Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

It’s cold outside but I’m baking

This past week, I’ve been on a multi-camera show*. For lighting and grip, multi-cameras consist of three rig days and two shoot days. Rig days are only a few hours, because it’s all just fixes, tweaks and resetting the lights that the greens guys knocked out-of-place when they hauled around all the trees. Shoot days are normal 12 or 13 hour days.

Usually with multi-camera shows, once the shooting day starts we don’t do much of anything, because all the lights are rigged and really nothing works on stands.

Except this DP a single camera guy and still has the aesthetic of that world, so we’re walking a lot of lights around on stands every time a scene changes. This is not a bad thing at all, as working makes the day go faster, and today the perception of time passing quickly was a wonderful thing, as our stage’s air conditioning unit decided that it was going to take a vacation.

Perhaps to somewhere cooler.

Lucky for all of us, the crafty room had excellent air conditioning. You know how at parties everyone ends up in the kitchen? That was us today.

The director and I had a deep discussion about potato latkes while we huddled in the draft of air coming from the soda cooler, and I met more of my co-workers than I usually do as we wandered in, sighed in relief and then left without eating anything.

Right now I’m chugging water in an attempt to not wake up tomorrow feeling like I’ve been on a bender.

Speaking of tomorrow, although it would be lovely to have chilled air, I suspect I’ll need to wear summer clothes and keep hydrated.

*That’s not a really good description, since most ‘single camera’ shows use two cameras now. Multi-camera format uses four cameras and sets all open to one side, but I’m lost for a more apt name.

Filed under: california, mishaps, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , ,

Ready, Aim, Wait.

I’ve never had a producer tell me to stop working.

Today, he called a meeting and told us they may decide to shoot more in the main house. He delivered this news with the air of a man who has struggled a long time, but has finally come to terms with nothing ever making any sense ever again.

Sadly, we didn’t get that note until after we’d ripped out all the cable. Not the stuff in the flowerbeds that’s easy to reach – the cable that was run through the walls and in the crawl spaces of the house so the DP could have everything on a dimmer.

I’m noticing a trend with younger DPs – they want everything on a dimmer, all the time, even when they could use scrims. I guess that’s what they’re teaching them now in DP school, and that’s fine, but if you’re not shooting on a stage we have to put the entire location on our power – which, since houses are not built the same way sets are, means going through the very few areas of the house that aren’t visible.

In LA, that means the three-foot tall area between the rafters and the ceiling which is loosely termed an attic, or the 14 inches of crawl space under the floorboards, since the only houses here that have basements were built before the Wright Brothers took their first flight.

Since the ‘attic’ of this house is above the insulation, it gets really warm up there, and since we’re currently having unseasonable heat, it made sense to wrap that area first thing in the morning, before the space became a sauna and we made our medic do some work*.

So we’re now waiting to see if we have to re-do everything we undid.

No word on if they have to re-shoot the black glop.

*Whenever we’re on location must have a medic present. The medic is the one person on the crew that the producer doesn’t want to see doing any work – if the medic is watching Netflix or trying to stay awake, no one on the crew has been injured.

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, long long drives, Los Angeles, mishaps, Work, , , , , , , ,

Survival Mode

The (hopefully) very last shot of this movie was a green screen of black goo shooting at the camera.

As fun as it is to make actors actually vomit, union reps and the health department frown on it, so we had to do a shot of the actress with her mouth open and a shot of the black goo shooting out of a pipe poking through the green screen that will be combined to make it look like projectile vomit.

So we lit the green screen, with the lights far enough back to be in the ‘safe’ zone, the camera had a Lexan shield in front of it, and all the spectators were well back from the screen.

Everyone was ready.

The first try was a trickle of goo which didn’t shoot out so much as dribble down the green screen leaving a really gross streak.

The special effects guys then turned up the power and tried again.

Still a trickle, but it looked more like a gloppy drinking fountain.The effects guys then had an extremely animated discussion, remixed the black stuff and did something to the pressure in the lines.

