Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Weekends mean nothing to me now.

Since I’m currently unemployed between projects, the whole “Saturday/Sunday off ” thing is totally meaningless – every day is Saturday now.

What I’ve been dealing with during my endless string of Saturdays is the suitcase explosion in the living room and the fact that I’m really, really cold.

I don’t mean that I’m colder than I was in France – I mean that my house has no heat because apparently I’m too dumb to light the pilot light on my heater. It’s got this complicated little mechanism where one has to turn the gas on and then hold a button in while shoving a match into a teeny hole and hoping desperately that the pilot light will somehow come on (“Ooog see fire! Fire good!”) and then giving up once fire does not appear after repeated attempts and the room begins to smell like gas – although I’m certain that I’d be able to keep warm were I to simply create a bonfire out of the suitcase flotsam that’s currently covering the living room.

I’m saving all my receipts in the hope that somehow I’ll be able to write the trip off on my taxes.

Of course we knew about the transportation strike before we left, but I think all of us were hoping that it would be over before we landed – no such luck. When we landed at the airport, we had to wait 45 minutes for the airport bus to take us to a city train station that was kind of near our hotel, and then taxi it the rest of the way.

One thing I’d forgotten about Europeans is that they don’t line up – they just crowd around and shove each other. I will never understand this, but I’m really good at shoving people without being too obvious about it (an important skill when the producer’s having a conversation in the only doorway into the set and I’ve got a 60 lb. light on my shoulder that’s hotter than the surface of the sun), so we got on the first bus out and managed to arrive at our hotel in about the same amount of time it would have taken had we gotten on the train.

Our first night in Paris, we just walked across the street from the hotel and grabbed dinner at a cafe which was really smoke filled (another thing I’d forgotten about Europe) but had good food. With the exchange rate, dinner cost approximately $17,000. Each.

Because of the transportation strike, we were pretty much limited to stuff in the center of the city – there was some train service, but it was unpredictable and the lines were being shut down with very little notice. I, for one, didn’t want to get stuck in some far-flung corner of the city when the subway line went down and have to pay a small fortune to take a taxi back to the hotel.

Our hotel was on the left bank near the Luxembourg gardens, which seemed fairly central when I booked it, but when faced with the whole walking thing, I really wish I’d been able to afford something even closer to the center of the city.

Oh, well.

The advantages of travelling in the off-season were the lack of huge lines. We got into the Louvre right away, although I skipped the paintings, which I’d seen before and went straight to the old fortress that’s on the lower level.

Louvre

So. Cool.

Later the same night, we went up the Eiffel Tower – when we got up to the top, there was freezing rain and the wind was howling around us. I stayed in the lee of the elevator shaft, but still managed to get some great photos before my hands stopped working because of the cold:
Night cityscape

The blue beam was coming from the tower itself – it rotated around, and I’m still not sure why, but the tower was definitely the highlight of Paris for me. The last time I was in Paris, it was the summertime and it was so crowded with tourists that you had to wait hours to go up, so I didn’t get to go.

Eiffel Tower

Although I had a good time, I still stand by my statement that I can take or leave Paris. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that it’s, well, it’s a large city – it’s crowded and dirty and the stairwells all smell like piss. Just like LA, just like New York, just like Berlin, just like London.

Everyone was really nice, though, and they were very understanding about my atrocious French.  We had some wonderful hot chocolate on the Ile St. Louis (someone at work had recommended Angelina, but the place we found had better hot chocolate and now I can’t remember the name of it although were I there I’d be able to find it again just by following the smell), and I ate a bunch of stuff I really shouldn’t have and didn’t gain any weight because I was walking 50 miles a day.

On Monday morning, we packed up and headed out to pick up the car and start driving south – which is where I’ll pick up tomorrow (or Monday, depending on how lazy I’m feeling), since this is getting a bit long.

Filed under: Non-Work, travel, , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Responses

  1. Charli says:

    Sounds like you had a great time. Tell me more about the old fortress on the lower level. What’s the history on that? Also, how did those French lessons help you, was it really all the hype of learning good working French in a short time?

    I’m glad you’re back. I’m sorry the strike isn’t over so that you’d get back to work. That thing about not feeling a weekend, well, that’s what it was like for me in the hotel industry. Everyday was a Saturday, considering Fridays and Saturdays were our busiest check-in days. The days just ran into each other. You really can get use to it.

