Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Friday Photo

Wattage label

Although household light bulbs come from the factory labelled, good luck reading that label in near darkness on a stage while you’re in a hurry because there’s a burn out and the gaffer’s yelling at you on the walkie because they need a replacement Right. Now.

So, we label the bulb with a marker so it’s easier to see. Obviously, this particular bulb is a 60 watt.

Oh, and that whole thing about no more tungsten light bulbs? We can still get them.

Filed under: Photos, Work, , , , , ,

Crack of dark

Over the years, I’ve gotten used to getting up early. Five am is pretty common, four am sucks but is doable, but yesterday I got up at 2:45. In the morning.

In a flash of foresight unusual for me, I have the alarm placed all the way across the room so I have to get up to hit the snooze button. In theory, this means if I get up, walk across the room to turn off the alarm I’ll stay up.  Most times this just means I get up, hit the snooze button and climb back into bed, but the shock of seeing the alarm go off at such a disturbing hour kept me up.

I then shuffled into the kitchen, made coffee and had some breakfast since I correctly assumed there wouldn’t be any food options at 4 am at our location – a high school in the Valley at which I’ve worked many, many times.

The good part about starting work at 4 am is that it’s not hot yet, which is a big plus in September in Los Angeles.  We ran out our cable in the pre-dawn coolness, and although I forgot my headlamp (took it out of the work bag to change the battery, and when I got home I found it sitting right there on the coffee table where I’d placed it so I wouldn’t forget to put it in the work bag), I still managed to see well enough to not trip and fall.

We changed some tubes in the classroom and the hallway, and when the caterer opened we had breakfast.

I couldn’t figure out why I was so hungry, then realized I’d last eaten at 3 am and it was now 7:30.

After wolfing down various egg products, we rigged some lights, ran some more cable, wrapped the first location and then ran more cable in a thankfully not very smelly gym.

Also, we were very lucky that the school had no students that day. It’s not that I don’t like teenagers, it’s just that it’s incredibly difficult to work around them since they tend to form packs.

The other nice thing about really early calls is getting released early. Since this particular show doesn’t want to keep the rigging crew on for more than 10 hours, we were on our way home at 3 pm – before the traffic got bad.

Once I got home, it was a struggle to stay awake until 8, when I gave up and went to bed.

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

Wait, there’s a 4 am now?

It’s been a thin year and not looking to get much better, so of course I’m eternally grateful for every day of work I get.

Even tomorrow, with a call time of 4 am in west bumfuck (take freeway until it ends, drive another 10 miles), which, since it’s a long commute, will require me to leave my house at 3 am, which means I have to get up at an hour I don’t want to think about.

Which means I should be in bed right now, except that it’s not dark yet and for some reason I have a real problem falling asleep when it’s still light out.

Also of course, I have zero idea of how long a day tomorrow will be, so I have to assume that I’ll need as much sleep as possible – which, if I’m lucky, will be about 6 hours.

Lucky for me I’m working with a group of guys that I really like so even though I have to be there at the crack of dark, I’ll still have a great time.

I’m off to bed.

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

Yay work, part 2.

After the 14 hour heat-induced extravaganza, a nice rigging job on the lot seemed perfect.

Close to home, with a group of guys that I adore, probably a shortish day.

Although we were rigging outside and it wasn’t much cooler than it was in Pasadena, it was still much easier as if we got too hot, we could sneak inside the air-conditioned stage and stand in front of the fan and cool down.

We ran a small amount of cable, rigged a few lights, and then, when the company moved out to the set we’d rigged, we went into the stage to do some clean-up behind them.

Clean up means wrapping any cable that got run out and left there, replenishing the stinger supply at the distro boxes, replacing any burned out globes and generally getting the set in shape so that the shooting  crew just has to walk onstage and start work.

One of the regular guys told me that when they were putting the rig in for this show, production refused to buy Gatorade (TM) because it was considered a ‘specialty water’.

It should be noted that they were putting this rig in a few weeks ago when it was horribly hot, even for summer.

Welcome to the new Hollywood.

It ended up being a 10 hour day, with fantastic wonderful people, and I was only moderately overheated.
Yay work!


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

Yay work! Pass the ice water.

