Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Friday Photo

Poor man's process

Normally, scenes which feature actors in a moving car are shot using a process trailer. The advantage of using a process trailer is that since the car containing the actors is being towed around the city, the shots look, well, real.

Sometimes, though, process trailers are impractical – either the show can’t afford them, the show isn’t shot in the city in which it takes place or there simply isn’t enough work in the car scene to justify the hassle (get trailer, rig trailer with lights, drive around, de-rig trailer. It eats the better part of a day, and requires extra equipment and manpower, so it’s not worth it for one short scene), so then we do what’s called a poor man’s process.

Poor man’s process is when the car sits stationary on a stage and we use lighting to create the illusion that it’s moving.  In this photo, we’re using a projection screen behind the car which really helps to sell it on film, but many people skip this step. There are lights placed around the car, and each light’s got a crew member (usually a grip, but since this process is labor intensive, the electricians help out, too) with it waving a solid flag in front of it periodically in order to mimic the shadows that fall across a car as it moves through traffic.

When done properly, it’s damn near impossible for the viewer to tell the difference.

Here’s a really excellent video showing (and doing a better job of explaining) a poor man’s process.

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

Friday Photo

Italian water-bottle rest

A nice place to put a water bottle – on top of an expensive car that was being used in a scene that day.

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

How much has to happen before it’s officially a bad day?

My internet connection is like an indifferent lover – it dissapears for days at a time and despite my desperate pleas, doesn’t tell me where it’s gone, who it’s with or when it’s going to come back. I always swear I’m going to leave it for something more reliable, but I never do.

This latest outage was almost a full week, and service was just restored this evening. I think it’s the heat.

I’m just about ready to break up for good, though. There are some decent deals on other, more attentive companies offering faster and better connections. Now that I have internet again I can look around and see who’s offering what in my area.

Speaking of stuff that I just don’t need, this morning as I was on my way into work a guy cut me off on the freeway and I slammed on my brakes without bothering to slap my hand on top of my cup of coffee, which, of course, went flying and completely soaked the front of my car – most of the coffee fell into the center console, soaking the flotsam that happened to be living there (’cause I don’t clean out my car often enough) and my bluetooth headset ( I plugged it in to see if it’ll charge. Keep your fingers crossed).

When I got home tonight, I had to soak the entire front section of the carpet in cleaner and then wet vac the whole unhappy mess. I could still smell coffee afterwards, so I got the screw gun and removed the center console in order to spray underneath. I hope I got it all – it’s really unpleasant in there right now. I love coffee, so you’d think I’d be overjoyed to have my car reek of it. Not so much.

I also hurt my back at work today. This particular set has a super-shiny (and super-slippery) floor. While it would be nice if construction could wait to lay the floor until after we hang the lights, sometimes that’s just not possible, so we have to put layout board (which is a very thick cardboard) under the scissor lifts so the tires don’t mar the floor. Since we weren’t given enough board to be able to cover the entire floor, we weren’t able to tape the board down and we had to keep picking it up and moving it to where the lifts needed to go. In case you were wondering, thick cardboard laid down over a slick surface does not give the best footing in the world, so I slid a few times and now my back’s killing me.

I’m going to have to dig out the back belt just to get through the day at work tomorrow.

Aside from the lack of internet, the searing pain and the coffee soaked vehicle, this week hasn’t been too bad. I’ve had 7 am calls on a lot which is fairly close to my house, but I’ve had to be there by 6:15 as this particular lot has a trash truck which makes its rounds along the only drivable route from the ‘crew’ gate to the parking structure around 6:30 or 6:45. There’s no way around the trash truck and getting stuck behind it will result in being late to work despite being on the lot with plenty of time to park and walk to the stage.

Of course the parking structure has it’s own entrance, but only execs are allowed to use it. The rest of us have to come in the peon gate and drive across the lot to said structure while trying to outrun the delay causing trash truck. This has forced me to get to work very early, which means I’ve been able to sit on the tailgate while drinking my coffee and reading my paper before we’re called in, so I haven’t really minded.

I’ve also been working with some really wonderful people, so in that respect it’s been extra nice week.

Today I had a 6 am call and I would have been there around 5:45 but I had to stop and try to mop up spilled coffee, which, by the way, I didn’t cry over.

Oh, wait. That was milk. Never mind.

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

Bluetooth tastes like burning

I can remember a time, not so long ago, when if no one was home, the phone would just ring and ring and ring and eventually whoever was calling would figure it out and call back later. If it was really important they’d just have to track you down. Or wait. Either one was good.

Then, we got an answering machine and suddenly we’d never miss a call again – Dog got out? Bathroom lights left on? Ed McMahon got lost while trying to deliver one of those giant checks and needed directions? Good thing you left a message ’cause that needed seeing to. Eventually. When we got home and it was too late (for Ed, anyways).

