Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

You give a little up, you get a little back.

I hate turning down work for any reason. When one turns down work too often, best boys stop calling (“Oh, fuck it.. she’s never available. I’m not even going to bother”), and that’s the stuff of my nightmares.

So, yesterday, standing on set (last minute call , and a good day working with a great bunch of guys on a TV show that’s been on the air so long everything runs like clockwork so no panic, no rushing, no yelling and they’ve all been locked up on a stage together forever so all my jokes seem new to them), the best boy asked me if I wanted to work tonight and tomorrow night on a friend of his’ show.

Hell, yes I did. There was only one problem – I would have been spending both nights in a 125′ condor.*

Now, I have no fear of going up in a ‘normal’ sized 80′ condor, and until last year got called for condor work all the time (for some reason, last year was mostly rigging. The year before that was mostly working set, or ‘operating’. This is just the way work fluctuates, I guess. I don’t mind. It keeps things interesting).

But over the years, I’ve cultivated an active dislike for the condors over 100′ tall. It’s a psychological thing – technically, they’re just as safe as the smaller units but for some reason that extra elevation just makes me want to wet my pants, and let me tell you, my shrieks of terror carry a loooonng way in the night air (“Why don’t you just come down and let someone who’s not a complete pussy go up there?”), and no one wants to hear one of the lighting crew scream like a little girl.

So, after considering the possibility of humiliating myself in front of a whole new group of people, I turned the job down – on the grounds that I am, in fact, a complete and utter pussy about things like that.

So, right afterwards, before I even had time to regret the decision, I got a call to work Friday – sitting on a rooftop all night, babysitting a light.

It’s only one night instead of two, but hey, it’s work – and no scary super-tall condors involved.

* You know how night scenes in movies always have the perfect moonlight – just exactly behind the actor’s head and spilling artfully onto the street? Yeah, that’s me (or somebody like me) up in a condor with a BFL (Big Fucking Light).  The operator usually has to stay up there with the light all night because as the camera moves around to shoot all the angles of the scene, the elevated BFL will have to change positions, too – in order to keep that moonlight artsy.

Filed under: Work

13 Responses

  1. Dave2 says:

    Despite my efforts to overcome my crippling fear of heights, there’s no way I could do that job, so I certainly don’t blame you. :-)

  2. Peter says:

    If you ever get an offer to work in a 125-foot condor, you can console yourself (so to speak) with the following thought:
    Not that it ever would happen or anything, but in the absolute worst-case scenario falling out of a 125-foot condor isn’t going to be any worse than falling out of an 80-footer. Either way the outcome’s going to be the same.

  3. Peter, I have a funny feeling that rationale didn’t do a bit o’ good.

  4. Peggy Archer says:

    Will’s correct – When I’m in a condor, I’ve got on a harness, so I wouldn’t fall out, and one has to work really hard to tip one of those things over. My fear is totally in my head and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

    Hell it’s not really any more dangerous to go up 125′ than it is to go up 60′. There’s just something uncomfortable about being in a little metal cage 10 or 11 stories up in the air.

  5. Garry_S says:

    I live on the 4th floor. I’ve never once stepped out on my balcony.

  6. Andrew says:

    Dont know if you accept work off the Blog, but if you do email me back, we need people for Monday.

    Peggy sez: Since I’m not reading this until Saturday afternoon, I’m guessing you’re crewed up already – but thanks for the offer!

  7. Chris says:

    It’s not being up in the condor that gets me so much as exiting the condor and making my way (unhooking and re-hooking that harness on anything I can) across a ceiling panel, made of knotty pine 1×3 and ¼” luaun that’s not assembled to anything close to ISO 9002 standards, to install practicals. My 220 lbs +¼” luaun + 32’/sec² + 80′ elevation over the stage floor in Playa = 1 big mess.

    Yeah, set dressers want free t-shirts. That last one was RUINED.

  8. Molly Mayhem says:

    I find that I can be super high and unafraid when climbing on cats or up in lifts next to walls or otherwise near something. Even being near drape or other totally unsupportive scenery puts my mind at ease.

    But up in a condor all surrounded by nothing but enpty space? Totally petrifying.

  9. Peter says:

    What would scare me about being up in one of those things is that it would be the end of the day, and the operator and all the other people would be so eager to get off work they’d forget about me and just leave, and I’d be stuck up in the danged thing overnight. And of course it would be a Friday. And of course my cell phone battery would be dead :)

  10. Hazel says:

    I don’t like going up in anything over 86′. I’ve seen a lot of 125′ ad 135′ lifts showing up the last 3 years and I don’t feel comfortable in them with all the weight of lights and cable. The truck mounted 170′ lifts feel safer but are more expensive to rent.

    I don’t want to “sit at home,” but I’m mostly over spending 4 or more hours in sky jail for a paycheck.

  11. boskolives says:

    To me, one of the attractive parts about being a sound mixer is that my two feet are almost* always on the floor, therefore the top of my head can’t hit the ground from an altitude of more than 6′. So even at a fall rate of 32 feet per second per second, this doesn’t allow much time to build veloctiy.

    The down side is that the view from here (I’m usually seated, and yes I’ve heard the joke) is somewhat limited to what I can see on my monitor.

    Win some, lose some……

    * In the past, I’ve fallen asleep in my chair while it’s tipped back on the two rear legs, did the basic 3 stooges back flop.

  12. Dan says:

    A friend of mine had a uber fear of dogs. I mean she couldn’t get within 10 feet of a dog without peeing her pants. We’re talking one nasty fear. 20 minutes with a hypnotist and she was hugging pitbulls. Pretty amazing. So go get yourself MESMORIZED!

  13. Nez says:

    I’ve never been up in one and I don’t have an plans to. (But considering I work in an office far, far away from any film studios I don’t think it’s very likely anyway.)

    Heights are funny things though. I’ve been known to come down stairs one by one very slowly on my bottom just so I can’t possibly topple over.

    Bit embarrassing when it’s the Eiffel Tower though. (Yes I know – should’ve taken the lift.)

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