Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Everybody just be patient, please.

Part of the problem with taking a shitload of photos on any trip is the going through and uploading of said photos.

There’s at least 1500 of them on the data cards and I have to look through all of them, decide which ones are worth keeping (they can’t all be winners, after all) and then figure out which of the remaining photos will go on flickr.

In my current state of being jet lagged and impatient (I now remember that for me it’s always worse when I’m traveling west) I can barely tolerate this sort of thing, so while I initially thought I could get all the photos uploaded in a few days, now I’m guessing it’s going to take the better part of a week.

I was going to do a big virtual slide show (you know, the one where I put up a bunch of photos and natter endlessly about my vacation), but right now I can also barely tolerate sitting in front of the computer for any length of time.

I need a martini.

Filed under: computer, cranky, Non-Work, , , ,

If it’s 1 am where I was, what day is it where I am now?

I’m back, I had a great time but right now I’m incredibly tired.

I have three gigs of photos (and that’s just the digital stuff – I won’t get the film back for a few days) to go through, but all I’m going to try to get done today is laundry. Plus, I have to eat some vegetables – I think my cholesterol’s gone up 100 points in the past 10 days.

As much time as I spend bitching about my fucked up sleep schedule, this time it worked to my advantage – I adjusted to the time change really quickly, so I’m hoping today is the only day I’ll only feel like boiled gym socks.

In brief because my brain’s not really working right now:

Of course, when we were in Paris, there was a transit workers strike, so I missed some stuff I’d wanted to see (also because things were opening late and closing early) and it took us three hours to get from our hotel near the Luxembourg Garden to Orly airport (which was where we picked up the car).

Speaking of cars, we didn’t get one with an onboard navigation system because we thought we’d be fine with a map. Oh, how wrong we were. I don’t think any of us are going to make that mistake again – and probably wouldn’t have made that choice in the first place if someone had warned us in advance that in some of the smaller towns in France there aren’t any street signs. I’m sure this made good sense in the past (confuse the hell out of the invaders and they might just give up and go home), but now it’s just annoying. I’m not going to take over – I just want lunch.

Leaning out over the battlements of a medieval castle and yelling “I fart in your general direction!” is exactly as much fun as I’d imagined.

I can’t. eat. any. more. bread.

Oh, and because I know there’s one picture everyone’s dying to see:

Paris Couch

More later, when I feel more like a human being.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , ,

My priorities should be obvious now.

For my trip, I’ve packed the following:

Three sweaters

Three pairs of pants

Three shirts

Four pairs of socks

Many pairs of underpants (yup, learned my lesson)

One coat

One scarf

Four cameras (two digital, two film)

One video camera

Twenty eight rolls of film

Enough digital memory cards to make a deck and have a poker game

One tripod

Yeah, I guess it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

The car’s coming to pick me up at 7 am, and I’m already tired because I was up late cleaning the house (I care about what the cat sitter thinks of me, you know).

Hopefully this means I’ll be able to sleep on the plane, although I doubt it.

I don’t know if I’ll be bothering to check emails at all (I’m sure there are internet cafes, I’m just planning on being too busy to care), and I’m certainly not going to post, so in the meantime please check out some of the fantastic reading material over there on the sidebar.

I’ll be back on the 26th!

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , ,

Hell, I’m unemployed, I might as well run for President.

Why not? We’ve got an election coming up and I need a job.

Here’s my official platform:

Waterboarding? Dude, it’s like totally torture.

I suppose the litmus test for that would be if the Khmer Rouge used it, it’s, like, totally torture. Which could include the city bus on a hot day, but that’s an issue for another time.

Speaking of city buses: As President, I promise to take money away from shady construction and ‘security’ firms in Iraq and put it to use where it’s really needed: Improving public transit and making it illegal for anyone to drive except me.

National Healthcare? Yes, please. As President, my first act will be to solicit a workable model for free national health from someone who knows what the hell they’re doing. Plus, I’ll make it a law that if you have more than three nose jobs in a five year period, you have to register for some sort of plastic surgery rehab program.

