Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Tiny Bee Feet

I got a last minute call yesterday to come work on the rigging crew for a movie (“Holiday”) that’s shooting some pick-up shots (they’ve finished principal photography and are just getting some small things that they missed the first time around) – we loaded the truck yesterday, and today we were at Disney Ranch which is about three miles past bumfuck (but very scenic).

The plan was for us to show up early and rig the first set of the day – then, once first unit had gotten up and running, we were to proceed to set #2, rig that, then rig set #3 and then wait for first unit to get into set #3 before wrapping sets one and two and then going home.

Production cancelled set 2 (after we’d rigged it of course), which was fine – it meant that we didn’t have to wait as long for first unit to get into the third set, although we had a bit of a scramble near the end as we tried to get all our cable wrapped before it got dark (little things like small lamps and extension cords tend to get lost in the dark).

Disney ranch is a big one – it’s got a lot of acreage and numerous structures – a western town, barns, east-coast looking houses, a lake and today, two different companies shooting (us and a commercial). It also has a lot of bees – they were everywhere, and most of them seemed to be crawling all over the food at craft service and catering.

I can’t remember who described lunch as tasting like “tiny bee feet”, but it cracked me up – I can’t even type it now without smiling.

I’m really tired, and I have to be back at work (not at the ranch, though – on the lot) in 9 hours.

Filed under: Work

Displaced weekend

So my place got painted over the weekend, and I thought I could manage to stay there while they worked – until I walked in and saw everything I own wrapped in plastic, with 6 inches of old paint chips on the floors and a haze of dust floating in the air – so I decided to go to a hotel.

Although I wanted desperately wanted to stay at one of the really swanky hotels that allow pets (W, Peninsula, Grafton, Beverly Wilshire), since there was the possibility of my having to stay more than one night, I figured I’d better go for something more affordable – that, and my cat is not a good traveler (she hates the carrier and screams bloody murder the whole time she’s in there), so I decided to stay at the Best Western Hollywood Hills, which is close to the house and fairly reasonably priced.

It’s also party central for the “star maps and rental car” set – for some reason, management has decided that it’s a good idea to blast frat-party rock and roll into the pool area until about 11 pm (I had a poolside room, of course), and the hotel is mid-remodel so there’s construction during the day. Not surprisingly, kitty stayed under the bed most of the time due to the noise. She came out very briefly the first night, stared horrified at the door for a few minutes (I’m guessing she doesn’t like Motley Crue), shot me a dirty look and then crawled right back under the bed, where she remained between brief forays to the food bowl.

I had a hell of a time getting her out from under there when it was time to go.

While not as fab as the W, it wasn’t that bad. There was basic cable, spotty wireless (it faded in and out, so no quality internet time for me), and the room was Spartan, but clean. The cafe, however, was disappointing (huevos rancheros is pretty much a tasty breakfast order anywhere in Los Angeles – when a place makes bad version, run far, far away), but it did the trick.

Checkout time was 1 pm, so I had to stay the second night since the painters didn’t finish until almost 5 pm Sunday – and then I had to move all the furniture back, scrub the overspray off all the surfaces (how does paint dust get under the plastic?), and air the place out.

We came back home yesterday afternoon, and I spent today cleaning (and I still haven’t gotten all the dust – it’s everywhere), so I’ve not been looking for work – I’ll call and put myself “on the books” tomorrow and make some phone calls.

Enjoy a photo:

Hotel room

“Best Western: The Final Frontier”

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

There’s something in the air, apparently.

I’ve spent the last two days doing typical end-of-wrap stuff with a group of guys that I really love to work with – so even though we were doing mundane things like sorting equipment and loading returns, I had a great time.

For some reason, I’ve had a huge problem sitting down and focusing this week – on anything, and it’s made writing anything more than a terse email very difficult.

Hopefully, it’s some strange cosmic hiccup and it’ll sort itself out.

In the meantime, have a look at the couches.

Filed under: Work

If I’m not at work, I may as well have fun

I woke up this morning to our seasonal mid-September crushing heat and thought “Fuck this, I’m going to the beach”.

Okay, that’s not entirely true – I didn’t decide to go to the beach until after I’d been trapped in a boiling hot laundromat for an hour and a half.

Fortified by fine Trader Joe’s snack foods, I drove up the coast, past Malibu to where the water’s really cold – not Santa Monica Bay chilly where you get used to it quickly, but really truly cold – you don’t acclimate so much as numb out.

I waded in and floated until I couldn’t feel my toes, then sat on the sand shivering and thought “This is the life – tomorrow, I’m coming back up here”.

On the drive home, I thought about signing up for unemployment (usually, that gets a job within 48 hours of sending in the paperwork). This time, as soon as the thought went through my head, the phone rang.

“Hey, you wanna work for the next two days?”

