Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

The best of intentions

Our show’s ad revenues are way down (actually, it’s not just us – advertisers seem to think that since no one’s currently buying anything there’s no reason to waste money on ads), so the powers that be are on a drastic cost cutting mission. Since they can’t cut from the top (where, of course, much of the waste is), they have to cut from the bottom.

Than means slashing equipment orders and manpower from the dirty toolbelt people.

To be fair, since we have very large sets (which require a lot of lights and a shitload of cable to power said lights) our weekly equipment total (all of the equipment is rented, not purchased), is eye-popping and from what I’m told about twice what any other show on the lot is costing, so now the set lighting department has earned a big red target (although I’m sure other departments are feeling the pinch as well).

This week, our insert unit, which usually has a small-ish crew, got slashed down to two – just me and the gaffer. Normally, unless it’s a day exterior, we need at least three people (gaffer and two) to work even a small set efficiently. Even two lights take forever to set up when one person is running back and forth from the set to the staging area. We usually do a relay thing where one person stays on the set all the time (so the gaffer’s not alone) and everyone else runs things into him (or her). It works well, and we usually move pretty quickly on lighting setups but with just me running around like the proverbial headless chicken, we lit slower than usual. Luckily, everyone had been cut down to the bone, so everyone understood and all of us helped each other out all day.

Of course, since there were only two of us, we had to move from one stage to another (pushing carts into the trailer takes two people – thankfully our driver, who is a great guy, helped me out) and got into a big lighting set up which required the help of our lot best boy (who never ever works set) and the first unit best boy, who also normally never ever works the set. The grips got an extra guy from first unit as well because they were undermanned as well.

The grips also had to help us with some of our ‘big heads’ which are very heavy and require three people to pull them off the stands.

One of these people pulling heads off stands was the gaffer, who normally never ever even thinks about touching a light. That’s why we’re there. He (or she) tells us what to do and we do it. Some gaffers are ‘touchier’ than others and just like to tweak lights (a gaffer with gloves is a dead giveaway that he or she is a fiddler and that I don’t have to freak out when I see them handling lights), but none of them really should be deheading big lamps or pulling cable.

Somehow, we got through the day without any major meltdowns.

The next day we had a full crew which was very nice – I could actually go to the toilet without worrying about my boss being on set alone.

Normally we bitch about long days, but since it’s so slow right now we’re all counting up the hours and hoping for delays to squeeze a few extra dollars out of the days we’re getting. When we thought we might have an 8 hour day, we were all sad. Having the day run about 11 hours was nice.

Filed under: Work

Lefty Loosey

Normally, all nuts, bolts and damn near everything else that must be twisted to be tightened follows a rule: Righty tighty, lefty loosey – meaning that twisting to the right (or clockwise) tightens, and twisting to the left (or counterclockwise) loosens.

This rule is so all-encompassing that it’s never even occurred to me that anything could ever be any other way, so today when I had to replace the flush lever on my toilet (the interior lever broke because it’s a cheap plastic bit of crap, but the nice metal ones don’t fit my toilet), I expected this repair to take approximately three minutes (unscrew, replace, rescrew, flush). Except that for some reason I couldn’t loosen the damn thing. I tried and tried and tried and kept getting nowhere.

Eventually I figured it was cross threaded, so I tried to tighten it in order to hopefully get the thing working again, and – it loosened.

It was threaded backwards. Both the old one and the new one.

Nothing has ever broken the ‘righty tighty lefty loosey’ rule before, and it couldn’t be a fluke since both of them were like that, so I nervously stuck my head out the window and scanned the sky for horsemen.

Finding none, I finished installing my flush lever (constantly reminding myself to turn the screw the wrong way) and proceeded to flush with impunity.

In other apocalyptic news, it’s raining in Los Angeles – while this is a good thing since we’re currently suffering from a drought and desperately need any water we can get, it does dramatically increase the traffic accidents throughout the city as Southern California drivers can’t seem to get the hang of slowing down and leaving more time to stop.