    I’m not currently working and as of today, I am a day behind. I keep thinking it’s Friday.

  2. dibble says:

    Glad your trip was pretty good. I felt badly you were going there with the transit strike, glad you still got to do stuff you wanted to. I enjoyed seeing the castle foundations too.

  3. Enguerrand says:

    About smoke filled café in France, this should disappear by january 1st. No one will be allowed to smoke indoors…

  4. nezza says:

    Come to the UK. We’re fantastic at queuing. It’s a national hobby.

    We also went smoke-free from July this year.

  5. Meg says:

    …and remember, when you file for unemployment, the reason is “lack of work.” Because that is the truth.

  6. Chris says:

    The Gas Company will come out and light your heater for you, and clean out the cat hair, which seems to get absolutely everywhere…f’free!

  7. Dan says:

    Here’s the latest from the WGA Strike.

    NEGOTIATIONS UPDATE: The following message was just issued by the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) regarding Contract 2007 negotiations:

    To Our Fellow Members,

    After four days of bargaining with the AMPTP, we are writing to let you know that, though we are still at the table, the press blackout has been lifted.

    Our inability to communicate with our members has left a vacuum of information that has been filled with rumors, both well intentioned and deceptive.

    Among the rumors was the assertion that the AMPTP had a groundbreaking proposal that would make this negotiation a “done deal.” In fact, for the first three days of this week, the companies presented in essence their November 4 package with not an iota of movement on any of the issues that matter to writers.

    Thursday morning, the first new proposal was finally presented to us. It dealt only with streaming and made-for-Internet jurisdiction, and it amounts to a massive rollback.

    For streaming television episodes, the companies proposed a residual structure of a single fixed payment of less than $250 for a year’s reuse of an hour-long program (compared to over $20,000 payable for a network rerun). For theatrical product they are offering no residuals whatsoever for streaming.

    For made-for-Internet material, they offered minimums that would allow a studio to produce up to a 15 minute episode of network-derived web content for a script fee of $1300. They continued to refuse to grant jurisdiction over original content for the Internet.

    In their new proposal, they made absolutely no move on the download formula (which they propose to pay at the DVD rate), and continue to assert that they can deem any reuse “promotional,” and pay no residual (even if they replay the entire film or TV episode and even if they make money).

    The AMPTP says it will have additional proposals to make but, as of Thursday evening, they have not been presented to us. We are scheduled to meet with them again on Tuesday.

    In the meantime, we felt it was essential to update you accurately on where negotiations stand. On Wednesday we presented a comprehensive economic justification for our proposals. Our entire package would cost this industry $151 million over three years. That’s a little over a 3% increase in writer earnings each year, while company revenues are projected to grow at a rate of 10%. We are falling behind.

    For Sony, this entire deal would cost $1.68 million per year. For Disney, $6.25 million. Paramount and CBS would each pay about $4.66 million, Warner about $11.2 million, Fox $6.04 million, and NBC/Universal $7.44 million. MGM would pay $320,000 and the entire universe of remaining companies would assume the remainder of about $8.3 million per year. As we’ve stated repeatedly, our proposals are more than reasonable and the companies have no excuse for denying it.

    The AMPTP’s intractability is dispiriting news but it must also be motivating. Any movement on the part of these multinational conglomerates has been the result of the collective action of our membership, with the support of SAG, other unions, supportive politicians, and the general public. We must fight on, returning to the lines on Monday in force to make it clear that we will not back down, that we will not accept a bad deal, and that we are all in this together.

    Best,

    Patric M. Verrone
    President, WGAW

    Michael Winship
    President, WGAE

  8. boskolives says:

    Hey,
    Any time you can light the pilot light for your heater/stove/BBQ/whatever, and walk away with the same amount of eyebrow hair that you started with, you’re doing great!

    I also say the same thing about waking up on the 5th of July with any eyebrows at all, but that may take some explaining to your French friends, try working Bastille Day into the story, it may help.

    http://boskolives.wordpress.com/

  9. snarkolepsy says:

    Too bad the writers haven’t figured out it hasn’t really been a good year for striking.

    I hope they return to work soon – so people can get paid before the holidays.

  10. geekhiker says:

    Oh the joy of the un-insulated LA house, eh?

    I’ve never really desired to see the Louvre, but that fortress under the Louvre looks very intriguing…

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