Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

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, , , , , , ,

A crash and a bang and that’s lunch.

I’m starting a show next week (hooray for work!), so I’ve not really been looking for work – just getting some random projects done around the house (fun fact: the walls in my apartment are not plumb, as I discovered when I tried to anchor a bookcase to the wall. Awesome).

But I’m certainly not going to turn anything down, so when I got a call to work a stunt unit yesterday, of course I agreed.

Stunts are a producer’s nightmare – they take forever and you cannot for any reason rush a stunt performer. Because if you do, and there’s an accident…

I don’t really need to finish that sentence, do I?

So we set up, lit the very small set and then we sat. And sat and sat and sat. Then, we went to lunch, came back and sat some more. The actors sat. The camera people sat. The producer sat and gnashed his teeth.

This particular movie had a very bad experience with a thing called an accelerator rig (cable system to pull a stunt performer through the air rapidly), so they won’t use them any more* – the ‘kick the bad guy right through the ceiling’ scene had to be shot in little bits, which isn’t a bad thing as we got to do some lighting.

The last shot of the day was a fist fight on top of a train scene – which was really a fight in front of a greenscreen with fans blowing for extra realism. Aside from the scuffing of a very expensive costume, it was uneventful.

The main challenge was to light the actors without casting shadows onto the greenscreen. Easy on really big greenscreen set ups (you can get the actors way away from the walls), not so much on small ones – you can’t get your action far enough away from the screen to make it easy (the screen has to be lighted separately from the actors, and there can’t be any cross contamination – the actor light has to stay on the actor, and the greenscreen light has to stay on the screen).

But again, once it was done, we sat. Lucky for me my co-workers were really wonderful folks and we had a very good time.

I have to give the director credit – we did three really huge, complicated stunt scenes in under 12 hours. That’s amazing.

* I wasn’t there, but I’m told a part of the rig failed (mechanics, not human error) and almost bruised a very expensive actor.

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

Newsflash…Children cause pain and suffering.

A couple of weeks ago, I did a favor job setting up a kid’s day camp. Which was fine – it’s good for the delinquents to get off the street, and I got grocery money.

Every little bit helps, right?

The only problem is that part of the job was lifting some fairly heavy boxes (unassembled bookshelves, mainly). Which was also fine, except that my partner in said lifting was a 17-year-old camp counselor who didn’t understand how to do things like communicate with a partner, or keep hanging on when asked to.

Me: “I’m going to  step back to get around this…”

Kid: “Step back?”

(loud crash and scream)

Box, meet toe.

20130702-204316.jpg
Sexy!

I can’t even be mad about it.

I’ve had more years than I care to admit to learn to do this stuff without killing my partner.  All of us who do this sort of thing for a living develop the understanding of how to work with a partner – how to communicate, how to read body language, how to walk backwards while carrying a slippery dimmer pack up equally slippery stairs, how to NOT LET GO.

But we all remember the day when we didn’t know it.

Just like the kid. And the feeling that one gets when one hurts a co-worker is terrible. So yelling wouldn’t have done anything other than crush Junior’s tender spirit.

Lucky for me, the toe’s not broken, it’s just… horrible. And kind of throbbing, but I’m so grossed out by the idea of stabbing it with  a needle that I’m just going to tough it out.

No sandals for me this summer!

Or, toenail polish, which I don’t normally wear, but I’m sure it’s better than the black blob.

Filed under: life in LA, mishaps, Non-Work, Photos, , , , , ,

And why wouldn’t it?

Today was our last day in our ‘hero’ house, so we had, in addition to the day’s work, some scenes to re-shoot (one because the producers didn’t think our stunningly beautiful lead actress looked ‘pretty enough’), and about a million inserts.

The call sheet looked like a Tolstoy novel before editing, and we all knew it was going to be a long day – even if they wrapped on time, we still had to load our truck. In the rain, of course, because why wouldn’t it be raining on the day we had to clean up and load our truck?

After several weeks at a location, you get comfortable and stuff spreads out despite efforts at housekeeping, so there’s a massive last-minute expedition to hunt down the scattered gear and organize it (Boss: “Why are the tweenie* doors on the back of the toilet in the bathroom?” Me: [pause] “I. Don’t. Know.”)

After they finally called wrap – at the last minute before the producer stomped on set and pulled the plug, because why wouldn’t they use every minute they had to finish the massive call sheet – we were cleaning out the house, happy to be done with the place, but trying to work as quickly as we could as the siren call of home and a hot shower was too much to resist.

The homeowner had thoughtfully provided wooden ramps so we could wheel carts up the low stairs into the house, as I was carrying one of the aforementioned tweenies down the ramp, I slipped on the wet wood and landed right on my knee.

Of course. If I’m going to get hurt at work, why wouldn’t it be right at wrap when my co-workers really need me? I’m told I screamed like a girl when it happened, although I have no such recollection.

