Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Fun with produce

One of our pivotal scenes yesterday involved an actor using a bottle of wine to smash a watermelon (don’t ask).

It looked so good in the script – guy takes savage swing at melon with bottle of vino, melon goes splat, crowd goes wild (maybe), some point is proved.

Except that what really happens when you hit a full-sized watermelon with a bottle of wine is… nothing.  No splat, no spray of goo, no satisfying dull ‘thock’ noise. If you really put your weight into it, you might dent the thing if you’ve been working out a lot lately.

This, of course, does not play well on film (although an actor smashing futilely at an uncooperative hunk of produce, ultimately bursting into tears of frustration and having no one care would be a fitting metaphor for so much of life), so the solution was to squib the watermelons so they’d make a Gallagher-esque splat when the actor hit them.

Except that then one has to co-ordinate between the effects people who are controlling the squibs and the actor’s arm so that the melon blows at exactly the right moment. Then, since the wires are hooked to the bottom of the melon (if you hook the squib wires to the top of the melon they’ll be visible on camera)  it breaks on the bottom side even though it’s being hit by said wine bottle on the top side and emits puffs of smoke that are funny as hell, but probably not what the show was looking for.

After some trial and error, they finally got a version that looked acceptable, and then gave up on getting a close up of the melon breaking for obvious reasons.

Lucky for us the melon-related delays meant that we got some overtime – we ended up working a 13 hour day.

Filed under: Work

Good News / Bad News

The good news is that since I haven’t been working very much, I’ve been  able to take in Southern California’s wildflower bloom – I normally miss it since those fucking inconsiderate flowers pick one of the busy times  of year (pilot season) to bloom and I’m usually working six days a week while I hear about the glorious flowery-ness of the area.

Then, when work slows down and I’ve got some time all the flowers are dead.

Not this year.

This year, I’m able to go see said flowers while they’re still relatively colorful. Although the really spectacular poppy reserve isn’t quite ready yet, I went up to Vasquez Rocks (which used to be very heavily used as a film location but not so much anymore) and saw some lovely flowers and a disturbingly lush green desert.

The bad news is that there isn’t going to be a pilot season this year – in Los Angeles, at least. Most of the pilots are shooting out of state (and I’m guessing the TV shows that get picked up will also shoot out of state), so it’s probably not going to get busy again anytime soon.

The good news is that I’m working tomorrow. Yay!

The bad news is that I got a ticket on the way home tonight.

The good news is that I had my proof of insurance with me (if you don’t have this in California, you get a very expensive ticket and have to go beg a judge for mercy).

The bad news is that my insurance bill  has doubled because of the new car.

The good news is that I haven’t had a ticket in so long I’ll be able to go to traffic school so my insurance won’t go up any more.

The bad news is that now I can’t take the cat to the vet, because now I have to pay the ticket and traffic school.

The good news is that now I can’t take the cat to the vet, so I won’t lose any blood.

The bad news is that this morning, when I was swinging open the garage door, I got a splinter rammed right under one of my fingernails.

The good news is that the neighbor’s kids learned a new word!

The bad news is that I’m going to have to have that bunion surgery.

The good news is that while I’m recuperating I can collect disability, which pays more than unemployment.

The bad news is I have a date over the weekend. With someone I met on Facebook.

Oh, wait. That’s good news.  Maybe.  We’ll see.

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

An unexpectedly busy week

Last weekend, I worked on a friend’s vanity project as a favor – they were paying what amounts to pocket change, but beggars can’t be choosers so when they asked of course I said yes. I ended up working Thursday and Friday, too, and couldn’t turn that down either (since that was actual paying work on a ‘real’ show) so  knew I was going to get fucked on the turnaround, but as of late my own death is the only reason I’ll turn down work.   I got home from work about 10 pm Friday, and had to be on the friend’s set around 7 am Saturday morning. So, of course, something went wrong with my car.

The key got stuck in the ignition and since there wasn’t anything I could do about it at 10 pm on a Friday night (other than throwing a temper tantrum and calling the car some really horrible names, of course. A friend once said that what you yell at the car when you’re mad is it’s name – now mine’s named something I can’t repeat in mixed company), I called and arranged for a ride to work Saturday morning.

The weekend job went fine – everyone was really nice and it was fun. Since it was mainly lit by changing the tubes in the building’s existing fluorescent fixtures, we didn’t get worked very hard which is always the best case scenario when one is working for a very low rate.

Monday, I took the car into the mechanic I usually patronize and was told that he can’t fix it as the newer cars have to be programmed at the dealer when certain repairs are made, which made me very, very nervous since the last time I had a car that needed to have work done at the dealer I couldn’t even walk in the door without it costing me a grand.

I borrowed a car to get to work Tuesday and Wednesday and took the car to the dealer on Thursday – thankfully it wasn’t as expensive as I’d feared (but was more than I wanted to shell out for a car I just bought) and now I’ve got the car back complete with new shifter (apparently some whatyamacallit in the shifter was making some thingamabob in the ignition do something. Or not. It’s all Greek to me).

I also got caught in the Obama traffic cluster fuck three times in two days – once coming home from work on Wednesday night and twice yesterday.

Me: “Why is the street blocked?”

Stone-faced Secret Service Guy: “The president’s staying in this hotel, ma’am. We had to close the street.”

Me: “But I voted for the guy! The worst thing I’m going to do is yell something encouraging out the window of the car.”

Stone-faced Secret Service Guy: “The administration thanks you for your continued support. Please turn around.”