I’m always happy to get a day of work, but lately I’m downright joyful, even if I’m working somewhere that’s going to make me very, very uncomfortable, such as Pasadena.

In case you’re not familiar, Pasadena is east of Los Angeles, and, in the summer, is hotter than the surface of the sun.  No, I’m not exaggerating.

Our call time was 6 am, which meant there was no traffic, so I got there in about 20 minutes, and then had another 20 minute van ride up to the top of a hill in a park I didn’t know existed.

Of course, the director changed the location of the first shot to a part of the park that hadn’t been scouted at all – so right when they were ready to start rehearsing, the sprinklers came on.

Then, the sun came up.

The heat was tolerable as long as one stayed in the shade, but any venture into the sun resulted in a very uncomfortable frying sensation.

After the first half of the day in the park, we moved to a home in Pasadena. A very lovely hillside home with a very lovely view of the city.

A hillside home, though, means that we have to push our carts up a hilly driveway and fight with all the other departments for level ground on which to stage equipment. In this case, it was a parking deck which, on the scout, it was determined we’d never, ever see so it was, in theory, safe.

Of course, as soon as he walked on set, the director decided that the parking deck was the best looking part of the stunning mid-century modern home and that he absolutely had to have the shot include it.

So, we pushed our carts back down the hill.

The good news is that the home was on an east-facing hill, so the yard was out of the worst of the sun. The bad news was we were shooting day for day so the east facing home would lose any usable light far earlier than we were going to finish shooting.

So, when we were finished shooting in the direction of the parking deck, we pushed our carts back up the hill.

Which was a good thing, since as we lost the light we started pulling out the HMIs to create light that was dissapearing behind the hill.

Once the light started to go, the director kicked it into high gear and we finished just as it was getting really, truly dark.

Then, we had to wrap out of the house – which was fine as the heat, finally, was gone.

Cruelest moment of the day: The pool. One can never, ever, EVER jump into a pool at a location. Firstly, because the homeowner doesn’t want a sweaty film crew clogging up the filters, and secondly, because one doesn’t want to work in wet clothes, but when one is really overheated the sight of an empty swimming pool is pure torture.

Oh, sweet cold water.. how I want you.

Call time: 6 am:

Wrap time 7:30 pm.

We closed our truck doors at 8 pm.

Yay work!

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, Work, ,

So now I have to think.

I hate it when I break down and cry in front of a complete stranger.

Actually, I hate it when I cry in front of anyone, as I’m not one of those women who can cry and look halfway decent. When I start crying, my face turns beet red, I get the hiccups, my nose runs and for some reason my hair frizzes out and makes me look like Rosanna Rosannadanna.

But today, in the office of the career counsellor at the Actor’s Fund, I did just that.

Broke down and cried instead of doing something productive with the nice lady’s time.

What started the waterworks was when I was given the well-meaning offer of help to build a resume and get a job.

I’m sure most of the folks who come through the Actor’s Fund have had it up to here with the film industry and can’t wait to get out.

I’m not one of those. I love my job. I really love it, and I adore the people I work with. I don’t want out.

That I even have to consider not being able to continue making a living at it hurts.

Really, really hurts.

Hence the tears.

After offering me a tissue,  the counsellor said “You know, you don’t have to leave entirely. Maybe you just need to think about what I like to call a parallel career where you still work in the industry but have something else generating income.”

I peered through my fogged up lenses at the soothing blur and, except for the hiccups, stopped crying as I thought about this.

I must confess that this had simply not occurred to me.

“Think about what you’re passionate about and what you want and then, once you’ve figured that out, then you find something that will work for you”.

She then asked me if I’d thought about going back to school.

I had not, but in today’s America, that would require much more financial… ooomph than I currently possess.

“Well,” she replied, “think about it and the next time we meet make a list. Make two lists. One of the things you’re passionate about and the other of the things you want from life and we’ll go from there.”

Wow. She’s good.

So now I just have to make lists.

I’m guessing she won’t allow ‘rich husband with a weak heart’  or ‘professionally slapping sense into people who desperately need it’ as bullet points, though.

Although, when I think about it, that second one would require relocation to Washington DC, and I really don’t want to live there, either.


Filed under: Non-Work, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

The beginning of the end, maybe?

