Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Just make it work and don’t confuse me

Production on the sitcom graciously allowed me two ‘prep’ days before the actual show starts on Wednesday.

Today was my first ‘prep’ day, and I used it to get the console set up – which required the assistance of the lot’s super amazing IT guy.

A few years ago, dimmer boards (or lighting consoles as they’re now known) had a technical revolution.

The boards used to be pretty simple. Plug in the DMX cable, turn on the power, and  you were good to go.

Not so much anymore.

The newer consoles are much more powerful and flexible, but the downside is the networking.

I understand as much about networking as I understand about derivatives, so the appearance of the IT guy was the happiest I’ve been in weeks.

After about an hour of re-configuring and trying to explain what he was doing (which I pretended to understand but didn’t. I just hope my eyes didn’t glaze over), he had to go back to the shop to get something to make the whole damned mess work.

I used the time to go to the commissary and get a very large cup of iced coffee. I think I might have been shaking my head and muttering “subnet mask” to myself, but I’m not sure.

When he came back with whatever it was he needed (he told me what it was, but I can’t remember. Point and laugh if you want. I’m okay with it), there was some more configuring and a few re-boots, but then… magic.

My console was speaking to the dimmer packs, who were speaking to the lights.

Anything that went wrong from here on out was my fault.

I managed to get through my to-do list (build a few cues, build a few groups, duplicate what was on the old console) by using the manufacturer’s online forums and only making about 10,000 calls with stupid questions to my friend who has the patience of a saint.

The problem with the more powerful consoles is there’s always some programming thing that trips you up – that thing won’t be in the manual, it won’t be in the videos, it may or may not be in the forums, but whatever it is, it’s really, really simple and will fuck you six ways from Sunday if you don’t deal with  it right away.

With this particular console, it’s tracking.

If you’re in concert lighting, tracking is the greatest thing in the world. If you’re in film/television lighting, tracking is the devil. On meth.

This particular console is a tracking console by default, so it didn’t behave the way it was supposed to  and I ended up making a horrible mess of things until my friend told me to turn off the (default) tracking.

After that, everything was much easier than I’d expected and I got the to-do list done in time to sit on the freeway in traffic.


My second prep day is Tuesday, then the DP and gaffer come in to start lighting Wednesday.

Hooray work!

Just hope I don’t do that thing where I forget basic things when I’m under pressure (“What’s your name?” (pause) “I don’t know!!”)

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

Oh, crap! A job!

Yesterday, as I was frantically sending out “Got any work” texts, I got a call from someone I’ve only worked with a few times.

“We need a dimmer board operator, and I got your name from (mutual friend). it’s three weeks of work. Do you want it?”

Do I want it? I’ve never heard such a silly question. Of course I want it.

Downside? It’s a console I haven’t had a lot of practice on, but apparently all the other dimmer board operators are working as they’re willing to be patient with me while I figure it out.

I’ve got a one on one booked at the company that makes the console, I’ve watched all the video tutorials, and I have a friend who knows said console on speed dial. I might not be ready, but I’ll sure as hell be able to fake it.


And it’s on  a stage, so I’ll have some air conditioning, which is awesome as it’s currently hot as ass here in LA.

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

Slightly damp Friday Photo


This is not my apartment building. It’s the building across the alley, who sometimes (often, actually) leave the pool gate open.

I see nothing wrong with taking advantage of this, especially on a hot night.  The pool’s not really heated, so it’s a very refreshing change from sweltering in my living room.

Filed under: life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, , , ,

Everyone’s laughing at me but it’s okay.

For the past two weeks, the ocean has been terrific. Water temps in the mid-60s (balmy for the Pacific), and almost no surf.

So, some friends and I have been swimming just about every morning. We’re usually in the water around 6, at low tide, and we swim before the sun really gets blazing (the marine layer usually burns off around 10 am).

The water around here is normally cloudy – 10 feet of visibility is a big deal. This isn’t a bad thing. Cloudy water means one can’t see the bugaboos of the deep swimming beneath – or the used condoms and discarded shopping carts arranged into some sort of unholy fish henge.

But this morning everything was clear as crystal. We could see the sun coming up, the sandy bottom of the ocean and the school of fish swimming about 10 feet below us (presumably doing maintenance work).

As I was thinking what a wonderful view it was and how lucky we were to get the nice water, I heard a loud splash about a foot (30cm) from my head.

It was a pelican, diving to get at the fish.

I looked up at the Hitchcockian pod diving inches away (not an exaggeration) from the swimmers and started to wonder about the birds’ ‘wild’ status.

Here is where I have to admit that I’m not exactly crazy about birds. I don’t have any past traumatic experiences with them (other than freshly washed car poopings and a nip from an aunt’s parrot), they just make me… uneasy.

Especially when they’re rocketing into the ocean water inches from my head.

My swim partner suggested we get the hell out of there (“I’ve worked too hard to not be in the middle of the food chain!”), and I agreed.

No amount of beautiful water was worth getting a shit to the back of the wetsuit (pelican shit is some unbelievably foul stuff), or, worse, a beak to the back of the head.

As I spun around and headed towards the shore, I saw a blurry gray mass slide past my face (I refuse to pay for prescription swim goggles), followed by a fluke so close I could have bitten it.

I turned my head and briefly locked eyes with the dolphin.

If you’re holding your breath waiting for me to wax poetic about what a life-changing spiritual experience it was, you can exhale now.

It scared the hell out of me.

In case you were wondering, dolphins are fucking huge. This one was at least 6 feet (2m) long.  Plus, I think it was carrying a knife and a bag of bloody swim caps.

I attempted to exit the water by jumping straight up in the air, and making a noise that I’m told sounded like “GAAAAUUUGGGGHHHMMMFFFFF!”

