Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Friday Photo

Fake roses

When the roses on a particular bush just aren’t photogenic enough.

Filed under: Photos, Work, , , , , ,

Another un-uneventful evening.

Why is it that every time I make some blanket statement such as “condor nights are usually uneventful”, I’m  proven so very, very wrong?

As of late, condor duty has been anything but uneventful.

This last time, I was nowhere near any old, rotting bee-filled facades, plus I was full stick (meaning the condor was at maximum extension) in an 80 foot condor, so I figured that all I’d have to do was set some lights and then nap.

Except that this time, as soon as I got up and set, I made the mistake of looking down. I’m not normally afraid of heights, but this particular set was a sunken garden (and of course my condor was on a level above the garden), so it looked like I was up much higher than 80 feet.

I know it’s silly of me to be freaked out when I think I’m 100 feet up and not when I’m 80 feet up. If I fell, I’d be just as dead either way, but I guess it’s that I’m used to being 80 feet up so anything that looks higher up than that is outside what I’ll hesitantly call a comfort zone.

This particular condor not only had a super bendy arm (some of them have more rigid arms than others, so some bounce around more when extended. Bendiness varies by individual condor, not by make or model. Needless to say, I prefer the more rigid ones) so the basket swayed like crazy whenever I shifted my weight or the wind gusted or I hauled something up to the basket via my drop line (like the very important plate of second meal), but that or the illusion of extra height wasn’t what really rattled me.  Right after I got up to 80 feet my condor decided to start settling.

Settling is caused by air bubbles in the hydraulic line. When an air bubble gets into the right spot, the condor will make a popping noise and then drop a fraction of an inch. The condor can’t actually fall all the way to the ground, so it’s not dangerous, but it is disconcerting to be up that high and have that ‘pop and drop’ happen.

Luckily, when we turned around to shoot the other half of the scene the gaffer wanted the lights in a different spot so I was able to go down ‘on the stick’ (meaning the boom arm wasn’t fully extended) and went back up to a lower altitude so the popping wasn’t nearly as noticeable and the people on the ground looked a lot larger.

And thankfully there were no bees anywhere nearby.

Filed under: Work, , , ,

Bees, kitsch, and some food for thought.

Normally, being the guy up in the condor with the BFL (big fucking light) is fairly uneventful.

Raise platform up, set light(s) at gaffer’s direction, kill time until wrap.

Friday night, however, was different.

One of the lights must have been aimed at a hive somewhere in the New York Street facades because a few minutes after I went up I was surrounded by dozens of  bees, most of whom were successful in getting past the color gel and into the light (which meant they got toasted immediately), but the ones who weren’t able to figure out how to get around the gel became very, very cross and decided that flying full speed at the big thing in the basket was a great idea.

After a number of near-misses I decided to take the coward’s way out and huddled in the bottom of the basket with a blanket over me, sweating profusely as it was a warm night (I’d much rather sweat than get stung) and trying not to scream while we were rolling.

As we worked our way through a very long and complex scene, I huddled under my blanket, listening to the angry bees buzzing around me. After a time, most of them would find their way into the lights and that would be the end of that.

Just when I’d get optimistic about the bees having given up for the night, a fresh batch would fly up and the whole process would start over.

Thankfully, the last scene scheduled for the night was dropped, meaning I got to turn off my lights and enjoy a bee-free descent earlier than I’d anticipated.

Sunday night,  a friend of mine and I went to an on-lot screening of Ghost Town.

After the movie,  we went to eat at the weirdest restaurant in Los Angeles.

No, I’m serious.

It’s a Greek-themed seafood place, staffed by octogenarians  and no matter what one orders, an indiscriminate plate of something completely random which bears no resemblance to what was described on the menu appears.

I ordered kabobs and got what I think was supposed to be a salad, my friend ordered fish and got, well, I’m not sure what it was but it sure as hell wasn’t the red snapper.

This is a small price to pay for the ambiance of badly done Agean scenery murals, statuary draped in Christmas lights, a decrepit piano player and old men arguing about politics while one eats one’s mystery meal.

There’s some metaphor for life itself in there somewhere, I’m just not sure where.  Maybe in the sauce.

Wall mural

Piano player

Strange Greek place in Hollywood

Cell phone neon sign shot

Sorry about the shitty cell phone cam shots. I’d forgotten to bring my camera.