Then, when I moved out I one-upped the family and got an answering machine that had a remote code – by punching a number code on the keypad of the phone you were calling from you could get your messages without even being home. Technology really was something! I could know before I even got home that I’d left the radio on all day or that the dog had been digging up the neighbor’s philodendron.

Then came the pager. I first got a pager when I was 22 or 23 and working at a job which insisted I be reachable 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I can remember driving around the pre-gentrification Hollywood searching desperately for a payphone that worked (most of them had the receivers torn off for some reason) or wasn’t occupied by a hooker trying to avoid a loitering charge, so I could return a page that I was just certain was the most important thing on earth (if it weren’t, why would they have paged me)?

Then, I got a cell phone. My first cell phone was from Airtouch in Westwood and the cement-block sized phone came with a plan which allowed me to talk for 20 minutes each month. So I saved the cellphone for emergencies and still ended up cruising the streets looking for payphones, but I bitched about having to drive around all the time and expose myself to whatever contagious microbe had set up housekeeping on the mouthpieces of public payphones because those fuckers just. wouldn’t. stop. paging. me. By this time that whole “911” pager code thing had come into fashion, so of course, every page was labelled “911”. Especially the pet-related ones.

Then came more and better cell plans and cell phones with speakers so not only did I not have to hunt down a payphone and get out of the car, I didn’t even have to hold the phone to my ear while I was driving, eating, reading the directions page of the call sheet and talking all at the same time.

Needless to say, by then I had ditched the pager. So inconvenient.

I started to bitch whenever I had to expend energy to actually hold the phone to the side of my head.

Then, I got a phone with different ring tones, so I could give different rings to work contacts, friends, family, bill collectors, former lovers, etc..

Soon, I started to bitch if I couldn’t tell who was calling me by the ring. Then, I got a phone that had a thing called “driving mode” where it would actually announce the name of the caller. After that, I started to bitch if I had to I.D. the caller by the ring instead of having the caller’s name announced for me like my life was some sort of badly-planned debutante ball.

Now, we have Bluetooth. Not only do I not have to hold the phone to my ear – I don’t even have to be tethered to said phone at all! It can be laying under dirty laundry in the backseat of the car and I can still answer it!

It’s not just for the car, though – I ride my bike a lot and now, when the phone rings, I don’t have to stop and dig in my backpack to find the phone before it goes to voice mail (I especially don’t want it to go to voicemail if it’s work), I just tap a button on the headset and answer the phone. Sweet.

This morning, as I rode the bike along Sunset with the early morning sun just breaking through the marine layer, past the Rite-Aid with the crazy lady in front and the hipsters staggering out of some all-night party in one of the Chateau Marmont’s suites, the phone rang and I didn’t even lose speed. I took one hand off the handlebars and hit the button.

Extra sweet.

Later, I found out from my friend that I can program the phone to respond to voice commands from the headset – so i can tap the headset, say a name and never even have to dig my phone out of the darkest corners of whatever bag it is that I’m carrying. I just have to be no more than 30 feet away from it.

Makes me wonder what I’ll be bitching about next. I love technology.

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

Trade-offs

I hate turning down work from best boys who call me regularly. What’s happened to me more than once is that said best boy decides that since I’m never available, he (or she) just isn’t going to bother even trying anymore.

This is a total burn as by the time I’m off whatever I was on that was keeping me too busy to come in and work, I’ve been replaced on the call list by someone else – and folks have a list that they go down when they have work. The higher up on that list one’s name is, the more often one gets work calls.

So, as much as I hated to do it, I had to turn down an offer of a day on a fairly regular gig Friday because of numbers.

It was for a one day call, and since the show I’m currently working for shoots on a lot which gives hiring priority to their own people, were I to lay myself off for that one day to go do another show, I’d probably not be able to get back on so I’d be giving up the five days of work I’ve currently got (on a lot that’s so close to my house I don’t have to drive and use expensive gas) for one day on another show.

Normally, I’m not hesitant to give up two days for one or to work for a lower rate if it’s someone who calls me regularly – the trade off being that I continue to be on that person’s call list and maintain relationships so I make more money in the long run.

But five days is a lot of money, and with a SAG strike looming, I’m in mercenary mode. Right now, it’s all about the money and my banking as much of it as I possibly can before I’m once again unemployed and watching news coverage of picket lines from the comfort of my living room.

If the SAG strike doesn’t happen after all (something we’re all desperately hoping), I’d love to have enough money by the end of the year to buy a car. I had enough right before the WGA strike, but had to use it to keep a roof over my head instead (before the comments about my extravagant lifestyle commence: not a new car. A new-to-me car).

Hmm.. I wonder if I can use the “you put me out of work” guilt to get John August to buy me a car.

Probably not worth the effort. I’m guessing it’s going to be much easier to guilt one of the actors.

