Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

With friends like this…

Well, okay, not friends.

Our higher-ups have been gracious enough to do us a favor by giving us a 5 am call time tomorrow so we’ll do our ten hours and be done by 4 pm – you know, in case we wanted to have a Friday night.

Of course, today we worked until 8 pm.

I should be disgruntled about a nine hour turnaround (on a rigging crew), but it doesn’t really matter – I haven’t been sleeping for shit lately.

I’m off to bed.

Filed under: Work

Dude, what’s that smell?

One of the things that’s really affected us is the industry ban on zip line. Zip line (lamp cord to you, buddy) is what we used to use when we had a bunch of practical lamps in the center of a room – zip line’s damn near flat and it’s easy to tape down so the actors won’t trip on it. Because it’s flat and easy to tape down it’s very easy to hide from the camera even when it’s running across the middle of the floor.

Now, we have to use standard heavy-duty extension cords (“stingers“), which are safer, but harder to hide from the camera and much more of a trip hazard (even when taped down). Some studios will let you run zip line for a few feet, and some won’t allow it’s use at all, but we can’t run hundreds of feet of it anymore no matter where we are.

Most of our work today was wiring the small table lamps in the center of the club, aiming the lamps that we hung yesterday, making sure that the stingers were well-hidden and taped down, and making sure that we got power to all the last-minute lamp additions.

Yesterday, one of our guys had to leave early because of the paint fumes. He came down from the perms, told us that he felt like shit and went to see the nurse.

What he didn’t tell us is that he threw up somewhere in the upper levels of the facade where he was running cable.

Now, I certainly can’t blame the poor guy – there are some bodily functions that just won’t wait, and sometimes you feel like crap and just forget to tell people things (had I been vomiting I don’t know that I would have remembered to inform my supervisor about it – “Hey, I just hurled upstairs somewhere! Have a great day!”). No biggie, except for the smell.

It smells like, well, puke. It wasn’t so bad first thing in the morning, but as soon as we turned the lights on and it got hot up there – icky, icky poo (or icky, icky puke as the case may be).

We’re not exactly sure where he puked, although we can make an educated guess from where the smell’s strongest (none of us were really all that eager to find a puddle of vomit, anyway).

So of course, that’s where we put our dimmer board operator’s table*. We even made sure it was safely secured to the deck by bolting it down.

Wasn’t that nice of us?

* We all love our dimmer board operator – he’s a great guy, and we’ve all known him for years and had some great times with him on various shows. Don’t feel bad for him. It’s really easy to re-locate a dimmer board, so he won’t be in the smell for long, but that five minutes or so are just going to be priceless. My only regret is that we won’t be there to see it.

Couch of the Day:


Filed under: couches, Work

Trash can insides and a contact high.

Today, we were rigging on New York Street – there’s a little nightclub set that’s being dressed to look like a cross between CBGB and The Limelight.

Whatever the painters were using to make the fake stained glass windows made me see purple puppies and rainbows – I ended up having to run home at our coffee break and get my respirator (that I got on the last show where they were spraying something toxic). I took it home with me tonight as I’m afraid that if I leave it in our gold room (where we store small things like lightbulbs, color-correction gels, etc.), by morning one of our pranksters will have removed the filters and soaked them in something disgusting before replacing them.

Right after they did the stained glass effect, they started spray painting the graffiti on the walls, so it was a paint fume smorgasbord – it was so bad even the painters were commenting on it.

After lunch, when I finished my coffee, and went to throw the cup away – only to stop when the trashcan I was about to use seemed suspiciously clean.

Turns out, it was a prop trash can (which, of course must be returned to the rental house free of garbage) – another show was shooting a few yards away and had put out trash cans in order to make New York Street look, well, urban.

So I wandered along the ‘street’, peering into the trash cans, looking for the one that was actually full of garbage – one of the other show’s PAs came up to me and wanted to know what the hell I was doing.

“I’m looking for a real trash can”, I answered, wagging my empty cup at her for emphasis.

“Just throw it in the one that’s actually got trash in it”.

