Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

I might be biting off more than I can chew.

This weekend,  I agreed to help a good friend with a freebie project shooting on both Saturday and Sunday.

Of course, right after I’d said yes, I  got a job. For two nights. Thursday and Friday.

I figured it would all work out just fine since I was going up in the condor and as such would be able to get some sleep.

Except that I forgot about my not sleeping all that well in condors – mainly, it’s the walkie chatter – I’ve always got  an ear out for anything that pertains to me, so I never sink into anything that resembles a deep sleep.

Last night, I got in about two hours of shallow napping, which is about average, I guess.

Which is usually fine. I go home, take a nap in the morning and then go to bed early and I’m fine the next day.

Except that I can’t do that tomorrow – I’ll be able to grab a nap, but the shoot day’s not going to end until about midnight.

I predict a lot of coffee Saturday.

Filed under: up all night, Work

Communication breakdown

I was booked to work on an insert unit, so I reported to the studio lot in West LA at noon for van ride to our location in downtown  Los Angeles.

When we got to the lot, one seemed to know what was going on, so we inventoried our five ton truck and added some cable, because we didn’t know  where the generator was going to land.

Milled about, finally took matters into our own hands and got a driver to take us and said truck to location.

Got there about 1pm. Besides a very confused location rep, no one was there.  Discovered upon arriving that the producer had canceled the generator without telling us.

Which was fine, since the gaffer and DP were planning on lighting the smallish bar with kino flos, which plug into the wall and the place had power, so no worries.

So we did as much of a pre-rig as we could, since we had no director and no DP. They’d been given a much later call, which we also weren’t told.

Sat around and shot the shit with the medic and the driver. Extras started to show up, also confused.

Finally, the DP showed up – at 3 pm.

Tweaked the lighting a bit more, added a few kinos.  Ate a sandwich. Joked about decamping to the strip club around the corner.

Finally, the first Assistant Director, camera operator (with camera package) and director showed up. At 4 pm.

After some discussion with the DP, we adjusted the lighting again, rolled on two shots (one wide shot of a stunt, one tighter version), then they called wrap.

We put our stuff back in the truck, and headed back across town to the lot. Got there around 8 pm, and were surprised when we were told we needed to do some promo shots, which required us to use one BFL (Big Fucking Light).

On the same stage that the main unit were shooting on. So we rigged in between rolls, finally got actors, and then tried to shoot while the other unit was working. Except that we were rolling sound, so we had to stop the main unit from working while we shot.

Finally, they gave up and told us we’d have to wait until the main unit wrapped to shoot our stuff.

Went to crafty, ate some Thai food.

Got called back to roll on the first segment.

Sat around and shot the shit with the writer of the episode.

Rolled on the second segment.

Sat around in the gold room and discussed how much our bank accounts love disorganization.

Rolled on our last shot, wrapped our BFL and went home.

What we thought was going to be a five or six-hour day turned into  11 hours. Sweet.

Filed under: Work

Friday Photo


On soundstages, as soon as the overhead ‘house’ lights go off, the corners and crannies get really dark. Since tripping and falling is funny but bad, we haul out the worklights.

The preferred worklight is a large bulb in a cage on a metal stand – it’s about 8 feet tall and has a very heavy base. It’s impossible to knock it over,  and the cage around the bulb means that we can blackwrap (like tinfoil, only black) the side that’s closest to camera so it doesn’t fuck up the lighting.

The only problem with these lights is most studios haven’t purchased any new ones in 50 years. I’m sure there were adequate lights for all the stages in 1959, but as the lights have broken or disappeared over the years they haven’t been replaced – so now there aren’t enough to go around. This leads to some strongly worded labeling on the stands (“Take this and I’ll come and find you, asshole”), and raids on other show’s stages to procure the coveted worklights.

Last week, all of ours vanished, so of course we suspected the show on the next stage – sure enough, when they went to lunch, we slipped onto their stage and found our worklights.  Since they’re nice folks, we only stole a few back,  but the first time they’re out on location and forget to ‘hot lock’ their stage (a hot lock means that nobody gets in without permission from the production office), we’re forming a raiding party.

Today, I will get in my car and drive from Hollywood to the lot in West LA. From there, I will board a van, be driven to the set downtown. After work, I’ll get back in the van, be driven back to West LA, were I will get in my car and then drive back east to Hollywood.