Filed under: Work, , , , ,

It worked! I slept until 6 am.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been dead tired by 8pm (not normal end-of-the-day tired, either. Dead dog can’t stay awake one more second tired) and have been waking up at around 3:30 am. Since I refuse to get out of bed that early on general principles, I’ve been tossing and turning until the morning news comes on. For some reason once the a.m. news is on I feel okay getting up and puttering around before having to take a nap at noon in order to stay awake until 8 pm.

Dammit.

But yesterday morning, tired of freezing my ass off, I called the gas company and used the magic words: “I smell gas when I try to light my heater”.

They promised to have someone over that day, which I suppose is technically true – the guy finally came at 11:30 pm and lit the heater in about 45 seconds, but the really important thing was that I managed to stay awake late enough that I slept until 6 am.

Hooray! We’ll see how late I can stay up tonight. I may go see a movie, but there’s not that much playing right now at any theater I can get into for free, so I may just stay home and watch old episodes of The Simpsons.

Anyways, more about the trip:

We’d flown into De Gaulle (which is north of the city), but since were were driving south and anything involving a car and Paris is really best avoided altogether, we picked the car up at Orly – because of the transit strike, it took us a couple of hours to get there from our hotel (only one train out of 10 was running, so we sat on on the subway platform for about an hour).

If you’ve never seen it, Orly is easily the ugliest airport I’ve ever seen – think Soviet era block construction with a faded, pigeon-splattered facade that’s seen better days. I was afraid to take a photo in case the French were as hysterical about photos in airports as we are. There were hoards of angry-looking cops everywhere, so I decided not to chance it.

After a quick trip into the terminal for a cup of coffee, we got our car (which took well over an hour due to some confusion) and headed out.

Of course, as soon as I got behind the wheel of the first stick shift I’ve driven in years it started to pour rain, and we were unable to figure out how to turn on the windshield wipers – the car’s manual didn’t help as it was written in French, so I ended up just having to hit the washer button every 15 seconds until I accidentally turned on the wipers (and then couldn’t figure out how to turn them off once the rain stopped, of course).

Once we managed to get on the big highway, we got to Orleans pretty quickly and then we decided to get out, walk around and have lunch.

Orleans’ old city (near the cathedral which seems to be the main tourist draw) is really cute, and even though it was pouring (I got completely soaked) it was still very charming:

Courtyard

Since everything was closed, we headed out and this time we stayed off the superhighway and drove on the back roads, which was a very good call since we stumbled upon a town called Beaugency.

Church tower

Beaugency

We braved the rain, took some photos and found an open bakery where we loaded up on bread, but I couldn’t find any coffee – just about everything was closing for lunch, which hadn’t been a problem in Paris because so much there stays open. Somewhere in the back of my mind I’d had an idea that it wouldn’t be like that in the smaller towns, but I hadn’t given it much thought and now it was coming back to haunt me.

After getting completely lost on the unmarked backroads, we pulled into the town of Blois and once again got lost – we’d called ahead for a room in a hotel that one of the guidebooks recommended, but when we got to Blois the ‘confuse the invaders’ street plan had us driving around in circles for the better part of an hour – we saw the hotel once, but couldn’t get to it due to the one way streets, so we stayed in another hotel that was run by a very nice man who pointed us towards a laundromat so we could wash some clothes.

Afterwards, we went out to a really nice place for dinner and I ate everything the chef recommended (all of it came from the surrounding area and was delicious).

In the morning, we went to see the chateau in Blois since my travelling companions wanted to see castles (I’m fairly indifferent to them. I’ve been to Europe before and my attitude towards castles is that since I’ve seen one, I’ve very likely seen them all), and I took some photos of the exuberant decor inside and the postcard view of the old city:

View over Blois

View of Blois

King's Bedroom

We then headed towards the day’s next castle, which is where I’ll pick up next post

Filed under: Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, travel, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Early arrival has some perks

When one works at this particular lot, one has to consider the garage factor into the arrival time.

This lot’s parking garage simply isn’t large enough for all the cars that need to park in it, so late arrivals have to use the valet service. While this may seem cushy, in reality it’s a huge pain in the ass. Since shooting companies work far later than do the valets, the solution is for the valet to park the car in a space that opens up after the garage empties out, and then take the keys to the front gate (on the other side of the lot from the garage) after the garage closes. If one is working on a stage that’s near the parking structure, this means that after wrap one has to traipse all the way across the lot to get the car keys, and then all the way back across the lot (while carrying all of ones work gear) to get back to the car.

Call me a whiner if you like, but after a 14 hour day that double walk across the lot seems more like a 400 mile hike while lugging a boulder.

So, for an 8 am call I got to the parking garage at 7:15 am, and that was almost too late – all the ‘good’ spots were gone, but at least I didn’t have to cruise the garage with my fingers crossed hoping against hope to find a spot that everyone else had overlooked, plus I had time to finish my coffee and stroll over to the stage and raid first unit’s craft service (since they were in an hour earlier than us and the main unit generally gets better stuff than the second unit).

While I was driving to work, I kept having this nagging feeling that I was forgetting something, and I kept going over my work gear checklist in my mind: change of shoes, change of socks, hat, tools, sunglasses, phone, etc..

I couldn’t figure it out until, of course, I’d gotten far enough away that I wouldn’t have been able to turn around and go back and then I remembered. My knee brace. I left it sitting on the bench next to the front door where I’d placed it so I wouldn’t forget it.

D’oh.

So it was really a good thing that I got put on the dimmer board (since the guy who was supposed to be running the board called in sick). I got to stay off my feet (the dimmer board is almost never on set – it’s usually in a small room somewhere, and the operator gets to sit down, although one generally can’t walk away from the board because as soon as the operator steps away, the gaffer will start adjusting light levels) and I didn’t have to do anything more complicated than bring up the lights the gaffer wanted (one can do incredibly complicated things with dimmer boards – but I’m a bit out of practice on this particular model, so requests for something complicated would have sent me frantically paging through the manual while trying to stall the gaffer) and only had to call the first unit dimmer board op a few times with questions. The rig in that stage hasn’t changed in so long that he doesn’t leave notes out because he’s got it all in his head, so every now and then I’d not know something and then have to call, but luckily our gaffer and the DP were calm and no one flipped out.

Plus, I managed to get out of the studio store without shopping myself broke.

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

A nice, relaxing “weekend”

After working all weekend (on a music video – which means we got run half to death due to lack of planning on production’s part), Monday was doctor day for both me and the car.

The car had to go in because, of course, as soon as it got really hot, the air conditioner stopped working. Normally, I don’t use the a/c that much (it’s really bad for fuel economy in the land of the $3.00 gallon of gas), but lately it’s been sufficiently oven-like around here that I can’t stand to sit in a traffic jam (daily occurrence here in LA) when I feel like I’m going to die from the heat.

The mechanic wasn’t sure if I need a new compressor or not, so he put some freon in and told me to see how the a/c works for the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, the heat will be over in the next couple of weeks and I can proceed to ignore the a/c until next summer.

After I dropped the car off, I went to the doctor about the knee which has been hurting like hell – but it’s the other knee this time. When the he sent me to the x-ray tech, he sighed and said “Well, let’s see what weird thing’s in this knee. I wish you could have something normal go wrong with you”.

Hey, knee problems are totally normal in my line of work.

The good news is that there isn’t anything strange on the x-ray, but the bad news is that there’s no immediate explanation for the pain (other than years of abuse), so I’m getting an MRI on Saturday.

I’m working tonight, but I don’t have to be there until 6 pm (and when I do get there I’m going up in the condor, so I can sleep once everything’s set).

Filed under: life in LA, mishaps, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Friday


I got home from work around 5 am, and managed to get about three hours of sleep this morning before the destruction crew came back in. I felt pretty good until about an hour ago. Now I feel like someone beat me with a tube sock full of quarters.

I was supposed to go to some thing at the W hotel tonight, but I’m just too damn tired (I’m also too damned tired to write much more than this) – I’ll be lucky if I manage to stay awake until 8 pm.

Filed under: Photos, up all night, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

The socks didn’t work so well that time

I spent yesterday working on a music video (favor job) in a warehouse downtown where the temperature was at least 115 degrees (when I stepped outside into the comparatively cool 90 degree afternoon, my first thought was how nice it felt – normally, stepping outside when it’s 90 degrees makes me break into pitiful sobs).

Somehow, it never occurs to the people who scout these jobs that lights generate heat (“Oh, it was perfectly fine in here on the scout – I don’t know why it’s so hot now”) and when you fill the top floor of a warehouse with lights that generate heat and close all the windows, the room very quickly becomes the world’s biggest sauna.

I’d say it was lucky I was able to wear deodorant, but after a few hours, it really didn’t matter.

To top it all off – at the end of the day when I went to my car, someone had broken in and stolen my stereo – which wouldn’t have been that big a deal, but the stereo must have been difficult to remove, as they fucked up the entire dashboard in the process.

Turns out, on older cars with electric windows, it’s possible to just push the window down enough to reach in and unlock the door. Unbelievable.

So I guess that’s the answer to my initial question of why they’d choose to break into my car when there was a $60,000 Audi parked right behind it.

Bet you can’t just push the fucking window down on that car.

Happy 4th of July, everyone.

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

September 2019
S M T W T F S
« Apr    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  

Flickr 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 998 other followers

Twitter Updates

Blogroll

Not blogs, but cool

%d bloggers like this: