Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Back to work, for a moment

As I was leaving the dentist’s office Thursday, after getting a lecture on using too much force while brusing my teeth and damaging my gums (statistically speaking, I’m a bit less than halfway through my lifespan so my teeth have got to last another 40 years at the very least. Who knew one could actually cause damage with what’s turned out to be overzealous dental hygene), I finally got a call to go to work – for one day only.

Very few shows are shooting Monday as Tuesday’s a holiday, and a lot of folks don’t like one day calls as it messes up one’s unemployment, but I don’t mind. It’s pension hours, heath insurance qualification hours and gets me out of the house. Plus, one day here and there helps me ease back into the swing of things before I go back to 70 hour weeks.

My offered choices were wrapping cable in the almost 100 degree heat or working on the lamp dock.

I didn’t hesitate for a second. “Lamp dock, please.” My momma didn’t raise a fool.

Lamp dock work is mostly warehouse-style stuff. Putting things away, fetching things, checking orders, flashing* returned lamps to make sure they work.

I had a fun day working with a great group of people, even if I did spend too much in the studio store (discounted DVDs qualify as an occupational hazard).

I had a six am call, which was good. It means I got to go through the security checkpoint before it became a complete cluster fuck (about 7 am), and working an eight hour day meant that I got released to go home at 2:30 pm. I put my extra time to good use by going to the gym and then checked my garden to discover that someone had stolen two of my tomato plants – dug them right out of the ground. Asshole. Sometimes I really wish it were legal to beat people with a golf club.

Couch of the day:

Couch

*Get your mind out of the gutter. “Flashing” is turning a tungsten lamp on and off very quickly to make sure it’s working without having it heat up.

Filed under: couches, life in LA, Work

RIP Little Antonio

The LA Times has been keeping a webcam trained on two goldfish living in a tank full of water drawn from the LA River – it’s been sort of an unofficial experiment about the water quality of a really nasty looking cement-lined urban river.

One of the fish (named “Little Antonio” after our not so beloved by everyone anymore mayor) has died, although I’m pretty certain his (or her) death wasn’t due to the water quality, since he (or she) lived for over 100 days.

In case you were wondering about relevancy – I’m deeply interested (no pun intended) in LA River water quality, as over the years I’ve had to wade in it numerous times (damn music videos) for work.

I really, truly, with all my heart want to believe that there’s nothing toxic in that water.

What doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger, right?

Right?

What’s the lifespan of a goldfish, anyway?

Couch of the day:

Couch

Filed under: couches, life in LA, Non-Work

The big geeky trade show weekend is the new black

This weekend was Cinegear – the annual grip, electric and camera cluster fuck. This year’s show was at the Veteran’s Administration in Westwood, so at least it wasn’t boiling hot like it would have been had we been in the Valley.

Cinegear Trade Show 2006

There weren’t as many vendors, and the ones that were there didn’t have last year’s lavish displays, but I got to see a lot of friends, catch up, and find out when everyone’s going to start working again.

My Coolest Booth Award went to one of the music libraries who had an Elvis performing:

Elvis

He gave me a scarf and a kiss on the cheek.

That made my week – I love me some Elvis, even if it’s really a guy named Steve in a wig. Actually, as Elvii go, Steve was a really good one, so I’ll recommend him should you find yourself in the situation of needing an Elvis for, you know, whatever. He doesn’t have a website, but email me and I’ll give you his manager’s phone number.

Before I hit the show, I went to see Who Needs Sleep – Haskell Wexler’s excellent documentary on the effects of long hours on film industry workers and what folks are trying to do about it. In the movie, Wexler interviews the surviving family of two crew members who (several years apart) worked 20+ hour days, fell asleep at the wheel on the way home from work and died (one was a camera assistant named Brent Hershman whose death spearheaded a lamentably short-lived attempt to reduce working hours in the film and television industries).

If it comes to a theater near you, I highly recommend it. Those of you who have read this blog for any length of time know some of the hours I can work and have been able to see for yourselves what happens to my brain (“Can’t… Post… Passing… Out…”).

What you probably don’t know (unless you’ve known me personally for a very long time) is that some years ago, on my way home from our location in Palmdale (a bedroom community of Los Angeles that’s about an hour’s drive one way if there’s no traffic) I fell asleep at the wheel after a 19 hour day. I got all comfy in my seat and bored by whatever was on “Morning Edition”, dozed off gently and woke up not understanding why my car was facing into oncoming traffic on Interstate 5.

The LA-based crew had not been offered hotel rooms.

Thank the deity of your choice that the only thing I fucked up were the trousers I happened to be wearing at the time. Oh, and don’t bother asking me how I managed to make the car do a 180-degree turn without flipping it over. I was, after all, sound asleep at the time.

Check out The 12 on 12 off Foundation

Couch of the day:

Couch

Filed under: couches, life in LA, Non-Work, Photos

Punk’d ™ by LA.com!

Lurking somewhere in the forgotten depths of LA.com is a list of hotels which allow non-guests to use the pool areas. When I read this, I was stoked – there’s a pool where I work out, but it’s a typical gym pool (and not too clean in the summer when it’s heavily used), so no languishing poolside with a cocktail and relaxing, jumping in every so often to enjoy a dip – which is, of course the point of hanging out poolside at any hotel.

Two of the hotels on the list were the Bel Age and the W, both within striking distance of my house, so I thought I’d swing by after today’s podiatrist appointment to enjoy a pool not filled with testosterone-jacked lap swimmers (the other two hotels listed were the Standard Downtown which I hate and the Lowes Santa Monica which requires a $25 day pass).

Did I mention that I have no air conditioning? I suppose that’s the price I have to pay for a charming 1920’s-era pad with loads of ‘character’ and French windows throughout (so no window-mounted units for me). My place doesn’t have heat, either, but that’s much less of a problem.

My first try was the W Hotel in Westwood. I marched into the lobby and cheerfully informed the concierge that I was there to use the pool – after all, LA.com said it was okay, right?

Wrong.

“I don’t know who told you that”, she said. “Our pool is for guests only. During the winter, non-guests may use the pool if they lease a cabana (for $300 per day), but during the summer, I’m afraid it’s off-limits unless you have a room here”.

For the record, she was very nice, but damn. The W has a terrific pool – I should know. I once worked on a movie that shot there, so I got a good look at it while I was wrapping cable and wishing I could jump in without having my toolbelt drag me to a watery grave in the deep end (or being drowned by my boss had he discovered me swimming while I should have been working).

Next stop, the Bel Age:

“Absolutely not” sniffed the guy at the front desk. “Besides the liability issue, we’d prefer our pool area remain exclusive. Which website was it that listed us? Our management would like to correct that error.”

Double damn.

I’m sure at some point in the past, these places did allow non-guests in, otherwise a fine, upstanding website such as LA.com wouldn’t have listed them.

Which means I missed the boat and am condemned to swelter this summer.

Triple damn.

Couch of the day:

Couch

Filed under: couches, life in LA, Non-Work

Soccer Fever!

LA is a famously multi-cultural city (although it is possible to ignore if one keeps to certain parts of the Westside), but the “melting pot-ness” becomes even more noticeable during the World Cup.

It seems everyone is soccer-crazed in the City of Angels.

The Korean lady at the laundromat roots for whichever team has the best legs – unless, of course, they play against Korea, and then they become ‘dirty bums’.

The Persian guys in the coffeehouse have brought a portable TV from home so they don’t miss any action (I have to squeeze in my coffee order during breaks), and in my favorite Indian restaurant service stops whenever someone makes a good play, and a bar on Hollywood Blvd proudly sports a banner announcing “Watch all World Cup games here!!”

The games are almost impossible to ignore – they blare from every apartment window, bar or eatery that’s got a television, passing cars are tuned into the radio broadcast; pedestrians who don’t have portable radios lean into the car windows to find out the score – in my neighborhood, it’s possible to walk down the street and follow a game just by the sound from the open windows.

Yesterday, at the Farmer’s Market, I saw three England supporters sitting outside in team jerseys and scarves (it was almost 90 degrees yesterday) while animatedly discussing that afternoon’s game. I really wanted to root for England, but I felt I should follow my Korean mentor’s lead. The Swedish team did have better legs.

These days the international language around here is the announcer’s hysterical scream of “GOOOOOAAAAL!” (surprisingly, it’s the same in every language).

I know the majority of Americans don’t seem to care about soccer, but it sure doesn’t seem that way around here.

Couch of the day (okay, so this one’s a chair):

Couch

Filed under: couches, life in LA, Non-Work

A more exciting weekend than usual

Saturday night’s Subject Line Here was great – an incredibly talented group of folks reading some awesome material, and I finally got to meet the people whose lives I’ve been reading about for ages. As I left, I had the feeling that I’d spent the evening with some old friends, which in a way I had.

Sunday, Anthony Bourdain was signing books at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market – I’m a HUGE fan, and am deeply ashamed to admit that I completely geeked out and probably made an ass of myself. Hey, at least I picked a fellow fan of Hunter S. Thompson and someone who’s written some terrific books, right?

After the Farmer’s Market, I walked around the corner to The Hungry Cat, where I met a friend for lunch and ordered a delicious crab frittata which unfortunately made me sick for the rest of Sunday and most of today. I’ll still go back though. That place rocks, although I think I’ll avoid dishes containing egg in the future.

Couch of the day:

Couch

Filed under: couches, life in LA, Non-Work

A complete waste of time

Today, I had a mandatory interview with the unemployment people. I had to demonstrate that I was looking for work, since they’re trying to weed out… well, I don’t know who exactly they’re trying to weed out, but I had to go to a work center in Hollywood to have an interview about my ‘ongoing job search’.

I got lucky, as the counselor wasn’t completely ignorant about film production (some of them are – I’ve had some excruciating telephone interviews before) and just ticked off that I’d attended the interview, checked my ID and told me that I have to put a resume in the online database.

Me: “Please don’t take offense, but you do understand that this is completely pointless, right?”

Him: “Yeah, but everyone has to do it anyway. If you’re an actor, just put in ‘actor’ and how long you’ve been working and it’s fine. They just want to see a resume, or you’ll be denied benefits.”

Really now – what sort of resume am I going to have? “Work History: Cable monkey, occasional craft service pirate”. I’m not even sure I had a resume back when they were still relevant. Nowadays if a producer wants to verify your work history, they look at your IMDB listing.

I did, however, enjoy sitting in the air-conditioning while I wrote and uploaded my joke resume (“Work History: Set Lighting Technician, 1994 to present”). It was hot as hell today.

Tonight, it’s Subject Line Here, a performance where a group of fantastic bloggers are reading works, and the best part is that all proceeds go to the Leukemia/Lymphoma society.

Couch of the day:

Couch

Filed under: couches, Non-Work, rants

A magical evening

Last night, I managed to swing an invite to the Magic Castle. It was very last minute and I went with a group that I only know through email, but who turned out to be a great bunch of folks.

The Magic Castle is a private club just for magicians, and you have to know a member to get a guest pass. The last time I went was in the mid 90’s after working on a movie called Lord of Illusions which had a magic consultant who handed out passes to anyone who asked and it was tons of fun, so I jumped at the chance to go again.

Although the Magic Castle has amazing shows, what’s more fun for me is hanging out in the lounge with the magicians – they do things like try to one-up each other with card tricks while they’re sitting at the bar, and it’s just a riot.

The castle has a huge collection of magic-related artifacts and is an extremely cool place, which I hope I’ll be able to visit again before another decade goes by.

Couch of the Day:

Chair

Filed under: couches, life in LA, Non-Work

The answer to a burning question

As far as my job’s concerned, actors are just meat. My work’s pretty much the same no matter who’s in front of the camera, hence my very rarely mentioning them on the blog, but I’ve been asked the ‘which actors are cool’ question more than almost any other. So, here you go:

Most of them fall into the ‘meh’ category. They don’t really have much to say to the crew beyond bland pleasantries between takes, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The only thing I really ask of actors is that they show up on time, know their lines and get the hell out of my way when I’m trying to work. In return, I stay the hell out of their way when they’re trying to work and do my best to minimize on-set hazards (heavy items falling out of the rigging, tripping on cable, salami farts).

There are, however, some actors who are super nice and/or more fun than a barrel of monkeys, and I’m always glad to see their names on the cast list.

Some big love (in no particular order) to:

Sarah Polley and Stephen Rea (the only two actors I’ve ever worked with who have refused to cross an IATSE picket line, and I love them both for it)
Patrick Warburton
Liz Vassey
Nestor Carbonell
David Burke
George Clooney (even more fun than a barrel of drunk monkeys wearing clown suits)
Billy Bob Thornton
Guy Pearce
Joe Pantoliano
Johnny Depp
Mark Harmon
Annie Potts
Jean Smart
Keanu Reeves (who has always been very gracious about my inability to completely hide the schoolgirlish crush I develop whenever I work with him)

Keep in mind that this is just my list, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone. Every crew person’s list is different, as it’s possible for an actor to be a dream on one show and a complete pill on the next.

Couch of the day:

Couch

Filed under: couches, Work

Another strange obsession to stop me from getting anything done

Part of living in a large city is seeing trash everywhere, and generally I don’t notice it at all, but for some reason there was a very noticeable collective couch throwing-out in Hollywood over the weekend.

In the space of two hours, I saw all these couches:

Couch

Couch

Couch

Couch

Couch

This is only five of them. In an area of about a square mile, I found 12 abandoned couches.

Freaky.

Of course, I’m going out today with my camera to see if any other neighborhoods have had the same thing happen.

Filed under: couches, life in LA, Non-Work

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