Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

A bird in the hand

Pigeons love old sound stages.

I don’t know why, but there’s almost always one or two lurking up in the perms, crapping on our cable and doing whatever it is pigeons do when they’re not crapping on everything.

Sometimes they get trapped on the stage when we’re shooting and fly around, bumping into things and crapping on everything until they either find their way out or we call cut and open the doors.

Today, right in the middle of a very long, very complex scene requiring concentration from the actors on the dead-silent stage (this show has a really serious AD staff) – the song of the flying rat.

And they kept singing (or cooing, or telling each other where to crap next) during every single sound take.

We tried everything. A laser pointer, a light aimed at them, luring them towards the small door with a trail of bread crumbs, throwing things at them, you name it.

They’d be quiet for a few minutes and then as soon as the stage got nice and quiet  would resume their conversation.

Eventually, the exasperated sound guy decided that it wasn’t worth the headache and they should just ADR the whole thing, and we moved on.

As soon as we opened the big doors of the stage for lunch, both birds flew out.

Filed under: studio lots, toxic waste, Work, , , , , , ,

Friday photo

image

Back side of the Fox lot facades under a cloudy sky. Lucky for us we beat the rain and drove home dry.

Filed under: hazardous, Photos, studio lots, Work,

Lights, Camera, Shop!

One of the occasional perks of my job is wardrobe and prop sales.
Most of the really nice (read: expensive) stuff is rented, but the cheaper stuff is usually purchased, in multiples, and kept beyond the date by which it can be returned to the store.

There are reasons for this, of course – spills, tears, and daily wear make multiple items necessary, and hanging onto the items for so long is a must in case there are re-shoots.

So a few times a year, the nice folks in wardrobe will let the crew pick through the racks and sell off some fairly nice things for Salvation Army prices.

Tags

Today, I was really in the right place at the right time.

As we breakfasted before call, one of the costumers wheeled up a rack and told us to grab whatever we wanted, gratis.

Most of the items had weird logos on them, but a few things were really nice and (I hoped) my size.

I wasn’t sure because I couldn’t try anything on.

As totally willing as I was to whip off my top at the old Barney’s warehouse sale (deep discounts, no dressing rooms), I have to pretend to maintain some semblance of professionalism at work, which means just guessing on the size and hoping.

Of the five tops I got, four fit, which is pretty good.

One item that I thought might be too big was, predictably, too big.

But it’s a really nice soft cotton T-shirt so I might just wear it anyways.

Tomorrow, I’m on a special effects shoot which will mainly be sitting around and wondering where my life went so fucking off course.

At least I’ll look good.

Filed under: studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , ,

Back it on up

Shooting on a stage requires a backing*, for the obvious reason that if one sees white walls or staged equipment through a set window, the illusion of being in Victorian England/the frozen tundra/the Enterprise is ruined.

Back in the old days, backings were hand painted on canvas. There are still a few of those floating around, but most shows use a day/night backing.

When lit from the front, the backing appears as day. When lit from behind, the backing appears as night.

It’s genius.

You don’t need two backings and an army of grips to raise and lower them five times a day – the dimmer board operator makes the change instantly, and everything is wonderful and happy.

Except when you get your brand-new made-to-order backing and they forgot the ‘night’ part.

It looked great from the front, then, when the backlights were turned on, it looked like a daytime backing lit from behind without quite enough light.

There was a moment of silence as the department heads pondered that a) there was nothing they could do about it, and b) someone besides them was going down for this one.

Probably the backing designer, who was paid the price of a luxury car for this.

Not one of those crappy proletariat jobbies, either. A good luxury car.

Since the backing was custom ordered, I have no idea what anyone is going to do about this, and since Friday is my last day I’ll likely never find out.

Also, I learned that brand new backings smell like the worst mix of chemical slurry you can possibly imagine.

Remember your high school yearbooks and that weird benzene smell?

Imagine that, but 30 feet tall and 100 feet long.

In a stage with the doors closed.

When I recover, I’m going to really miss those brain cells.

*Also called a backdrop, but they’re both the same thing.

Filed under: studio lots, toxic waste, Work, , , , , , , ,

A nice easy stage rig. Oh, wait.

