Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

The work expands to fit the time allotted.

I usually bitch about working for much less than scale, but this particular job was a favor for a good friend of mine, so I just couldn’t say no. The rate worked out to considerably less than half of what I normally make, but the day had a 10 hour guarantee, which meant we got paid for 10 hours whether we worked that long or not, so the plan was to get there early, ‘hit it hard’ and get the hell out before it got too hot (also, working shorter hours would make us all feel better about the low rate).

We got there just after dawn, and with only a few hundred feet of cable to run and some lamps to rough in*, I figured I’d be out early enough to do laundry and get home in time to watch The Simpsons.
Not so much.

While the facades on backlots do have installed power, this production didn’t want to use it, so we had to run our own cable from the generator, over spider-infested piles of junk and through the maze-like interiors – inside the facades, there’s no such thing as a direct route from point A to point B. Although working inside the facades gave a break from the sun, everything was covered in dust.

I guess this part of the lot doesn’t get used much as there was at least a half-inch of dust everywhere. On the floor, on the window sills, hell, even the cobwebs in these particular facades were thick with the stuff.
When we walked across the floors, big puffs of dust rose and hung in the air before settling on our clothes and into the creases of our skin. By lunchtime, we all looked like those old photos of grime-coated coal miners – even my teeth felt gritty. Of course, running cable through the dust stirred up more huge clouds of it.

As the clock ticked and we crawled in and out of the facades, trams full of tourists passed by our set, leaning out over the side, frantically snapping pictures of us working.

I imagine their conversation went something along the lines of “Gawd, why are they all so dirty? The nice studio must be trying to help out some homeless people.”

Although I wanted to whip out the camera and shoot photos of the tourists shooting photos of me (and pointing. I seem to remember it being rude to point at someone and whisper while you’re looking directly at them), any action that can even remotely considered to be aggressive towards the trams will result in banning from the lot (and any associated work that takes place there. Try explaining that one to a best boy)

The thing about short days is that they’re almost never as short as promised. Somehow the work will find a way to expand – our boss will find more things to do, more little stuff that’s got to be rigged, more stuff that’s got to be changed after he talked to the gaffer, so day ended up running the full 10 hours instead of under 8. This isn’t really a problem – after all, 10 hours still feels, to me, like a fairly short day, but the dust and the sticky and the general uncomfortable made the time just crawl.

Isn’t it funny how the dust looks grey on the ground, but at the end of the day the shower water runs off black?

*Rough in means the lights are set up roughly where the gaffer thinks they might work, but the placement’s not exact.

Filed under: studio lots, Work, , , ,

4 Responses

  1. meg says:

    drrrrty backlot grrl. has a certain ring to it (grin)

  2. Norman says:

    The amazing thing is, though, that (magically) things get finished just about by the tenth hour — meaning that they don’t have to pay OT.

  3. [...] for those of you interested in le industrie de film, Peggy Archer talks about the realities of working–and not [...]

  4. JCW says:

    If I guess correctly, do I get brownie points?

    Sounds like you might have been on the Warner’s lot.

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