Speaking of Iraq: Good luck, guys! We’re going home. As President, that will be the second phrase out of my mouth after “I’d like to thank the Academy” (wait.. wrong daydream. Sorry)

Plus, I think I’ll throw something in there about infrastucture, pollution, and I’ll make it legal to mercilessly beat people who blast bad 80’s synth-pop at three in the morning.

Yeah, Mr. “My radio station’s cooler than yours – here, have a listen”. I’m talkin’ about you.

Filed under: humor, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants, , , , , ,

So now I’m out of a job along with everyone else.

Today marked my last day of work until all this strike business blows over.

The show that I was working on is an unfortunate victim of the downsizing that’s been happening all over town – a lot of shows are getting the axe because, well, because it’s an excuse to cut some fat and cancel expensive shows that are not expected to do well for one reason or another, so we were completely wrapping out the stages – which meant having to return all the equipment and tear out the rig that’s up in the perms so as to leave the stage ‘clean’ for whichever show comes in next.

As we dropped the cable out of the perms, the talk turned to what we’re all going to do if this strike outlasts our unemployment checks. I’m at a distinct disadvantage here because I’m single – most of the guys on the crew have wives that work in other industries, so they’ll get by on one check.

After spending my entire adult life in the film industry, I’m not sure exactly what it is that I’m qualified to do in the real world. I’ve been making jokes about supplementing my unemployment check with the occasional spot of pole dancing, but the reality is that even if I could find someone to pay money to see me in a bikini my knees would probably give out and I’d make an ass of myself.

Even more so than usual.

The upside was that I was working at Sunset Gower studios, where it’s way easier to park off the lot and walk in (the parking structure fills up super fast) – which meant I was able to make  a face-to-face apology to the writers for crossing the picket line (something I’m deeply uncomfortable doing, but I have to bank every cent I can right now).

Filed under: Work, , , , , , ,

The beast has landed and it smells funny

Today, our job was getting insert and reaction shots of the most terrifying, time wasting, uncooperative beast that a film crew can ever have the bad luck to try and shoot.

That’s, right, I’m talking about…


You thought it was going to be cats, didn’t you? Not by a long shot. Everybody thinks that cats are totally impossible on sets – that’s only partly true. It’s theoretically possible to train a cat to do things on cue (I’ve seen it done). Just try to get a baby to do anything at all on cue. Go on, try it. On a set, it results in seven people crowded around all jingling keys and making funny faces at the baby in a attempt to get him/her to smile and look in a certain direction, which invariably just makes the baby either get bored and go to sleep or start crying hysterically.

Basically, you have to point the camera at the baby and pray (if that’s your thing) that somewhere in the hours and hours of footage will be a few seconds when the baby has the facial expression you were hoping for and is looking in the correct direction.

Generally, the ideal situation is to use twins or triplets, but things can still go wrong even then. Sometimes, all the babies are fussy (which is when we need a smiley one) or all the babies are asleep (when they need to be awake), or all the babies are awake (when they need to be asleep).

You get the picture.

We had it easy today, as they were using babies who had very different personalities – one was smiley and happy, one was fussy, and one had that perpetual “What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis” look but didn’t cry, which made it easy to get different reactions by simply switching the babies, so we didn’t spend nearly as much time standing around waiting on the babies as we normally do.

I’m off to bed.

Filed under: Work, , , , ,

‘Cause the sun don’t roll like that.

One of the things about shooting day exteriors in winter is that there’s just not that much daylight – in the summer, the sun comes up at 5 am and doesn’t set until around 9 pm, so when one is shooting day exterior, one has all the time in the world.

Today, we had a horrifying amount of stuff scheduled even for a extended summer day, except that it’s not summer.

It’s November, and the sun comes up after 6 am and sets around 5 pm – which means that one can’t cram all that much stuff into one day no matter how hard one wants to believe.