If only it were that easy- they look alike from the outside, and if I throw trash into a prop trash can and let it sit in the 90 degree heat all day, I’m going to have the other show’s set dressers coming after me with thumb screws.

We’re back in the club rigging again tomorrow – hopefully all the painting will have been done so I don’t have to spend another day with that creepy rubber fetish thing on my face.

Couch of the Day:


Filed under: couches, Work

Toy store, here I come!

Well, I failed in my mission, but the Pink Princess has learned a hard lesson about negotiation.

Some background:

Back when we all had Shawn Cassidy posters on our walls, one of my Roosevelt-era (or so) great aunts decided that toys cost too goddamn much nowadays and she wasn’t going to take the bait.

In a fit of pique about those bastards charging $5 for something that was just going to get fucked up anyways, she broke out her ancient Singer and made me two dolls – an Eeyore and a standard early 20th century-looking girl doll (sans creepiness, of course. Her face is hand-embroidered so no evil little eyes). Both were made solely from materials in her rag-bag.

Eeyore was made from brown tweed (which is probably closer to the color of an actual donkey after all), and had white corduroy tummy. The best part was that his tail actually came on and off with the button. The worst part was that I immediately lost the tail, and spent the next 20 years telling people that Eeyore was sad because his tail was probably rotting somewhere in a landfill in Sunland.

The girl doll (whom I never bothered to name – despite my father’s attempt to beat some girliness into me, I was never much for dolls, frills or pink things) lost her pantaloons immediately (I pulled them off to see if she was anatomically correct. Hey, cut me some slack – I was 7), although for some reason she still has all her petticoats under her gingham dress.

I lost Eeyore in my late 20’s. My ex, The Devil (no, really, he is the devil), took Eeyore when we split up – not because he wanted Eeyore, but because he knew that was the one thing he could take that would really hurt me (I got him back, though. I burned his baseball cards in his driveway while he watched, horrified, from his deck. I even roasted a marshmallow over the little bonfire while I laughed. Don’t even start with me about it. Looking back, I’m deeply ashamed of the way I behaved, but hell hath no fury, I guess).

So the only memento I have from an aunt that I adored (who died early in the Reagan administration, and who was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise completely miserable childhood) is that doll.

The Pink Princess wants the doll bad, and that was what she demanded in exchange for the basket.

I counter-offered with my entire collection of Bugs Bunny DVDs but she wouldn’t budge.

“Sorry”, I said. “You can’t have her. She and I have history.”

“But I want her!”

“Well, I want world peace and perky tits without having to have surgery, but that’s not going to happen either.”

“Then you can’t have my basket.”

“Fine. I’ll go buy one.”

I could tell from the look on her face that The Pink Princess hadn’t thought of that one.

“Well, that’s what you get for being inflexible” is what her mom said as I said my goodbyes after dinner and kicked at the tumbleweeds on the side of the road as I marched towards my car, empty-handed, wondering about the location of the nearest “Toys R Us”.

Hey, sparkle glue and handlebar baskets are still cheap and plentiful, aren’t they? ‘Cause I haven’t got a sewing machine.

Couch of the Day:


Filed under: couches, Non-Work

The free time’s great, but the payout not so much.

When my boss called me to work on this show, he told me we were going to be working 10 hour days, but then production decided to save some money (they’re over budget on the lighting package) by only allowing the rigging crew to work 8 hour days.

An occasional 8 hour day is a treat – it’s like a mini vacation, or that time when you found a whole candy bar on the floor of the car and managed to eat it before your mom made you give half of it to your sibling.

An occasional 8 hour day inspires the same sort of giddiness as a really good rollercoaster, but a whole string of 8 hour days loses the charm fast and hits me right in the bank account.

I think I cried a little when I got my paycheck today. Don’t get me wrong – 16 hour days hurt me as well, but in a much different manner.

The other problem with short days is that the best boy can’t keep a crew – people won’t stay around for the reduced hours when they can jump to a crew who are working 10’s or 12’s. Best boys don’t like a constantly changing crew either – imagine having hire three or four new people and explain the inter-office politics to them every single day.