This past weekend was a real eye-opener for me. I knew the industry was slow here in Los Angeles, but when I sat in a continuing education classroom at Contract Services with a bunch of guys who are usually always busy (and I mean always), all anyone could talk about was  how thin work has gotten around here.

Yikes. If the heavy hitters aren’t making ends meet, what hope do the rest of us have? I’m currently getting enough work to keep the wolves at bay, but that, of course, can change at any time.

For those of you not familiar, over the past few years several other states (and countries) have been handing producers suitcases full of cash in order to lure film production away from California. I think the technical term is incentives, but really it’s a bribe.

And it’s worked very successfully.  There is currently almost no production in California, but Louisiana and Georgia (the newcomer to the world of corporate kickbacks) are hopping.

I love my job and I’d like to keep doing it, but I’d rather drink poison than move to Georgia or Louisiana (nothing personal, you understand), so the question is how long I can hang on. An added complication is my being  well past the age of being able to snag a rich husband.

Note to parents of girls: Look at my life. This is what happens when you teach your daughters self-reliance. They end up alone, without  Botox, veneers, or overpriced sports cars and worrying about how to pay the bills.

I just have myself and the cat, so as long as I can get enough hours to keep my health insurance, I’ll tighten my belt and soldier on.

But what about the people with families?

One state ends their sop and another starts up. Since most of these subsidies actually cost the states money (currently for every dollar of film revenue that Louisiana brings in, it spends $7.30*), it’s baffling that they keep doing it, but I’m certainly not one to underestimate the capability of humans to not in any way, shape or form learn from our mistakes.

Most of us who have spent our entire working lives in the film industry have skills that don’t easily translate to the real world, and even if we do decide to branch out, we have resumes that are confusing and frightening to anyone not familiar with the transient nature of film production (“No, it’s the same job, for the same people.. just with a different name on the letter head”).

So Wednesday, I have a career counseling appointment at The Actors’ Fund to see if I have any chance of any sort of work at all once production in California dries up for good.

Or, even better,  if I can manage to start some sort of business that legally appropriates taxpayer money just like the studios are doing.

I suspect not, but we’ll see.


Filed under: cranky, life in LA, rants, , , , ,

Back and forth

The idea was pretty simple. Since this show doesn’t have a rigging crew, a co-worker and I would come in a bit before call time today, get started rigging a set on the same stage as the shooting set, and then continue as the shooting crew came in and started work.

It would work out great, because we could rig in between working the lighting set-ups with the guys to make things move faster than usual, right?

The problem with this should be blatantly obvious – the time in between lighting set-ups is either shooting or rehearsing, and the excessive noise that comes with rigging lights (which, no matter how quietly one tries to work, makes noise)  is frowned upon in both situations.

Since we needed finish rigging a set that was scheduled to shoot the next day, this plan didn’t work out at all.

Also, this particular set had a pipe grid instead of green beds, so all rigging had to be done from a lift, which, naturally, makes a lot more noise.

So eventually we told the set guys just to call us if they really got in trouble, which, of course, they never did (“oh, no.. we’re fine. No, really. Carry on and ignore the screaming”).
Once we gave up on the whole ‘working set’ idea, we got everything done, even with having to stop working during takes and rehearsals.

This was the first time in quite some time that I’ve managed to work three days in a row, so by the end of the day my feet were aching and I was very, very glad to be done. And, of course, very, very glad for three days of work with wonderful people.

Call time: 6:30 am

Wrap time: 8:00 pm.

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

The most popular guy on set

Every so often, an actor comes on set and is instantly popular with the entire crew. Everyone loves him, everyone wants to have their photo taken with him, everyone talks about how awesome he is.
Meet That Guy:

Mr. Popular

Note that said Mr. Popular was also competing with a really adorable Yorkie whose name I can’t remember because he’s not a super-friendly puffer fish.

He got his picture taken all day and seemed to love it:

I’m ready for my close up, baby.

The attention never let up, even with said cute dog on set. Probably because Mr. Popular would come swimming up to whoever it was looking into the tank and pose.

The show rented the aquarium and resident fish for the entire episode, so I’m sure Mr. Popular will continue to dominate the on-set cell phone photos for the next few days.

Filed under: Photos, studio lots, Work, , , ,

September 2012

Flickr Photos



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

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