Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

It’s almost like a vacation.

After a short turnaround, I had a couple of nice slow all-stage days on Been Done Before.  Hooray for short commutes!

The day was nice and easy with wonderful folks who I like to work with, no extras on roller skates, no loud music, no photographers, no smoke, working air-conditioner. Awesome.

Thursday, I burned myself about an hour before lunch. I’ve got a hole in my gloves (they wear out right at the seams), and when I went to adjust a light, the part of the finger that was exposed made some really good contact.

The upside is that I’ve burned my fingers so many times I don’t really feel it, but the downside is that since I didn’t feel it right away, I probably got a much worse burn than I would have otherwise.

Right on the tip of the index finger.  Awesome.

The last time I burned myself was on the same show, and I did it right in front of the producer, who made me to go the lot’s medical office (normally minor burns, an occupational hazard of set lighting, are just ignored), so this time I got teased by my co-workers (“Should we call 911? Do you need sedatives?”).

I didn’t go to the nurse, just borrowed some ice from craft service and rummaged through the first aid kit we have in our office for a bandage.

Weekend to-do list: Buy new gloves.

Since we didn’t get off work Thursday until 10 pm, I had to spend half an hour trying to find a drugstore that was open, as I needed some of those special fingertip bandages – the regular kind don’t stay on, and the finger burn was deep enough that I really wanted to keep it covered in case the blister broke.

Having had some experience with burns, I highly recommend not breaking the blister. It doesn’t make it heal faster, it just makes it hurt more and increases the likelihood that it’s going to get infected.

So – nice heavy padded fingertip bandage, and today I made an effort to reach for things with the other hand.

We had sound on Thursday, but today was just inserts, so lots of little shots, but small lighting set-ups.

Although this director usually goes late, we had a 10 hour day, and I was tempted to go swim after work, but the last thing I need is pool water in a burn. Plus, it’s still January and the gym is a madhouse.

Hopefully I can get in the pool by Sunday if the finger’s looking good.

Filed under: hazardous, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , ,

Get down, get funky. Or something.

Right after I hauled myself out of bed in the morning, I got a call from the best boy  of Reluctant Porn Star to come in and replace someone who’d called in sick.

They were shooting all the way across town in a roller rink that hasn’t seen a remodel since the Carter administration (perfect for a movie set in the 1970’s). After almost two hours of fighting traffic, I dumped my bags in the truck and started changing gels on the lights we had rigged in the ceiling over the rink.

Roller rinks, in case you’re not familiar, are made of sanded and varnished wood, kind of like a basketball court. Ladders and nice smooth antique wood surfaces don’t really go together very well, so we had to keep layout board (4′ by 8′ sheets of heavy cardboard) under the ladders. Which was fine, except that we had a limited amount of time until the company moved inside and having to move the board does tend to slow one down.

As soon as the shooting crew moved inside, the rink got insanely hot. I guess they decided to rely on the building’s AC instead of renting a stand alone industrial one, which never works when one has close to 200 people inside plus a bunch of really hot lights. The smoke machine didn’t help, either.  The stuff they use to make theatrical smoke is supposed to be harmless, but after a while it makes my chest hurt and my eyes burn.

Some of the extras didn’t really know how to roller skate, and were careening around the rink, out of control – one kept smacking into the wall which didn’t hurt anyone, but another crashed into the dolly and took out one of the camera assistants.  Walking through the crowd of unsteady projectiles while carrying a hot light was an added degree of difficulty for the day. Lucky for me I managed to avoid getting hit.

In addition to the work for the day, we shot a music video for the band who were playing in the scene. One of the things I hate about working on music videos is, well, the music.

It’s not that I don’t like music, it’s that I don’t like hearing the same song over and over and over and over. I’m not sure if it’s worse when it’s a song I like or a song I don’t like.

Our last shot of the night was outside in a parking lot visible form the street, also known as paparazzi Christmas.

