Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

When will I ever learn?

It started out innocently enough.

We were rigging a location in one of Los Angeles’  more upscale neighborhoods. I’ve believe I’ve mentioned before that the more expensive the area, the more the residents hate film crews.

Since this was to be a night shoot, we had three condors to rig with BFLs (Big Fucking Lights).

Said condors were parked on the street – the bases didn’t block anyone’s ingress, but when we had the arms lowered to load them up, the basket of one of them was right in the middle of a driveway.

We figured that since it was the middle of the day, it wouldn’t be a problem as long as we worked quickly.

Oh, so wrong.

Just after we got the arm down, a woman came charging out at us like an angry hornet, yelling at us to get that damn thing off the street.

At first we thought she was trying to get her car out of the driveway, and we explained to her that we’d raise the arm back up for her to back out, but it turns out she was getting upset about the condor base parked in front of her house (and probably the whole shoot in general).

I can’t blame her. I hate it when a fucking film crew invades my neighborhood. Bastards. Who do they think they are?

The main problem was that she wanted us to move the base of the condor, which we’d put there because our boss the Rigging Gaffer told us to do so. The Rigging Gaffer was presumably informed of condor placement by the Gaffer, who was asked to have ‘some sort of big light’ in that place by the Director of Photography.

Me? I’m just following orders. I can’t move the condor to the next house over. I’ll get yelled at and likely beaten (or something) if I start to think for myself.

In any case, crew people are not encouraged to try to problem solve when it doesn’t involve inanimate objects, so any angry homeowners must be sent to the locations people, who are all much better  at dealing with umbrage than are rigging crews.

After being told that we were looking for the locations manager, she rolled her eyes, told us that wasn’t good enough and added “Get that thing out of here or I’ll have it towed!”

I couldn’t help myself.  She stood there, glowering at me while holding her auto club card and her cell phone, poised to dial, and I responded with “I’d like to see that.”

She turned purple and accused me of mocking her, but I was serious.

I would love to see Billy Joe from BJ’s towing show up, whistling a happy tune, expecting to hitch up some Honda and finding an elevated work platform with an 80 foot boom arm. Hell, besides ‘a shitload’ I don’t even know how much those things weigh. When the rental company pick them up and drop them off, they come in a 48 foot flatbed trailer with a full-sized tractor.

Somebody please video that and upload it to YouTube. I need a good laugh.

Eventually, it all got smoothed over, after the locations guy told her I wouldn’t be back the next day (I’m on a different show and was only on a one day call). She’ll look out at the shooting crew, not see me and feel a flush of beige triumph that she got that awful toolbelt person fired.

Joke’s on her, though. She’ll still have a condor parked in front of her house.

Filed under: locations, Work, , , , ,

10 Responses

  1. jurebro says:

    I kind of laughed out loud. I’d love to see that, too.

  2. Good for you. I can’t count the times I’ve had to stand there like a dumb ox while some wealthy, indignant, overly-entitled bitch (or asshole) in Pasadena or Hancock Park squawked up a blue streak because we were ruining the view from her/his front lawn for a few hours.

    A front lawn those homeowners wouldn’t be caught dead on, BTW — that turf is strictly for their dogs to shit on and mojado gardeners to clean, cut, and water.

    But we take it and take it and take it because we have to — and because if we say anything, we’ll lose our jobs. We smile sheepishly and mumble stupid apologetic platitudes until the location manager can be summoned to throw money at the problem and make it go away.

    I’m so glad to hear that SOMEbody finally came back with a snappy retort to one of those fucking douchebags.

    Thank you, Peggy Archer, for striking a blow for us all…

  3. Femme Fatale says:

    Some people just think they run things. I’m glad you stood up to her. Sounds like she didn’t outgrow her bratty stage.

  4. vic says:

    I live on a street in Chatsworth where they frequently film (mostly commercials, occasional TV & rarely movies). They usually do the shoots on the cul-de-sacs and park production vehicles on my street. My cat thinks that they are doing it just to entertain her. She sits in a window watching all the activity. And on those occasions when the food service parks across the street, she runs from window to window, trying to get the best view of all the people milling about.

