Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Friday Photo

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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.

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, , , , , , , , ,

Temptation

As our calls creep an hour later each day*, traffic becomes less of a concern. Our call today was 10 am so I didn’t have to worry about getting stuck in anything, but I still left early because I needed to get something to prevent the cement block in my sinuses.

I stopped at a small drug store near the location and got some Allegra, which generally wouldn’t be my first choice, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Or so I’m told.

I didn’t get to catering early enough to have breakfast, and we started out having to put all the lights back on the stands, as we’d taken them off the night before due to fear of them being blown over.

Probably an unfounded fear, as each stand had at least three shot bags on it.

Once we got set up and shooting, I snuck back to the caterer and grabbed a breakfast burrito, and then had to go unload equipment at yet another house – this one is serving as the production office.

The production house has the nicest pool of all the houses, and it’s the one that tempts me most to jump in. Apparently the heater has been broken for 6 months, but the pool is still being cleaned and really, I don’t think low 70s water would be that bad on a 90 degree day.

So I humped cable past said pool for about an hour (can’t get a cable cart past the yard’s landscaping, sadly), wishing that I had a set of dry clothes with me so I could ‘accidentally’ fall in.

Maybe Friday.

Two of us went over to Green Pool House to rig two rooms for two shots on Friday, but had to be rigged today as the important people will be coming to look at them and decide what they want.

Turns out, the director on this movie isn’t really allowed to make any decisions – it’s the studio suits that are really calling the shots – they’ve been shooting for months past the original end date, because said suits see a cut, don’t like it, and make them go back and shoot more.

They’ve also been through at least three sets of writers.

Awesome.

Someone gave me a script today, but since this movie builds on the past few movies of the franchise, I was unable to even begin to follow along, so I threw it in the trash.

*Two reasons – the main one is that the lead actress has a contractual 12 hour turnaround and since she’s in damn near every scene, we can’t come back until 12 hours after wrap – a 12 hour day for us is actually a 12.5 hour day, as we go ‘off the clock’ for a 30 minute lunch. The other reason is that we have night work Friday, and it’s easier on everyone if we gradually move the call instead of holding at a 7 am for four days and then coming in at noon on Friday.

Filed under: locations, long long drives, Los Angeles, movies, Work, , , , , , , , ,

The wind blows

For some strange reason, someone on this show decided to jump from a 6:30 am call time to a 9 am call time.

One would think that it would be great to sleep in, but the later the call, the heavier the traffic.

So I left my place a full hour early, anticipating to get stuck in the crawl, and then got lucky and got there way too early.

It was a nice calm day when I pulled out of the driveway, but by the time I got to location the winds had picked up – not just a light breeze, either. Violent gusts that bent trees and knocked over anything large and top-heavy – such as grip equipment or lights on stands.

The first thing we did in the morning – before we were in* – was frantically weight down the stands with all the sand and shot bags we could get from the grips, and then secure the equipment as well as we possibly could.

I finally got to see one of the other empty houses that’s being used as a location – it’s about a block away from the main house and has an incredibly green pool. Not intentionally green, mind you. Mosquito vector green. Someone told me it hasn’t been cleaned in about six months – oddly, the entire time the production has been shooting in this house.

The winds kept up all day and into the evening – by sunset my sinuses were a solid block of dirt and pollen – because we’ve killed the lawn on the property, there’s a layer of dust on everything – the carts, the equipment, the crew, the food. It’s like a music festival, except there are no tunes and you can’t get a toe ring.

The winds should die down by tomorrow afternoon.

Although California is currently in drought, I took a really long hot shower in an attempt to dislodge the mass in my sinuses – it was so bad even my ears were jammed up.

I need Claritin for the rest of the week.

*At call, the ADs will yell “we’re in”, meaning the work day has started. Most shows have a caterer that serves breakfast so everyone gets there early and mills about. It’s bad form to show up right at call, and it’s equally bad form to start working before one is called in, as one isn’t getting paid for that work. But, if it’s a choice between working five minutes early or losing a light due to it getting blown over….