Today, we shot at the Willow Springs Speedway in Rosamond (which is about 20 miles north of Bumfuck in case you were wondering), and to take advantage of the available daylight, we had a 5:15 am call and we barely made our day. Near the end of the day, as the light started to take on a color quality that wouldn’t match any of the other stuff that had been shot that day, one of my co-workers jokingly put on a fake gansta accent and said “They think they can control the sun. They don’t understand that the sun just don’t roll like that. “

As it was, our last shot was done after the sun had gone down, but before it got dark (that weird grey time when most of the time we cheat for night). What this means for us is that while everyone else is starting to put stuff away because there’s only one shot left, we’re starting to unload our truck because if the first AD can’t talk the director out of trying to get that additional shot, we’re going to be turning on every light we have in an attempt to make daylight where there is none.

Luckily, we only ended up pulling two lights off, so we managed to wrap up pretty quickly.

The only problem I’m having now is that it was so dry up there (and the dust filled wind coming from the desert didn’t help) and now I’m all crinkly feeling, even though I’ve drunk enough water to float a medium sized aircraft carrier – which, of course, means that instead of sleeping, I’ll be up all night commuting to and from the toilet.

Call time: 5:15 am

Wrap time: 7 pm

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, long long drives, Work, , , , ,

So now I need some advice.

Almost a week ago, I found this dog:

Meet the Anklebiter

All attempts at finding her real family have failed (according to the lady at the shelter, there’s a good chance that she was dumped), and now I’m having to think about things.

I really like the dog and want to keep her, but given the hours I work I just don’t think I’m the right home for her. I was hoping that my friends would keep her because that way I’d still be able to visit, but now it’s not looking like that’s going to happen.

So, who out there has experience with tiny dogs? I suspect she’ll be unhappy when left alone for 14 hours a day (well, not alone but I can’t imagine she’s ever going to get too buddy-buddy with the cat). Chihuahuas aren’t like cats, right? They don’t like to be home alone all day doing whatever it is cats do (I think my cat’s using the internet while I’m gone, but I can’t prove anything), right?

I’d love for the dog people out there to weigh in on this one.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , ,

Every day at work is sometimes happy.

Yesterday afternoon, as I was sitting at home contemplating a visit to the gym, I got a last minute call from a friend who needed four people to come in and swap out fluorescent tubes in a set they’d shot that day (on the unused 10th floor of the LA Times building downtown).

When we swap fluorescent tubes, we work in teams of two – one person ‘up’ and one person ‘down’. The ‘up’ person sets up a ladder under the fixture, climbs up and pries open the fixture (which can take some work – those fixtures are not designed to be easily opened), takes out the tubes (in this case, the daylight balanced tubes that were used by the shooting crew), and hands them to the person on the ground, who takes them and hands off the tubes to be installed. Unless we start doing something really fancy (like moving fixtures or adding tubes to the existing fixtures) or have particularly stubborn fixtures this doesn’t take very long, so I figured I’d be out of there in five or six hours.

Of course, as we were finishing up, the rigging gaffer called and asked if we could go over and help out the regular riggers who desperately needed help wrapping out a set, since they were all running around trying to prep a location which was sprung on them at the last minute.

This particular show is notorious for last minute locations – for us, this means that after the best boy and rigging gaffer sit down with the schedule and figure out how many people they need on which days and how much additional equipment they’ll have to order, when they show up for work on any given morning and look at the call sheet, there’s a location in there that was never mentioned to them which they have to scramble to get ready, leaving them horribly shorthanded.

Normally, they’d just work on the next set and leave the stuff on the old one for a wrap crew to pick up the next day, but this production won’t let them do that – they don’t want to pay for the additional riggers or the two security guards to sit and watch the equipment all night, hence the scramble to get the set wrapped while they were still trying to rig the last location of the night (which had also been sprung on them last minute).

Aside from the usual cluster fuck, the really noteworthy thing about the day was the smell.

We were shooting in an industrial area about a mile away from the Clougherty Packing plant – also known as Farmer John’s.

