Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Extra special relativity

Monday was wrapping a stage on which a music video had shot over the weekend.

In addition to the movie lights, the band had used some of their own equipment, and had sent some of their crew to wrap it – fine with me. Although the rock and roll folks don’t use any equipment that we haven’t seen before, the fewer sets of stuff I have to sort the sooner I get to go home (the lot has it’s own equipment, but they had to bring in some extra stuff from one of the independent rental houses and that’s all got to be staged and counted separately. The more piles, the longer it takes to count when the guys come to pick it up).

Lucky for us, almost all of the equipment that was hanging from the perms belonged to the band, so we got to keep our entire crew working on the ground, which went easier even if we were tripping over the art department guys (sending half a crew upstairs makes things on the ground go slower).

The only bad thing was that we had the rock and roll guys over our heads. Don’t get me wrong, I have a blast working with rock band roadies – they’re generally a fun bunch of guys and they tell hilarious stories at breaks, but they do have a different concept of pacing themselves than do film lighting folks.

We get it pounded into our head to take as much time as we need to do something safely – tie it off right, level the stand before the light goes up, have the grips check that funky looking section of deck before you load it with weight. I’ve yet to meet a gaffer who will argue with the statement “hold on a minute while we make it safe”.

We also don’t want to look like we’re in a hurry on set. If we’re scrambling around like rats trying to find the only route off a sinking ship, the powers-that-be assume we’re not in control of the situation and should perhaps be replaced by a more competent crew first thing Monday morning.

Every time I’ve ever watched roadshow folks in action, they’ve always worked really, really fast. Not badly, not shoddily, but fast. They lower stuff out of the perms at MACH 2, and run cases up the ramp into the truck so quickly that I can see motion blur.

This crew had all their stuff wrapped up and were closing up the truck before we’d even started wrapping our cable (we usually wrap lights and stands first, then the distro and leave the cable for last).

They waved cheerily as they walked out with their checks (this production was cutting checks right there on the spot), and left us there, wandering through our sea of equipment, sorting and counting.

The (admittedly sophomoric) bright spot of my day was when I went up into the perms to do an ‘idiot check’ for equipment that had been left behind and found an abandoned 8-inch crescent wrench. I couldn’t resist the temptation and stuck my head over the rail to yell down “Hey, have any of you guys got an 8 incher?”

Of course, I said this while conspicuously waving said wrench where the folks on the ground could see it.

The groans and eye-rolls from the guys (some of whom I’ve known for over a decade which means they’re unimpressed by my jokes at this point) just made me cackle more. Then, as I was coming down the stairs I ran my hand over a rough patch of the handrail and got a really huge splinter that went so deep into my hand I had to go to the lot nurse (who has that wonderful spray-on painkiller that I wish I could buy but can’t. Stupid controlled substance laws) to have her dig it out. Normally, I use my knife to deal with these but you gotta know when you’re licked.

As I filed out my paperwork with a bandaged hand there were, of course, several pointed comments about Karma.

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6 Responses

  1. JCW says:

    Oh! How lovely to be working on a soundstage!

    Today I worked in a vinyard and on a mountain top in Northern CA filming a Gatorade commercial.

    Sunny enough to burn the hell out of you even with 30 SPF,
    yet with 25 mph winds blowing we froze our asses off all day – we lived in dread of the call “Coats off!”.

    Oh! And the helicopter…. The whole day was shot from an arial point of view…. lots of talk about that Twilight Zone movie…

    I didn’t get any splinters, but I did take quite a spill trying to climb back down the hillside.

    How I long for the controlled atmosphere of a backlot or a soundstage….

  2. Meg says:

    Do the roadies work for a flat rate, as opposed to x amount for 10?

  3. Molly says:

    Roadies – the faster they work, the more sleep they get on the bus.

  4. I used to work rock and roll — we had to get in and out really fast on the road, because we had to leave immediately for the next gig, set up, and be ready by showtime.

    I rarely felt unsafe, except for a few times early on when I was training — although a lot more things got dropped from the grid than I would have liked! ;)

  5. JCW says:

    Update: 2nd day on Gatorade commercial, not only did I take a spill climbing down that same hillside – I ate pavement BIG time. Bloody mess – set medic – the whole nine yards. 300 assorted cast & crew on a two day shoot and I was the only casualty…. extraordinarily embarassing, not to mention extremely painful.

    I never want to work outdoors again. At least, not on a windy hillside. I’ll let you know how much scarring there is when the wounds heal…..

    Peggy sez: Oh, wow.. Sorry to hear about the accident. At least you’re okay.

  6. […] Archer’s Totally Unauthorized blog as it sometimes harks back to one of my old jobs :)  This post specifically does.  I will admit, being an ex “rock and roll” roadie, we are […]

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