Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

There’s always one.

Ah, reflecting pools. They add beauty to landscaped gardens and industrial building courtyards, collect spare change from passers-by and sometimes provide drinking water for various fuzzy critters.

They cause problems with film crews, though. All of us have been trained to not step on the landscaping, so we try to walk the cement barrier around the pool, which for some strange reason is always made of some really slippery material. Of course, we always end up placing lighting equipment precariously close to the edge of said pool. I don’t know what it is with gaffers and water.

Invariably, someone falls in.

Usually, it’s a PA, but yesterday it was one of my co-workers, who found out the hard way that this particular reflecting pool was almost hip-deep. Which is weird, since they’re usually only a few inches deep. Guess it used to hold fish or dead bodies or bonfires made of rejected scripts. Or something.

Luckily, said co-worker had dry clothes in the car, but ended up having to endure the jeers of the rest of the crew all day and also needed a new cell phone after work.

Just glad he wasn’t holding a lamp that was plugged in when he went into the drink.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, Work

The amazingly elastic walkie-talkie range

Although film crews of old used to use hand signals to communicate, nowadays we use walkie talkies. Not the cheap ones you can get in the sporting goods stores – the ones we use are similar to the police models, which means they have a longer range (from several hundred yards to half a mile, depending on conditions and terrain), and are, alas, very heavy after they’ve been hanging on one’s tool belt for 14 hours.

Generally, one can predict a walkie’s range by how urgent whatever it is one needs to say, how far away from set one is, and how little cell signal there is in any given area:

Gaffer’s car being towed away + 100 yards away from set + no cell signal = nothing but static.

Comments about why the director’s doing 47 takes of a guy walking down a fucking hallway + 1/2 mile away from set + fair cell signal = fuzzy but audible.

Seeing the biggest rat in the Western hemisphere and screaming like a girl while accidentally depressing the microphone button + 2 miles away from set on top of an abandoned building + full cell signal so co-workers can call up and offer impressions of said scream = loud and clear.

Except today. Today, our unit were on the lot in West LA, and the main unit were downtown. Since the important people were off the lot, we went onto the standard electric channel (Transpo, 3. Camera, 6. Electric, 7. Grip, 8. Production, 1 for normal stuff, 2 for ‘I have to put out this fire’ stuff. If you’re bored, always listen on channel 2. That’s entertainment) instead of our alternate (we give the main channel to the main unit when we’re close enough that we have to go on different channels).

The other unit could hear us, even though they were over 10 miles away. One of the teamsters on the lot held a lengthy walkie conversation with a colleague downtown and when we wrapped, we used the walkie to tell the main unit’s best boy.

Freaky. I can honestly say that’s never happened to me before.

Filed under: Work

Blah blah blah

Yesterday, I got a call to work on some late night talk show, starring some host I’ve never heard of chatting up guests I’ve never heard of, interspersed by comedy skits about people I’ve never heard of, either.

Talk shows are shot a bit differently from other shows. Unlike other audience shows which are run in one long take, talk shows start and stop, and shoot the musical numbers, monologues and any skits separately from the guests.

Someone important on this particular talk show decided that the show needed a makeover, so they rearranged the furniture on the sets last-minute, which would have been fine except that moving set pieces around means that we have to re-light said sets. In the real world, we would have had a whole day just for this.

This particular show decided to pass on the sensible way of doing things and make us come in early, re-rig the stage (and ‘break away’ one person to help with the TV gag* on the skit), and then, once all that was done, sit around for the talk show itself.

Which also would have been fine, except they were shooting two shows at once, which meant double the guests, double the inane conversation, double the re-takes because you want to make sure that said guests don’t look like morons on the air (and I’m always surprised that some of these people’s handlers – who know their clients are idiots – allow them to face even the ‘soft media’ without an interpreter), double everything.

We got lucky last night because the guests were all pretty sharp, and both musical acts were really good at the lip sync thing (wait. You didn’t think they were actually performing live, did you?), but still. It was six and a half hours of rigging followed by six and a half hours of desperately wishing there were enough ambient light for me to read the newspaper.

The fact that I only got about five hours sleep the night before and we came in at 11 am to start rigging didn’t help matters. By the end of the night, when Talk Show Dude had a really interesting guest I was way, way too tired to care.