I spun back around, only to see another dolphin pass about 3 feet (1m) behind my swim partner, who must have seen the reflection in my saucer-sized eyes, as she yelped and proceeded to swim like hell towards the beach.

Me: “Fuck you, don’t leave me!”

Swim partner: “I just have to outswim you!”


When we got to the beach, we both stood there for a few minutes while our heart rates dropped from hummingbird to normal and then decided to go back in – not into the deeper water, but just enough so that we weren’t carrying the memory of fear all day.

So we swam back out to not quite where the birds were, then came back in.

Where my swim partner stepped on a stingray.

She didn’t get stung – she just stepped on the ‘wing’ as the ray swam off, but she jumped and made a similar scream to mine.

We then decided to go back in, so we weren’t carrying the memory of Poseidon trying to murder us all day.

Third time’s the charm.

The birds had moved off, the water was clear and calm. We swam out to the buoy (about 200 yards offshore), hung out and enjoyed the view, and then swam back.

No dolphin attacks, no bird dive bombs, no lurking stingrays. Just a wonderful swim in the beautiful clear water.

When we came back up to the lifeguard tower where everyone keeps their stuff, one of the guys told me he’d been trying to get that close to a dolphin for years, and that I’d let everyone down by behaving in a cowardly manner.

He then imitated my shriek for good measure.

Easy for him to say. He didn’t see that bag of swim caps.

Filed under: life in LA, Los Angeles, mishaps, Non-Work, , , , , , , , ,

Thankfully, a busy week

This week didn’t start out busy. This week started out with just Monday on a three camera kids show. Let’s call it Sassy Tweens.

Then, as I started the Tuesday morning worry, I got calls for Wednesday and Thursday within five minutes of each other. Sweet.

Wednesday was a condor call, on Been Done Before.  Since it’s been a while since I’ve been up in a condor, I had to  pause for a few minutes at about 50 feet to get my ‘air legs’.  Condor calls are usually 8 hours – so both of us came in before lunch, and helped work the set (a teeny tiny bar. Really teeny) and move back to the lot.

We wrapped about 11 pm, and I hurried home to get to bed as soon as possible because I had an 8 am call on a new TV show that has an unbelievable amount of security – a co-worker told me that one of the background actors tweeted the name of the show and security nailed him 10 minutes later.  A PA actually approached me and checked my name against the call sheet. Wow. Let’s call it Super Secret.

Please no guesses at the name in the comments. Don’t get me blacklisted from a show with a crew I adore.

We had a nice day on an air-conditioned stage (hooray!) and aside from being a little sleepy (I like to try to get at least 6 hours, and I  fell just a bit short), it was a great day with guys I  really like.

Today, I’m back on Sassy Tweens. That gives me four days this week.

Hooray for work!

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

Oldie Friday Photo

How to instantly ‘brickify’ a wall:

Set Wall

The ‘bricks’ are sheets of vacuformed plastic that is painted after it’s attached to the wall.

It looks just like real brickwork, even up close.

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

A delicate balancing act

There’s an art to work calls (texts these days, but the same rules apply).

One needs to contact various best boys often enough to maintain contact, but no so often that one becomes a nuisance.

This contact/nuisance threshold varies with each individual best boy. Some folks get annoyed if they’re contacted more than once a month, some folks forget you exist if they’re contacted once a week.

I’ve yet to figure it out beyond just remembering it, mostly.

I try to open with some variant on ‘hows the family’ so if I fuck up I’ll get something along the lines of ‘same as they were Tuesday, why?’ instead of accusations of stalking followed by not getting hired.

The worst thing one can do is appear desperate (unless it’s a close friend, and then beg away). Desperate means that one isn’t getting hired by anyone, and that’s pretty universally seen as a personal failing, even when it’s not.

And we all thought we’d left high school.

Not appearing desperate, though, is sometimes difficult, especially in years like this when it’s been slow for over 6 months and that 400 hour requirement for health insurance is dangling over everyone’s head like some kind of Greek sword.

So, I send out “Hey, hope you’re doing well! I’m available if you need me, but really, how are the kids” texts, hoping that I’ll get the 300 hours that I need before October.

It’s just starting to get busy, so I’m still very optimistic.

In other news, the cat is still alive. She’ll turn 17 in November. Lately, it’s been a battle to get her to eat enough to keep weight. I’ve now resorted to egg-shaped bribery, but I’m not proud, so it’s all good.

Angry kitty

Enjoy the fuzziness while you can, kitty.  Soon, there will be a trip to the groomers followed by, well, more anger.

Like that’s a change.

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

Saturday Photos

Film crews will sit down just about anywhere.

Dusty? Sure. Hard? Great. Pointy? Awesome. Pile of cow crap? Nice and soft.* Just get me off my feet for five minutes.

Yesterday, we worked at a bus repair yard for a school district. No one sat down all day. It might have been the grease, or the barrels labelled ‘hazardous waste’, or a combination of both, but standing just seemed… prudent.

Wait.. Which kind of waste?

So when we moved inside a bus for a long scene, our boss asked the guy who was stuck inside the bus manning a light if he wanted someone to relieve him so he could go to crafty or the bathroom or whatever.

“Nope. Got a nice seat and a breeze. I’m good.”

Here’s what was creating the breeze:

How to keep a bus cool

Guess it worked just fine. We were all too jealous of the sitting down part to ask.

Call time: 10:30 am. Wrap time: 1 am.

* That one might be a tiny bit of exaggeration, depending on how long I’ve been standing and whether or not I’m wearing rain gear.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, Photos, toxic waste, Work, , , , , , , , , , , ,

August 2013

Flickr Photos



Random Quote

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

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