Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

And why wouldn’t it?

Today was our last day in our ‘hero’ house, so we had, in addition to the day’s work, some scenes to re-shoot (one because the producers didn’t think our stunningly beautiful lead actress looked ‘pretty enough’), and about a million inserts.

The call sheet looked like a Tolstoy novel before editing, and we all knew it was going to be a long day – even if they wrapped on time, we still had to load our truck. In the rain, of course, because why wouldn’t it be raining on the day we had to clean up and load our truck?

After several weeks at a location, you get comfortable and stuff spreads out despite efforts at housekeeping, so there’s a massive last-minute expedition to hunt down the scattered gear and organize it (Boss: “Why are the tweenie* doors on the back of the toilet in the bathroom?” Me: [pause] “I. Don’t. Know.”)

After they finally called wrap – at the last minute before the producer stomped on set and pulled the plug, because why wouldn’t they use every minute they had to finish the massive call sheet – we were cleaning out the house, happy to be done with the place, but trying to work as quickly as we could as the siren call of home and a hot shower was too much to resist.

The homeowner had thoughtfully provided wooden ramps so we could wheel carts up the low stairs into the house, as I was carrying one of the aforementioned tweenies down the ramp, I slipped on the wet wood and landed right on my knee.

Of course. If I’m going to get hurt at work, why wouldn’t it be right at wrap when my co-workers really need me? I’m told I screamed like a girl when it happened, although I have no such recollection.

Our medic iced the knee, gave me some painkillers and some paperwork to fill out (in that order. Hope I did it right), then wrapped it (the knee, not the paperwork) so it would hold weight and I hobbled out to help load the carts.

One of my co-workers had slipped on the same ramp a few hours before and injured the opposite leg, so we joked that between us we made one complete electrician.

I’m icing the knee now in the hopes that the swelling will go down – I’m officially in 10 hour turnaround (the elapsed time between when one is dismissed for the day and when one must report back to work the next day), so I can’t ice for too long.

That sleep thing needs to happen.

Tomorrow’s work is in a hospital, so if the knee really hurts I know where there will be a doctor or three.

Call time: 9:30 am

Wrap time: 9:30 pm

We closed the doors of our truck at 11:00 pm.

*The tweenie is one of the workhorses of the lighting department. It’s a 650 watt light that’s small enough to hide easily, but puts out a nice amount of light, and no matter how many of them we order, it’s never enough.

 

Filed under: hazardous, locations, long long drives, mishaps, movies, Work, , , , , , , ,

Obstacle courses and other obstructions

I’m sure there was a really good reason the producers of this movie opted to shoot in a private home instead of building a set on a stage.

I just can’t think of it. The house is in the flight path of both LAX and Santa Monica Airport, so there’s a constant stream of jets and single engine planes flying over. The damage list is already alarmingly high (film crews don’t mean to destroy your house, it just kind of happens) in both the ‘hero’ house and the house next door where we’re staging equipment.  We’re also racking up overtime because of crowding and noise.

The problem with even the largest house is that the walls won’t come out, so traffic jams happen when the DP decides to, say, place the camera in the only door leading into a small bathroom or at the base of the only staircase.

On a stage, the walls of a set can wild (come out easily) for faster access and there’s always a way around whatever equipment’s causing the traffic jam.

The other problem in our current location is our own self-generated noise. Since this particular home is built in the loft style with very high ceilings and a lot of tile, there’s no noise dampening at all.  Even whispered conversations are magnified, and because the important people have taken to sitting in the set and talking (and laughing, and singing show tunes) while we’re trying to work, it’s almost impossible to hear anything, even with the walkie turned up all the way.

The ADs can’t do anything about it because it’s the executive producers doing the laughing and singing, so we all just have to suck it up and try to do our best.

The other problem we’re having is equipment. This particular rental house (and the producer usually chooses the lowest bidder) apparently sent all their good gear to the subsidy states, because we’re being sent out some spectacularly old equipment.

The problem with old equipment is that it almost never works properly, since it’s not been maintained. It’s just been sitting in some warehouse, waiting for either the scrapper or a show that doesn’t have a choice about taking it.

Even the dust on this thing was old.

Yes, that’s a light that’s so old it was manufactured in West Germany. I think stirrup leggings were still in fashion when West Germany ceased to exist.

Why has this thing not been scrapped? Oh, right. Because they can send it to us, and not have to bother shipping any of the good equipment back from Louisiana.

Except that this light, along with about 40% of our other lights, didn’t work.

The rental house has been out every single day to exchange bad lamps, ballasts, stands, etc…

But the new stuff they bring out isn’t any better than the busted up garbage we’re sending back. Normally, after a few fuck ups, the rental house gets embarrassed and starts sending out the nice new shiny stuff that they normally only send out on commercials (commercials pay the best, so they get the best stuff).

But since I’ve not seen anything shiny or new, I’m guessing this isn’t going to get any better.

Filed under: locations, movies, Photos, Work, , , , , , ,

After the rain

Line drying

Since it’s almost never a good idea for lighting equipment to get wet, when there’s the threat of rain (or heavy dew overnight) we have to cover, with plastic, any carts and loose equipment not under some sort of cover.  For a long time, we just cut chunks off big rolls of landscaping plastic and wrapped that around the carts (and no matter how thorough a job one thought one had done, water always leaked in somewhere), but then someone invented these giant sandwich bag things called Bag-its. They come in all sizes and are super awesome, but are far too expensive to be considered a throwaway item, so they get re-used until they’re so battered that they fall apart (this takes a surprisingly long time to happen).