As soon as they spotted their thespian prey, they crowded as close as they could to the set without violating trespassing laws. Unfortunately, this made it very difficult for the rest of the crew to do our jobs.

When I’ve got a cart full of equipment, I’d really rather use the sidewalks as walking in the roadway is a hazard, but when there are ‘photographers’ blocking the sidewalk and refusing to move because “it’s public property and you can’t make me”  I go in the street and hope for the best.

Luckily this was late at night on a weeknight.

After wrapping, packing the truck and driving back across town, I got home at 1:30 am. Tomorrow, I have to be at work on Been Done Before at 8:30 am.

Filed under: hazardous, life in LA, locations, long long drives, up all night, Work, , , , , , ,

Night Two

Of course, when we showed up at work the first thing we did was split the crew – some stayed down at the beachside set to work the day exterior, and the rest of us went back up the hill to re-rig the set up from the night before.

It wasn’t as bad, since we were rigging the turn around from the first night – the original shot had been looking down the hill, so we saw (and had to light) much more than we did when the camera was aimed up the hill.

Still, we barely got finished in time, and once the shooting crew landed, everything got changed around, but this time we had more people and I was more emotionally prepared for the hard, long day, even though I started out sore and in pain from the night before.

After they finished the night exterior, the set guys went down to the beach to work the night exterior on the beach, and we stayed up top to wrap.

One of the things that is, in reality, much less wonderful that one might imagine is working on the beach.

No matter if it’s day or night, working on the beach is difficult. Sand gets everywhere, carts are useless, and the big inflatable wheels that are supposed to make lighting stands roll don’t really work as well as they’re supposed to.

Did I mention sand gets everywhere?

So I was very happy to just be wrapping – we got there, got the stuff from up the hill loaded into the truck and then wrapped cable (covered in sand, of course).

The wrap went quickly as we had the entire crew working, then we had to wait for the rental company to show up. Lucky for us, they got there half an hour early, and we were on our way home before the sun came up.

I came home, slept for a couple of hours, then got up and did something. I know I did something, I just don’t remember what.

Today, my legs are incredibly painful and my left shoulder’s stiff. I know the legs are stiff from the hill, but I’ve got no idea what’s up with the shoulder. Hopefully it’ll sort itself out in time for me to go swim.

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


The gaffer and crew on Reluctant Porn Star are some of my favorite people in the world to work with, no matter what it is, but the DP on the show, while a very nice guy, isn’t really used to working on low-budget shows.

He’s used to working with higher budgets which means more equipment and larger crews (and rigging crews, which RPS doesn’t have), so the lighting set-ups are way too big for the small crew that we have.

Our location was a neighborhood of  some very lovely hillside homes in the south  bay – the views from the houses were amazing, but the problem with working around hillside homes, is, well, the hillside.

Our truck was down a very steep hill from the house where we were shooting, so anything that we needed had to be brought to the set in a stakebed (if we could get one. Transpo only had three since it’s a low-budget show), or carried as trying to push even a lightly loaded cart up an 18% grade is hilarious, but ultimately futile.

Our first shot was  day exterior, which didn’t require any lighting, which was good as we had to run cable up the hill and down the hill for the night exterior. Since they were looking at the street, we had to run the cable through the yards of the houses – over the fences, through the ivy, etc.. We also made an attempt to pre-light by placing some lamps in the yards where we thought they might work.

Up the hill, down the hill. Up the hill down the hill. My legs were screaming well before lunch.

Of course, any attempts we made at pre-lighting went out the window when we started actually lighting.

I’ve mentioned before that there’s a difference between actual dark and cinematic dark. The latter requires a surprisingly large number of lights even for a small area, and since we were spread out over an almost-vertical city block, we used pretty much ever light in our truck.

Right after we’d lit and shot one direction of the night exterior, it started to rain. Since there was no way to shoot the reverse of a huge wide shot with rain when the first half had no rain, they told us to wrap everything and they’d come back another time and reshoot it.

Two hours later, right after we’d finished wrapping, we were informed of the plan to shoot the reverse tomorrow, so we’re going to have to re-run all the cable and re-do all the lighting.