When the crew stays the same, then the riggers know how the gaffer likes things marked, where the carts get set up on stage, which actors we’re not supposed to look at, who the UPM is (so we can look busy whenever he or she’s around) and how to sneak up on the craft service guy so we can get a sandwich off his truck (rigging crews aren’t normally allowed to eat at craft service). We get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and this helps us to work better as a team.

Then there’s set dressing. Somehow they managed to get on a 12 hour day, and since this DP comes from theater, he wants a ‘down light’ over every practical (a practical is a lamp that you can see in frame) in the set, so we’re hanging a lot of lamps and there’s some freaky movie thing that if there’s a practical lamp in a scene then the cord to plug it in must be hidden from camera (even if the lamp’s in the center of the room with no outlet anywhere near it), which means that each practical lamp takes us some time to fix up – we have to hang a lamp over the top of it, and then power it up while making sure the cable is concealed from camera.

This is all fine, and it’s part of the job, but since the set dressers are there four hours longer than us each day, they put in lamps after we leave, so when first unit walks on the set, there are a ton of lamps that aren’t ready (since they were put there after we had to quit working), and it’s making us look like idiots. The set dressers know our predicament and are trying to work with us, but sometimes they have last-minute changes, too.

No amount of begging or pleading on the part of my boss will make the production office extend our hours.

My job for this weekend is to convince (okay, bribe) the Pink Princess to part with her handlebar basket.

Couch of the Day:


Filed under: couches, Work

Big Boring Day Off

I had today off, and I spent it cleaning my house, despite wanting to go to the beach.

6:30 am call time tomorrow, which means I might just get off early enough to have some fun, but not likely.

When I have a call time that early, I’m usually tired before 10 pm.

Couch of the Day:


Filed under: couches, Non-Work

I spent the afternoon on a bus.

Not riding it around the city seeing cool things and meeting interesting people (and one does meet interesting people on city buses in Los Angeles), but changing the fluorescent tubes in the bus to a movie-friendly type of tube.

This is more complicated than it might seem – to prevent passenger breakage, the tubes are sealed in screwed-down plastic covers that get brittle over time, so they have to be removed very carefully since I can’t imagine that’s an easy item to replace. Once the tubes are changed, the covers have to be very carefully re-installed with one person holding the cover in place while another one screws it down, which is fun in a bus with limited floor space. Damn good thing we’re all thin.

Of course, the type of tube in the bus was a type (single pin connecter) that we don’t use, so it had to be ordered through a vendor, and the bus had three different sizes of tube – 4′, 5′, and 6′. No one could find a 5′ tube, so we had to do some re-wiring to make a 4′ work (yes, the bus company knew about it).

Also of course, the bus was parked in the sun on a hot day and most of the windows wouldn’t open, but the upside is that I think I sweated off a couple of pounds.

At some point today (I think it was on stage while we were all breathing paint fumes), we decided that our boss’ slick new chopper-like lot bike (it’s one of those that look like a motorcycle and is very, very manly) needs a pink Hello Kitty ™ handle bar basket to really spiff it up.

Now, as it happens I know where there’s a very pink Hello Kitty ™ handle bar basket (with aftermarket sparkle glue hearts). The trick is just going to be persuading it’s current owner to part with it, but her mom tells me she’s just about out of her “pink princess” phase, so if I replace it with one that suits her current tastes I’m golden.

So, while we were waiting for our tube order to arrive, we sat around trying to figure out how we could attach the basket to his bike so that it would be difficult to remove, but not damage the paint or chrome on the handlebars.

We think we’ve got something worked out, but my boss knows all the tricks so once he sees the basket, it’ll have about a five minute life span – so it’s all about parking the bike where the most people will see it as they come into the stage.

Couch of the Day:


Filed under: couches, Work

Friday Photo

Today, we were wrapping out the house that first unit have been shooting in for two days, and the very nice homeowner let me pick some of the figs from the tree in her backyard.

I love figs, and I’m not the only one:


These fellows do, too.

Anyone know what the green beetles are? I’ve never seen one before, and know nothing about them other than they were chowing down on the biggest, yummiest looking fig on the whole tree.