Everyone in the area had been lured into a false sense of security by the first two shots, so they went near the green screen to watch this attempt.

Pro tip: Any time you see effects guys get worked up about something, take cover. Preferably in the next county.

The guy with the trigger started a countdown.

5…4…

People edged closer to the camera.

3…2…

Phones were raised in anticipation of something really cool to put on social media.

1….

There was a noise like a gunshot and a titanic amount of mystery goo shot towards the camera with enough force to slam the Lexan shield against the matte box.

Since Lexan is a flat surface but very flexible, the shield bent over the camera – which protected it, but acted like a springboard and impressively extended the splatter range.

Blobs of… whatever the hell that was flew outward from the convenient boost like some sort of satanic Flubber.

My co-worker and I were standing 30 feet away at the rear of the catering tent (because what better place to make a mess), clawing at each other as we frantically tried to get behind… anything.

But there was nothing.

Someone’s panicky scream of “incoming”, when combined with that sensory perception thing where everything slows down convinced me to do the only thing I could do.

I turned and I ran.

Call me a coward if you like, but as I cleared the doorway of the tent, I heard the splats of the goo hitting the back wall – right where I’d been standing a few seconds before.

My co-worker chose another survival tactic – the cower. He bent over, making himself as small as possible and miraculously avoided getting slimed.

Everyone else? Not so much.

One of the PAs was wearing a pink T-shirt that I suspect will never be the same again, and I don’t even want to contemplate the number of phones that will never work again.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, Los Angeles, mishaps, movies, Work, , , , , , , , ,

I am so over 2015

Right before Christmas, I learned that a swim buddy who had gone to the doctor for stomach pain had been diagnosed with stage four gastric cancer.

In case you’re not familiar with stage four, it means ‘get your affairs in order, and soon’.

It was the last thing anyone expected – we knew he’d not been feeling well, but to go from “I need an antacid” to “They tell me I’m going to die and they can’t help me”, well, that’s… difficult.

We all want life to be fair. Good things should happen to good people, right?

People who love everyone and bring nothing but joy to the lives of others deserve all the best – like winning the powerball and dating vapid supermodels while relaxing in their obscenely awesome mansions.

Good people don’t deserve to be blindsided by the news that’s they’re going to die, painfully, really soon.

And when they do die, it hurts like hell.

You think it’s easier if you have time to prepare, but it’s not.

I can give you advance warning that I’m going to hit you in the head with a brick, and you can brace all you like, but you’re still getting hit in the head with a brick.

In the midst of all this, a co-worker headed home to the San Fernando Valley after working a day at Fox.

Since said co-worker had a newborn baby at home, he opted to ride his motorcycle so he could get home faster and spend more time with his son.

As he crossed over the Sepulveda Pass, two cars collided.

I’ve heard two stories.

One was a car swerving out of control, the other was flying debris.

Either story results in him dying on the scene.

The local news kept showing pictures of his downed motorcycle while trying to placate the irritated commuters who just wanted to get home.

Perhaps to their newborn sons.

The memorial services for both men were the same weekend. One on Saturday, one on Sunday. Both were lovely, thoughtful attempts to celebrate a life.

But both services had the feeling that something, somewhere, was just not fucking fair, and someone, somewhere, needed to fucking do something about it.

FYI, given a choice, I’d choose the hit to the head with no warning.

The knowledge that it’s coming just makes it worse.

But thank your deity of choice that all the shitty stuff happened in January.

You know, get it all over with right away.

Or.. not.

A week ago, one of my teeth started to ache.

Said tooth has always been… difficult, ever since getting a shitty National Health filling while living in a certain un-named place.

Said shitty filling broke right after college and became an even larger shitty filling which never stopped giving me problems, but I’d go to the dentist, she’d say my bite was ‘off’, and grind until said bite was back on.

Then, Saturday, I had a nice hot cup of coffee and it felt like someone hit me in the side of the head with a very hot nail-studded brick.