Happy Friday.

Filed under: Photos, studio lots, Work

Christmas in August.

Normally, the goal of lighting is not to be noticed – we’re trying to mimic or enhance natural light – key lights have to come from the same direction even when the camera turns around, more than one shadow is a no-no, a light has to look like it’s coming from a logical source, etc…

Unless one is shooting in a nightclub – then, all the crazy colors come out. Special flourescent tubes in bright colors (yellow, pink, red, blue), all manner of gels (my favorite: “Surprise Pink” which looks more lavender than pink, but what do I know?) in every color of the rainbow.

Most gaffers can barely contain their glee – finally! A chance to break away from that boring daylight and tungsten! Two shadows? Who cares? It’s a club! What the hell – hit ’em with another light and make three shadows just because we can!  Where’s the key light coming from? Where ever the hell I want, that’s where!

Party lighting can have its own problems – certain colors aren’t advisable for certain things (never light women or food with green lights. Trust me), but on the whole it’s a lot of fun for everyone.

Also, it’s gotten hot in LA so it was nice to be inside in an air-conditioned building. We’re back out frying in the sun tomorrow.

Filed under: locations, Work

When it rains, it pours.

This week, I’ve been bouncing around between shows, which is good because it’s work, but bad because rules about turnaround (the time between when you’re released for the night and when you have to report back the next day) don’t apply when you’re on a different show the next day.

So I’ve been coming home, faceplanting in the bed and fighting like hell for the six hours of sleep that I’m lucky to get before the alarm goes off.

Please enjoy a photo:

Neon ballasts

These are ballasts for neon signs. Neon can’t be plugged straight into regular power as it uses very high voltage. These are basically transformers that increase the normal power (line voltage) to something the sign can use.  They come in all sizes (small sign, small ballast), and these particular ones are for a very large sign so they’re heavy as hell.

When you rent neon signs for a movie or TV show, the signs are shipped separately from the ballasts, and must be connected on site.

Filed under: Photos, Work

A short workday.

Most of the time, when I work, it’s for 12 hours or more – sometimes, though, I get lucky and ‘beat the rate’ (we’re paid for 8 hours no matter if we work that long or not, so if we hustle and get out early, we beat the rate).

Like tonight. I went in to help tweak the rig on a three-camera sitcom*and we only had about 8 hours worth of work, so we hustled as fast as we could and got out in a little over six hours.

I spent most of the day up in a lift, aiming lights in a new set and catching up with some very nice people who I don’t get to see very often. All this, and I got home at a decent hour.

As tempting as it is to find a party and crash it, I’m going to stay home and rest. My lower back is hurting – I guess I strained it somehow so if ice packs don’t help I’m going to have to dig out the back belt, which is a miserable sweaty contraption in the heat.

*Most hour-long shows are shot like a movie – broken up into scenes and shot with one main camera. Most half hour sitcoms are shot with three cameras and an audience. All the sets face the audience and the show is shot in sequence, kind of like a play. If you’re ever in Los Angeles, I’d recommend going to a taping – they’re free and it’s really interesting to watch.

Filed under: Work

For the record…

Since we seem to have a flame war starting in the comments, I thought I’d clarify my position here:

I’m in favor of allowing anyone, regardless of gender orientation, creed, or color to marry whoever they choose.

I can live my short, insignificant life seeing anger and hate, or I can live my life seeing the love and happiness that a moment of pure joy ( a couple who’ve waited 50 years to marry) can bring.

I choose the latter.

I choose love.

I hope you, too, can find the love.

Because if you can’t, I’m going to start deleting comments.

Play nice or else.

Also, I have work tomorrow. Yay!

Filed under: Non-Work, Off-Topic

Buckling down.

A hush has fallen over Los Angeles tonight – the sense of anticipation is palpable.

Tomorrow, the decision about Prop 8 comes down.

We’ll either have riots or parties in the street.

Since all my phone calls and begging and pleading haven’t turned up any work, I’ll be right in the middle of whatever it is.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Ruling just came in, and Prop 8’s been ruled unconstitutional.  I’m sure there are some folks who are upset about this, but my neighborhood’s turning into an impromptu party with hundreds of happy people hugging each other.
Love, not hate, right?

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

August 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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