I managed to get home just before the sun came up.

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

Time flies when you’re busy

January has been crazy (the good kind, not the drama kind). I’m getting multiple work calls almost every day, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is unheard of this time of year.

Tuesday, I missed a work call for Wednesday as I was swimming when the call came. Since I have yet to figure out how to bring my phone into the lap pool with me, by the time I dried off and got back to the locker the job had been given to someone else who called back sooner.

“Oh, well” I thought “I’ll just clean the house and hopefully I’ll get a day near the end of the week”.

Wednesday  morning at 6:45, the phone rang and the best boy from Doctors in Love* asked if I could come in right then as someone had called in sick.

Normally, I don’t like to jump out of bed, throw on whatever clothing smells the least and haul ass out the door. I like to get up, have some coffee, putter around and generally make a leisurely exit, but since Doctors in Love shoots across town (literally all the way across the city) and it’s an hour drive with no traffic,  I hurried as waiting too much past 7-ish would result in a multi hour stop-and-go nightmare.

It turned out to be an easy day (one set, two actors) with a bunch of really awesome guys. The only bad part about working with this particular group of guys is that they use a bunch of custom rigged lights, and as such have odd names for them.

Normally, there’s a bit of variation in what stuff is called (some people call a 4 foot, four tube Kino Flo a ‘fat boy’, some call it a ‘tall boy’), but it’s all basically the same.

Custom lights, however, are, well, custom, so there’s no frame of reference.

When the gaffer gets on the walkie and asks for a “Long John Silver on a teeter totter**” I have no frame of reference and stand there, halfway between the staging area and the set, blinking rapidly and wondering if I want to ask for clarification on the walkie, thus making everyone think I’m a bit slow, or wait to ask a co-worker, making the gaffer think I’m lazy.


It all worked out well, though (crazy light names aside), and I got picked up for the next day as well, so I got to go back today.

Today as also an easy day with fun people, even if the work was a bit more complex (multiple actors, a stage move, etc..), but I was inside a heated stage all day – a good thing since it’s currently really cold here in Los Angeles. Objectively cold, not California cold.

During lunch today, I got a text from the best boy on Reluctant Porn Star* asking if I could work Friday and Saturday. Both days on the beach, both days splits (afternoon call so the day’s half day, half night).

I predict both nights to be cold and damp (and working on the beach sucks balls), but hey, it’s work, right?

*Not a real show name

** An LED strip in an aluminum housing with the ballasts rigged to hang off of it. It looks like a penis on a surfboard.

Filed under: crack of dawn, long long drives, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

By now, I’m assuming that you’ve all heard about the flap over SOPA, a fun, flirty bit of potential legislation that’s attempting to curb internet piracy.

While censorship is, of course, a horrible thing, stealing is also horrible. When you download or stream pirated movies, you’re stealing. From me.

Let me explain.

Below-the-line crew don’t get residuals paid directly as do actors, writers, producers, etc..

Instead, we get what would be residuals paid into our health and pension fund. When people illegally download a movie, that’s lost money that should be going into a fund to keep me from having to eat road kill when I’m old*

Right now, because of piracy, our health and pension fund is under-funded to the tune of some number with a fuckload of zeros at the end.

The criminals, as usual, are way, way ahead of the law.

SOPA is an attempt to give law enforcement a bit more of an advantage.

Except that it’s incredibly badly written. Imagine trying to explain “that interweb thing” to your grandpa and then having him try to fix it.

That’s SOPA.

So. Do I support the legislation as currently written? No.

Do I agree that there’s a huge problem with piracy that needs to be dealt with? Yes.

Since the internet is currently behaving like an octogenarian confronted with a wireless printer setup, do I think everyone needs to calm the fuck down? Yes.

Will I be joining the internet boycott thingy? No.

Unless WordPress does it for me.

*If it’s that bad, I’ll just go skydiving and forget to deploy my parachute. Hey, it’s okay. I’ll be senile. No one will get in trouble.

