Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Friday Photo


Since Mother Nature isn’t a team player and won’t start and stop precipitation on command, when a scene calls for rain we usually just make it by using rainbars.

Rainbars come in all sizes, from teeny drip lines that just make a trickle of water on a window to giant ones like this that have to be lifted with a crane and fed with something that looks like a fire hose.

These big crane ones create really, really nice looking rain, but they pump out so much water that they create a micro-climate that’s noticeably colder than the surrounding area. Which would be great on a hot summer night, but in January it’s just, well, cold. And damp.

My new rain jacket works great, though!

Filed under: Photos, Work

A brief weekend of sunshine

We’ve got another storm bearing down on poor waterlogged Southern California, but this weekend was glorious. Warm, sunny, blue skies and puffy white clouds. Perfect, if one managed to ignore the piles of trash that last week’s rain washed down to the beaches.

Saturday, I went for a long bike ride and enjoyed the weather, and then miraculously managed to get in the gym pool and keep a lane to myself for a whole hour, which did wonders for improving my mood.

Sunday, a friend and I went to see Creation, which portrayed Charles Darwin as a neurotic whiner – but it’s really pretty and features the best day for dusk shot I’ve ever seen.

Day for dusk, of course, is shooting a shot that’s supposed to take place at dusk (which lasts about 30 seconds and as such it’s impossible to shoot dusk for dusk) during the day. Normally, these are too blue and look totally fake. This one looks fantastic and the only thing that gave it away was when they got the sky in the frame.

I don’t have any work lined up for this week yet, but hopefully something will turn up.

I’m going to take advantage of the winter storms and go up to the mountains and enjoy some winter sports tomorrow.  And maybe Thursday if I don’t have to work (I’ll need Wednesday to let the legs recover).

Filed under: Non-Work

More shopping adventures

For some time now, My very old (10+ years) rain jacket has been getting increasingly less rainproof. It’s not that the seams leak, it’s that the fabric itself (generation 1 Gore-Tex) is getting more and more porous as time goes by, despite my several attempts to renew the waterproofing.  This is just something that happens to this type of thing, and wouldn’t be a big deal if I were just running for the bus, but when I have to stand out all night in the rain, it’s nothing short of a personal catastrophe.

I’ve tried to put off shelling out for new gear, but since I’m going to stand out in the rain tonight and staying dry would be really awesome it’s time.  Last night after work I stopped by Adventure 16, looking for the same brand that’s served me so well, only to find out that the company’s gone out of business, which I guess is what happens to you when you make clothing that lasts for a decade.

The very helpful salesperson helped me pick out a new jacket, and even found one from the sale rack that fit me nicely and had all the features I wanted (original price: $219, on sale for $99. Score). Then, of course I found other stuff I needed which sadly wasn’t on sale so I wiped out any savings with the impulse purchases. Oh, well. I never claimed to be smart.

Since we only did 8 hours yesterday, I basically worked all day for a new jacket, but when I’m not cold and wet and clammy tonight it’ll be totally worth it.

UPDATE: Day cancelled (due to inclement weather, I assume) as I was driving to the gym for my before-work swim. Since they cancelled so close to call time, they still had to pay me for 8 hours even though I didn’t have to work. What is it the kids say? W00t?

Guess I don’t feel so bad about the shopping now.

Filed under: Work

Driving in the rain

It’s time for what passes for winter around here to descend on Los Angeles, which means sub-50 degree temperatures and that wet stuff that falls from the sky. Amidst the panic about an admittedly huge rainstorm (rain for a week straight is catastrophic in LA), I worked two days on a show that’s shooting up in Santa Clarita – which involved driving on one of California’s busiest freeways during rush hour in the rain.

Monday wasn’t so bad – a 6:30 am call meant that my commute was pretty quick. Got to work and had an uneventful day running a follow spot except that the caterer, in what must have seemed like a good idea, made us line up outside in the rain to get lunch, which is where I found out that my waterproof tennis shoes were only waterproof on the bottom and not on the top where the laces are, so I spent the second half of the day with wet feet, which I hate.

Tuesday our call was 9 am so I left extra early for fear of rain related traffic, but my commute went swimmingly (so to speak) until I pulled up to the school where we were shooting, and then I almost got run down by an angry soccer mom in a giant SUV as I attempted to turn left into crew parking.

Luckily, I avoided wet feet, but a crowd scene with 100 teenaged extras meant that as soon as crafty put any food down, it disappeared before the crew were even told it was there. Even after one of the extras found a gold tooth in the soup (I was unable to find out if said tooth was a molar or someone’s grill) they ate like a plague of locusts, which is what teenagers do, I guess.

Since I spent both days up on a scaffold running a follow spot, which meant a lot of standing there doing not much of anything, it’s probably better that my snacking opportunities were limited, now that I think about it.

Tonight, I’m tired. I spent the rainy afternoon in the outdoor pool at the gym, and felt so good that I swam for almost two hours which was great, but now all I want to do is crawl into bed – but I have to stay up later than it is now because my call time tomorrow (on a different show) is 10 am, which means I’ll work late tomorrow night.

Good thing we’re inside all day – the weather forecast calls for thunderstorms, which we have about once per decade so I predict panic and general chaos.

Filed under: Work

Wednesday the 13th

Wow. I thought it just Friday the 13 was unlucky. Turns out, Wednesday’s just as bad.