All weekend I figured it was my bite, again.

Then, Monday, when I saw the dentist, I got The Look.

You know, the look you get when someone is about to tell you something that is exactly the opposite of what you wanted to hear.

“This isn’t a bite thing any longer, and I can’t fix it. The tooth is making you sick. I’m going to refer you to an oral surgeon”.

Then, the dreaded words: Root canal.

I’d never had a root canal, but I’d heard horror stories.

I must have paled or pissed myself or screamed or something, because she felt the need to pass me a tissue and assure me that the oral surgeons were ‘very good’ and I’d feel better right away.

I assumed I’d go for a consult – but when they finally saw me 90 minutes late (speaking of the brick and the warning, think about 90 minutes sitting in the waiting room of an oral surgeon reading the pamphlets about everything that can go wrong with various teeth), I was ushered into a room where a nice lady tried to chat about the weather while laying out instruments which would have given the Spanish Inquisition a massive boner. Or something.

So I had part (one – two is next week) of a root canal, which, honestly, wasn’t as bad as I had imagined.

Now my biggest problem is craft service and the lack of soft food.

Let’s all hope that’s it for the year.

Please, let this be it for the year.

Filed under: cranky, mishaps, Non-Work, , , , , , ,

Happy New Year

As is normal for the first part of January, I’m unemployed. Even in busy years, January just doesn’t see that much action.

Although this normally worries me (even though it’s been happening for years), I guess it’s not a terrible thing as this week I seem to have picked up some unholy cough from hell. I’m talking bent double with spasms in my lungs, wheezing like an asthmatic pug.

It could be that it was 40 degrees last week and 80 degrees this week, or it could be the 8 percent humidity, or it could be the sudden lack of cat hair in my lungs.

Or, I could have caught the plague when I was flying across the country on the screaming baby express.

Who knows?

I’m sure I don’t have the flu, since I haven’t got body aches or a fever, but whatever it is has moved into my lungs and is picking out wallpaper. Or something.

I’m just glad it’s relatively warm here. According to my sister, the high at her place tomorrow is supposed to be 2 degrees (F).

I love you, California.

I do have one day of work this week, but I’ll be up in a condor so hopefully no one will hear me wheeze.

Filed under: cranky, life in LA, mishaps, Non-Work, , , , , , ,

Computerless for what seems like an eternity.

Call me a Luddite, but I love my desktop.

There’s something…civilized about sitting at a desk and writing. Nice big monitor, upright posture, movable keyboard (in case one’s posture becomes less upright), desk lamp (no green shade, though), space for the cat, no sore thumbs or cooked lap.

A little over a week ago, my elderly desktop finally died.

It’s been coming for a while. It got slower and slower, had to think about things longer and longer, and eventually became unable to play internet cat videos, which we all know spells doom.

So, I backed up my data (learned that lesson the hard way), and started browsing eBay for another tower.

The new tower got here the day the old computer died.

So I started to hook up the new tower and then noticed something odd about the monitor output. It was white, not blue, and had extra pins.

Great. More fuckery.

A friend lent me DVI-D monitor, and I turned on the new computer expecting blazing fast cat videos and… nothing.

Not even a peep. Not even BIOS. I tried opening the tower and checking the connections, I tried a different monitor, I tried screaming, I tried threats. Nothing.

So the new tower is DOA – which, I suppose isn’t a surprise given they shipped it parcel post wrapped in one layer of bubble wrap and no ‘fragile’ sticker.

I have a smart phone, but I hate trying to write more than one paragraph on it – the whole picking out letters on the tiny digital keyboard makes me want to find the cutest puppy in the entire world and kick the ever-loving crap out of it.

I now have a newer, much more expensive computer (with a warranty from a higher-rated seller) in transit, but it won’t be here until Monday and that’s the day I’m starting a new show – at a lot close enough to the house to bike!

So hopefully I’ll be back online before too much more time passes, and too many more puppies get kicked.

Filed under: computer, cranky, humor, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants, , , , , ,

Tour de Courthouse

A few weeks ago, as I was leaving work, I was pulled over.

I had a burned out headlight, and given how incoherent I was after a 14 hour day, I’m surprised the cop didn’t haul me out and administer a field sobriety test, but he just gave me a fix-it ticket.

As he was finishing up, he told me I could go to any police station in the city to get a sign-off on the repair, and then go to any courthouse in the county to pay the small fine.

Sweet. I currently reside within a ten minute walk of both a police station and a (small) courthouse.

I figured I’d get the headlight fixed, get it inspected, then get it off the books and not even have to burn a gallon of very expensive (for America) gas.

So this morning, I rolled up to the West LA police station, ticket in hand, and asked at the desk to have someone check my car.

I was met with blank stares from the attending officers.

After an uncomfortably long pause, one of the civilian volunteers said “I’ve got this” and handed me a sheet explaining that the LAPD isn’t authorized to inspect vehicles and I’d have to drive to one of the county sheriffs’ inspection stations to get my signature.

Fine.

Except that the nearest inspection station happens to be in Beverly Hills.

I hate driving in Beverly Hills.

Under normal circumstances, the traffic is horrific because it’s apparently déclassé  to time one’s stop lights, but now it’s springtime and the tourist bloom is beginning.

In spring and summer, the normally crowded streets of Beverly Hills become impossibly clogged with tour busses and rental cars.

Which is great – the city and the county greatly appreciate your visit and your tax revenue, but residents tend to snap when traffic speeds drop from ‘slow crawl’ to ‘perambulate’.

This results in tempers accelerating from ‘recreational asshole’ to ‘nuclear war’.

Generally, I prefer to bike or bus it through the area – I can either sail past the problem or be encased in the T.Rex of vehicles and be safe from random punchings or headlocks.

But, if I must drive into the fray, 10 am on a weekday is a good time to do so.

Rush hour’s mostly over, and the lunchers haven’t started stalking parking spaces.

So, off I went – thinking I’d get inspected and paid off and then be back home in time to catch the afternoon talk shows.

I guess I wasn’t surprised when the clerk told me that although I got my inspection in Beverly Hills, because my officer had checked the ‘Chatsworth’ box on the ticket, that’s where I’d have to go to pay the fine.

To those of you not familiar with Los Angeles, Chatsworth is not near anything.

Not a freeway off ramp, not any sort of landmark, not any sort of train or bus stop or life support.

So because I’d tried to save gas by not driving, I then drove to the edge of civilization.

Where I stood in line for what seemed like an eternity behind a woman arguing with anyone who would listen that her failure to appear for her court date wasn’t her fault because she’d lost her phone and had written the judge a letter proving her innocence.

Lucky for me another window opened and I paid my $25 and then fought traffic back home.

I have work tomorrow (non-union, but it pays and it’s with a bunch of guys that I really like), and since I’m going downtown I’m going to take the bus.

I’ve had enough of the car for now.

 

Filed under: life in LA, long long drives, Los Angeles, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, overspending, travel, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m feeling much better now.

About 10 days ago, my doctor put me on a new medication for my blood pressure, which, due to my parents’ apparent genetic inferiority, is high.

Really high, despite the former medication – during a check-up the doctor started muttering about a stroke and wrote me a new prescription.

I was told that there would be an adjustment period of  ‘a few days’ where I might not feel so well.

During this ‘few’ days, I accomplished the following:

Smashed in the fender of my car trying to back out of my parking space.

Stepped on the cat.

Got lost while swimming. In a pool.

Forgot my own phone number.

Spent half an hour arguing with a cardboard cutout of Austin Powers*

Also, I apparently did some online shopping, as I’m getting packages from eBay that I don’t remember buying. So far, I’ve been too afraid to open any of them.

I’m not sure I want a peek through that window into my psyche.

It was all the bad parts about being really, really drunk with none of the social acceptance. Or drinking.