Filed under: locations, long long drives, Los Angeles, movies, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

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The lights, reflected in our ‘pond’, which was an above ground pool.

Shooting in and around water when we’re burning lights that use as much electricity as a small house needs to be approached with caution.

Back in the old days, we used DC power around water, which is safer, but most modern lights won’t work with DC, so we have to use Shock Blocks – they’re giant GFCIs, much like the small ones you have in your kitchen and bathroom.

The way they work is that if they sense an interruption in the force, they assume there’s mortal danger and shut off the power. Usually, they do this right in the middle of the only take in 300 that’s gone right, or the exact moment the AD says “we only have time for one more before we lose the light”.

It’s also really important that we make sure everyone on set is plugged into the GFCI circuits – if something should happen and the water tank were to rupture, the GFCIs would shut off the power before anyone got electrocuted.

Hopefully.

But people get tired of the fucking things tripping and shutting off the power, so they steal a stinger and plug into a wall outlet.

If the lot safety people come by and see that, guess who gets fired?

That’s right, me.

Next time: The simultaneous fun and horribleness of going into the tank.

Filed under: camera, Los Angeles, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Continuing Education

In order to shift liability for accidents onto the crew, we are required to undergo safety training.

The bulk of the classes were some time ago, and now it’s just the occasional add-on whenever someone gets hurt, or someone important thinks they might get hurt.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for education and safety training, I really am. An educated workforce is the best insurance against accidents.

This particular class was about process trailer safety. And that’s an important class, especially for people who haven’t had any experience with process trailers.

That funny-looking thing you see in the link is a process trailer. Because it’s asking a bit much of actors to remember their lines and drive at the same time (no snark here, it’s difficult), one puts the car on a trailer and tows it around while the actors mimic driving and say the lines.

It’s also very useful if your car is a stick shift and your actor doesn’t know how to drive one – or if you want a dolly shot of the car while it’s moving, or if you want…

Hell, there’s a million reasons to use a process trailer and very few to let an actor drive.

It was taught by a former AD, so it was a very interesting perspective on the whole thing, and despite the warnings I’d heard that the class was boring and useless I found it very interesting.

The only bad part is the driving all the way across town.

I’m not kidding. The training facility is on the other side of the Los Angeles Metropolitan area, and I have to traverse the worst traffic corridor in North America to get there.

So I went to the 12:30 to 3:30 class in the hopes of missing the worst of the traffic.

I combined errands and went to the bank, dropped off the recycling, swam in the 50 meter pool in the valley, and then hit the class.

I’d intended to go to Ikea after, but Obama is coming so I went straight home in the hopes of missing that clusterfuck.

Still no work, but I’m hearing it’s going to be really busy, soon.

Until then, I will continue with cleaning the apartment and weeding the garden – two tasks that get neglected when I get busy.

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

There’s no work, so I might as well have some fun

I’m sure one or two of you have heard of the Sharknado franchise. Movies, mainly – but I really wish they’d branch out into shark plush toys that come with a doll’s arm in the mouth.

These movies have made approximately a metric ton of money for the SyFy network, and they’re immensely popular among the viewing public.

Sharknado number three is currently shooting in Los Angeles, and for some reason isn’t a union signatory. I can only imagine it’s due to the inclusion of Ann Coulter, who probably refused to participate if the dirty smelly worker things were getting paid enough to live on. Greedy fuckers.

Seriously, though, this isn’t some little indie movie that may never make a dime.  It’s going to do very, very well and everyone knows it, especially the producers. The network has probably already pre-sold enough ads to finance three more movies and a spin-off Saturday morning cartoon.

But they don’t want to sign a union contract so the below the line workers can get their health care qualifying hours. Really, that’s what’s important to most of us.

So why not go out and picket? It’s not like I’m currently getting any work.

Except today. My bank account won’t allow me to keep driving to Santa Clarita if there’s no paycheck involved.

Daily picketing locations can be found on the Strikenado Facebook page.

Filed under: long long drives, movies, Non-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, , , , , , ,

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