Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Here comes the sun

There’s something vaguely unwholesome about drinking a post-work beer at 7 am.

The world is just waking up, parents are dropping their kids off at school (well, not on Saturday, but you get the idea), lines are forming at coffee places, and I’m cracking open a cold one while I watch the morning traffic report, grateful to have made it home in one piece.

We shut the doors of our truck just as the sun was coming up – the end of our weeklong night exterior extravaganza.


Thank the deity of your choice that it’s over. Night work is tough – just staying up all night is a pain, and when we’re outside after dark, it’s a lot of work for us (there’s a huge difference between the movie version of dark and actual dark. Movie dark involves a surprisingly large number of lights).

People get tired and cranky, tempers get short – it’s a contagious case of what one of the camera assistants calls “the pissy-pants”.

Last night, however, the crew were not the crankiest people around – and I actually felt shamed into not complaining about being cold.

This movie takes place in the summertime, so last night we shot an outdoor pool party scene.

An outdoor pool party on a cold night in a pool that despite the rented water heaters never got over 68 degrees.

A pool that was full of actors pretending to be having fun on a balmy summer night which was actually 48 degrees with a very cold wind.

Poor bastards.

They did a good job, though. They didn’t even visibly shiver on camera.

I came home, slept for about three hours and am going to try to stay awake until 8 or 9 tonight. I have to get back on a day schedule – we have a 6 am call on Tuesday (they’re giving us an extra day off over the weekend to get re-adjusted, which is very, very nice of them).

Filed under: Photos, Work

16 Responses

  1. robg says:

    I’m an aspiring television composer interning with a struggling but talented film composer, working a weekend job as the overnight clerk at a Beverly Hills hotel. I just spent a good part of my shift reading your entire blog (backwards, which was amusing in itself). It was nice to hear you vent about all the bull**it you have to put up with on a daily basis. Keep up the blog, I’ll keep reading.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am a costumer and I have spent many a cold night on a set trying to keep the actors from getting so cold we have to take them to the hospital. All the space heaters, towls, robes and hair dryers do little when your so cold you can’t talk anymore. Most people have no idea how hard it is to make those “romantic” moments in the rain. ValerieZ

  3. Anonymous says:

    Learned about your blog from the LA Times Calendar article. You are cracking me up! Even though I’m a Scripty, I’m in my own little world and don’t always get the chance to see things from the POV of other crew members. I feel your pain. I’ll be a constant reader. Thanks for sharing!

  4. RJ says:

    Great blog. I used to live the life and almost – ALMOST miss it reading your stuff. I thought I might post a story here of my own, but where do I begin? Well, since you’re talking about cold – here’s one. I was pulling focus on a film that was shooting nights in Big Bear in January (for the snow covered scenery which was, hilariously, blissfully free of snow that year,) but it was cold – 10, 12 degrees, like that. It was alright until after lunch (at 1 or 2am, usually) and then you’d just melt down (so to speak) and just couldn’t stay warm no matter what you did. The worst of it was being at the camera all night, I didn’t get a chance to move around and warm up, so I actually took a metal bucket filled it with charcoal, lit it, got it glowing red and kept it at my feet all night. It kind of worked. My feet stayed warm, but the rest of me didn’t.

    Why do they always put the heaters by the honeywagons?


    My blog

  5. Anonymous says:

    One big problem with actrersses getting cold when it’s supposed to be a summer scene is a certain anatomical reflex that shows up surprisingly well on camera. It’s tough to counteract said reflex or find story-appropriate excuses why it should be so. At least hard crew have the heavy lifting and optional layers to keep them warm…

  6. Peggy Archer says:

    Rob – Glad you like the blog! That backwards thing is kinda fucked up, isn’t it?

    Valerie – if they only knew, the magic would be gone, wouldn’t it? I feel bad for actors on cold nights – I really do. At least I can bundle up.

    Scripty – hiya! If I’ve crashed into you with a light, I do apologize! (for those of you wondering, “scripty” is an affectionate term for the Script Supervisor. They’re on set to make sure that everything will cut together, and since they have to sit and take notes, sometimes we bump into them. We feel bad about this).

    RJ – 10 degrees would suck major ass. I damn near froze my ass off at 40.

    Anon – I feel bad for anyone trying to turn winter into summer on film.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Night work is the worst; night work at Disney Ranch in the winter in the rain is the worst of the worst. May you never have to scrape ice off your windshield before driving through the mud to get to the 405 south, only to have to fight everyone going to work as you’re trying to get home.

  8. LA_Ram says:

    The LA Times piece this morning did a great job to let new readers like me appreciate your pain! Even tho’ I have a fairly popular blog in a different language altogether(Tamil), your blog throws more light to me as I tread the Hollywood sets with my own production!

  9. Norman says:

    Congrats on the LA Times piece, though I imagine it won’t help your anonymity (or however you spell it).

    I actually thought they did a fairly sympathetic piece without the google-eyed idiocy of the short they used to run in the theatres before films (***LOOK! Isn’t it cool what foley artists do??***)

    What did you think of the piece?

    And I guess I shoulda guessed, but I never realized that Peggy wasn’t your real name. Never much thought about in fact, the writing was enough for me.

  10. CookieDuster says:

    Congrats on the LAT coverage and kudos for educating the unwashed masses.

    The view from my TV production side of the fence shows that all but a few out there are CLUELESS to the reality of production.

    My spouse learned the meaning of ‘hurry up and wait’ the first time she joined me on location, and rarely returned for a visit.

  11. I was referred to your blog by a friend and I must say it is very good. I was in the film industry ( Camera Assistant) for 15 years and left the business about 4 years ago. From your blog I can see that NOTHING has changed. BUT as cold goes, I dare anyone to beat this: Night, on the back of a shotmaker, in January, In Minnesota. It was so cold that we couldn’t get the camera on the back up to speed. -20…. standing still. That was the first and only movie I quit.


  12. scotconrad says:

    Happiness, is walking by the crew you just worked with a few days ago on another night shoot while you are working in doors in a nice warm theater. It helps that they had to light up another 3 or 4 blocks today without you. sweet. Nice article and I know you didn’t pick the picture but I’m thinking the dude is non union since most of the boys I know wear those $200 ecco boots. I mean steel toed boots on your feet for 18 hours, no way.

  13. Anonymous says:

    From Scripty:

    If you ever did hit me with a light, I’m sure it’s because I was in the way. I know good and well that wherever I sit is where a 10K needs to be. :D

    Keep up the great blog!

  14. Arturo Cabalista says:

    Thankyou for your description of the inner workings of “Making Magic”

    I wish you didn’t have to work 10-12 hour days (& nights).

    How long do you have to suffer so before you get overtime pay and/or health and pension benefits?

    I’ll read every word you write, with pleasure, and I remain,

    Outside, looking in…

    Arturo Cabalista.

  15. Joe says:

    Love your blog, keep it coming. It really is hard to change you sleep schedule.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I just found your blog from the article in the Times… Great blog! Funny I was juicing on a night shoot as well on the same day (I’m an AC, but a friend of mine was gaffing and two of his electrics bailed on him) I didn’t get home until 10:30 that morning, I’m just glad our biggest light was a 5k Skypan.

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