Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

And now for today’s installment of ‘The Best Laid Plans…’

On paper, the whole plan was perfect. The show on which I’ve been day-playing (and which has pretty much been my sole source of income as of late) went down last week, so I figured I’d get bunion surgery while we were off (don’t even start in with me about not doing it. My foot hurts constantly). Since I’m looking at 10 weeks (or so) of recovery time, I thought I’d get it right after the show went down, ride out the slow season and then be ready to go back to work again when things (hopefully) pick up in late July, right when it’s getting insanely hot.

The surgeon only does this particular type of surgery two Wednesdays a month  – first and third.  Of course, I tried to get in on the first Wednesday in May which would mean only being aimlessly unemployed for about two weeks. Great idea, huh? Time to clean the house, get all the laundry done, stock up on reading material, etc…

Except I’m apparently not the only one who hatched said plan and the surgeon’s schedule is full on the 6th (presumably with other crew people getting foot surgery – the new black), so  now I have to wait until the 20th.

This isn’t really that big of a deal (and gives me more time to get my shit together), but since there’s an issue with going from unemployment to disability it means that I must either not file unemployment for May or call around frantically trying to dig up a few days’ work right before I have surgery so I get a paycheck before starting the disability claim.

Since work is currently on the slow side, this worries me but since I don’t have the funds to choose option A, I’m going to be doing some begging in the middle of May.

Right now, though, it’s tough to worry about much of anything.  The weather in Los Angeles is beautiful – the sky is blue and the sun’s shining and it’s not too hot, so I’ve been spending a lot of time riding my bike and enjoying the spring while it lasts.

Filed under: mishaps, Non-Work

Night for night

There are two ways to light a night exterior scene* – the fast way and the way that actually looks like night. The fast way is to put a BFL (big fucking light) in a lift and send it up, which visually we’ve all accepted means ‘night’, but really…

When was the last time you saw an 18,000 watt moon?

So the other way is to forgo the BFL and light with a lot of little lamps both on the ground and in the lift. This method results in something that looks much more realistic (I’m talking about urban scenes here – actors in a field in the middle of nowhere pretty much have to be lit by the BFL method), but it does wear out the set lighting people since we have to do a lot more running around when there are five of us and the gaffer’s placing 150 lights instead of twenty.

So last night, we had two condors, but with small lights because this particular DP goes for the realistic look and not the easy look. Which is fine, but right in the middle of the scramble, I had to take my condor up and wait for the turnaround (turning the camera around and looking in the opposite direction. Turnaround can also mean the time between wrap and the call time the next day) so that production wouldn’t be waiting on lighting. As much as I hate leaving my co-workers in the middle of a scramble, duty called.

So up I went, and as soon as I got the basket raised I discovered that this particular condor’s ‘level’ feature didn’t work – most condors have a control which enables one to tilt the basket itself to make it level. Not this one – it had the control but it wouldn’t level, so my basket stayed tilted forwards at a 45 degree angle all night.

Every attempt on my part to raise the angle of the boom to level the bucket a bit resulted in the arm settling – which makes a popping sound – and since the sound mixer was sitting right at the base of the condor, said popping sound resulted in more than a few dirty looks thrown my way so I just lowered the arm a bit, braced myself against the tilty and waited.

Finally, on the last shot of the night I turned on my lights and after a few takes, came down and helped my co-workers wrap.

After I went to the ladies’, of course.

In other news, the other one-hour drama that shoots on the lot has just fired it’s entire electric crew – everyone from the gaffer down isn’t coming back for the next season, so there’s a mad scramble to find out who the new gaffer and best boy are so we can put our names into the ‘day player’ hat.  So far, no good info – just a lot of conjecture.

*Although it’s fairly easy to shoot day exteriors at night, it’s almost impossible to shoot outside during the day and make it look like night – if you’ve ever seen a movie with a night scene that was weirdly blue and totally wrong looking, that was an attempt to shoot night at day. If you’re a budding filmmaker, take my advice now and just don’t do it. Shoot day for day exterior  and night for night exterior. It’ll save you a ton of headaches.

Filed under: Uncategorized


When one works on the same set often, one has to think less about navigation and where things are.  If the gaffer calls for something, it’s a huge advantage to know exactly where it is and how to get it into the set as quickly as possible.

In yesterday’s set, I normally knew exactly where to find the secret stash of stingers, various power drops, and the route around the congestion caused by video village (very, very important).

Except that some smart ass decided to save money by turning this particular set into something else instead of building something completely new, which meant that yesterday there were walls where there hadn’t been walls before, and all the equipment had been moved around meaning that it took extra time to find anything.

This wasn’t an emergency in and of itself, but the gaffer gets used to things taking a certain amount of time and when that amount of time suddenly gets a lot longer due to our having to hunt around for bits that we need it can lead to random testiness since no gaffer ever wants to have his (or her) guys be the ones that are holding up the shot.

Luckily, due to our director being very slow meticulous, we managed to make everything work smoothly and we managed to avoid cranky gaffer syndrome.

Also, we worked a 13 hour day, which will be a nice check.

Filed under: Work

Happy Easter!


I can’t find the original source of this – I’d like to credit whoever did it (since I hate when people use my photos and don’t credit me), so if you know who did this please share.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Fun with crustaceans

Friday’s work involved a  scene with crabs. Not the kind you get from a cheap date, but the kind that scuttle across the beach when you try to catch them.

The scene as written  involved an actor lifting some debris and having the revealed crabs scuttle away thus making some sort of plot point or something.

I’m sure it seemed like a good idea in the production meeting, but the problem is that this particular type of crab, when they’re frightened, freeze and play dead until the predator or actor moves away.

As you can probably imagine, being dumped into a set and having a bright light shined on them scares the bejesus out of crabs. So when the debris was lifted and my co-worker hit them (not literally) with the light, they froze and just sat there despite all best efforts to get them to do something. Anything.  They were so scared that when they were dumped back into their bin, they still refused to move. Or, they could have actually been dead. The crab wrangler wasn’t 100% certain.

After many, many failed attempts to get the terrified (or dead- remember we couldn’t really tell) crabs to scurry, the director gave up and decided he was okay with them just sitting there.  Which was fine (except for the maybe dead part. That’s terrible and I care deeply. I swear) because the crabs’ recalcitrance turned a 9 hour day into a 12 hour day. Go crabs!

The overtime was a good thing, because this was the last scheduled day of the season for our unit (there may a few more days, but they aren’t scheduled), so at least we’ll go out with a decent check.

Over the weekend, I went and saw some more wild flowers – those of you who recommended the side of the highway were spot-on. The flowers there were much better than in the super crowded poppy reserve.

Poppies and Goldfields

Field of poppies

Roadside poppies
Yesterday,  I went to the doctor to have a chat about my foot – I’m going to the podiatrist on Friday (unless, of course, I have to work) and see if he’s going to recommend surgery.

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

Almost Friday Photo

Just in case you found the melon story hard to swallow:

How to make a watermelon blow up

I have to work tomorrow (three days this week! Yay!), and I have a really early call so I’m off to bed.

Filed under: Photos, Work, , , , ,

April 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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