No, I didn’t get hit, but it will be the lead story on the local news tonight.

Filed under: life in LA, Non-Work, , , ,

Tuesday photo

A day I never thought I'd live to see.

A day I honestly thought I’d never live to see.

I went downtown to watch the inauguration on LA Live’s giant televisions (the best use of the silly things) – and in the company of other people. For some reason, this just seemed like something that was too big to fit into my living room.

Everyone in the crowd was really happy and it was a good time even if the LA Live people cut off Elizabeth Alexander’s sound while some local lounge singer belted out “America the Beautiful”. Luckily, they cut him off so that we were able to hear the last half of her poem.

I’m glad I ventured out of the house, even if it meant missing The Daily Show and the (probably) hilarious live coverage.

So far, there’s no work this week. Which means that of course I got the urge to go pay my hairdresser (who I adore and would totally marry were he not gay) to cut off most of my hair.

My wallet’s a few dollars lighter, but so is my head.

Happy Inauguration Day.  Let’s all hope for good times to roll again soon.

Filed under: life in LA, Non-Work, , , , , , ,


Two alternate spellings of ‘overtime’ are ‘animal’ and ‘baby’.

Animals, even the best trained ones, are unpredictable and only sometimes do what you want them to do when you want them to (babies, of course, never, ever do anything on cue).

So when I got a call to work on a green screen unit, I figured it would be a fairly uneventful day. Once the screen is lit we don’t have too much to do, and green screen work normally goes fairly quickly unless there are stunts involved.

Then, we met the world’s most uncooperative giraffe. I’ve only been on one other shoot which used a giraffe – a commercial many years ago. I guess that giraffe was better behaved because aside from remembering that it was really. fucking. tall. any memory of the rest of the day is long gone.

This particular giraffe was only about six years old so not fully grown (according to the trainer, they grow until they’re 12), and was in no mood to stand in front of a green screen. Maybe it was the fact that there was a tiger 100 feet away, but he was antsy (the giraffe, not the tiger) and dragged his handlers all over the set while the camera operator tried desperately to keep him in frame.

The problem with a 16 foot tall giraffe is that it’s very, very difficult to convince him to do something if he gets it in his head not to do it.

The handlers would attempt to direct the giraffe by pulling on the rope attached to his halter, but the giraffe would just plant his feet and bend his neck to some visually disturbing angle instead of walking. In the ‘things I didn’t know’ file is that a giraffe has a very flexible neck – this one could bend his head all the way back to his tail.

At one point, he decided he’d had enough of the handlers and started trying to gore them with his.. I don’t know what they’re called – horns? Antlers?

I don’t know what his name was, but I think they mostly call him ‘shithead’. According to the trainer, his temperament is representative of most giraffes, who are apparently not team players.

We also used an elephant, with whom I’ve worked before. She’s a complete sweetheart and unlike many human actors I’ve seen, hit her marks every time.

The zebra was cute and did okay, except for occasionally deciding that the grass was more interesting than the handler’s treats – which meant that instead of walking from one side of the frame to the other, he’d stand there and graze, ignoring the handler and the director’s frantic shouts.

The emu wasn’t very friendly, either, and he scared me. I’ll confess to not being overly fond of birds, and a great big one with weird red eyes just made me want my mommy.

Also, what is it about power cable that makes it such an attractive place to poop if you’re an animal? Every one of them would wait until they were standing right over the cable and then let loose. I was glad I didn’t have to wrap it.

Since I thought it was going to be a short day, I didn’t bring a book or a newspaper or anything to pass the time. All I could do is watch the pissed off giraffe rampage around in front of a green screen.

Which, when I think about it, is much more entertaining than the paper.

I’m not complaining, though. Between the giraffe, the waiting on actor availability and the creepy emu, we had just under a 14 hour day, which is just what my bank account needs right now.

* according to The Phobia List, this is a fear of wild animals – although I probably shouldn’t imply that I’m afraid of them.  I’d like them to keep their distance (fleas, you know), but if they get to close to me, I can always hit ’em with a combo stand

Filed under: Work, , , , , , ,

For once, I desperately hope it’s Monday.

Working an all-nighter over the weekend threw off my sense of, well, just about everything. Mostly time, though.

I’m not completely sure what day it is today, but I’m off to work in the hopes that it’s Monday and when I get to the end of the road, there will be a shoot there.

And food. My cupboards are bare.

Filed under: Work, , , ,


Although I’m  not thrilled about the prospect of having a payment right now, at least the car-shopping portion of the program is over.

I didn’t get what I wanted, but I got a newish (’06) domestic wagon-y thing, that, aside from being a godawful color (I don’t tend to like flashy colored cars. No bright blue, no red, no yellow. I want something that blends), isn’t too terribly obnoxious and will get me to work and back until I can pay it down enough to swap it for something that I really like.

The car had been sitting on the dealer lot for three months (guess I’m not the only one who wasn’t thrilled with it), so the guy was willing to make a hell of a deal just to get it off the lot.

Of course, right after I bought it, a reader emailed me offering a car that was a LOT closer to what I wanted for about the same price.

Oh, well. At least all the drama’s over.

For now.

I’m trying not to torment myself with the thought that if the economy stays bad, used car prices are going to plummet in about a month.  Unfortunately, I just couldn’t wait and risk getting bumped off the call lists because of transportation problems.

Right now the two things that are annoying me are blissfully trivial – the gym being packed to the rafters with the resolution crowd (I really with that they’d make an attempt to teach some sort of gym etiquette) and the new WordPress interface being slow as hell and vastly more irritating than the old one.

I can’t do anything about the WordPress issue, but the gym problem’s been a fairly easy fix – since I don’t sleep for shit anyways, I’ve just been going at the crack of dawn and beating the crowds, which has been nice. Another advantage is that the place is a damn sight cleaner at 5 am than it is later in the day.

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

A soul-destroying New Year’s Day

I started out 2009 by calling in a favor and having a good friend drive me all over town to look  at used cars.

I do not recommend this as anything other than an exercise in futility – unless, of course, you simply have too much hair and would like to thin it by tearing it out in frustration.

After perusing several car lots staffed by salesmen (one of whom I’m fairly certain was missing a few chromosomes) from hell, I had to take a break and get some lunch because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cry or kill someone.*

Part of the problem is me. There’s a huge gulf between what I want and what I can afford.

The car I want:


The car I can afford:


It’s not that I can’t afford a nice car, it’s that I can’t afford a nice car right now – no one knows if the actors are going to strike and I can’t saddle myself with a car payment that amounts to much more than spare change if I’m going to be out of work for a few months. Again.

So although the really nice little German-made sport wagon is theoretically within my reach financially (I’m talking 2000 or 2001 models), I just can’t do it now and am going to have to settle for some econobox which I guarantee I’ll hate more than a trip to the dentist.

On the bright side, at least I won’t be sad if it gets stolen.

Said genetic-material challenged salesmen (and of course, they’ve all been men) have been no help at all. One showed me cars that were all $5,000 above what I told him was my maximum price, and another showed me a few cars that were in worse shape than my truck (you know, the one that doesn’t run), but were admittedly in my price range.

Ugh. I didn’t really even want a wagon, but the gas mileage on the SUV models I’ve looked at is so shockingly bad I can’t in good conscience buy one (shame, too.  I really, really like the Chevy Trailblazer, but it’s fuel economy is disgraceful at best). Although several manufacturers do make SUV type vehicles that get good mileage, they’re either not readily available or out of my price range.

No resolutions this year. I don’t have the energy and self-improvement can suck it.  Or maybe I’m just in a bad mood.

Here’s to ’09 being a damn sight better than ’08.

* Who am I kidding? I’d much rather kill someone than cry.

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

January 2009

Flickr Photos



Random Quote

"If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." -Anne Lamott

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