Filed under: Non-Work, Photos, Work, , , , , , , ,

A wasted worry is better than a justified one.

Due to repeated fillings, falling outs and re-fillings, a couple of my back teeth are mostly filling material and not so much tooth anymore.

This, it turns out, is a good thing. Even though I chewed a chunk of filling off, no actual tooth surface was exposed, so the dentist was able to repair the entire mess with a minimum of scary drilling.

She also filed down the filling a bit to ‘adjust the bite’ and told me that I’ve bruised the tooth, which I didn’t even know was possible. She then told me to eat only soft foods for the next few days and call her on Thursday if the tooth still hurts.

As I was leaving, I was telling the receptionist how panicked I was about possibly needing major dental work (I’m the biggest fucking baby in the entire world about getting my teeth worked on. I’m surprised the dentist hasn’t slapped me and told me to grow up yet).  She smiled brightly and said, “well, you wasted a good worry!”

I made some crack about it being fortunate that worry wasn’t $4 a gallon, and then ventured out to do my laundry and scare small children with my half-numbed face.

Of course, because I can only eat soft foods, I’m craving peanut brittle.


Filed under: Non-Work

Yup. It’s Monday.

It should have been such an easy, fun day.

We were on a familiar stage in a familiar set all day, and I was working with a group of guys that I really like and always enjoy being around.

The day started out just as I’d expected – nothing too complicated, no screaming, no chaos.

Then, about an hour before lunch, a chunk of one of my fillings fell out. I suppose I should mention that what fell out wasn’t a large chunk, but how big does it have to be?

I spent the rest of the day working with my jaw aching, as leaving was out of the question because it would have left us short-handed, I couldn’t get in to see the dentist today anyways and I was going to be just as uncomfortable at home as I was at work so I might as well just suck it up and collect some overtime.

Besides, asking to go home for any reason other than one’s own death (or projectile vomiting and then fainting) is considered bad form and can result in that particular best boy deciding that there will be no more callbacks for the drama queen.

After I figured out how to keep anything I ate or drank off the sore tooth (creative use of the tongue), it wasn’t so bad. Good thing I’d remembered to take my allergy medication in the morning, so I could breathe through my nose easily.

After we wrapped (after a much shorter day than any of us had anticipated), I headed straight home even though when I got up this morning I’d had every intention of going to swim after work.

Somehow swimming in a pool full of water with a broken filling just didn’t sound all that appealing, although I may as well have gone to the gym even if it was just to sit in the locker room and bash my head against the wall.

Traffic was a complete nightmare, which is unusual for a Monday night.  I got home about an hour after I left the lot (normal Monday night commute time is 30 minutes), walked in the door and took a pain pill, which helped a bit (it still hurts, I just don’t care).  I have an appointment at the dentist first thing in the morning so I won’t suffer for too long.

As long as I don’t eat, drink or breathe through my mouth.

Keep your fingers crossed and hope that there’s enough tooth left to replace the filling and I don’t have to get a root canal.

Filed under: Work, , , , ,

Friday Photo

Italian water-bottle rest

A nice place to put a water bottle – on top of an expensive car that was being used in a scene that day.

Filed under: Photos, Work, , , , , , , , ,

A small kind of day.

Inserts are those little extreme close up shots that you probably never even notice when you watch a movie or a TV show. A hand holding a ticket, a piece of paper, a computer monitor, keys going into a lock.

Inserts aren’t shot at the same time as the rest of the scene, and the show’s actors aren’t there – the inserts use doubles who are about the same size and coloration as the lead actors, since the shots are so tight you can’t tell.

The director and DP have a monitor and the rough cut on DVD, which they use to watch the main part of the scene so they can make sure the lighting and movement match, and then we light it, shoot it, double check to make sure it’s going to match and then move on.

Inserts don’t take very long to light because the frame is so tight that you can’t see very much, and today’s DP was really fast (he’s been doing this a long time and is really, really good at his job) so we got a huge shot list done in under 10 hours, which means I got out of work in time to get stuck in rush hour traffic on the way home.


Filed under: Work, , ,

Dawn of the Wiener Dog

This morning, as I was finishing my coffee and getting ready to go to the gym, I heard a bloodcurdling scream come from the back yard.

The building’s new owner decided that what the back patio really needed was some trees, and the guys who were doing the digging ran across a skeleton.