Our medic iced the knee, gave me some painkillers and some paperwork to fill out (in that order. Hope I did it right), then wrapped it (the knee, not the paperwork) so it would hold weight and I hobbled out to help load the carts.

One of my co-workers had slipped on the same ramp a few hours before and injured the opposite leg, so we joked that between us we made one complete electrician.

I’m icing the knee now in the hopes that the swelling will go down – I’m officially in 10 hour turnaround (the elapsed time between when one is dismissed for the day and when one must report back to work the next day), so I can’t ice for too long.

That sleep thing needs to happen.

Tomorrow’s work is in a hospital, so if the knee really hurts I know where there will be a doctor or three.

Call time: 9:30 am

Wrap time: 9:30 pm

We closed the doors of our truck at 11:00 pm.

*The tweenie is one of the workhorses of the lighting department. It’s a 650 watt light that’s small enough to hide easily, but puts out a nice amount of light, and no matter how many of them we order, it’s never enough.

 

Filed under: hazardous, locations, long long drives, mishaps, movies, Work, , , , , , , ,

Why I can’t type right now.

image

Most awesome screwgun accident, ever.

Hopefully, the giant mummy-wrapped thumb will be better in a few days.

Filed under: hazardous, mishaps, Photos, Work, , , ,

I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!

Thursday night was supposed to be a fun night – I was on a show that’s got a fantastic crew with whom I always have a great time. Plus, once they moved outside for the big night exterior, I was going up in the condor, which meant even if I couldn’t catch a nap I’d still be able to enjoy the cool breeze that blows 80 feet above the lot on summer nights.

But it didn’t work out like that.

I suppose at this point I should rewind about 10 years (or so).

One night (dark and stormy, of course) before I’d gotten into the union, after a 16 hour day on a low-budget nightmare, our truck broke down and we had to move all our equipment into a replacement truck after wrap but before we could go home (on locations camera, lighting and grip almost never get to go home at wrap – we have to shove all our crap back into our trucks and that can take a while).

The method for doing this is to back the trucks up so the rear ends face each other and the lift gates overlap (in the ‘up’ position about four feet off the ground), and just schlep the stuff from one truck to the other. If you put the trucks side-by-side and go up and down and up and down on the gates, it takes forever and your gates drain their batteries and die right before it’s time to load the really heavy stuff.

At some point during the transfer, I lost my footing on the wet lift gate and fell off the side. On the way down (or maybe when I fell on the surface of the parking lot) I seriously fucked up my left knee (as opposed to my right knee, which I only mildly fucked up) and spent the next couple of hours sitting on the ground, trying to keep from crying as my co-workers finished swapping trucks (I’d car pooled with my boss that day and had to sit there and wait. Not that I’d have been able to drive anyways – I had a stick shift at the time and my left knee wasn’t really working very well).

Production, of course, had sent the medic home at wrap as they didn’t want to keep paying him to sit around while those sweaty people worked.

The next day, I called in sick and went to a doctor who listened to the tale and took one look at my pitiful attempt to walk then started a workmen’s comp claim. He’d gotten to the point where he was ready to order MRIs and figure out exactly what was wrong, then the production company contested the claim (since heaven forbid they pay for an injury), and since I couldn’t afford health insurance, I couldn’t get it treated – I just iced it and stayed off of it for a couple of weeks, and then used a brace at work for a few months while I became better acquainted with over-the-counter painkillers.

After a while, it became normal – I just had a bad knee, and every so often it would act up and I’d have to stay home on the couch, with an ice pack and the remote control waiting for it to settle down. It’s amazing how quickly we learn to live with certain things.

Then, on Thursday night, the knee became incredibly painful – worse than it’s ever been before, and for the life of me I can’t remember doing anything to make it start. I didn’t fall, didn’t run up a bunch of steps, didn’t twist with my weight on it, didn’t kick anyone (hard). I just reported for work and it started hurting right before lunch.

Maybe my knee doesn’t like the commissary.

Lucky thing I went up in the condor because by that time I wasn’t sure if I could even finish out the night and getting off my feet for a few hours bought me some time (now would be a good time to mention that quite a few of us keep working when we’re injured, as we don’t want to be perceived as whiners or ‘high-maintenance’. Generally, the only time I’ll go home is if I’m vomiting so much that I can’t stand up).

It hurt even worse Friday, so I went to the doctor and he x-rayed it, became extremely agitated by said x-rays (he jabbed the image with his finger and said “What the hell is that?”) and then gave me a referral to go see an orthopedist.

My appointment’s Wednesday morning, and I’m going to strap a brace on the knee and try to work tomorrow night. I should be done by 7 am, and then it’s just a not-so-quick drive across town to the doc. Don’t bother telling me I’m nuts, I already know.

Hopefully I won’t have to climb any stairs.

Filed under: mishaps, studio lots, up all night, Work, , , , , , , , ,

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