Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Pipe grid and other on-stage hazards

Today’s work was a continuation of yesterday’s work – rigging a set that’s scheduled to be shot tomorrow.

When we came in yesterday, there was no way for us to hang lights.  No greenbeds over the sets at all, and only a partial pipe grid left over from another set which hadn’t been pulled down.

Production had not wanted to pay for the grips to come in a few days early and hang the pipe (stages charge per day – it’s a lower rate for prep days and wrap days than it is for shoot days, but it’s still a day charge).

Since production didn’t want to pay for extra prep days, they scheduled the lighting rig and the set dressers to work at the same time.

If this doesn’t mean anything to you, it normally works like this: If we’re using a pipe grid (a grid of pipe over the set from which we hang lights and which we need to reach using scissor lifts or ladders), we like to hang lights before there’s a lot of furniture on the floor which just makes it hard to work.

With the ‘save money on a prep day by making all the monkeys work at the same time’ method, the poor set dressers would come in and make the set all ready to shoot, and then would have to move everything for us to hang lights. Then, they’d restore everything, make it look nice again and we’d have gotten changes to our notes so we’d have to make them move everything again.

Everyone took everything in good humor, though – all of us knew about the cluster fuck potential going in, so we were able to laugh about it as we fell over each other all day.

Also, partial pipe grid meant that we had to wait on the grips (who were finally allowed to come in and hang the pipe on the last day of the rig) to do the prep work for us before we could work over the section of the sets which just happens to be scheduled to shoot first tomorrow.

It worked out well for me, though. A rig that should have only taken a day and a half took two days – one of which went overtime.

My bank account luvs chaos.

Once the pipe grid went in and we were rushing to get finished (while the producer, who only reluctantly authorized the overtime, stood and watched us while checking his watch), I had to come down out of the lift because I got this weird vertigo thing that seems to only happen to me.

Pipe grids are hung from the perms with chains, so unless they’re secured to something, they sway a bit. When three people are frantically slamming lights onto them, they sway quite a bit. When I’m in a lift above the grid looking down, and it starts to sway, my brain can’t figure out what it is that’s swaying – for some reason, my brain sometimes decides that the pipe grid is stable and everything else in the world is swaying – as you can imagine, vertigo when one is 20+ feet up in the air is bad.

It doesn’t happen all the time, either. I don’t know if it’s the angle or touching the grid or my being tired or having wax in my ears or having eaten too much or to little earlier in the day which sets it off.

After I came down out of the lift, I staggered around like a drunk for a few minutes until I got my balance back. Luckily, one of my co-workers came to my rescue and switched places with me so I could stay on the ground and be the person moving stuff out of the way of the lift.

I have an early call tomorrow as well, so I’m going to bed before the sleeping pill kicks in and makes my typing really bad. Again.

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7 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    I occasionally adore the false economies that producers labor under, e.g. dress, shoot and wrap on the same day on location. On bigger shows, any savings on not having a wrap day are eaten up by the overtime.

    Yeah, I’m one of the monkeys moving the set dressing to allow for a lift.

    Love doing the same job three times.

  2. Peter says:

    Clever ideas to save money so often end up costing more money.

  3. 80 CREW GUY says:

    Producer” ooohhh look a dime! I’ll just jump over this 100.00 dollar bill so I can get that dime. “

  4. scotsirishgirl says:

    I PROMISE!!!! When I’m some hotshot producer, I will NEVER pull that “jump over the 100.00 bill so I can get that dime.” I’ve worked back stage in theatre, so I know what a crew goes through. I hated directors and producers who were penny wise and pound foolish. Drove me nuts….and yep, cost them more money. Not me, nope, uh uh, no way. Won’t pull that shite.

  5. I too have had that relative-perspective pipe-grid vertigo thing melt my brain a few times. It usually passes quickly, but until it does, is very disconcerting.

    Pipe grids can be tricky. My first encounter with this free-swinging beast came many years ago while doing a Linda Rondstadt music video on a stage in West LA — and it was very nearly my last. Lacking a scissor lift, I had to scramble to the very top rungs of a big rolling “A” ladder (shoved all the way up) to adjust a 2K Molipso. While focusing the light, the pipe grid swayed in a big way. This posed no real problem until my brain interpreted the percieved movement as the ladder starting to go over. It wasn’t, of course, but I reacted instinctively — which damned near threw me off that ladder. Scared the shit out of me…

    Another lesson learned — and I recall that sickening moment every time I work on a pipe grid.

    I hate to see the demise of green beds, which made everybody’s job so much easier. Unfortunately, green beds — along with prep days, and thoughtful/logical planning on the part of so many young producers — are considered dusty relics in this shiny new digital age. Not all the old ways are better — but some are, and producers ignore those at their own financial peril, while making our jobs immeasurably harder.

    Same as it ever was…

  6. Not4me says:

    Well, I for one think VERTIGO was a great movie.

  7. CookieDuster says:

    Pay for it now or pay for it later. I’m one of the folks paying for it in post! As in, yup you sure saved a lot of money hiring monkeys to man the cameras… too bad there is no coverage of what the network EP wants.

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