Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

What a difference a decade makes

The last time I worked at the Redondo Beach power plant was at least 10 years ago. Maybe longer.  We ran cable all over the place and production issued us no safety gear, gave us no admonition to watch out for lead paint or broken floors or random dangerous things. We went in, did the job, brushed the paint chips off before we got in the car to go home and that was that.

Complaints about the interior of the plant would likely have been met with a helpful suggestion to shut the fuck up and get back to work.

This particular building was completely vetted for asbestos quite some time ago, so that’s really never been a concern (especially for those of us who worked at the Ambassador Hotel, which was asbestos central), but what’s left now is an astonishing amount of lead paint that’s peeling off almost every visible surface inside and outside the plant.

So this time, with the new kinder gentler film industry, we were issued hard hats, given a very long lecture by the studio’s safety department, and informed that a cleaning crew had been in for days in an attempt to manage the peeling lead paint in the plant. Although the lower level of the plant (where the actors were) was really, really clean (as in the cleanest industrial location I’ve ever seen), the metal mesh upper decks between the pipes where we were walking around and setting lights hadn’t been cleaned or sealed at all.

So each time we had to lean over to set a light, shimmied past the stands to get to a light, walked over the set,  or exhaled heavily we’d brush something or other and send a shower of dust and paint chips down on the actors who were sitting in the nice ‘clean’ set below. When there are sixteen lights, flags, stands, four electricians and three grips in a tight space it’s just not possible to avoid bumping or brushing up against things no matter how hard one tries.

Since the set was spread out over two levels of the plant, we put half our carts on the lower level and half on the upper level – of course, when I was upstairs, whatever I  needed was in the downstairs carts and when I was downstairs, whatever I needed was in the upstairs carts.  Also, due to the layout of the levels, the locations of the stairs and having to avoid those pipes made getting from one place to another a bit challenging.

Although the hard hat made me feel marginally safer, with the maze of pipes around narrow walkways, random metal bits sticking up out of the floors and protruding from the walls I bashed every single part of my body except my head. I should have worn body armor and shin guards.

Call time: 10:30 am

Wrap time: 2:30 am

Heading home after wrap, I got turned around and couldn’t find the entrance to the freeway – when I finally found one, there was only an on-ramp going in the wrong direction. Sometimes I hate you, Los Angeles.

Once I managed to get on the freeway I drove like the proverbial bat out of hell and got home at 3.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, long long drives, toxic waste, up all night, Work, , , , ,

5 Responses

  1. David H. says:

    LA freeways SUCK for that! That happens to me pretty often.

  2. JCW says:

    I was filming an episode of a Japanese TV show on Sunday in the unused former county jail for Alameda County in downtown Oakland – 10th floor. No getting out for cigarette breaks…

    Doubtless we were surrounded by decades worth of lead paint…. nobody said a word.

    Not that it mattered to me…. I smoke – what do I care?

  3. Charli says:

    Lead paint, isn’t that a 70s thing, probably why my classmates are messed up.

  4. Peter says:

    Lead paint usually isn’t much of a danger except to children who eat paint flakes. Long-term exposure might be a slight risk, but the brief exposure you had shouldn’t be an issue at all.

  5. geekhiker says:

    Lead paint? Ugh. I think my most horrible location was that power station out by Eagle Rock with the inch-thick layer of pigeon droppings and whatever the hell else on the floor… and windows… and stairs…

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