Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

There’s a first time for everything

I’m not an actor, nor have I ever had  any actorish aspirations.

But yesterday on one of the swim groups, someone posted a casting call that I just couldn’t pass up.

A female swimmer, mid 30s to mid 40s, proficient in all four strokes and comfortable swimming in the ocean.

The last part was strenuously emphasized – COMFORTABLE SWIMMING IN THE OCEAN !!!!! – so I’m guessing they’ve had some issues with people telling them “sure, no problem” and then freaking out when they dropped them off the boat. Or dock, or whatever.

Luckily, I’m not afraid of the terrors that lurk in the briny deep because, I suspect, I’m not smart enough to have ever developed even a modicum of common sense.*

I figured I’d email the casting lady just for a laugh. I gave her my swimming background, sent a few pictures, and figured that I’d hear nothing back from her.

She emailed me within 10 minutes, and informed me that my ‘look’ was acceptable (whew. I was worried there for a second), and that I’d have to come in and audition.

I started to lose interest, and then I read the numbers.

For two days, they’ll pay more than I usually make in a 60 hour week. And I don’t have to be SAG because of some reason. I think because there are no lines. Just swimming.

So, I agreed to go on my first-ever audition.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would imagine that if swimming skills were so critical they’d hold said audition in the water. Seems like it would be the sensible thing to do. “Hey, come out to the beach. Now dive through the waves and swim to that kayak out there. Mind the stingrays.”

But no. My audition was in a Hollywood casting office, where I stood in front of a video camera, did a few pushups (don’t ask me why, I don’t know) and then mimicked swim strokes for whichever deity will be making the choice. Plus, I threw in a story about the time I got stung by a jellyfish because I thought it was a plastic bag and grabbed it to clean up the ocean.

Serves me right. Not just the jellyfish, the whole fucking thing.

Everyone was really nice, but the experience was really surreal. The office is this big corral with smaller rooms off the sides. All the supplicants sit in center on uncomfortable chairs, making small talk as they wait to be called into their particular inner sanctum.

The walls are white, there are signs everywhere warning that one must mind one’s meter, and coffee is not complimentary.

Did you ever see Brazil? It’s kind of like that.

Looking around our little group, it was very easy to see who had come from the swim group and who was a professional actor.

The swimmers had broader shoulders, more sun damage, more bruises, and worse hair. Oh, our hair was terrible. I’m surprised we weren’t immediately escorted off the premises.

I do not expect I’ll get a callback.

*Although there is that one kelp mat off Venice Beach that scares the shit out of me every time I swim over it. It’s just deep enough to see the shadow, but not make out any detail.

Filed under: humor, life in LA, Los Angeles, , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

Heavy diffusion

One of the more challenging challenges of lighting involves older actresses.

Since, in Hollywood world, men are allowed to age but women must forever look 19, even when they’ve officially qualified as a dowager for a few decades and makeup can only do so much, so we in the lighting department have to pick up whatever slack we can.

It’s not as difficult as one might imagine.

A large light through multiple layers of heavy diffusion will, in effect, remove wrinkles.

The light has to be large as a small light through multiple layers of heavy diffusion results in no light at all, which also makes wrinkles difficult to see, but not in the way we want it to.

So today’s photo is a BFL (big fucking light – 9 light variety) shining through two layers of very heavy diffusion in order to make our 40-something actress look dewy and gorgeous.

Not pictured are the other two BFLs (10k variety) doing the exact same thing from two other angles, also through heavy diffusion.

It’s a lot of work for us, but boy does it make said actress look gorgeous.

So the next time you’re tempted to feel bad about yourself because you don’t look as amazing as 40-something actress, remember that you don’t have a lighting crew following you around all day :)

Filed under: Photos, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

Not Beer

Whenever there’s a scene with actors or background in a bar drinking, for obvious reasons they can’t be drinking alcohol, so any glasses you see are filled with non-alcoholic liquid. The best example is iced tea for whiskey. That bottle of jack is really filled with Snapple.

In this case, this particular glass is filled with watered down Coca Cola.

I feel bad for the actors who have to drink it and smile.

Filed under: camera, Photos, toxic waste, Work, , , , , , ,

Time flies when you’re busy

January has been crazy (the good kind, not the drama kind). I’m getting multiple work calls almost every day, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is unheard of this time of year.

Tuesday, I missed a work call for Wednesday as I was swimming when the call came. Since I have yet to figure out how to bring my phone into the lap pool with me, by the time I dried off and got back to the locker the job had been given to someone else who called back sooner.

“Oh, well” I thought “I’ll just clean the house and hopefully I’ll get a day near the end of the week”.

Wednesday  morning at 6:45, the phone rang and the best boy from Doctors in Love* asked if I could come in right then as someone had called in sick.

Normally, I don’t like to jump out of bed, throw on whatever clothing smells the least and haul ass out the door. I like to get up, have some coffee, putter around and generally make a leisurely exit, but since Doctors in Love shoots across town (literally all the way across the city) and it’s an hour drive with no traffic,  I hurried as waiting too much past 7-ish would result in a multi hour stop-and-go nightmare.

It turned out to be an easy day (one set, two actors) with a bunch of really awesome guys. The only bad part about working with this particular group of guys is that they use a bunch of custom rigged lights, and as such have odd names for them.

Normally, there’s a bit of variation in what stuff is called (some people call a 4 foot, four tube Kino Flo a ‘fat boy’, some call it a ‘tall boy’), but it’s all basically the same.

