Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Fear and living dangerously

Work’s been busy – more so than in the past five (ish) years.

Which is a very good thing, but it’s been so dry for so long that all of us are working ourselves to a shell of what we could be had we paid attention in class.

Six hour turnaround? Sure, no problem.

Four am call two hours away? I’m there.

Three 19 hour days in a row? I love overtime. My kids don’t need me to read them a story.

In the past two months, I’ve worked as many hours as I had in the previous year (or so it feels like), and I’ve had some insanely short turnarounds – I went from one job right to another and my justification was that since I was in the condor for the first job, I could sleep.

One sleeps fitfully, at best, in a condor, so I had a few hours of shallow napping, took a shower, changed my clothes, and then worked another 14 hour day.

That, my friends, is madness, and I shouldn’t have done it as I was not able to work safely.

But I’m afraid to say no to anything.

It’s been so slow for so long and so many of us have been struggling, that we can’t really wrap our minds around the idea that it may be busy for quite some time and we can, if we like, turn down a job if we feel that we’ve just had a bit too much that week. It’ll be okay. There will be more work.

But that small part of my mind that functions as the town crier for impending disasters starts shrieking that this will be the last day I get for a long time, I won’t make my rent, and then I’ll end up face down in the gutter covered in my own filth and broken dreams.

For some reason, I believe that alarmist voice much more than I believe our call steward, who seems to think that there will be a lot of work for the next few years, at least.

I need to work on that. I’d love to be able to take a vacation and know that I’ll still have work when I come back.

That hasn’t happened in years.

For any of us.

Filed under: hazardous, humor, life in LA, locations, long long drives, Los Angeles, , , ,

I see dead people

For the past few weeks, it’s been extremely hot and humid here in Los Angeles.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s always hot this time of year, but the wonderful thing about living in an arid climate is that it cools off at night so, for a few hours, there is some relief. The important hours – when one is trying to rest without sweating like the proverbial whore in church.

Not lately.

It’s been so awful at night that sleep has been impossible – and not just for me.

Everyone on the crew (maybe the cast, too, but they have makeup) have black circles under their eyes and are downing coffee (iced, of course) as fast as they can.

It’s not just us, though. Tempers are flaring all over the city, as the police cope with near-record cases of cranky pants.

Excessive horn-honking, overly aggressive shouts of “points” when one isn’t carrying anything, passive-aggressive latte ordering, crafty grabbing*, scuffles over shaded parking spaces, crowded beaches,

Today, I snarled at a man in the grocery store for breathing.

No, really. That’s all he was doing. Through his nose, making that goddamn high-pitched whistle from hell.

I’ll kill him.


I mean it’s cooled off tonight and maybe I can get some sleep so I’ll feel less homicidal tomorrow.

Although I have a 4 pm call in northeast Bumfuck, so I doubt it.

*Those peanut butter cups are mine. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

Filed under: crack of dawn, cranky, distant location, life in LA, locations, long long drives, Los Angeles, Work, , , , ,

There’s a first time for everything

I’m not an actor, nor have I ever had  any actorish aspirations.

But yesterday on one of the swim groups, someone posted a casting call that I just couldn’t pass up.

A female swimmer, mid 30s to mid 40s, proficient in all four strokes and comfortable swimming in the ocean.

The last part was strenuously emphasized – COMFORTABLE SWIMMING IN THE OCEAN !!!!! – so I’m guessing they’ve had some issues with people telling them “sure, no problem” and then freaking out when they dropped them off the boat. Or dock, or whatever.

Luckily, I’m not afraid of the terrors that lurk in the briny deep because, I suspect, I’m not smart enough to have ever developed even a modicum of common sense.*

I figured I’d email the casting lady just for a laugh. I gave her my swimming background, sent a few pictures, and figured that I’d hear nothing back from her.

She emailed me within 10 minutes, and informed me that my ‘look’ was acceptable (whew. I was worried there for a second), and that I’d have to come in and audition.

I started to lose interest, and then I read the numbers.

For two days, they’ll pay more than I usually make in a 60 hour week. And I don’t have to be SAG because of some reason. I think because there are no lines. Just swimming.