For obvious reasons, we can’t fold them up and put them away when they’re wet, so we have to dry them. The best way to do this is to suspend them from two stands like giant lines of plastic laundry.

We had to keep the sidewalk clear so that the nice people who live in this neighborhood could pass through, so we couldn’t just line them up like we usually do, and we only had enough space to dry three at a time.

Lucky for us there’s no rain predicted for the rest of our very short (due to the Thanksgiving holiday) week.

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

Friday Photo

Floor protection

In an effort not to destroy the lovely home that the nice residents have allowed us to shoot in, we pad every bit of the floor that’s not on camera, and wrap any built-ins or counters with bubble wrap, which is very, very hard to resist popping.

At least for me.

Note crew-eating sliding window to the upper right.

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

Just like a bird, in a bad way

There are many reasons to shoot on location rather than build on a stage – usually it’s a cost factor, and in this case I think the house we’re shooting in would, indeed, have been too expensive to build.

It’s a modern home with a lot of glass throughout, including an entire wall of glass overlooking the garden. The wall has big sliding doors (probably 20 feet by 20 feet or 6 meters for you folks in the rest of the world) that open to let in the breeze. It’s a lovely feature except that when one is rushing into the house because one needs to get to set, it’s sometimes hard to tell if the doors are open or closed.

Four people (myself included) in two days have run into the glass due to not being able to tell if the door was closed.

Since even the biggest house is a bit tight space-wise, if one has to get into the set and one sees a clear path, one usually goes at a fairly fast pace to get to where one has to be before the crowd closes in. Although that ‘fast’ isn’t a flat-out run, it’s still fast enough to make it hurt when a pane of glass stops all forward progress.

At least I was lucky enough to hit the glass with my shoulder due to someone calling out my name and my turning my head to respond.

Another person wasn’t so lucky and hit the glass hard enough that the medic deemed an ER visit was in order (Don’t worry, it wasn’t too serious).

After that, the ADs put big strips of paper tape over the widows so they’d be a bit more visible. We keep having to peel them off if the window’s in the shot, but it seems to be working as there haven’t been any more collisions. Yet.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, Work, , , , , , ,

Insurance day

Friday was all about  being in the right place at the right time.

I was rigging on some re-shoots of a movie that shot back east (as most of them do now), and happened to be standing there when the best boy got a call asking  if anyone knew of any lamp operators that were available.

Some people prefer just to rig for various reasons – shorter hours, less chaos, etc.. and some folks on rigging crews do not like to work set, but some of us are perfectly happy doing both.

So as I was standing there, gathering supplies I needed to run DMX in the perms, my name got thrown in the hat for a lamp operator on a movie that – wait for it – is actually shooting in Los Angeles.

Jaw, meet floor.

There are several totally awesome things about this particular movie –  it’s crewed by a great group of folks that I really like to work with, and it’s running through the middle of December. And the main location is really close to the apartment so the morning commute is a breeze. Also, kickass caterer.

I’m not dayplaying, I’m actually full-time, and I can’t remember the last time that’s happened.

Today was my first day, and as usual, was spent getting acquainted with the set, where the power is, how the gaffer likes things done, etc..

About three hours into the day, the ADs announced that our main actor would not be in due to illness. Actual illness, mind you, not coked-out former starlet “illness”.

When things like this happen, the production company calls the insurance company*, informs them that they won’t be able to shoot that day and the insurance company has to cover the costs.

Production companies hate insurance days and try to never, ever use them, but sometimes your actor gets sick or your set burns down or no one can find the director because he went to Tijuana over the weekend with two of the extras and there’s nothing to be done about it other than to throw in the towel.

So, we spent some time cleaning up and organizing our carts, and then left. I went to a nearby restaurant and celebrated the full-time gig with a glass of wine and a fantastic lunch (chickpea and rosemary soup with a nice glass of wine. And bread), then came home, changed and went for a run.

Followed, finally, by a swim.

As of right now, we’re working tomorrow and I’m so happy about it.

*Every production has insurance. One can’t get permits or rent equipment without it.

Filed under: locations, movies, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

It’s seven PM and I’m going to bed

Although long days are normal for me, there’s a huge difference between a 12 hour shooting day and a 12 hour rigging day.

On the shooting crew, there are times where one isn’t doing anything and can sit and rest (or go to crafty, or read the paper, etc…). On a rigging crew, there’s no rest except when one is on one of three designated breaks throughout the day ( coffee, lunch, and afternoon) or when one can sneak off to the restroom.

Since we’re working 6 am to 6 pm on a lot that’s all the way across town (no, really) from my place,  and I’ve got a commute on either side (about 40 minutes in the morning and an hour at night), I get up (at about 4:45), go to work, come home, shower and go to bed.

No time for much else, although last night I did sacrifice some precious sleep time to go stand in line at my polling place and vote.

I’m off to bed.

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

Friday Photo

Full Moon

Balloon lights – one lit, one not. These are helium balloons with lights inside of them (hence the name) and they do a very good job of imitating moonlight.  You have to keep them away from trees on windy nights, though, or they pop.

Filed under: locations, Photos, up all night, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

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