A week and a half later, I’m finally semi adjusted – meaning the world has stopped being so annoyingly spinny and I can think again.

Except that one of the side effects of this medication is heat intolerance, which, despite my trying to explain my job to my doctor (outside. all day. no breeze. cable. burning sun. pants), just resulted in him advising me to not get dehydrated.

Which is fine – hydration is awesome – but it’s currently hotter than chicken fried ass here in Los Angeles and no matter how much water I drink I still get light-headed, red, and blotchy when I go outside and think about doing anything more strenuous than breathing.

It’s dead right now so I can keep my tomato-colored face inside, but this is going to be a problem in a couple of months – especially since ‘red and blotchy’ progresses through ‘light-headed’ to ‘involuntarily horizontal’ fairly quickly.

Since I can’t imagine that being too terribly popular at work, I have to discuss options with the doctor.

Hopefully, this won’t result in my being put on yet another medication requiring an adjustment.

 

 

*That one’s an exaggeration. It was more like 10 minutes.

Filed under: humor, mishaps, Non-Work, , , ,

What is it with me and fingers?

I need my hands to do my job. So one would imagine I’d be extra careful, but still it’s the body part I manage to mash and smash more than any other.

After waiting a week to get in the ocean after Los Angeles’ torrential skywater catastrophe, some friends and I decided to go for a swim. Our usual spot in Santa Monica wasn’t an option as it was parking for the LA Marathon – and near the street closures – so we went a bit south to Venice beach, thinking that we’d have an easier time with traffic and parking.

Which worked out very well. Plenty of parking, light traffic for those who drove (I rode my bike as I had to traverse the most congested part of Santa Monica to get to the beach).

And then we approached the water, and came face to face with 6 foot waves.

I’m not particularly fearful of the ocean once I get past the surf (if something gets me, it gets me. C’est la vie), but I get a little nervous in surf much higher than my head.

Okay, that’s an understatement. Any waves bigger than about three feet and I’m a panicky idiot who needs supervision to ensure I won’t do anything stupid.

Needless to say, I didn’t get past the surf, and the one swimmer who did had to come back because it took so long to get my heart rate down from ‘coked out hummingbird’ that we ran out of time.

I would have hung my head in shame, but my neck was too sore from getting tossed in the surf.

So, with my proverbial tail between my legs, I slunk off to breakfast and then decided, last-minute, to try to get some sort of workout in and make a yoga class at the gym.

As I was rushing out of the house and using my foot to keep the cat from running outside, I pulled the door shut and didn’t move my finger quite quickly enough.

So it got slammed in the door.

If you’ve never done this, I can assure you it’s excruciatingly painful.

After screaming a few choice words, I looked at said finger and saw the nail turning black.

I’m told that’s bad. There are numerous tutorials on the internet to deal with this in the comfort of your home, but since I am lucky enough to still have insurance, I can go have a doctor do that for me, for only the cost of a very pricey night out.

So instead of going to a yoga class, I went to urgent care.

Where the very nice doctor numbed up my finger (FOUR shots in the nerves) and drilled a hole through the nail to let the blood out.

If you’ve never had a doctor drill (actually, it’s a burn. They BURN a hole though the nail. The smell is… unfortunate. I may never eat again) into your nail, I can assure you it’s really gross and also – take the ‘digital block‘ option. You do NOT want the doctor burning through your fingernail with no pain meds. Trust me.

So now I have a hole in my fingernail. Surprisingly, it’s not that painful. It’s just gross, as we’re over 24 hours on and it’s still bleeding.

Eeeewwww.

Although I think the post-burning photo of the fingernail gushing blood is funny, I’ll be nice and post a photo taken today – the grossest thing about it now is how badly I need a manicure.

2014-03-10 18.39.38

Right now, it’s a pathetic excuse for pilot season here in Los Angeles, so although it’s busy, a day off isn’t a bad thing.

I’ll make work calls tomorrow.

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

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