For the next couple of days, I’m putting in a rig on a stage in Hollywood. It’s closer than Fillmore, but because of the traffic, it’s still an hour drive. It would be an hour on the bicycle, too, but since we’re doing late calls I’d have to ride across town well after dark and I’m not super comfortable with that.

Normally putting in a rig on a stage is a pretty nice gig – sure, we’re running cable, but we’re out of the sun and aside from some dust, the stages are relatively clean.

Except that this show doesn’t use a mill. All phases of set construction are done right on the stage while we’re rigging.

Financially, this seems like a great decision – this is a really big stage (almost 200 feet long), so there’s plenty of room to set up a mill on one end and save time and costs. Just build and paint the sets right there, and then you don’t have to walk them all the way across the lot.

But there’s the noise and the dust and the fumes from the paint – these stages all have exhaust systems, but they were designed to vent heat, not fumes and dust.

When we walked onto the stage at call time, it looked like a foggy day and the fumes from the lacquer the painters were using were… thick.

Of course, the set to which the lacquer was being applied was right next to the ‘pick point’ – the area up high where we’d be attaching the hoist so as to lift the cable up to the perms.

I’d asked for a mask, and the painters gave me one of those little paper ones, which work great against particulate, but not so much against the fumes.

All of us had to take turns stepping outside and taking a few deep breaths of the fresh (by comparison, of course. This is Los Angeles) air.

Thankfully, the spraying ended about an hour after we got there and for a time it was much easier to breathe.

Then, they started on the rocks.

It’s very interesting to watch movie rocks being made. The construction guys start with a big block of Styrofoam, and reduce it to rock shape with a saw and a Dremel. After that’s done they spray on the color and the texture.

The downside is that they started right after the paint fumes cleared.  Of course, the other ‘pick point’ on the stage was right over where they were shaving the Styrofoam, so the little bits got all over the cable and then when we picked up the cable to hoist it, those bits got all over us.

I’ve discovered that Styrofoam bits make me itch. I nearly clawed my skin off on the drive home.

Here in California, we’re supposed to be taking short showers to conserve water – I usually do just that, but I was so itchy and stuffed up that I stood under the really hot water for what seemed like an eternity while my sinuses cleared.

We’re up high all day tomorrow, so we have a later call time to wait for the fumes to clear. Hopefully the Styrofoam bits aren’t able to float up to the perms.

Filed under: hazardous, studio lots, toxic waste, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

image

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, , , , , , , , ,

Peter, meet Paul. He’ll be paying you. Maybe.

At the start of this show, we were told that we’d have no swing sets. Ever. For any reason. So, of course, for our last episode, we have four really big swing sets. Since our stage is 200 feet long by 100 feet wide, and it’s 44.5 feet from the floor to the perms, we’ve had some problems with power. Not that we haven’t got power available, it’s just the cable – or lack thereof.

The head of the waterfall (the cable that comes up from the dimmer packs on the floor to the perms) is at one end of the stage, and our swing sets are at the other.

So that’s  40ish feet up the perms, and then 5ish feet to the ‘head’ of the waterfall, and then 2 pieces of 100 foot cable to get to the new set that’s on the other side of the stage long-ways, and then another 30ish feet of cable down to the pipe grid where the lights are.

The thing about powering lights is that you can’t ever have a cable connection in the air – you can have one on the deck of the perms or at the light itself, but nothing in between.

Why? Because if something is going to go wrong, it’s going to happen at the connector and if that connector is 10 feet above the lights we can’t get to it without really making a spectacle of ourselves, and no one wants that. So, if I can’t get to the grid with what I have leftover, I have to add cable.

We don’t have any more cable, and because of the budget crackdown, we can’t order more.

Even if we could, getting cable up to the perms is an ordeal – we have to rent the winch from the lamp dock, have the grips go out into the ozone (as in off the walkways) to hang the pulley from the pick point (which is right over one of our sets), and then spend an hour or so hauling cable up to the perms. Don’t tell me we can haul it up by hand. That shit is heavy. Imagine hauling 70 lbs up a line to the roof of a two-story building. Now do it 30 more times and then work for another 12 hours.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

So we figure out where we can steal power from the standing sets, and now we’re on the hunt for stingers because we’re out of those as well.