So, I agreed to go on my first-ever audition.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would imagine that if swimming skills were so critical they’d hold said audition in the water. Seems like it would be the sensible thing to do. “Hey, come out to the beach. Now dive through the waves and swim to that kayak out there. Mind the stingrays.”

But no. My audition was in a Hollywood casting office, where I stood in front of a video camera, did a few pushups (don’t ask me why, I don’t know) and then mimicked swim strokes for whichever deity will be making the choice. Plus, I threw in a story about the time I got stung by a jellyfish because I thought it was a plastic bag and grabbed it to clean up the ocean.

Serves me right. Not just the jellyfish, the whole fucking thing.

Everyone was really nice, but the experience was really surreal. The office is this big corral with smaller rooms off the sides. All the supplicants sit in center on uncomfortable chairs, making small talk as they wait to be called into their particular inner sanctum.

The walls are white, there are signs everywhere warning that one must mind one’s meter, and coffee is not complimentary.

Did you ever see Brazil? It’s kind of like that.

Looking around our little group, it was very easy to see who had come from the swim group and who was a professional actor.

The swimmers had broader shoulders, more sun damage, more bruises, and worse hair. Oh, our hair was terrible. I’m surprised we weren’t immediately escorted off the premises.

I do not expect I’ll get a callback.

*Although there is that one kelp mat off Venice Beach that scares the shit out of me every time I swim over it. It’s just deep enough to see the shadow, but not make out any detail.

Filed under: humor, life in LA, Los Angeles, , , , , , , ,

I’m back!

I had to take a little break to deal with some problems personal enough to not be shared on the internet (I know, right? Weird), but I here I am again and thankfully, work seems to be picking up just as thunderstorms roll through Southern California.

The worst combination possible is a condor and thunder. Rain is fine (if a bit uncomfortable for the poor sap in the bucket), but as soon as any sort of turbo-charged static starts flying around, people get nervous.

So last night, with the predicted thunderstorms in mind, we kept an eye on the tall clouds that thankfully moved north and not west, just missing us.

Not even a drop of rain – good thing I brought my rain gear. It’s a pain in the ass to haul around two work bags, but the second one thinks “oh, it’ll be fine” and leaves the waterproof stuff at home or crew parking, that’s when the heavens open and Mother Nature’s fucked-up idea of a joke sloshes around in one’s shoes for six hours.

Last night, we were a splinter unit, shooting a couple of quick bits whenever we could get the actors from the main unit.

Since one can’t really light night exteriors until it’s dark, we placed a few lights that we all knew were going to move again, then waited for it to get dark enough to start lighting.

Then, we placed some more lights, had a run through with the stand-ins, then waited for actors.

Once the actors got there we adjusted the lighting, shot, and then waited while they went back to the main unit.

We adjusted the lighting again, then had some ice cream that our crafty guy ‘liberated’ from the main unit, then did our second bit when the actors showed up again, and then we wrapped.

The one downside was that those beautiful tall clouds is humidity.

Once the sun went down, it was a nice temperature – until we started wrapping.

The temperature didn’t change, but the act of moving around had me soaked in sweat after about five minutes, even though I still didn’t feel hot. Just sticky. Very, very sticky.

Once we got our equipment back onto the truck, we went home, at slightly under 8 hours.

A cold shower has never felt so good.

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

Well, that didn’t work out

Did I mention I was adopting a dog?

What I really meant was renting.

I’d been warned  that some of the rescues are… optimistic about the dog’s temperament, and this (nameless) rescue did just that.

It all started out so well. The foster person brought the dog over and we sat and chatted while the dog explored. The dog seemed friendly – tail wagging and everything. While said dog was wandering around my apartment sniffing everything, the foster person said she was going to sneak out since everything seemed to be going well.

And everything did, until the dog realized that she was in a strange place with a strange person.  She was sitting next to me chewing on some bit of animal carcass, and then she jumped away and bit me.

Not snapped. Bit. Hard.

Lucky for me I pulled my hand away and only got grazed, but the dog started growling, snapping and baring her teeth.

Look, I get being scared with a new person, but I didn’t sign up to adopt a miniature hell-hound.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t enjoy being bitten. Or potentially sued.

“Oh, what a cute little.. OUCH!!!! I’m calling my lawyer!”

I’ve had enough experience with trying to get cats into carriers that I know the oven mitt trick – you sneak up behind the animal (WAY easier with dogs, BTW), grab them with the oven mitts and then deposit. In this case, a roomy crate that the dog was happy to enter.

I draped towels over the crate to make her feel more secure, and then decided to sleep on it instead of calling the foster person and telling her to turn around and come get the fucking dog.

In the morning, I lifted up the towel to check the dog’s food and water and she bared her teeth and snapped.

That was it.

I called the rescue and told them to come and remove the beast.

They sent the same foster person back to get the dog, and upon arrival, she blamed me for getting bitten. Apparently, it was all my fault because I put the dog in the crate.

When I mentioned that the dog bit me before I put her in the crate, she just turned her back and told me that they were going to have to board the dog at a vet where they’d keep the dog in a very small cage and force her to listen to Justin Bieber. Or something.  At that point, I just wanted the dog and the crazy lady out of my place.

Oh, and don’t even ask how I found out the dog wasn’t potty trained.

Cat people have a reputation as being crazy, but I have to say my experience with a dog rescue makes me think that dog people take the crazy cake. And the candles.

Since it’s Friday, here’s a photo of a calm blue ocean:


Filed under: Non-Work, , , , ,

Guess I’m playing for the other team now.

I had a cat for a very, very long time. I got her when she was 6 weeks old and had her for 17 years. She was my best friend, and once-in-a-lifetime special.

Since she passed away, the house has seemed weird and empty, but every time I went to adoption events and looked at the kittens they didn’t measure up and it just hurt too damned much.

So now I’ve gone completely off the deep end and am getting a dog.

Actually, I’m technically just a foster home for the 10 lb terrier mix so I can figure out if this dog thing is for me or not.

I’m still not sure.

They do seem like an awful lot of fuss, and today, as I stood in the middle of Petco, I realized I have no idea what dogs like.

I know they like sniffing crotches and rolling in filth, but who doesn’t, really?

But toys? Once I get out of the squeaky mouse aisle I’m kind of lost.

Ditto chewy bones. Why the hell are there so many different kinds of fucking fake bones to chew? Are dogs really that picky?

Does the blue one taste like a different kind of ass than the red one?

And the clothes. For dogs.

Jesus tap-dancing Christ, people. We live in Southern California. The fucking dog has a fur coat. It does not in any way, shape, or form need a parka.

Or shoes.

Or sunglasses.
Or a novelty sombrero.

Okay, maybe the sombrero.

At the checkout, a fellow customer accused me of animal abuse because I mentioned I thought the dog would be fine without a wardrobe.

And I thought cat people were crazy.

Filed under: california, dog, life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, pets, , , , ,

Panic and downtime.

After an incredibly busy April (I had two days off. TWO. All month), May is dead. I’ve gotten two days this month so far, both 8 hour days below scale.

But I was so busy last month that I wasn’t able to overspend (breakfast, lunch, and wrap meal at work mean no grocery shopping), so aside from all the food in the fridge going bad, everything was wonderful.

And if I’m working that much I can buy more food.

But now it’s totally dead and I’m trying to fill my time with the gym and home-improvement projects. Like putting earthquake film on the largish windows in my bedroom, getting the bike tuned up, selling the extra bike I never ride any more, weeding the garden (VERY important!), getting the car tuned up, and other general unemployment stuff.

And today it’s raining – in Los Angeles, we all know what that means – widespread panic and even worse driving than usual.

Although I like money, I also like not white-knucking it through panic-induced gridlock.

So I walked today.

I walked to the post office to return an Amazon purchase. I walked to the store to load up on groceries before the urge to hoard set in and the lines got too long. I walked to the recyling place and dropped off my plastic bottles (dammit, I paid that 5 cent CRV, I want it back).

And while I was walking, the rain started.

I don’t know if it’s years of having to stand out in rain all night or that over the years I’ve invested in really kickass raingear, but I don’t mind walking in the rain.

I’m wrapped in Gore Tex, I’m good. Bring it, skywater.

Filed under: Los Angeles, Non-Work, , , , , ,

Friday Photo


The giant tape ball on the Paramount lamp dock.

Filed under: camera, Los Angeles, Photos, 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.


People edged closer to the camera.


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


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, , , , , , , , ,

November 2015
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Flickr Photos

Origami bird

Window view

City View

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

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