Me: “Fuck.”

It’s all fine now, though. The President’s out of town again and I have a working car once again.  Plus, all I have to do this weekend is take my spent batteries to the electronic waste drop off point and go to the gym.

Filed under: Work, , ,

Sometimes you guys make me all misty-eyed and gooey.

I can’t even begin to convey how touched I am by the offers of financial help that came in through the comments and via email, but honestly, I’d feel really, really uncomfortable accepting donations.

I know, I know… all pride will get me is a bunk the poorhouse, but I just can’t.

Honestly? I’m not all that bad off. I’m having some cash flow problems right now, but I’m not in any danger of becoming homeless or starving to death.

I don’t have a mortgage or kids, my rent’s relatively low, cats are inexpensive to feed once they get used to the cheaper  food (right now, I’m getting glared at a lot, but she’ll come around. Actually, I get glared at a lot normally so nothing much has changed now that I think about it), and the power company has granted me enough of an extension that I’ll be able to scrape up the money.

There are people who are a lot worse off than I am – and every cent I take is funds that they need far, far more than little old me  so if you really find yourself in a charitable mood towards film industry workers, I’d suggest donating to the Motion Picture and Television Fund instead – you can earmark your money for emergency assistance to needy people. About this time last year, the Fund gave me rent and grocery money and asked nothing in return, for which I will be eternally grateful.

For now, I’ll be okay, but I promise that if things take a turn for the worse and I end up dancing on the street corner for spare change, I’ll post directions to the intersection.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , ,

If I’m going to get screwed, could someone at least buy me a drink first?

Inconsistency is the nature of working freelance in any industry, so of course I have good years and bad years, but I’ve been extremely lucky in that I’ve always been able to earn enough to make ends meet.

Work like hell in the good years, save it up for the bad years.

However, this last 16 months have been terrible for just about everyone.  When it should have been busy, it was dead, and when it was normally dead, it was stone dead.  Although a lot of us had hoped it would pick up in March, unfortunately this doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

Although I’ve been able to scrounge up a day or two each week (which is a lot more than others have managed), I’ve completely run through any savings I had and am now dependent upon my state unemployment insurance to fill in the gaps.

Which is fine – by pinching my pennies and foregoing all the things that make life extra wonderful (sushi, wine, periodicals, etc…) I’ve managed to scrape by.

Until today, when I opened the mail, expecting to get an unemployment check and finding that they’ve invented a new ‘waiting period’ out of the blue – which, of course, fell on a week when I didn’t work and was due the full amount.

For those of you fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with unemployment, when one first files a claim one is forced to endure a waiting period of a week during which no benefits are payable – I don’t know why that is. I guess they hope I’ll find a job and won’t  bother to file the rest of the paperwork.

Normally, though, there’s only one withheld week per claim, and my ‘fuck you, loser’ week was in January, so this random withholding of benefits confuses and angers me, but at least I’ve got company.

Upon making a few phone calls, I discovered that just about everyone I know has had benefits withheld for that week, so I’m guessing the the state of California, in a desperate attempt to save money, has just decided to screw the unemployed people out of a week’s worth of benefits.

Normally, this would just make me roll my eyes at the stupidity of it all, but last week I made some promises to the utility company which I now can’t keep – so I may lose my internet again if calling and begging to keep the power on  doesn’t help.

Thanks, California. Thanks a lot. This is much better than a 2.5% tax increase on people who have a net income of over $250,000. Bleed me dry instead. I totally understand your logic one this one. Assholes.

Speaking of economic uncertainty, one of my aunts who lived through the Depression (the real one in the 1930’s), has agreed to take questions about how to stretch your dollar (or pound, or euro, or whatever) and what life was like back then. Although it’s for something that will go on LAist (I’ll happily crosspost here if you all would like),  if you’ve got a question for her, feel free to either email me or post it to the comments and I’ll relay it.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , ,

Oh, sweet internet. How I missed you.

While I was out wasting my life in the real world today, my internet came back on.

Of course, as soon as I tried to upload photos, Flickr developed some sort of insurmountable tech problem, so I’m giving up on the internet for tonight.

But it’s nice to know that it’s here if I want it.

Filed under: Non-Work, Off-Topic

The stupidest thing I’ve ever seen

Working in the film industry guarantees that one sees stupid shit on a damn near daily basis, so this phrase passes my lips fairly often, but whenever I say it, I know it’s a lie because I can remember with great clarity the absolute stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.
Some years ago, during a period of unemployment (much like this one), I was watching some fluff-addled morning television show while drinking coffee and contemplating what to do with my empty day.
One of the segments on said fluff-addled morning show was about people who had unusual pets, and one of the ladies featured had a 12 foot (4m) long boa constrictor. And an 18 month old (or so) baby.
When asked by the interviewer if she was worried about the snake trying to hurt the baby, she replied “No.. (snake’s name) loves the baby. She’d never ever try to hurt him.”
As she said this, the camera focused on the snake, which was coiling around the baby as Mom explained that the snake was just trying to give the baby a hug.

I’m certainly no snake expert, but I was under the distinct impression that when a snake that big coils around something the size of a baby, they’re not doing it out of affection.

I remember yelling something at the television before the segment changed, but whenever I catch myself saying something’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen, I think about that baby and where he is now.

Hopefully, the internet will be back on Thursday, as promised, and I won’t have to do so much thinking anymore.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , ,

March 2009

Flickr Photos



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

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