Filed under: Photos, Work

It’s all about the inventory

Returning a stage package isn’t psychically difficult, inventory (which was today’s big job) just requires more concentration than I like to muster up when I’m at work and the coffeepot’s all the way on the other side of the lot.

Each stage has it’s own equipment, which may seem excessive, but this is way easier than hauling the shit around from stage to stage. In addition, each lamp has stuff that goes with it (for tungsten lamps, that’s scrims. Other types of lamps have more accessories), which also must be counted.

We’re returning this stage’s equipment because production think they’re going to save money by getting equipment drop loaded (brought to the stage each time it’s needed) each time we use the stage instead of having it sit there all the time. I don’t know what kind of deal they’re getting from the lamp dock (normally, you don’t pay a five day week on an equipment order – they usually give you a three day week, but if you really have the rental house over a barrel, they’ll give you a one and a half day week. This means you pay one and a half day’s rental for a week) or how often they plan to use this stage – it may not be cheaper to have the stuff dropped off, due to labor costs to unload a truck and do an inventory before we can start work, and then do another inventory after we tear the rig out.

Each lamp is barcoded and assigned to an equipment package. If the barcode on the lamp doesn’t match the paperwork, we have to climb into the rig to find it so the lot best boy can put it on the correct paperwork. This may seem overly anal, but trust me – it’s better this way. Waiting until the end of the show will result in a big, evil nightmare.

We did have some entertainment today – right across from where we were working was “America’s Got Talent”. All the “talent” were strolling up and down the street in front of our stage, rehearsing or giving interviews. Right before we went on our morning break, there was a guy in an orange mechanic’s suit with bicycle horns strapped all over his body playing the “Star Spangled Banner”. We thought it was funny, but the AD’s are going to throw a fit if that shit starts tomorrow while they’re rolling sound.

Couch of the Day:


Filed under: couches, Work

Guard Gate Hassle Wednesday!

Of course, not only did my old Paramount ID not work but my name hasn’t been in the computer at all – each morning, I’ve pushed my bicycle up to the gate, given the guard my name and had him tell me I’ve not been issued a pass. My boss has been calling his crew list into the production office every night, they just don’t seem to think that riggers are important enough to call our names into the security office.

Each day, I’ve sat there at the gate, called my boss on his cell phone and had him exchange angry words with said security office (our call times have been way earlier than the production office staff come in, so we’ve not been able to call them).

Needless to say, this has made me late every single day. No matter how much extra time I allow, it all seems to get eaten up at the guard shack, where an increasingly frustrated guard has tried to do everything he can to help me. I need to bake him some cookies or something.

Today, my boss finally snapped and got me paperwork for a new pass (he wasn’t going to get me one, as he’s only allowed to issue badges to so many crew members and the rigging crew’s not going to be on this show full-time, but this whole debacle has really been annoying him), so when we went for our morning coffee break I stopped in at the operations office and got my new badge.

I don’t know why, but everyone looks bad on their Paramount IDs. I usually take a decent photo, and even I look like a fucking convict.

I think it’s the lighting.

At least I won’t have the hassle at the gate tomorrow.

Today, the company was on location (a half mile or so from the studio), so we ended up cleaning up after first unit (they get busy lighting and don’t make everything neat, which is fine – it’s keeping me working) and getting the stages ready for when they come back on the lot.

Tomorrow, we’re working on stage 12, which, it turns out, used to be called stage 13 – the old DC cans are still labeled 13 although the stage is now numbered 12. The other day, when one of the fluorescent fixtures we were powering up caught fire (flames and everything – exciting!), it was jokingly blamed on the stage’s being unlucky.

I wanted to go into the perms to check for good graffiti, but there’s no backboard on the ladder* and it freaked me out.

*Most stages with permanents have had stairways installed, but on the smaller stages where there’s no room they left the old ladders, but installed backboards (it’s like a big tube around the ladder) so if you fall backwards, you’ll just lean into the backboard and not fall 40 feet down to the deck.
For some reason, quite a few of the older stages at Paramount have not had backboards installed – including Stage 7: the tall stage (four stories or so up to the perms, and no backboard on the ladder – yikes!)

Couch of the Day:


Filed under: couches, Work

August 2006

Flickr Photos



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