The giant tape ball on the Paramount lamp dock.
April 1, 2015 • 7:05 pm 1
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.
March 30, 2015 • 9:19 pm 1
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.
March 25, 2015 • 11:40 pm 1
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.
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.
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.
March 24, 2015 • 11:38 pm 0
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….
March 20, 2015 • 6:00 pm 0
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.
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.
March 12, 2015 • 5:06 pm 3
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.
October 30, 2014 • 10:43 pm 0
Anyone who works in media in any capacity keeps secrets.
Most of them are harmless: the vegetarian who eats bacon, the studio exec with an 8th grade education, the erudite gangster rapper.
But some people do very, very bad things and get away with it. For years.
Because they’re powerful. Because they’re rich. Because if you dare challenge them they’ll litigate you into a special kind of hell from which you will never re-emerge.
Even if you do win, you’ll be demonized by the unwashed internet masses because how dare you speak ill of Mr (or Ms.) Perfect? They make great media!
The accusations span a decade, and the women in his media circles have been warning each other to stay away for about that length of time.
But no one went to the police, because apparently the police in Canada aren’t any better at dealing with this sort of thing than the police here in Los Angeles, where they warehoused rape kits for years.
And that’s women who were assaulted by the hoi palloi, not the rich and powerful.
Here in our little Southern California media community, there is at least one serial rapist – not a sad sack who confuses BDSM and battery, an actual rapist – who has been at it for at least 8 years. Maybe longer.
No one that I know of has gone to the police because this person is very, very powerful and, well, that’s why. Even those who are raped by poor people face victim blaming, accusations of being liars and whores who secretly wanted it, etc..
Imagine how that gets magnified when one’s claim involves part of the city’s economic elite, or very, very famous.
Is it any wonder that we just quietly warn each other to stay away from Mr. (or Ms.) Nightmare?
Glances get exchanged, texts get sent, private messages fly around – stay away.
But it’s not a perfect system. Some don’t get the warning. And they have to suffer through the cycle of shame, anger, grief, guilt.
And said abuser walks free.
Because the abuser is above the law. And will likely never face the consequences.
And one could lose faith in the human race, except that Jian Ghomeshi is, finally, facing some (admittedly mild so far) consequences.
It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing, right?
P.S. For fuck’s sake – no comment guesses at any names, even if you know who it is. I can’t afford that kind of lawyer.
March 10, 2014 • 7:47 pm 0
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.
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.
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.