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

Crosstown drives and short turnaround

Tuesday, I had a last-minute call on Been Done Before – with a mid-rush hour start time all the way across town (of course), which meant I had to leave home extra early and still stressed out the whole time I sat on the freeway, not moving. Awesome.

They called wrap around 8 pm, and we had to load our truck and then find a van to take us back to crew parking. I got home around 9 pm, and I had a 6:30 am call all the way across town (in the other direction) this morning for a rigging call on Yet Another Cop Show. Why is it that when I come in rested we have an eight-hour day, but when I haven’t gotten any sleep the night before we go long?

Today, we were shooting on an $18 million yacht. No, that’s not a typo. A lovely sweep of fiberglass that you, my friends, can charter for a measly for 75 grand per week (including fuel and crew), and television shows can shoot on (for an undisclosed sum, of course).

After putting those paper shoe covers on so that our dirty toolbelt feet wouldn’t soil the white carpet or mar the marble flooring, we were allowed in.

Since it’s a bad, bad idea for the boat’s engines to be running while we’re shooting, we had to run power to said boat. Since the entire planet has apparently decided that boats need 480 volts of power we had to get two generators – one for the boat power, and one for our 120 volt power.

Do I need to tell anyone that plugging anything that’s normally 120 into 480 is going to result in a hilarious and expensive explosion?

Once we got the boat powered, we set up our balloon light on a barge (since they wanted the balloon to be right out in the middle of the harbor), and then got off work just in time to hit the rush hour traffic going home.

Barge Balloon

I’m off again tomorrow, which is good because I’m still coughing.

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, long long drives, movies, Photos, Work, , , , , ,

It’s Saturday Night and I’m up in the air. Sort of.

In addition to Been Done Before and Yet Another Cop Show, I’m now picking up days on a movie that’s crewed by some wonderful people who I like so much I’ll happily come and work on a low-budget clusterfuck from hell.

Let’s call it Reluctant Porn Star*.

The one thing that low-budget movies do to cut costs is cut manpower. Which is fine, except that the smaller the crew, the longer it takes to light big, wide shots where we see the entire world (or at least the entire pool and courtyard of a motel that hasn’t seen a remodel since the Carter administration).

The solution? Use your condor operators!

Normally, going up in the condor means that you stay up all night, even when your light’s not in use, because it takes longer than most gaffers want to wait to raise the boom arm, get back into position and have the light come up to full strength (HMI lamps take a few minutes to reach full brightness). It’s much faster to leave the person up there all night with the light burning, but panned off the set so when the light is needed, it’s ready instantly and the gaffer looks like a rock star when the DP says “Wow, that was fast!”

Except when you’ve got an enormous night exterior to light and production won’t give you the manpower that you need, letting the condor operator sit up there doing nothing doesn’t seem like such a great idea any longer.

So, I had to come down and work the set.

Which turned out to be a good thing, as right after lunch a really heavy fog rolled in, and if I’d been up in the air, I would have been soaking wet – which would have been just fucking great for my cough.

Unfortunately, since I’d assumed I’d be up in the air all night, I didn’t take a nap before work, so I was really sleepy, especially since the coffee machine broke right after lunch.

When I die, if I go to hell, my personal torture chamber will be a night exterior with no coffee available.

I got home from work around 6 am Sunday morning, slept for about four hours and then stumbled through the day. I think there was a bike ride in there at some point, but really the whole day’s a blur.

After struggling to stay awake until dark Sunday night, I slept a good 12 hours and then went to the gym to sit in the steam room in an attempt to encourage whatever’s living in my chest to move out.

We’ll see. I’m back on Been Done Before tomorrow.

*This is not actually the name of the movie.

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, movies, up all night, Work

Saturday Photo


My view tonight from a condor. 

Yeah, I’m working Saturday night. 

In Long Beach.

Filed under: locations, long long drives, Los Angeles, Photos, up all night

January 2012

Flickr Photos



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