Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Words I never thought I’d say

“Sweet baby Jeebus, I am so sick of smelling this chocolate I think I’m going to puke.”

As soon as the words passed my lips, the world just felt.. wrong. Like I’d passed into an alternate dimension where everything was almost, but not entirely normal. Like the twilight zone (shit. Now I’m going to get hits from vampire tween searches).

A chill went down my spine and I wondered how I was going to return home from this deeply disturbing place.

Wait.. Let me back up.

Lately, I’ve been doing this thing where I sleep like a rock (and wake up not feeling very rested, but that’s another story), so when the phone rang at the crack of dawn yesterday morning, it didn’t register at first.  As I clawed my way to semiconsciousness, the call went to voicemail, so I shoved the cat off my face,  and upon listening to the message, found that it was someone calling to see if I were available to cover someone who called in sick.

I broke the dialing speed record calling back to say ‘yes’, showered, hopped in the car and headed across town (of course) to the stage.

Upon arriving I discovered that the bulk of the day’s work was several characters rolling around in what was supposed to be a mud pit. For some reason, instead of movie mud, this production opted to use chocolate pudding. Don’t ask me why. Guess they figured the actors were going to accidentally ingest it and it was better to be safe than sorry.

12 hours later, the smell of chocolate pudding mixed with cheap perfume and broken dreams was nauseating.

But that also could have been the smoke. In an effort to make the scene look like a strip club without actually going to a strip club, we used a doohickey that creates smoke, Basically, it superheats oil and spits out a vapor that looks like smoke. Don’t know what’s in it. It’s supposed to be harmless, but after a few hours on stage with the stuff, my eyes burn, my skin itches and I cough like a tubercular Victorian poet.

Productions are supposed to hand out ‘protection’ (no, not condoms, dust masks), but no one does because it’s useless against the smoke juice.

I usually feel like crap the next day, too.

It’s an occupational hazard since directors and DPs LOVE smoke. It makes the scene look all hazy and pretty (unless you overdo it and then your movie looks like an 80’s music video), so it’s a cross I’ll just have to bear.

The chocolate thing is a problem though. Hopefully I’ll stop hating the smell very soon.

Filed under: hazardous, movies, studio lots, toxic waste, Work

7 Responses

  1. Emilio says:

    I’m pretty sure the stuff in fog machines is toxic. We used it for a concert scene in a short and had two of them behind the drummer. By the end of a four hour shoot the guy was dry heaving and looked like he was going to die.

  2. Annika says:

    Chocolate pudding? As my son would say, “I go bleh.”

  3. ironrailsironweights says:

    Chocolate pudding’s most infamous use as a theatrical stand-in occurred in 2 Girls 1 Cup.


  4. Dave2 says:

    Balderdash! One can never have too much chocolate pudding! I say your remedy is to rip into a Snack Pack and let nature take its course! :-)

  5. JCW says:

    I’ve only done smoke work three times – each outdoors – and everytime I’ve gotten headaches and nausea… Not worth the pay bump.

    Can’t imagine working INDOORS with the stuff! Awful!

  6. geekhiker says:

    I remember working a show where the smokers were mineral oil and some people got… well, let’s just say they got the effects of mineral oil. *ahem*

    As for the pudding, what would Bill Cosby say?!?!?!?

  7. I’ve worked in smoke more times than my smoke-damaged brain can remember. One commercial I did back in the day used billowing clouds of smoke as the set — shot indoors on a big stage, of course — featuring gleaming cars emerging from the toxic mist.

    I hate it.

    You can’t wear a mask because the mask makes it impossible to communicate, so you go without and suffer the consequences.

    They always tell us “Don’t worry, this smoke won’t hurt you,” but everybody I know (including myself) always feels like shit after a day or working in that stuff. Human lungs did not evolve to deal with oil smoke/fog/particulate-whatever-it-is.

    There’s a special circle of hell where those smoke-obsessed DPs and directors will spend eternity — a very hot and smoky place…

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