Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Midweek photo fun!

A sticker on a door in the hospital:

Warning sign

Now, the sticker in context:

Sign in context

That’s right – this sticker was on what was once the door into the room where we were being served lunch (we normally eat outside, but it rained yesterday).

The flooring and dropped ceiling in the room (I think it was the old I.C.U.) had been removed, which is why I’m guessing the sticker was there.
Is it wrong that I think this is hilarious?

Filed under: Photos, Work

Attack of the cockroaches!

Sunday, we had scene calling for cockroaches, and the Madagascar cockroaches which were used freaked out about half the crew (some of who decided to take an extended smoke break until all the roaches had finished their scene and were returned to their travel container).

Although I certainly wouldn’t want them crawling on me, I thought they were kind of cool- the had really pretty striped shells (wait- it’s an exoskeleton, right? Is it called a carapace? I know it’s not a shell and I’m too tired to google it. You’re lucky you’re getting this much out of me), and tiny little faces.

According to the roach wrangler, these type of roaches aren’t crawling disease vectors like the common house roach, but that didn’t stop them from creeping out the poor PA’s who were assigned to roach-catching duties (and no, they couldn’t step on them – they had to gently pick them up after they ran out of frame and put them back in the container).

Monday was our biggest set yet (in the lobby of the old hospital), and since there were only three of us, we ran like crazy all day. The advantage of being insanely busy is that it makes the day seem to go faster. It seemed like we’d only been there for a couple of hours when they called wrap.

We haven’t been getting worked that hard, but I’m really tired at the end of every day because I’m starting to get sick despite my wearing a mask the entire time I’m in the hospital (much to the amusement of my co-workers).

To be fair, this could have nothing to do with the location and I could have just caught whatever it is that’s going around. The next weekday I have off I’ll go see the doctor.

Sunday call time: 8:30 am, wrap time 10:00 pm (the long day due mainly to delay caused by the allergic reaction one of the actors had to some of the makeup)

Monday call time: 9:30 am, wrap time 9:00 pm

Call time this morning is 9 am, and since I have to drive to east LA (which means I’m going with the traffic) I have about a 45 minute commute. I can’t complain, though. One of the guys lives about 50 miles away, and has been having a 2+ hour commute every day. Yeek.

Filed under: Work

Friday Photo

Sunset over the prop truck

Sunset over the prop truck with machine guns.

From Homicidal Hamburglar.

Today is the sixth day of the work week for everyone except me (since I had Wednesday off), so while I’m not as tired as everyone else (and have more clean clothes), I’m also not starting the day in time and a half.

Oh, well. I don’t suppose I can complain about a low rate when I’m working with a group of people that I really like, and am not getting worked hard enough to break a sweat – although that might change today. We have to rig a condor for the first shot and once again have not been given a pre-call, so we’ll start the day with a bit of a scramble.

I’m off to work.

Filed under: Photos, Work

An “oops” kind of day

Yesterday, the game of catch-up continued as we were denied the request for a pre-call. We needed the pre-call as we had to connect the power runs to get electricity to the set. When one runs cable through the doorways of a building (as we often do), the doors must be able to close after we leave in order to lock said building.

This means we have to go around before call and after wrap and connect or break the cable runs where they go through the doors. Generally, this takes about a half an hour. In this case, we have four or five entry points into the main building and one into the hair/makeup building, so ideally we’d just fan out at our call time, connect everything, and then at everyone else’s call time we’d be up and running.

Yesterday morning, because we weren’t allowed to come in half an hour early, we were still connecting the cable as the DP was standing on set wanting to see some lights.


Luckily the DP on this show isn’t a screamer and when our boss told him that we were still connecting the cable runs he said “no problem”, and went to crafty to get some coffee. I love that guy. I also love my boss, who’s not a screamer either (and a lot of gaffers would really have been screaming right then).

The makeup and hair people had an hour pre-call to get the actors ready, and couldn’t use all that extra power we ran into the building for them because we weren’t there to connect the cable at the door.


