Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

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, , , , , , , , ,

Half a weekend

Last week, we had a 6 day week, as we had to re-shoot the pilot episode of this show. Don’t ask why, I don’t know.

Although we were expecting the worst, day 6 turned out to be not so bad (only 10.5 hours), as the director came in very prepared and burned through the stuff.

I was home before midnight, which I hadn’t expected.

The advantage of four cameras is that it’s possible to shoot 26 pages in a day; something that’s completely out of reach for single camera shows (a misnomer, since most single camera shows use two cameras).

This show is 99.9 percent wonderful.

I really like the rest of the crew, the hours are easy, it’s close to the house and I’m really happy to be here.

The main problem I’m having is craft service.

Not the person – she’s a very nice lady who is exceptionally good at her job, but she doesn’t put out the healthiest stuff. She’s trying to make an entire crew of overgrown children happy, so she puts out comfort food.

Pasta, meatballs, chicken fingers, sliders, bacon wrapped bacon, weenie tots, onion rings, pastrami, etc..

Which is fine, as most people like that stuff and won’t complain.

Hell, I like that sort of stuff, but if I spend the next 6 weeks eating deep-fried whatsits three times a day my arteries (and my waistline) are going to explode.

Simply not eating for 12 hours isn’t an option, so I need to figure out a way to bring my own snacks without offending her.

It would be easy if we had a dorm fridge in our gold room, but we don’t.

If I bring food I have to put it in her fridge, so it’s not like I can sneak it past her.

Vegan? Gluten free? Nut allergy? Sanctimonious uber-organic locavore? These are all plausible, but I think I’m just going to tell her that I’m a super picky eater with an extremely sensitive stomach and this way is going to be easier for both of us.

Hopefully, she’ll understand and not poison my bagged lunch.

 

Filed under: Work, , , , , ,

What’s a life got to do with it, anyway?

I suppose it’s not a huge secret that film sets aren’t exactly  the safest working environment. We routinely enter condemned buildings, work in extreme heat and/or cold (sometimes on the same day), navigate treacherous  footing, run cable through human waste, inhale asbestos and snack on lead paint chips (oh, wait. That’s just the ‘healthy’ baked potato chips. My bad).

In the past decade or so, there has been a concerted effort to make sets safer for everyone, and it’s been very successful.

But accidents sometimes still happen. Mostly those accidents are just that. Accidental. No fault, no blame just…Oops.

But sometimes, it is someone’s fault. In this particular case, a criminally negligent someone’s fault.

About a week ago, a film crew in Georgia were trying to get a shot for a Gregg Allman biopic – a dream sequence with a bed on railroad tracks.

At first it was just a terse announcement on some of the film-worker centric Facebook circles.

Camera assistant killed while shooting. No details.

Then, an ID. Sarah Elizabeth Jones, age 27.

Then, more details started to  emerge, and I began to suspect that this was going to get really bad.

Sadly, I was right. I hate being right.

The production company had requested a permit to shoot on the train tracks, and had been denied.

Someone decided to order the crew to set up the shot on the tracks anyhow.

Just stop and think about that for a second. Someone – we don’t know exactly who as the production company has suddenly gotten very, very tight-lipped and lawyered up – knew that they were not allowed to be on a live fucking rail line and decided to do it anyways.

A train came. About 15 minutes later, another train came. The crew began setting up, and in about 20 minutes, another train came. There was approximately one minute of warning. The crew tried desperately to clear the track in time, but one young woman was unable to do so and was struck while one of her co-workers tried to save her.

And died.

Died. For a stupid fucking movie. Produced by a fucking waste of carbon about a fucking has-been waste of carbon whose claim to fame is fucking Cher.

I jest, of course. The subject of the movie is completely irrelevant. It wouldn’t matter if it was a movie about a paralysed nun who saved a busload of adorable orphans from Nazis.

It’s not worth a life. Any life – even the life of someone who has chosen to wear a toolbelt and not get any glory or residuals.

The “Slates for Sarah” thing is very sweet, but the person who is responsible for this needs to suffer, and greatly.

Sadly, I don’t see that happening.

What I do see is (hopefully) more people saying ‘no’.

As in: “I’m sorry, Mr Producer. This isn’t safe. Oh, you want to fire me? Fine. I’ll live to work another day, and you can burn in Hell.”

Oh, wait. My bad. Burning in hell is too good for some people.

Filed under: mishaps, movies, rants, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wackiness Ensues

Friday, there was a big long discussion about the equipment we would need for our day exterior yesterday.

Since Monday was predicted to be overcast, we anticipated having to manufacture our own sunlight and requested a tow plant (a generator which is towed as opposed to being mounted on the tractor) and two 18ks.

Production shot us down and told us we could have a 5500 watt portable Honda (referred to as a putt-putt) and a 4k HMI.

The first problem we had was the rain. We were shooting inserts for a scene which had been shot in full sunlight, and since we were being rained on no matter how close we got the camera to the hand with the key (or something) the one small light we had just wasn’t enough to make the shot match, were we even able to use it.

Which brings me to the problem with the generator itself.

Most of these portable generators have a 60 amp outlet, which is enough to power one light which pulls about 40 amps.  So we were very surprised to see this:

Who thought this was a good idea?

That, dear readers, is a 60 amp outlet with a 20 amp breaker, thus rendering said outlet completely useless for our purposes.

None of us can figure out the logic behind  doing that, but clearly there was some as every single putt-putt on the lamp dock with a 60 amp outlet had a 20 amp breaker.

So, after a mad last-minute scramble, we procured a 1200 amp tow plant and an 18k (but just one – not the two that we’d asked for) to get the shots we needed.

At, might I add, considerably more expense and delay than had we been able to arrange all this Friday.

Once we got back to the stage, the rest of the day was all about screaming babies and trying desperately to get them to shut the fuck up and look adorable for 10 seconds.

The babies, of course, were having none of it, and since legally we can only keep them on set for a certain amount of time, we’ll have to go back and try to get the shot another day.

Oh, and Happy Valentines Day, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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

Friday Photo

Dolly Track

The wooden wedges under the dolly track are to keep the track perfectly smooth and level – you’d be surprised how many bumps and craters there are in any supposedly level ground.

Since movie cameras don’t have image stabilization, even the slightest little divot in the track, on screen, will look like the camera operator got picked up and shaken mid-dolly move.

My call today is noon, which means I’m not getting home until well past midnight (the split: half day, half night. Also known as “Fuck You Friday”. You wanna have a weekend? Afternoon call. Fuck you). As long as I get home before the Friday night drunk drivers descend on my neighborhood, I’m fine. A couple of weeks ago there was a three a.m. drunken drag race right in front of my house. Ah, Hollywood…

I’ve almost got enough hours to make sure that I keep my health insurance in the event of another protracted work stoppage. Yay!

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

Remind me never again to leave the house without a camera

Why is it that whenever I leave my house without a camera I’ll see at least half a dozen really nice couches?

Not only will I see nice couches, but they won’t have parked cars blocking the shot and the light will be perfect.

Which is, of course, what happened this afternoon. I went to the feed store to pick up a bale of straw (garden mulch – it’s going to get very hot very soon and I have baby tomato plants which don’t appreciate having their roots fried) and on the way back, spotted the couches and scrambled frantically to reach my camera only to remember that I’d left it at home.

Damn. I’ll cruise by the spots that had the better couches on my way to work (yay!) tomorrow and hope they’re still there.

Also in “damn” moments today was my not being able to get pre-sale Radiohead tickets. Basically, this means I won’t be able to get tickets at all. Once they go on sale at Ticketmaster, the ticket scalpers brokers will buy them all and I won’t be able to afford even the shitty seats.

Oh, well. If I had gotten tickets, I’d have to work that night.

Today’s video rental was In the Shadow of the Moon, a really nice documentary about the Apollo missions and the moon landings. It’s got some great interviews with the astronauts, including one where Michael Collins reads the speech that was prepared in case the lunar module didn’t come back.

Filed under: camera, mishaps, Non-Work, , , , , ,

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