Once everyone had calmed down, we figured out that it was a dog skeleton and surmised that the building’s former owner had been burying her dead dogs in the yard – which, in case you were wondering, is illegal in Los Angeles.

Later, one of the older neighbors confirmed this and added that there are probably 5 or 6 dogs buried back there… somewhere.

If only they’d come back to life. Then my backyard would be like a George A. Romero movie. With dachshunds.

How awesome would that be?

Filed under: Uncategorized

Stop me before I kill again.

Although I really wanted to grab the camera, hop in the car and go somewhere scenic and cooler than LA (like up to the redwoods), since unnecessary driving is no longer on the agenda around here I decided to use my holiday weekend to catch up on some of the around-the-house type stuff I’ve been putting off.

My project this weekend was installing some shelving in what I generously refer to as the ‘office’. Really, it’s what is called in Los Angeles apartment nomenclature as a “junior bedroom”, which really means a large closet used to justify a ‘2 bedroom’ rating and thus more rent. Of course, I don’t use it as an office so much as a repository for the flotsam that doesn’t have anywhere else to go – most of which is books, so shelves would give the appearance that I’m organized. Or at least that I care.

So, I drove up into the valley, fought the crowds at the local Swedish furniture warehouse, bought some of the unfinished wood shelving, wrestled it into the truck and somehow got it home.

I decided against trying to finish the shelves – the humidity is still at tropical levels around here, so I’m guessing it would take the varnish about 30 years to dry completely, and it’s still way too hot to even think about sanding anything.

If you’ve never purchased furniture from said Swedish furniture warehouse, it’s all flat-packed and has to be assembled with some of the most fucked-up instructions I’ve ever seen. In an attempt to only print one set of instructions for the entire world, they’ve decided that hieroglyphs are the best choice of instruction for assemble-at-home furniture. There are little line drawings of bits of what I can only assume are the shelves being attached to each other with a hexagonal bolts (wrench not included, of course. Thankfully I happen to have a socket set and a power drill).

The main problem is that the recommended method of assembly and installation is simply not physically possible.

I don’t mean ‘difficult for one person’ or ‘impossible after a few drinks’. I mean it’s not physically possible to put the fucking shelves together the way the stick figures are doing it in the little paper.

Although the idea that the furniture should be assembled while flat on the floor and then ‘Iwo Jima-ed‘ into place looks great on paper, I knew from the get-go that it wasn’t going to go well as I purchased a configuration that has corner pieces, since I needed shelving on perpendicular walls.

If the hieroglyphs were to be believed,  the shelving units also had to be connected to one another for structural integrity which made my original plan of just building them individually and bolting them to the wall unworkable.

I decide to try the recommended method of building them flat on the floor first, and it went well until I got to the corner piece, where it became completely impossible to build as the floor was no longer supporting anything, and to lift and a corner shelving unit with one half-assembled end sticking straight up into the air is surprisingly heavy and unbelievably awkward. Several attempts to lift the thing resulted in a nasty bump on the head, a cut on the shin and several deep gouges in the wood floor.

I then threatened to kill the person who had drawn the instructions.

Next, I tried to just assemble the back side, lift that into place and then bolt the front uprights onto the units while they were, well, upright. That failed as well and resulted in my threatening to find and kill whoever designed the damn things in the first place.

By this time the cat and my neighbor had both wisely hidden (guess the screamed obscenities rattled them. The neighbor, at least. I would imagine the cat’s used to them by now) somewhere while I had a temper tantrum, threw some things, threatened to kill a few more Swedes just for practice and then decided that if I’ve ever really, truly needed a drink, that was the time – medication be damned.

After I’d calmed down, I made the trek back up to the store, bought extra uprights and made each section a stand alone bookcase, lined them up and bolted everything to the wall, despite the warnings from the store’s personnel that this would create a dark, unstable-shelving magic which would lead to a politician selecting a completely unqualified redneck as a running mate in the presidential race…


Sorry about that. But I did get the shelves in and they’re loaded up with books (and camera gear, and painting stuff) and they’re still holding.

So far, I’ve only got one day of work this week, but it’s a short week so I didn’t have my hopes up to begin with.

How was your weekend?

Filed under: cranky, humor, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants, , , , , , , , , , , ,

September 2008

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