Later in the day, we had to move our staging area from behind the reception desk in the lobby (which was perfect – it was central to all the sets we’ll be using and out of the line of sight of prying eyes) to one of the patient rooms due to fear of theft (the reception area can’t be locked and the rooms can).

This meant we had to carry a truckload of equipment (the stuff that came off our truck and the drop-loaded rigging package) through the hallways and past all eleventy-seven producers who had set up camp right in the middle of the hallway that happened to be the only way to get into our new staging area.


Have I mentioned that these producers are very nice but inexperienced? Experienced producers generally do not sit on set all day.

Experienced producers stay in their offices, doing lines of coke off the script and making angry phone calls to, well, someone*.

Yesterday also saw the return of the hated smoke machine. Apparently, production companies are allowed to disconnect the fire alarms while we’re shooting in order to fill the building with smoke, so I had to spend most of the day with the creepy rubber fetish gas mask thingy on my face. The one provided for me didn’t really fit, so now, not only do I have a nasty bruise on the bridge of my nose from the mask but I still had a sore throat at the end of the night.

That’s not really an oops, so much as a heavy sigh. I’m off today, but the next day I’m back (Thursday), I’ll bring the mask that I bought a few months ago to fend off paint fumes on a rig. It fits better, so I won’t have a bruised face and someone else will be able to use the mask I had yesterday.

Call time: 9 am

Wrap time: 9: 30 pm

Today, and my big plan is to do laundry (my sheets are smelly), go to the gym and clean my bathroom.

*I’m kidding. Maybe. Some producers prefer to do lines of coke off a stripper’s ass, or that nice titanium surface of their laptop. Other producers skip the coke entirely and just start drinking at 9 am.

Filed under: Work

Day two of the killing spree

Yesterday was our first day in the abandoned hospital (which is scheduled to be converted into lofts).  We had a two hour pre-call scheduled, but worked so late the night before the we ended up coming in just 15 minutes before general call, so we were playing catch up all day.

We’d leave two of us on set with the gaffer, and the other two would go with the best boy to try and rig, since someone decided it was a great idea to shoot in a part of the hospital that we hadn’t cabled, so there was no power.

We also had to run power to the building that’s housing makeup, hair, wardrobe and the actor’s dressing rooms since the wiring in the building’s really old and there was some concern about the power being overloaded (1400 watt hair dryers will blow a fuse faster than anything, and they’ve all got 1000 watt heaters in the rooms, computers, radios, etc… buildings built in the early 1900’s just don’t have the power for all the stuff we use now).

We got to meet the very nice makeup, hair and wardrobe folks, and the crew of the other movie that’s shooting on the grounds – also very nice folks, even if there’s been some problems with walkie-talkies (there are only so many channels and when there’s two companies, it gets messy as there aren’t enough channels to go around).

We had three moves (we started out in a parking lot, moved to a house across the street from the hospital, went to a park on the other side of the hospital, back to the house and then into a hallway in the hospital), and on the last set of the day the smoke machine set off the fire alarm (that no one realized was still active since the building’s abandoned) and at least 6 firemen came out.

The upside of this is that they can’t use the smokers now – good for me since that stuff really makes my lungs hurt.

Call time 8:45 am

Wrap time 9:30 pm

The producers on this are inexperienced, but they’re super nice guys, and are trying their best not to run us into the ground. We’re on a 14 hour deal, but they’re trying to keep it to 12 hour days, and they’ve been really trying to address problems and keep everyone happy while making sure things progress. All of us appreciate this a lot.

The director (also a super nice guy) really moved along and shot five pages in just over 12 hours.

I’m off to work.

Filed under: Work

Yet more low-budget beatdown

I don’t work on too many horror movies – not by design, just by chance I’ve only worked on one before. Mostly I think it’s because horror movies tend to be extremely low budget (which I try to avoid if at all possible. As I’ve mentioned before, the lower the budget the harder the show is on the working crew), and this one is no exception. Today was our first day of shooting in one of LA’s older neighborhoods full of beautiful Craftsman style homes dating from the turn of the last century.