Hell, yes I do.

The ocean will still be there.

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

Poor, poor roaches. No one asked them!

So I went to the Banksy show yesterday afternoon and dragged Carly with me – it turns out, the show is in a warehouse that for a while was host to a ton of music video shoots (I don’t remember which ones, though – music videos all sort of blur together after a while. Set up, bad coffee, no crafty, lunch, turn around, bad coffee, no crafty, “Hey, what’s that pile of stuff on the cable..eewwww”, wrap, load the truck, freak out about the hours we just worked, go home). I don’t know if that’s what it’s still used for, though. Thankfully, it’s been a while since I’ve worked on a lot of music videos.

Although we missed the official opening party on Thursday night, that wasn’t a bad thing – I really wanted to see the art and on Friday afternoon the place was just about empty so we got a chance to linger and really enjoy the show. Props to Banksy for being able to make a living by being a smartass (a very clever and creative one, but a smartass nonetheless).

There’s a contingent of folks who are up in arms about the use of a real elephant in the show, and I’m here to report that she seems just fine. She’s an ‘animal actor’, so she’s used to being indoors on sets and around people, and she’s been painted before. The paint used is non-toxic, and she gets to go outside for breaks from standing in the exhibit eating her fill of the carrots that her handlers toss on the floor for her to find.

I notice that there’s no outcry over the poor little cockroaches that are trapped in a case, being forced against their will to crawl all over Paris Hilton’s CD.

Now that’s animal abuse.

My photos from Banksy’s show are on Flickr.

Here’s the link

Filed under: Photos, rants

See you there!

If you were thinking about going to see Banksy’s show, here’s how to get there:

Directions to Barely Legal:
2476 Hunter St.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

From the 10 fwy East: Exit Santa Fe Ave. SOUTH. When you come to a stop at the end of the exit, Hunter St. will be directly in front of you. Cross Santa Fe Ave. and proceed down Hunter St. to the end. 2476 is at the end of the street on your right.

From the 5 FWY North or South: Make transition to the 10 FWY West, (Santa Monica Freeway). Exit the first exit with is Santa Fe Ave/Mateo St. (Exit 1A). Follow sign to Santa Fe Ave. After you stop at the end of the exit, turn right and proceed to stoplight. Turn right again, go under the freeway and Hunter St. is the first left past the freeway. Proceed down Hunter St. to the end. 2476 is at the end of the street on your right.

Remember: Hunter St. is right next to and runs parallel to the 10 FWY. If you go more than 100 feet from the 10 FWY, you’ve gone too far!

Please do not park on the street. Complimentary valet parking will be available.

Filed under: life in LA, Non-Work

Pick it up, put it down. Pick it up, put it down.

I have some bad memories of working at Sony:

Losing my composure and screaming like a girl the time my foot went through a rotten board on the catwalk of stage 6 and I tripped and ended up with most of my upper body dangling over thin air 70+ feet above the deck. “It’s fine! I’m totally fine. There’s nothing wrong” I lied, after I was pulled back onto the walk by my co-workers. I’d just gotten into the union and I didn’t want the crew I was working with to think I was weak – especially since a guy had fallen out of the perms on stage 6 and died just a few years before. But honestly? I think I might have actually pissed myself. I can’t remember – before or since – ever being that afraid. I spent that day’s lunch break in the girls’ room, crying and shaking.

Stage 6, by the way, is no longer a stage. It’s being turned into an office building, and those rotten, fucked up perms are now in a landfill somewhere and will no longer terrorize crew members. Fine by me.

I also remember getting dumped by a man I thought loved me – once again, trying not to cry, I said “you’re absolutely right. It is all for the best”, because I didn’t want him to think that I might care.

My last memory of him is seeing him sitting on the couch in his trailer, with his head in his hands as I stepped out into the heat, late back to work from my lunch hour and wondering how I was going to get all the way across the lot in 30 seconds.

That time, I managed to wait until I was in my car before I started crying.

In contrast, I have only good memories of working on Sony’s lamp dock. The staff there are a great bunch of guys, and every time I’ve gone in to work the dock, I’ve had a terrific (and stress-free) day.

Lamp dock work is warehouse work – it’s filling orders, testing and stocking returned equipment, etc… I don’t mind it once in a while (although more than a few days in a row on any lamp dock will make me nuts) – it’s kind of zen as there’s no real hurry, and I get to connect with a few old friends (one co-worker from the first season of Deadwood), even if I did spend just about all of my meager paycheck on DVDs in the studio store (the TV series Action is out on video, and it’s still some of the funniest stuff ever put on the air – well worth the 20 bucks).