Custom lights, however, are, well, custom, so there’s no frame of reference.

When the gaffer gets on the walkie and asks for a “Long John Silver on a teeter totter**” I have no frame of reference and stand there, halfway between the staging area and the set, blinking rapidly and wondering if I want to ask for clarification on the walkie, thus making everyone think I’m a bit slow, or wait to ask a co-worker, making the gaffer think I’m lazy.

Awesome.

It all worked out well, though (crazy light names aside), and I got picked up for the next day as well, so I got to go back today.

Today as also an easy day with fun people, even if the work was a bit more complex (multiple actors, a stage move, etc..), but I was inside a heated stage all day – a good thing since it’s currently really cold here in Los Angeles. Objectively cold, not California cold.

During lunch today, I got a text from the best boy on Reluctant Porn Star* asking if I could work Friday and Saturday. Both days on the beach, both days splits (afternoon call so the day’s half day, half night).

I predict both nights to be cold and damp (and working on the beach sucks balls), but hey, it’s work, right?

*Not a real show name

** An LED strip in an aluminum housing with the ballasts rigged to hang off of it. It looks like a penis on a surfboard.

Filed under: crack of dawn, long long drives, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The logic escapes me.

I miss so much of the off-camera drama when I day-play*. This may or may not be a good thing.

Today, I noticed that this particular show’s lead actor was listed on the call sheet under a fake name. Although I’ve seen this a few times on movies starring whichever unfortunate soul is the current paparazzi whipping boy (or girl), I’ve never once seen it on a TV show.

Of course, I asked my boss about it.

Turns out, said actor had a stalker who bluffed his (or her – the stalker’s gender wasn’t specified) way onto the lot and harassed the poor guy. So production, in an attempt to foil the stalker and protect the actor decided to give him a fake name on the call sheet (they also beefed up security and moved his trailer to a less accessible location).

Setting aside the fact that someone who’s savvy enough to be able to get onto a studio lot is going to be able to figure out the little bit of call-sheet subterfuge in about 15 seconds, is that the best you people can do nowadays? Have we, as a nation, really become so unimaginative?

Of all the people in the world to stalk, you pick an actor ? Come on.

I don’t have anything against actors per se (longtime readers will remember that I used to date one), but really – as a group they’re just not that interesting. Trust me on this one.

When I mentioned something to that effect, a co-worker asked which person I’d stalk, were I so inclined.

We got called to deal with some on-set emergency or other before I could answer, but after giving it some thought I’m fairly certain I’d stalk Henry Kissinger.

It would be fun! I’d sneak into his house and tape pictures of Cambodian children maimed by land mines to his bathroom mirror, call him up at 3 am and make some sort of bad wordplay using the word ‘junta’ (hey, it’s easier than Pinochet), sign him up for Noam Chomsky’s email list, maybe periodically FedEx him a box containing little models of the Eiffel Tower, tiny plush-toy condors (if Gund doesn’t make those, they should start) and a scrawled note on stained paper about knowing what he did last summer (or something).

Plus, I speak German so I can harangue him in his native language, too. You know, just to keep things interesting.

Everybody wins!

Yes, I realize this less of a stalking and more of a grudge (and/or terrorizing of a parenthetical war criminal with one foot in the grave), but really, are they all that different?

Both are emotionally unhealthy and a waste of energy which could be used for something productive.

On the other hand, SAG will soon go on strike and I’ll have nothing but time on my hands. All I’ll need then is a plane ticket, a tube of lipstick and a plastic wrapped…

Oh, never mind. I’d rather stay home and paint the kitchen.

*Day players aren’t permanent crew on any one show. They work a day here and a day there on different shows.

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

Merrily we grind to a halt.

The reason to have a second unit on any shoot is either to enable the main shooting unit to work faster by not having to do small shots or to pick up stuff that either didn’t get shot due to time, wasn’t up to par for some reason, or got changed after the fact. Thus, second unit shoots are sort of a potpourri of random stuff, and today, we had two different directors as we were picking up scenes from two different episodes (television shows have a different director each episode).

Our first item up was a three-and-a-half page scene with four actors, and our first director bashed the thing out in five hours – that’s FAST. Normally, a scene that long would take most of a day (and the more actors the longer it takes because one needs to shoot the scene from a greater number of perspectives, called “coverage”. A scene with four actors will take longer than a scene with two actors, even if those actors are, say, standing around a table having a conversation), so of course we all got our hopes up that we’d continue at that pace and perhaps have, if not a short day, at least not a super long one.

Then, we switched directors.

The second director wasn’t nearly as quick as the first one – in fact, when the first unit guys came in (much later in the day) and found out who was directing the second half of our day, they just rolled their eyes and muttered something cryptic about it being a long one for us.

Apparently, this director is just – slow. Normally when things move very slowly, the reason is pretty obvious – complicated blocking (the actors movements around the set is the scene’s blocking), stunts, acts of various gods, whatever.

This director was just moving at the speed of molasses on a cold morning. Well, that, and doing a number of takes which would have horrified even David Fincher.

After the first guy who was so fast, that was just mean.

Really, though, it wasn’t that bad – I was on the dimmer board and since the board operator sits down all day I didn’t have to worry about my feet hurting, and this particular crew are a really great bunch of guys who are always fun to work with, so it was a good day.

Call time: 7 am

Wrap time: 9:30 pm

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

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