Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Panic and destruction

In case you were wondering, the day before we’re scheduled to shoot is not the best time to make major changes to the sets.

It screws up everyone – us, grip, camera, actors, but mainly set dressing.

Set dressers are the nice people who make the sets look like, well, not sets.

I’m sure you’ve seen the low-budget movie with sparse backgrounds that somehow look like sets – you may not be able to pinpoint what’s wrong, but you do know they don’t look right.

That, my friends, is set dressing.

They place magazines, table lamps, newspapers, pens, mismatched pillows, sex toys, statuary, flowers, coffee cups, and the difference is amazing.

But, like the rest of us, set dressers don’t do their best work when they’re in a ‘holy fuck what just happened’ panic.

So they rip out all the practicals* – the table lamps, the floor lamps, the wall sconces, the weird puck light things in the cabinets that I’ve never, ever seen in the real world ever and wad up all the zip cord into a ball and helpfully set it somewhere that makes perfect sense. To them.

So then we come in on the day we’re supposed to shoot and find all new practicals in all new places and all of the zip and stingers connecting them to the dimmers gone.

Well, not gone, but wadded up… somewhere.

So now it’s our turn to panic as we try to work around the actors and director and camera trying to block the scene so we can shoot.

Of course, the only people who think that practicals are important are the DP and the gaffer.

Everyone else just see them as crap that’s making the toolbelt people have to get in their way.

So we have to balance getting yelled at by the gaffer, who wants that bedside lamp to work, and the director who wants us to get the hell out of his set so he can be a creative genius.

Since the director doesn’t hire us for the next show, guess who wins that battle?

Lucky for us, we managed to get everything redone in time to shoot, and hopefully there won’t be many more changes for show day tomorrow.

Oh, and the cat’s still hanging in there. She seems to have perked up a bit since it’s not as hot.


* Any light that’s on the screen is called a practical. It plays as part of the sets, but it’s a working light fixture.

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

2 Responses

  1. Great post. And oh Sweet Jesus do I feel your pain, having been there more times than I’ll ever be able to remember. The morning panic — what a way to start the day while the rest of the crew is hoovering everything up at the crafty breakfast buffet…

  2. Re: Cat. Sorry I didn’t think to write this earlier – she’d benefit from raw goat’s milk – you can find it frozen in most good pet supply stores. My husband managed such a store up until recently and learned a lot. Aging and sick dogs and cats can benefit greatly from it – good for digestion, increasing appetite, and good for the immune system. We turned a neighbor on to it for their dog who is near the end, and her quality of life has improved greatly – eating better, enjoying her walks and even playful again. It will not “save” your kitty, but it could very well make her end days better ones – check it out.

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