But they paid in cash as we were leaving, which is always nice.

* The flickering of a blue-ish light on an actor’s face supposedly cast by a television set is actually a lamp with blue gel aimed at the actor’s face and controlled by an electrician with a hand dimmer.

Filed under: up all night, Work

Friday Photo

My Friday night consists of sitting in a condor in north bumfuck, with bugs flying right at my face. Weather report predicts lows in high 30’s. I’m  cold, but happy since I’m working with a  bunch of really wonderful folks.  Happy Friday.

Filed under: locations, long long drives, Photos, up all night, Work

No crafty for you!

I guess Craft Service isn’t well understood. There’s food out for us not because we’re fat lazy fucks, but in order to circumvent OSHA regulations about break periods – which are too frequent for film crews (if we took the OSHA breaks, we’d never get anything done), so we have a craft service table with food out so we can nosh if we get hungry, and we only have to take meal breaks every six hours and dispense with the coffee break altogether (note: this only applies to production crews. Rigging crews take breaks).

Unless some smartass producer ‘forgets’ to read the OSHA rules and decides the gross tool belt people need to lose some weight and declines to put out any craft service at all.

Luckily, we were able to walk across the lot and raid the other unit’s crafty.

In other news, I learned today that if one’s swim goggle is leaking the solution is not to keep cranking it down tighter and tighter. Not only did this not stop it from leaking, but I now have a black eye. Awesome.

It’s probably best I only worked one day this week – I can just imagine the hilarity had I shown up to work with a black eye.

UPDATE: Of course, I just got a work call for tomorrow. Am now testing out this truly vile-smelling glop (neem oil and turmeric powder made into a paste and applied to the discolored area) which the Sweater Queen promised would remove the bruising overnight. It better. Something that stinks like this better work.

Filed under: Work

Testing cell phone update.

It sort of works. The title and the text of the post are the same, which means that I can’t update via text message, only through email.

I’ll have to try to figure it out later. I’m off to bed as there’s work tomorrow.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Friday Photo

Napa Valley

It rained the first day of our visit to Napa Valley, but who cares about rain when there’s good company and good wine?

This was taken at Salvestrin Winery – who make fantastic wine and are also really nice folks.  I highly recommend buying gallons and gallons from them A.S.A.P. Hint: the Retaggio is amazing. I don’t mean “oooh… tasty” amazing. I mean “holy shit, where have you been all my life” amazing.

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

Damn you internet… again.

After having a very fun time in Tahoe, I proceeded to drive to Napa and spent three days with my sister washing down all the fatty, fatty food with a horrifying amount of wine.

I think I gained three metric tons, but I had a great time, even if the massages my sister wanted to get Sunday left me with a very stiff left shoulder; which massages always seem to do because of the fractured scapula I got as a teenager when said sister threw me down the stairs (which I’m sure I richly deserved). Or maybe it was from falling off a horse (which I also did fairly often). Not really sure anymore. The ER visits all seem to blur together.

Note: To those of you who think female children are easier to raise, you should have been in the house with the three teenage girls, all of whom were ‘blessed’ with an Irish temper and taught to box by our father – supposedly so we could protect ourselves from “mashers”, but I suspect Dad just wanted a sparring partner and had the bad luck to have no sons.

I left Monday morning, drove down the I-5 (not pretty, but fast) and arrived home to a very pissed off cat and no internet.

Part of the reason it took me three days to troubleshoot is the low tolerance I’ve got for that horrible customer service-bot thing that tries to sound like a real person but really just makes me homicidal:

Me: “Tech Support”

Customer Service Bot: “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand that. Can you say it using other words?”

Me: “TECH. SUPPORT. There is no way to re-phrase that”

Customer Service Bot: “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand that. Can you say it using other words?”


Customer Service Bot: “Did you say you were having trouble with your home phone service?”

Me: “I said die in a fire, motherfucker!!!!”

Customer Service Bot: <click>

Me: “GAHHHHHH!!!!”

I’m posting this from the gym, where I struggled through what should have been an easy workout. Hopefully it’s just all that booze working its way out.

If, in about an hour, you hear a really, really loud obscenity (and it’ll be so loud you’ll probably be able to hear it from space), you’ll know my internet’s not back on yet.

Filed under: Non-Work, travel

March 2010

Flickr Photos



Random Quote

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

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