The day started out with a small fire on the stage –  when lights that have hung in a rig for years get covered in dust and candy bar wrappers and then pumped full of enough electricity to illuminate a city block sometimes they start fires. Small ones, usually.

Yesterday’s fire was small, but it was up near the roof of the set, so if not extinguished right away it would have either set off the sprinklers (which would have ruined the entire set since it’s not waterproof), or really taken hold and started burning most of the set along with all the dust and fabric and crap that accumulates up high. An intrepid person grabbed fire extinguisher, hopped in a lift, went up and put fire out before any damage occurred other than a medium-sized hole in the plastic that looks like a ceiling.

Instead of this person getting a congratulatory fruit basket or being given, say, a percentage of the millions of dollars that the set not burning saved the studio, we have to conceal this person’s identity from the studio brass lest they mete out punishment  for not following studio fire procedure, which is apparently to drop everything and run out of the stage, screaming like a little girl (or something).

Were I in charge, I’d have given this person Michael Bay’s parking space, plus free lunches at the commissary in perpetuity (on second thought that’s probably punishment), the aforementioned cash bonus and all the DVDs ever released by the studio, but no. This person’s actually afraid of retaliation for having a fucking ounce of sense.

Dear Film Industry: most of the time I love you, but sometimes I really think you suck.

Our last shot of the night was a night exterior to be shot at the park across the street from the lot. We weren’t expecting to do much lighting, so we just went to the lamp dock and got two little portable generators – familiarly known as ‘putt-putts’

One of the things that bites you in the ass until you just give in and accept it is that these generators, by all rights, should be able to run about 20 amps more than they actually will. They *should* be able to run about 60 amps, but in reality, they’ll only run about 40 (maybe. If you’re lucky). There’s no real reason for this that anyone can figure out other than the hamster that’s inside of the thing just can’t run fast enough to get the job done.

Of course, sometimes the gaffer asks us to plug more into the generators than we know they’ll run – we can’t argue and expect to have a job the next day, so we do it, knowing that the breakers are going to pop and hoping desperately that it doesn’t happen during a take.

Also of course, every time the generators gave up and we lost the lights, it was during a take. Awesome. Lucky for us the gaffer and DP are nice guys and didn’t blame us for Honda’s inability to build a generator that will run the amperage it should.

Even with the generator problems, the scene went quickly and we only had a 10 hour day.

Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m feeling the burn now

I can lift all the puny weights at the gym that I like, but nothing gets one in shape to wrap cable like wrapping cable. I’ve done a lot of standing on set for the past, well, year, which is a very good thing, but yesterday I went in for a one day gig on a different show and we wrapped all the cable from the perms of the stage since that show’s over (for now).

The standard method is to send out all the cable that’s hanging down into the set and have the guys on the ground wrap it as it’s coming down, and then wrap everything that’s upstairs and then lower the coiled cable down to the floor with a winch. Except that this particular stage is far too modern for such an old-fashioned thing as a winch. We had to load the cable in carts and then take it down to the floor in the elevator, which actually takes much, much longer than the winch method.

Before we could load up the elevator, though, we had to wrap an entire season’s worth of cable – most of which was the extra heavily insulated stuff that we call ‘horse cock’. By lunch, my arms felt like rubber and I ached all over – not to mention the allergy attack since the perms of most stages are incredibly dusty. I’m told that they used to vacuum them back in the old days, but that’s a courtesy that vanished well before my time.

The gaffer (an extra wonderful guy) bought us lunch, which was very nice of him and I always love a free meal, but I had to be very careful what I ate – heavy meal plus the fact that it’s 30 degrees hotter in perms than on ground, plus heavy work while bent over at the waist equals an awful mess that I certainly wouldn’t want to clean up. I had a chicken breast and a fruit salad, which of course I ‘burned’ because of the heavy work so I was really hungry two hours after lunch, but that really is the lesser of two evils.

After lunch, we wrapped the rest of the stuff as quickly as we could, shuttled it down to the floor, counted it, sorted it and then sat and waited for the rental house guys to show up and take it away. I’d felt good while we were working, but of course, as soon as I sat down, I stiffened up and by the time I got home I had a date with a bathtub full of Epsom salts.

I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t hurt this morning at all.

Tomorrow, I’m back to standing on set all day.

Filed under: studio lots, Work

Friday Photo

Due to the outrageous door fees for most of the New Year events here in Los Angeles, a few girlfriends and I ended up at CityWalk, which is Universal Studios’ attempt to squeeze some cash out of the townies in addition to the piles that they’re raking in from the tourists on the studio tour. Last night, they were featuring two bands, fireworks at midnight and most importantly, it was free and close by since no one wanted a long drive home.

The plan was to get there before the restaurants started charging covers to enter (seriously? $50 door fee at City Walk? Come on, people), have some dinner and then mill about and enjoy the cheesy ’80’s band until the big moment.

Although the dinner plan went well, City Walk was packed – guess we weren’t the only ones balking at a paying a cover charge, so we went to the upper level to move a bit faster, and that’s when I took this photo from behind the corporate seafood place’s sign. For the record, we had corporate Italian food for dinner. Not that great, but there was a lot of it and since we ate at the bar we managed to bypass the 1 hour wait for a table.

The band were fun and a good time was had by all.

Happy 2010, everyone. Let’s all hope it’s a damn sight better than 2009 was.

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

January 2010

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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