Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

The one where I hurt my back again

It all started with my being in too much of a hurry to move a damn ladder 18 inches.

Wednesday, we were hanging Kino Flos from the ceiling.

Kino Flo lamps are, well, they’re about the size and shape of a rectangular electric guitar case (4 feet long by about 20 inches wide, and three or four inches deep). They have a little doohickey on the back which enables the lamp to be hung from a gobo head, which is something that’s affixed to a rig the grips put up and allows us to avoid drilling into a ceiling in an asbestos-riddled building (most locations would prefer that we not punch holes in the property, so the grips have all sorts of ways of rigging lights without putting holes in drywall – too many for me to explain).

So when one is hanging Kino Flos from an elaborate grip rig on a ceiling, it’s important to note that the little doohickey on the back of the lamp that allows it to be hung from the gobo head is about two feet away from the end of the lamp that connects to the ballast, which connects to the electricity, which allows the thing to light up, which is the whole point of hanging it up there in the first place.

Bear with me, I’m hopped up on muscle relaxers right now.

So, while standing on a ladder hanging the light, I got in a hurry because they were waiting on me, and instead of moving the ladder 18 inches in order to attach the head feeder, I just leaned waaay back, spun the light around, did my thing and then leaned waaay forward to spin the lamp back into position, and ended up tweaking my back again.

I thought it would clear up overnight, but when I got into work Thursday morning, I could hardly walk – after getting a large dose of painkillers from the on-set medic, I was able to function, but just barely.

My boss assigned me to work that set’s makeshift dimmer board (don’t ask), and forbade me from lifting anything, even though it hurt me to see my co-workers scrambling while I sat on my ass, unable to stand up without bracing myself against something.

By the end of the day, my back actually felt worse, so I took Friday off in the hopes that more than more than a one day weekend would give me time to heal up enough to return to work.

Incidentally, this also means that I missed out on the sixth day pay (day six starts in time and a half), which would have made the rate not so bad.

I’m taking Sunday off as well, because right now (Saturday night), my back’s still stiff.

Hey, that’s an improvement – yesterday, my back was agonizingly painful and I could barely walk.

What does make me feel better is the knowledge that I’m not the only one who got hurt Wednesday. One of the actors cut his head open with a dull rusty chair.

During a scene where his character tries unsuccessfully to throw a chair through a window (so they can escape from the Hamburglar, of course), he threw a bit too hard and the chair bounced off the Lexan (that was in the window instead of glass because the window’s not supposed to break and I’m pretty sure that throwing a chair at plate glass will break it – the glass, and maybe the chair) and hit him in the head when he turned around to deliver whatever line it was that came after said chair-hurling.

The kids in this (and they’re all kids – I’m not certain that any of them are even legal drinking age), don’t seem to understand the concept of pulling their punches. Don’t get me wrong – they’re really nice, they’re all good actors, and while they’re doing a terrific job of looking attractive while the Hamburglar picks them off, they’re destroying props and sets because they don’t understand the concept of faking it – you can’t really slam the door because they’ll add the noise in later, you will deafen the sound guy, and the door, since it’s a set piece, may fall off the hinges if you’re not careful. You can’t really bang the fake Rolex hard on the table because it may be plastic, and the only one they have. You can’t use all your considerable upper body strength to throw the chair at the window as hard as you can because Lexan doesn’t break very easily and the chair will just bounce off and fuck you up when you least expect it.

This is not the first time I’ve seen something like this happen. I know they teach fake slapping (it’s all in how you hold your hand. There’s a certain way to cup your hand that doesn’t hurt the person being slapped and makes a really loud noise) in acting school – why do they not teach a class on how to fake violent actions with furniture as well? It would have saved this poor kid about 10 stitches in his head.

It’s okay, though. The stitches are in the back of his head, and if he ever has to shave his head, well, chicks dig scars, right?

Also, our staging area (and Grip’s) got broken into- someone kicked the doors in, but they didn’t get anything because we’d all moved our stuff into the old chapel which was way closer to that day’s set.

I’m off to dose up on more pills and lay in bed watching movies.  Keep your fingers crossed for me – I really want to return to work on Monday.

Filed under: Work

7 Responses

  1. Meg says:

    Heating pad, alternating with ice packs. Lie on one side, with a pillow between your knees. Whimper. Drugs. Been there, done it. I feel your pain.

  2. Tiffany says:

    As another owner of a trick back, you have my condolences. Hope you feel much better soon!

  3. wen says:

    In a perfect world there would be someone standing on set with a prescription pad handing out scripts for Flexeril and Vicodin. The only people I know in this business who don’t have bad backs are new PA’s and office staff.

  4. JCW says:

    Sounds as if this back problem is a recurring issue for you… I’ve been there. At one point I couldn’t work for three months because of back issues and they wanted to operate on me.

    Then I read “Mind Over Back Pain” by Dr. John Sarno and it changed my life. Google it and read a bit about it – if your interested after that you can get it on Amazon.

    Honestly – it’s a quick read, interesting, and it saved me from surgery. Although once in a while my back still wants to tweak, I go back and review what I learned and it goes away.

    Sounds too simple doesn’t it? Perhaps that’s why more people don’t give it a try…but trust me, it works!

    Good Luck!

  5. Nez says:

    Bad backs are the pits. Like colds – you forget how awful they are until it happens again… :( I hope you’re back to normal soon.

  6. ben bang says:

    Great story.
    I don’t envy you production peeps. I got into post precisely to avoid such dangers that inevitably accompany actual work. Then again, I don’t come home with such side-splitting tales…

  7. she_said says:

    Stupid spines! I once went to sit down on the incline bike at the gym. -Just sit down-, and heard my back click. I could barely even ride in a car to get to the chiropractor.

    I hope you feel better.

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