For those of you not in Los Angeles, Farmer John’s is a locally produced sausage – I don’t mean the fancy ‘artisan’ sausage with herbs and chopped up fruit, either. I mean old-school grease-bomb breakfast sausage made in a walled plant in Vernon (an industrial area filled with century-old warehouses, decrepit train tracks and cockroaches the size of a famous-for-being-famous socialite’s tiny purse dog).

The interesting thing about the Farmer John factory is the wall around it. The wall surrounding the factory has been decorated with murals of happy, frolicking pigs, sunshine, and fluffy clouds. I think there’s the obligatory American flag and a soaring eagle, too.

What goes on inside (if the walls are to be believed), is that the cute little piggies march off joyfully (in tune to a happy song) into some sort of Willy Wonka-esque sausage machine and everyone lives happily ever after.

Or something.

All I know is that as we were working, about every half an hour the worst smell I could ever have possibly imagined would waft over the area. It smelled like rotten dog food on a hot summer afternoon.

No, that’s not true. It smelled much, much worse than rotten dog food on a hot summer afternoon. It smelled so bad I think I saw a cockroach faint.

The entire crew would just stop whatever we were doing and grimace until the stench abated.

None of us even wanted to begin to speculate about what, exactly, was going on inside Farmer John’s to cause the smell, and when craft service set out a tray of tacos filled with ground meat for dinner, most of us opted for the salad instead.

As soon as I got home I got in the shower and scrubbed myself raw in an effort to get the smell off.

I know it’s my imagination, but I can still smell it today.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, toxic waste, up all night, Work, , , , , , , , , , ,

Half a weekend goes well with panic attacks.

My main problem Friday night wasn’t the copious amount of poison oak all over our location, but the dust and pollen in the air. For some reason I always forget that if the location’s on a dirt road the approaching vehicles will make the inevitable dust storm worse. I then vow to never again leave my house without dust masks in my work bag. Then, after working all night I’m tired and I forget the whole thing.

Since the all-nigher and related allergy attack shot Saturday all to hell anyway I stayed on the sofa struggling to breathe and then on Sunday I went to see American Gangster (which I highly recommend even though this trend of three hour long movies is beginning to wear thin).

Monday was the day the panic started to set in. I haven’t got enough money saved to make it through a long strike. I’m going on vacation (for which I can’t get a refund were I to cancel so I might as well go) at a terrible time, and if this doesn’t get resolved soon I’m pretty sure I’m going to starve to death on the street, wallowing in a puddle of my own filth.

The incessant strike-related nattering of the local televised news-bots isn’t helping one little bit, either. Trust me guys, it’s a big world out there and there’s got to be something else you can air besides that one fucking clip of the picket line in front of Paramount. Didn’t someone cure some disease somewhere? Can’t you go look and double check?

When I really start to sit and worry, I can work myself up into quite a state, so in an effort to prevent that I spent Monday trying to find a home for one of the neighborhood’s random stray dogs (for some reason, people like to dump strays in my neighborhood. I don’t know why). This one looks like a purebred Chihuahua, but can’t be. Chihuahuas yap and make me want to drop-kick them and this one’s quiet and really nice, so I’m going to conclude that she’s some other flavor of ankle biter that shakes a lot and is difficult to housebreak.

So, after walking about ten miles in a vain attempt to wear out said ankle-biter (who seems to have a hell of a lot more energy than I do) so she’d appear less hyper than she really is when I dropped her off at a friend’s house (where she’ll stay until I either find her original owner or a new one), I was too tired to worry much, but today I’m rested and since a lot of other people are out of work (or will be soon) the phone calls are flying and everyone’s collectively working themselves up into a lather.

Although going three months at a time without work isn’t unheard of (for me at least), since I don’t have the savings pad that I’d really like to, if the strike outlasts my unemployment I’m going to end up sitting in a cubicle somewhere, rocking back and forth and muttering incoherently about my stapler.

And no one wants to read about that.

Filed under: life in LA, movies, Non-Work, up all night, Work, , , , , , , , , , , ,

November 2007

Flickr Photos



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