This show is so low budget that there’s not even a caterer. There was only a nice lady who showed up in her minivan and put out chafing dishes for us for breakfast and lunch. We also don’t have a rigging crew. Lighting and grip had to come in two hours before everyone else to rig the house, and we had to stay for about an hour afterwards to wrap everything.

Our call time: 6:30 am

Crew call: 8:30 am

Camera wrap: 9:30 pm

We finished at 10:45 pm

I’m insane I’m so tired (I’ve been doing mostly rigging the past year and I’m not used to the hours anymore), and we’ve got 10 hour turnaround and have to be at the abandoned hospital at 8:45 tomorrow morning. The really fucked up part is that we’re on a Sunday-Thursday schedule and everyone kept thinking today was Monday.

Nope. Tomorrow’s Monday. I mean Tuesday, or… oh, fuck it. I have no idea what day it is right now.

It’s okay, though – this is a terrific crew who are a lot of fun, and I’m not on for the whole show, just when they need an extra guy, so I’m only on four days this week.

Today, the guy playing our villain (who, BTW, is a terrifically nice guy) turned to one of the grips and said “I look like the Hamburglar, don’t I?” We all had to agree that in his trench-coat and hat he did indeed resemble the Hamburglar from the old McDonald’s ads.

So now, the entire crew are calling this movie Homicidal Hamburglar – 2. Because, you know, Homicidal Hamburglar 1 did well enough at the box office to warrant a sequel.

My brain cells are going on strike and I’m off to bed.

Filed under: Work

Finally, Mack’s meme

My job yesterday got cancelled (oh, I’m heartbroken that I didn’t get to crawl around in the rat-infested basement of a downtown warehouse. Just heartbroken. Really I am), but I have a 6:30 am call tomorrow on some low-budget thing. Since I’d made plans for both Sunday and Monday, I should have known I’d get a call to work.

Fine with me. I need the dough.

I normally ignore meme tags, but Mack Reed seems like a nice guy and has linked to me about a billion times, so I’ll honor the month-old request (hey, better late than never, right?) just this once.

Five things you didn’t know about me:

1) I have ADD. I’ve had it since I was a kid and it didn’t have a name other than “you’re so smart – why won’t you apply yourself?” By the time anyone figured out what it was and put me on medication for it, I was well into high school and a lifetime of underachieving had locked me out of the more prestigious colleges. C’est la vie.

2) For a short time, my parents thought sending me to a religious school was a good idea. I promptly got suspended for reading Charles Bukowski during Bible study time*.

3) I hate zucchini – I mean I really hate it and won’t eat it (or any dish containing it) even if I’m starving.

4) My favorite color is turquoise – not that wishy-washy pastel, but the rich dark blue-green that’s the color of the ocean when the water’s clear. If I could, I would paint everything I own that color.

5) I have actually uttered the following words: “The best part about the trip to Miami wasn’t all the partying in South Beach, it was when I went to Key West and saw the Hemmingway house.”

Bonus Item: My regret about seeing the Hemmingway house was not getting shit-faced and fighting someone while I was there. Sorry, Papa. I let you down.

*There’s something about people with ADD that we can’t pay attention to anything other than books. Nora Ephron, whom I adore, has ADD as well and has, on several occasions, mentioned being a voracious reader. What’s up with that?

And I still to this day would rather read Bukowski than the King James.

Filed under: Non-Work

Don’t they make bird diapers?

One of the things people forget about Los Angeles is that the city’s older than it seems – parts of the city date to before the Civil War, and that’s where we were working yesterday – in a very old warehouse east of downtown that used to be a railroad depot back in the days when railroads were still relevant in urban areas.

The thing about old warehouses is that they’re not very clean. 120 years of pigeons setting up housekeeping results in, well, stuff that one’s not really supposed to breathe, and some production companies are still really reluctant to provide masks (and in this case, restrooms with running water – the logic being that we could pee and that should have been enough). For some reason, the pigeons like to congregate on interior windowsills right over lighting equipment, so at the end of the day all our stuff had been, um, christened. Normally, I’d try to clean it off before sending the stuff back to the rental house, but I could feel myself losing IQ points every minute I was in there – besides, I really had to pee.

