Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Some old vacation photos of a lost monument

I was very lucky to be able to visit Notre Dame during the off season when there weren’t so many people there. It was cold and drizzly, but there was no wait and enough space to take some pictures:

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An avalanche of tiny checks

Due to a contract change, I got a retroactive pay raise on some shows, which is great, but as of now, I have eight checks, all around $20, mostly from the same show – I guess it was a check per episode and it was too much trouble to send out one.

Which, again, is great. Money is great.

Because I have direct deposit and am a lazy, lazy, bum, I usually don’t look that hard at said checks and trust that the best boy did his (or her) job and got everything right.

So now, I have to go back through the pay stubs and see how many more are real checks.

Serves me right. Happy New Year.

Update: mail just came. It’s now 12 checks.

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It’s getting hot out here

In theory, Spring is the short season between winter and summer – where the temperature gradually warms up, stuff blooms, birds and bees do… things (or so I’m led to believe), and we ease into summer.

Except this year. The weather in Los Angeles went from high 60’s to mid-90’s. Overnight.

Which would be fine, except that it takes time to get used to the heat, and guess what I did yesterday? That’s right – I stood around outside all day for day exteriors. In the sun.

I’m never really ready for the heat.  The older I get the more I suffer in it, but I’m usually, well, not okay, but better when I’ve had some time to acclimate.

It’s a damn good thing I checked the weather report before coming to work, otherwise I’d have worn long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, then would have boiled alive. Or something.

We had three different locations, and had to wrap back to the truck after each one, so we spent a lot of time pulling cable in said heat.

Our second location had no shade at all, and of course that was the hottest part of the day.

On the bright side, I managed to not get sunburned, which is awesome.

It seemed almost cool when I drove home in low 80’s.

After an 11 hour day working set, I felt exactly like I usually feel after 14 hours of wrapping heavy cable – achy, sticky and stiff.

A cold shower has never felt so good. Thankfully we’re on stage today out of the sun.

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Oh, look! A whole week!

Although I was light on the work last week, this week is busy.

I got Monday, Thursday and Friday on some cable show I’ve never heard of (as long as the check clears), and then got a last-minute call for today to cover a friend on the dimmer board for one scene.

That’s only an eight hour day,  but since I didn’t have to be here until after lunch, I managed to go to the gym and run a load of laundry. Sweet.

I’m working with a really nice group of folks I always enjoy seeing, and, as a bonus, I got called for tomorrow on a totally different show with another group of really nice folks.

That one will be 12 hours, too.

That’s five days out of five. That doesn’t happen too often in day-player world.


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It never rains without pouring

It’s been extremely busy, which is always good.

This year has been odd – there was no work at all for almost three months and my expenses are currently on the high side (for me), so I ran through my savings faster than I wanted to and panicked. Being busy is like a security blanket for my bank account and my soul.

I’ve been getting at least three or four days a week every week, except this week. I started out with today and Thursday. Two days lets me beat unemployment, which is great, but it’s not enough to pay the bills and save for the inevitable period of anxious unemployment.

But weeks fill up, and sure enough, within a space of 45 minutes,  I got calls from three different shows for Thursday and then had to turn them all down. Because I was working Thursday.

An hour after I turned down all those calls, the best boy texted me and  told me Thursday was moving to Friday.

Because of course.

Dammit. Hopefully I’ll pick something up.

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A good deed never goes unpunished

The producers of this show figured out they could save money by not having much at craft service. It’s usually just coffee with that wierd powdered milk, some fruit fly infested bananas and whatever chips were left over from the day before. They have items with which to make sandwiches in the truck, but they keep the truck locked so we can’t use any of them.

I understand – they can only offer what fits in their budget and they’re doing the best they can.

Our lead actress came on set one day, looked at the table and got upset. About us. She went to the producers and told them they needed to get us better crafty and right now. It was an incredibly noble gesture, as she gets whatever she wants brought to her trailer so whatever is or isn’t on the table doesn’t really make a difference in her world.

The producers, wanting to keep their star happy, proceeded to bring in much better crafty – actual milk for the coffee, fresh chips, a few more healthy options. Plus, for about a minute, they let us make sandwiches on the truck.

Until our actress had a day off. Then it was back to not having anything.

Then the actress came back, and it was great.

So, lead actor who complained about the treatment of the crew gets us better crafty, but only when she’s there. When she’s not…

Today, we’re running two units and we had her for two hours. As soon as she left, so did the coffee machine and the cheese and the yogurt and everything except the same bowl of fruit that’s been out since the beginning of the show.

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At least I was out of the sun

Normally, the heat comes slowly – getting slightly warmer and slightly warmer every single day, like the frog in the pot of water.

But it’s gotten very warm in about 72 hours. Monday, it was in the 60’s, and today it was 90 on the (un-airconditioned) lamp dock where I was pulling gear for a TV show.

I’m not going to work on said TV show, I was just an extra guy to help pull equipment from the shelves and lay it out so they could test and count it.

Normally, this is not the most exciting thing in the world to do, but it was made more interesting by the lamp dock being organized by someone I’m pretty sure was on crack, so it was an adventure trying to find all the parts of the lamps.

The guys who work there all the time are used to it, but my heat-addled brain wanted to make sense of things, so I just kept wandering around with scrim bags in my hands, saying “Why?”

No one ever answered me.

Tomorrow, I’m going to be outside in the sun all day. I’m afraid.



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The shit zone

I haven’t worked in a shit-covered alley in quite some time. Not because people aren’t shitting in alleyways nowadays, but because Los Angeles has gentrified the shit out of most alleys. The human shit, anyways.

Most, but not all.

Today I got a last-minute call to go help out on a rig for a movie, which is really strange since I didn’t think we shot movies here any longer, but I haven’t worked in a few weeks, and the call was with a group of guys I really like, so off I went.

Our set was an alleyway between tenement apartments in a part of town that’s never seen skinny jeans, horn rim glasses, or pour over coffee – a real honest to God slum instead of a fake hipster slum.

You know what I mean.

No matter how much they steam clean alleys, they never get all the.. material. There’s still a smell, and since most people who shit in alleys do so leaning up against a wall, the walls and gates have to be cleaned about 2 feet up or there’s still a nasty surprise for the person running cable.

That brown crusty stuff on the bottom of the gate? It’s not rust.

The good news is that it’s been cool enough that the smell of baking excrement wasn’t as bad as it would have been in, say, July.

But still. The smell hangs in one’s nostrils, and as I was trying to tie some DMX cable up out of the shit zone, the soles of my shoes got a good soaking in a puddle of what I desperately hoped was water, but realized my error when, at lunch, the smell of piss wafted up from my shoes. Since I’m almost positive I didn’t pee on them, I have to assume the puddle was part of the alley which received insufficient steaming.

I’ve never been so happy to have a nice hot shower.

Tomorrow, I’m at another location with less pee but more toxic mold.

I’ll take it.


Filed under: california, crack of dawn, hazardous, locations, movies, toxic waste, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

An election season repost

I don’t usually repost things, but this is still relevant. Just change the name from Jian Ghomeshi to Donald Trump, and ‘BDSM’ to ‘vanilla flavored sexual assault.’

Original title was “Money, Power, and Silence”.

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!

Since he’s Canadian, you’ve probably never heard of him, but Jian Ghomeshiis rich, powerful, beloved, and an alleged serial date-beater.

The accusations span a decade, and the women in his media circles have beenwarning 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.


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Power problems

Back before modern technology, the gaffer used hand signals to direct the lighting techs, which  meant that said techs had to stay on set and pay attention.

Now, with the advent of communications technology, we have walkie talkies – we can hear the gaffer talk, to we don’t have to stand at attention all day – we can go get coffee, go play Candy Crush, read a book, whatever. As long as we’re back in the set when it’s time to light.

Handy? Sure. Even with the side effect of deafness caused by  that one person on every crew who is super loud and won’t move the damn mic away from his or her face even after being asked a thousand times.

We always get the same type of walkie – heavy, but with  a decent battery life. If there’s a lot of chatter on the channel, one may have to change at lunch. When the battery gets low, there’s a beep in the ear.

Out work today was what’s called a Pilot Presentation. It’s what you shoot before you shoot the pilot, so you can shop the show to the sort of people who will hand over wads of cash to create some fine, American-made entertainment.

On this particular day, production have tried to save money by using non-standard walkies. They’re much smaller, and have a fun feature where an actor’s voice announces  “channel one””channel two”, etc… If you spin the dial really fast, you can make him say “chanchanchanchan”, which is kind of fun.

It also announces when the battery is dead with the same actor saying “low battery”. Which is nicer than the beep, but happens way too often. By lunchtime, I’d had to change twice. Oddly, the voice did not let me know that battery death was imminent. Seems like a feature they’d want to add.

Other than fun with the walkie voice guy, it was a quiet day. Most of these presentations are only a short bit so once we’re lit, we’re sitting and waiting for wrap.

Tomorrow will be our long day, as they’ll shoot for 12 hours and then we’ll have to wrap the stage after that.

Filed under: locations, Uncategorized, , , ,

April 2023

Flickr Photos



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

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