So after an entire day of moving cable from one pile to another, I celebrated our first cool day ( I can’t use my oven in the summer – it makes my entire place about as hot as a sauna) by stopping off at the grocery store on the way home (my fridge is empty) and cooking Ruth Reichl’s roasted chicken recipe (of all the roasted chickens I’ve tried, this one is the best – and it’s fairly cheap to make, but you do have to shell out for a really good chicken. The instructions are at the end of the linked article).

Tomorrow night is the first night of Banksy‘s LA show, and I can’t wait!

No, really, I can’t. I’m going to explode or something.

Filed under: Non-Work, Work

Something’s moving!

So I’ve been wanting to try out WordPress (blogger’s been pissing me off lately), and now here’s my chance!

Sitting at home, waiting for painters to show up, I decided to spin the “Couch of the Day” feature into it’s own blog, and you can find it here. The blogroll’s still incomplete, due to my not being able to figure out how to batch import.

Email me at randomblogmail at yahoo dot com if you’d like to be a contributor (I think you might have to have a wordpress account, but it’s free)!

Filed under: Uncategorized

Pow! Right in the kisser!

There are no gas stations in Beverly Hills.

Okay, there are two (according to the NFT Guide) – one at Olympic and Beverly Drive, and one at Little Santa Monica and Crescent. There’s also one that’s not listed in the guide on Wilshire right next to the Beverly Hilton.

All of these gas stations, might I add, are of the “76” variety (actually I think they’re a BP company now) and are at least 10 cents per gallon over market price, and there’s an impressive stretch of high-end retail that’s sans filling stations of any brand. If you pick the wrong part of Beverly Hills to stall out in, you’re in for a long hot (or cold, or wet, depending on the time of year) walk followed by and extremely expensive gallon of gas, my friend.

Guess what happened to me today?

I had some errands to run in Santa Monica, so after a quick stroll on the beach I headed back across town in an attempt to beat the rush hour traffic. My gas gauge has been broken for some time now, but it’s normally not a problem – I just fill up when I’ve driven a certain number of miles or it’s been a few days, but since I’ve been working at Paramount and haven’t been driving, I forgot about the system and stalled out right in front of Crustacean (the food’s fantastic, in case you were wondering).

In the midst of my digging for my phone to call AAA (okay, I screamed “shit” for about a minute first), the driver of the car behind me started to lean on the horn – despite the fact that my emergency flashers were on and I’d had my arm out the window, waving motorists around. For good measure, I’d gotten out and put the hood up – the universal symbol for “Don’t honk at me, jackass, my car’s stalled.”

For those of you not familiar with Beverly Hills, there’s a certain type of woman there – bleached blonde hair, botoxed yet somehow pinched faces, overly yoga’d bodies, nose jobs, cheek, chin and breast implants, liposuction, bleached teeth, Hermes bag, blank stare. They all look exactly alike – they’ve gone to the same surgeon, I guess, but the first time you see it it kind of freaks you out. Once you’re used to them it just seems kind of sad.

The one behind me had decided that somehow leaning on the horn of her luxury coupe was going to make AAA get to me faster. If only it were true.

Finally, I walked back to her car to see if I could get her to understand that all she had to do was pull around and she’d be back on her way to, well, wherever.

“You’re blocking traffic and some of us are in a hurry!” she yelled as I drew even with the driver’s window.

“Well, as you can see my vehicle is currently disabled, so why don’t you just pull around?”

“I shouldn’t have to! Why don’t you get a decent car? One that isn’t… polluting the planet!”

As soon as she said it, I looked down at her car and saw the shiny little metal plaque – V12.

No, no, no. You may not sweat me for driving an SUV (a V6, btw) when you’re tooling around town in a car with a 12 cylinder engine.

What I desperately (oh, so desperately) wanted to say was “Well, if you could just manage to suck a few extra cocks this month, you could buy me a Prius and save the world!”, but I bit my tongue. After all, you never know who’s somebody (or married to a somebody) in this town.

What I actually said was “You do know that my truck gets better gas mileage than your car, right?”

At that very moment, the AAA guy pulled up with a gallon of gas and friendly directions to the nearest overpriced 76 station.

I started up my offensive, planet-destroying truck and continued on my way, and Botox Barbie zoomed off to, well, wherever.

Couch of the Day:


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

I was only kidding, mostly.

It’s been a busy couple of days, and what I’ve really learned is that when I ask for things, I need to be more specific.

On Thursday, the shit hit the fan (so to speak) and we actually did get fired – because of something that happened in another department (ye gods, how I love the film industry).

Here’s how it went down:

We did as much of the rig as we could on Wednesday, because of the party. First unit’s call time in the morning was 10 am, with the balloon tech* and set lighting on a one hour pre-call.

