.”

*FEV’s are a type of globe for a light. We blew one, didn’t have any in the set cart and had to run to the truck while the entire company sat and waited on us. Very bad.

Filed under: Work

“Grey’s Anatomy”

Got a last minute call Thursday night from a friend of mine to replace him on “Grey’s Anatomy”.

“Grey’s” is shooting at the Disney owned Prospect Stages in Hollywood – a MUCH shorter drive for me than Fox.

Turns out I knew a lot of the crew: two of the grips from Danika, a camera operator from The Division, and the AD who looks just like Ed Norton.

The stages were air conditioned to sub arctic levels, which was nice, but I forgot to bring a jacket, and then, when I had to run home during lunch to get my I 9 photocopies I forgot to grab one so I spent the entire rest of the day sitting next to the 10k to keep warm.

Disney is a bureaucratic nightmare to work for. The ‘start paperwork’ package is the size of a short novel, and full of things like: Disney also makes you sign a paper stating that you’re not related to anyone at a rival studio. I have the same last name as an upper level exec at a rival studio, and although we’re not related, it always causes problems for the best boy.

Lunch (an hour ‘walkaway’, which means that you have to buy your own) must have given someone gas, because all afternoon the stage had pockets of really nasty gas smell. It was so bad that at one point I had to run off set because my eyes were watering.

No one owned up to it, though.

Filed under: Work

The Ass in Class.. Action, that is.

I love litigation, especially when I stand to benefit from it.

Coming home from the gym today, I found a fun letter in my mailbox – a notice of a class action lawsuit:

“In simple terms, the class action lawsuit alleges, among other things, that many persons who worked in the Motion Picture and/or Broadcasting Industries and/or who worked for and/or received payroll checkes from the entities listed above (a) did not recieve timely payments following their last day worked in accordance with Labor Code Sections… or (c) did not recieve overtime premuim under certain curcumstances. Based on these claims, the lassuit seeks penalties under various sections of the California Labor Code.”

Blah, blah blah..

To make a long story short, the payroll companies are being sued for not paying up on time.

Good thing, too.

One of the tricks certian production companies used to pull was having the payroll company cut the checks, but not paying them the money for the payroll, so they couldn’t send the check out. This resulted in the infuriating experience of calling the payroll company and having them say, “Well, we have the checks, but we can’t send them out because Propaganda (the production company most notorious for doing this) hasn’t sent us a check yet.”

I could fill up three or four posts with Tricks We Used To Pull In Order To Get Paid.

This means that I have to gather W-2’s (from 1996 – present), which is going to suck. I think the satanic CPA still has them all at her office.

It looks like members who submit proof of being paid (by entertainment industry payroll companies) an aggregate 50 thousand or more over the past 9 years will get a check for not more than $550, depending on the number of claims submitted. There is also something about check stub violations but it requires proof of actual damages.

That’s crazy.

Filed under: Non-Work

August 2005

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