  5. Bill Johnson says:

    Location Manager arrogance is one of the sad reasons production ends up out of town. We’re guests in other people’s neighborhoods and if we don’t act like it, we don’t get invited back. I’m 25 years in the business; lying to me is not a great plan. When I pointed out to a shoot on my block that I knew better, they had a bus-to not a drive-to and they’d blocked the street with a truck full of propane tanks and that wasn’t, oh cool, the location manger — I shit you not — threatened to have me arrested. For trespassing. Because I was standing in my neighbor’s (and friend’s) yard. Cause the street was full of their illegally parked trucks. And as their security guard sat there and smoking — in a canyon, against fire code — and their fire marshal was nowhere to be found.

    When we don’t act like guests, we don’t get invited back. And they next thing you know, Vancouver is booked wall to wall. So careful how you treat the douchbags, eh? One of them may be me. And guess what, you can’t get a permit on my street anymore.

    • Peggy Archer says:

      I was absolutely not rude to her. I’m also very, very sorry to hear that a film crew was horrible to you. Most of the time we’re very polite and well aware that we’re causing a major inconvenience.

      Movies aren’t really going to Vancouver so much anymore – they’re going to Detroit and New Mexico. Not, as others have mentioned, because of rudeness but because of money.

  6. JCW says:

    What. A. Bitch.

    Good for you – you spoke your mind without even trying to be insulting – better than I could manage.

    With all due respect to Bill Johnson, rudeness is not required on anyone’s part – civilian or production, and though production may sometimes be the guilty party, that’s no reason for a resident to go off on the wrong party – particularly in L.A. where they have some understanding of how things work.

    For the record, runaway production isn’t happening because of persnickety natives – it’s about the value of the dollar and tax incentives.

  7. There are many “sad reasons” production ends up out of town, 95% of which boil down to one thing: money. The bottom line — productions go elsewhere because it’s cheaper. Granted, rudeness on the part of location crews is a bad idea that wins the Industry new enemies, but in 20 years of location filming (the other 13 have been spent largely on stage), my crews always tried to bend over backwards in being considerate of the neighborhood. We weren’t always successful, but we did our best to act like guests. Most often, these live-and-let-live vibes were returned by the neighborhood — but more times than I care to remember, our politeness was rebuffed by some jerk who saw a chance to make a little easy money by being an asshole. In so doing, the asshole invariably made my job — already hard enough — all that much harder.

    Circumstance dictated that I had to tolerate such self-serving douchebag behavior, but I didn’t like it one little bit.

    Bill Johnson’s tale is a horror story, to be sure — some of the worst behavior of any location crew I’ve ever heard of here in LA. But if it’s true that the bad apples (rare though they may be) can ultimately make things harder for the rest of us, sometimes you really do have to draw the line. A reasonable complaint is one thing — being a douchebag simply because you can is something else altogether.

    I sounds to me that Peg was dealing with a prime example of the latter.

  8. ke6gwf says:

    As a former Tow Truck driver, if I got that call and the lady had legal reason to have it moved from her front yard, I’d pull up in my big truck, ask the crew people to step behind it, make a deal with them on a slightly different temporary location for the lift, pull out my chain, (keychain that is!) start up the lift and drive it out of her yard, write up the bill for the response (@ $250 an hour plus mileage)and then drive away watching the left being driven back to it’s needed location in my mirrors… :)

    You never know when the tow truck driver is also a theatre tech!

    My current (and one of my previous) job is hauling heavy equipment, so I will add that a 80′ lift is about 35-40,000 pounds, depending on brand and age and number of coats of paint!

    If I ever switch back to towing, I might stage the mentioned video. Grab the old “shop use only” little old wrecker and find out from United Rentals where they have the largest lift in town, swing by and “try” to tow it… I’ll give you credit!

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