Rigging’s call was 6 am, so we got there, found our driver, moved the carts over from the stage to the theater and then started to complete the rig (normally, you’d flip that – complete the rig first, and then move the carts, but we were going to lose the drivers because they had to move the trailers which is something they should have been able to do the night before, but there was that party) – until the guys who’d come in with the projection screens (they had a big banquet scene with giant screens all around the set) discovered that whomever had set up their stuff the night before had put the screens in the wrong place and they couldn’t get a sharp focus, so the screens had to move because the projectors couldn’t. Which meant the stage had to move, which meant the tables (all of which had a lamp on them which had to be powered) had to move – again.

Unexpected obstacles are the nature of the business, but we had so much to do that we would just barely have had enough time to get everything done even if nothing had gone wrong (we’d asked to come in at 4:30 or 5 am, but the production office said no). So, when the stage and tables moved (the first time – they ended up moving twice. Each time, set dressing had to strip off the place settings and then reset them, and we had to move all our lights from around the stage and re-wire the tables) we knew we weren’t going to be ready.

Rigging crews have nightmares about still being on set working when first unit walks on. A great deal of the appeal of working on a rigging crew is that one avoids the chaos, panic and gratuitous random blaming (“we were fine until those bozos got in our way”) that shooting crews sometimes fall into – when one is rigging, the goal is not only to never be seen, but never have the higher ups even notice your work**.

Then, the balloon tech came in half an hour late – the victim of a traffic jam caused by a horrible accident on the freeway – also stuck in the same traffic snarl were the director and our main actor.

So there was no way in hell they were going to start on time, but the Director of Photography, standing on set surveying the chaos at 10 am, chose to blame the rigging crew for the delay.

The first unit best boy pulled our boss aside around 11 am and said “Hey, DP thinks you guys caused the delay, and I’m hearing he wants you all fired. I’m going to sit him down at lunch and try to explain to him what happened.”

Yeah, good luck with that. There are some “shooters” out there who have a really solid understanding of what it takes to get all that stuff set up and the potential for delay, but trust me, this guy’s not one of them.

At our lunch break (which was the first time all day we’d been able to sit down), our boss said it best: “It doesn’t matter what anyone says. If the DP wants us gone, then nothing can save us.”

We all sat for a moment and looked at each other before simultaneously pulling out our phones and dialing – just as our boss got the official word. Note to production: never, ever fire a crew at lunch. We all could have just as easily walked away and told you to go rig your own fucking set – but we didn’t, because that would have been a) unprofessional, and b) would have made the gaffer look bad.

After I’d made a few calls, I ran into our Paramount lot best boy***, and told him the story. “Can you help a sister out?” I asked.

“Lemme see who’s picking up for tomorrow.”

In 10 minutes he had me on the phone with the best boy of another show. “Sure, I’ve got a second unit slot for tomorrow. You want it?” he asked.

Does a bear shit in the woods? Of course I wanted it. My thanks to all of you from the bottom of my black little heart for another day’s employment.

A few minutes after that I got another call (Paramount’s a small lot – word travels fast) “Hey, heard you guys got fired. Sorry to hear it, but I’ve got some days next week for you. Call me Monday.”


The fact of the matter is that with below the line crew, firings are completely meaningless. We had all gotten work (and on better-paying shows, I might add) by the end of the day, and to be brutally honest I’m more than a little bit glad to be walking away from that cluster fuck. The only thing I’m going to miss are the crew, who are all terrific folks and with whom I’ve had a lot of fun.

Oh, well. Color me itinerant. I’ll see ’em all on another show and we’ll have a good laugh.

I’d wanted some overtime, and boy did I get it.

Call time Friday was 6:30 am, wrap time was 10:30 pm. As my feet started to hurt and my reaction times got longer and longer with fatigue, I just kept chanting “double time baby, double time”.

Mama needs a new car soon.

Which brings us to Friday (hey, it was taken on Friday, but after a 16 hour day I’m not coming home and sitting in front of the computer) Photo:

Can you spot the paparazzo?


More importantly, since I’ve never seen the show, is there anyone on Nip/Tuck who warrants being followed to the bowels of North Hollywood by a stalker photographer?

Just for the record, the guy seemed okay. He stayed hidden, and when a co-worker and I finally spotted him (I have no idea how long he was there) and waved, he waved back. When one of the ADs politely asked him to pack up and move on, he did so graciously.

*Note – the link to Airstar is intended for illustrative purposes only.

**Yeah, yeah. I know that just seems wrong, but it’s true. If a producer or an executive notices me, then I’ve somehow fucked up.

***When you work on a studio lot, your show has two best boys. One best boy for the show, who handles manpower, scheduling and the like, and the lot best boy, who deals with equipment.

Couch of the Day:

From Frances Danger, who also just got fired, but who will also soon have a much better job (I’m sure of it):

Filed under: couches, Photos, Work

September 2006

Flickr Photos



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"If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." -Anne Lamott

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