Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

From one extreme to the other

Monday, I was working the shooting set, so I showed up early, dosed up on free coffee, and then stood in the air conditioning (the stage was so cold I needed a sweater to keep from shivering) and walked lights around at the gaffer’s direction. The set was a slow one – hard to get into, hard to move around once inside, no place to stage lights within easy reach, so we did a bit of running, but still…

That air conditioning was awesome, and our gaffer and DP both understood about the access problems, so there were no ‘impatient moments’ all day.

Since Monday was the last day of shooting, I got invited back to wrap the stage, which was a good thing – nice guys on the crew and a stage so close to my house I can bike to work.

Originally, production wanted to wrap the entire stage in two days with two guys – luckily, they were shamed by the derisive laughter into giving us three days with four guys (that, and the production office is on a stage that was a very difficult and slow wrap, so they were more than likely already watching and re-thinking), which allows us to finish in time without killing ourselves (remember: haste makes injury).

The first day, we wrapped all the loose stuff on the floor (lamps, distro, etc..) and took down all the lamps and hardware from the pipe grid (luckily, no vertigo moments for me).

Today we realized just how lucky we were to get the extra days and extra guys when we went up in the perms and saw exactly how much cable was there – when you see a light hanging above a set, there’s a lot of cable associated with said lamp (enough to run across the perms from the ‘can’ to the lamp and then down to where the lamp’s hanging, usually right above the set. Average cable to hanging lamp ratio for stages that have power available in the perms is 150 – 200 feet. If there’s no power upstairs, then double that as the power will have to run from the ground up to the perms, then across and down again), but what we saw was bordering on overkill – and not laid out neatly either – this stuff looked like Medusa’s hair on a windy day. Twisted, knotted, piled up randomly – someone at some point had tried to make space on the floor by tying bunches of cable to the knee rail every five feet, which meant that we had to walk along while bent over and cut the ties before we could even start to wrap.

Normally, we wrap the stuff on top first and then work our way down, but when it’s not possible to find the top, we just have to pull.

One selects a cable, pulls like hell and if the cable doesn’t move at all (or if it moves a teeny bit and that vein in the forehead blows out from the strain), then one chooses another cable and pulls like hell.

Repeat until at least two colleagues have been tripped and mess is untangled enough to tell what’s what and then pull like hell again – only with more precision.

Did I mention that it’s currently about 90 degrees outside and all the heat in an un air-conditioned stage rises to the roof? We were all completely soaked in sweat within a few minutes, so we were all very happy to come down at lunch. Not so much to eat – a meal followed by wrapping cable in the heat in a bent-over position leads to a terrible mess that looks absolutely nothing like Medusa’s hair on a windy day, but more to get a break and walk upright for half an hour or so.

I wasn’t hungry, but was afraid not to eat at all, so I had the filling of about a quarter of a sandwich and an iced tea. I normally don’t drink really cold drinks (they hurt my fillings), but today the ice-cold felt so good I didn’t care.

Then, we went back up the the perms and finished wrapping the cable. After lunch, we had an extra guy who had been on the cluster fuck that was the other stage (and who came over to help us after they were done over there instead of going home and relaxing) and we went much faster with the extra person. We managed to get everything in the perms wrapped.

Tomorrow, we’ll lower it all down to the floor (one coil at a time, using rope because although this particular stage does have hoists available, production won’t rent one for us) and then check it in when the rental house guys show up.

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3 Responses

  1. "Patient"DP says:

    Glad you’re getting the extra days work and I am pleased that the producers came to their senses and gave you guys the proper wrap time.
    Stay cool.

  2. Charli says:

    It’s hot as Hell over here by the beach, I pity you guys.

  3. wasagrip says:

    And once again I remember why I got out of production. Thanks for that.

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