We also didn’t have enough people, due to productions’s desire to keep manpower costs down – this meant that we had to work for twice as long, which meant that the labor costs were twice as much due to the overtime, and at the end of the job, I got my ass handed to me by the UPM due to my inability to defy the laws of physics and make the guys work faster than the speed of light.

Oh, well. At least I got some really awesome photos:

Abandoned coffee pot

Skyline from the east

Downtown warehouse

We’re back tomorrow, working in something called the “oil pits”. Sounds oily and possibly smelly. My boss suggested calling in dehydrated, but I’m a whore for a potential photo op. I just have to remember to bring my respirator.

Filed under: Photos, Work

Free Movie Season!

Lucky for me, the pre-awards season slew of free movies coincides with the pre-pilot season sucking sounds of the last of my savings leaving my bank account (don’t worry – I’ll be working my ass off very, very soon).

I’m a member of IFP/West (now FilmIndependent), so although we don’t get fancy screeners sent to us like the Academy Awards (TM) folks do, I still get to go out and see a bunch of free movies – some good, some not.

My only complaint is that there aren’t any screenings during the day on weekdays for those of us who are unemployed slugs between projects. Some of the “buzz” movies are impossible to get into, so a daytime screening would really up my odds of getting to see, say, Pan’s Labyrinth without having to shell out 12 bucks that, quite frankly, I’m not willing to spend just right now.

On a completely unrelated note, It’s also really, really cold in LA – I mean objectively cold, not California cold. This morning, when I ventured out of my house at O-dark-thirty to move the car because of the street cleaning, there was ice on the windshield. Ice. In Los Angeles.

Before those of you in colder climates condemn us here in SoCal for being wimps, let me remind you that most of us don’t own any really warm clothing (I have warm stuff for work, but nothing I can wear out in civilized life), or heavy insulation in our homes (my place, built in 1923, has no insulation at all), because normally we just don’t need it.

I should have known it was going to turn cold – the cat’s grown such an immense winter coat that she looks like a cotton ball. I thought it was funny as hell last week when it was 90 degrees F (32 C), but who’s laughing now?

Filed under: life in LA, Non-Work

Have you ever wondered

what the inside of a sound stage looks like during a power outage?


It looks kinda like that.

We were wrapping a commercial Tuesday night when the stage lights flickered, and then went out. At first, I thought someone had turned them off as a joke, but then I heard someone say “the whole lot’s black!”

Turns out, we got caught in the middle of one of Hollywood’s infamous power outages and after sitting around outside for over an hour waiting to see if the lights would come back on, decided to return in the morning to finish the job as trying to do, well, much of anything when you can’t see your hand in front of your face is difficult, to say the least.

So, after making a few frantic late-night phone calls to replace crew members who couldn’t come back the next day (you know, weird things like blackouts, earthquakes or raccoon attacks only seem to happen when I’m in charge. Why is that?), we gave up and went home.

Nine hours later, we were back again (because we had to get everything off of the stage before the painters started to spray the cyc since the production company had painted it) to finish up.

After spending years pissing and moaning about not being able to set any equipment (even personal bags) in the fire lanes* (the logic being if you can’t see anything you can feel your way out along the wall), I now totally understand. We had to feel along the wall in order to get out, and I’m glad that I didn’t have to worry about tripping over someone’s backpack or spare sneakers.

At least none of us were up in the perms when the lights went out. That would have sucked.

Which brings me to the second best perm graffiti ever:

 Perm Graffiti

You said it, brother (or sister).

*Fire lanes are the four feet of floor next to the stage walls on all sides of a soundstage – the fire lanes must be kept clear at all times, or the on-set safety people will stop the shoot to make you move the stand or backpack that’s been placed there. After the other day, I completely understand why.

Filed under: Work

January 2007

Flickr Photos



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