Only to have the DP stand in the set that’s in the shitty far away corner of the stage  and demand two more lights.  At the top of the list of things one simply can’t do is to tell the DP that he or she can’t have a light rightfuckingnow.  Even nice DPs don’t react well to the word ‘no’.

We all looked around in a panic and then figured out that the set we need the lights in won’t shoot until Friday, so we can steal power at the end of the day on Thursday.

Two more wake-ups and then we wrap. At least gravity will be working in our favour when we drop the stuff to the floor.

Filed under: rants, studio lots, Work, , , , ,

Easing into the real world

Over the past two(ish) months, I’ve become accustomed to the lighter schedule of the multi-camera show.

Monday, we come in around 2 pm, and work until about 8. We hang lights – enough to ‘rough in’ the look so when they do the rehearsal with the cast the next morning, they have a good idea what the sets look like and what we need to change or add.

Ditto Tuesday and Wednesday.

Our long days are Thursday (block and pre-shoot) and Friday (audience), but neither of those days usually go over 12 hours.

Friday, the director does a ‘block and refresh’ with the cast before lunch, and then the audience load in and we shoot the live show.

Most directors finish with the refresh well before lunch, leaving us with a two-hour lunch.

This is a good thing and a bad thing.

I can go to the bank or the gym or just nap for those two hours, but I’m also on the Sony lot which means there’s a deeply discounted electronics store within walking distance, and I really don’t need to blow a paycheck on three TVs and a sound system.

But next week is our last week, and we’ve got three new sets plus an extra shoot day (to re-do the opening sequence), so we’re going to have more hours than usual.

We’ll have a nice check right when we’re unemployed, but the fact that we’re all dreading working a 60 hour week is some indication as to how spoiled we’ve gotten and what a shock it’s going to be to return to the real world of production, where every day will be 12 hours. Or more.

I have to say I really thought I was going to hate being stuck on a multi camera, but it’s been fun – largely because of the wonderful folks I’m working with, who I’ll miss when we’re done (but will see out in single camera world on a semi-regular basis).

I’ve also discovered that copious amounts of free time on a regular basis make me get less stuff done, not more.

Although I have binge-watched several Netflix series on the one new TV I bought (just one, although the salesperson really tried to get me into two).

My new hobby is watching movies from the 70s and 80s and pausing to really get a good look at the backgrounds.

I can really see the tape and spit holding the sets together.  It’s hilarious.

 

 

Filed under: overspending, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The end is nigh

We have two weeks left until this show wraps.

At this point, we’ve used our lighting budget and aren’t allowed to rent any more equipment, no matter what.

Which would be fine if we had, as originally promised, no swing sets*.

But big ideas happen in the writer’s room and things change, so we now have to light a new set each week. But – we can’t get any new stuff, so we have to steal from whatever permanent set isn’t working to complete the rig.

Which is also fine, except that this week’s swing set will also play next week, so we didn’t de-rig it.

We’re fine if the set we stripped doesn’t play, but no one knows yet.

In other news, the cat is still alive.

$300 in blood tests and the vet has determined that she’s old (no, really?), anaemic, and may have an ulcer.

So I have to grind up a quarter tablet of Pepcid AC and put it in her food, and give her high-iron paste and it seems to be working.

She’s perkier and much more like her old self, which is awesome.

The downside is that iron paste is tenacious. Five minutes of exposure to sunlight and it hardens into something that I’m pretty sure would repel bullets, so of course the cat hates it and it’s a struggle to get it down her gullet.

The paste ends up all over the walls, the floor, her face, her fur, my hair, etc… I have a bit of eyebrow that’s shellacked now, and it’s just going to have to grow out.

I can’t mix it into the food as she’ll smell it eat around the bit of food that’s got the paste.

Ugh.

Any suggestions?  I’m covered in goop here.

 

*A swing set is any set that’s temporary – usually for one episode.

Filed under: studio lots, Work, , , , , , , ,

June 2017
S M T W T F S
« Apr    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Flickr Photos

Tags

Origami bird

Window view

More Photos

Archives

Categories

Random Quote

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

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 866 other followers

Twitter Updates

Blogroll

Not blogs, but cool

%d bloggers like this: