Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Write? I’m lucky I can stay awake

To say that it’s been a tough few weeks would be an understatement.

I’m in my last week of the dimmer board gig, and my brain still hurts when I come home at night – the three camera shows are a lot busier for board ops than are the single cameras.

The entire formula for a multi camera sitcom is entirely different from regular single cameras.

They only shoot two days a week – one ‘block and shoot’ day and one audience day.

The block and shoot days are usually swing sets and anything that’s got an effect that might go horribly wrong in front of an audience. On the block and shoot days, the crew standing around will laugh at the scripted jokes while the cameras (and sound) are rolling, which I swear I will never, ever manage to get used to.

The audience days are the really stressful days for me. We come in late morning, rehearse, do some more blocking and more lighting, and then they load in the audience and we run the show in sequence – meaning we start with scene A and go until the end. The stuff that was shot on the previous day is played on monitors while the lights in the sets are dimmed down. By me. In real time.

Usually with the video playback people yelling ‘playback’ in one ear and the gaffer yelling ‘playback’ in the other.

Lucky for me everyone has been remarkably patient with me, even when I melted down and threatened to fill a co-workers underpants with that bowl of mayonnaise that had been sitting, un-refrigerated, on the crafty table all day.

The other three days of the week are rigging – a brand new rig every week, with brand new cues and brand new opportunities to let it all get away from me.

At least I can say I really know this board now. Not well enough for theater, mind you, but well enough for what I’m going to need to use it for.

On the home front, the cat is unwell.

Her kidneys are starting to fail, so I’ve been having to give her fluids under the skin.

The vet made this look so very easy, but honestly I really need a third hand to manage it. One hand to hold the cat, one hand to manage the disturbingly large needle and one hand to fend off the claws.

It was only moderately difficult when she wasn’t feeling well, but now that she’s got some spunk back, it’s like trying to hang on to, well, a cat. A squirmy cat. With teeth. And claws. And a grudge.

She’s also decided that she will only eat liverwurst and canned salmon – not the cheap canned salmon, either. The Alaskan wild-caught $5 per can stuff.

And since I know she hasn’t got much time left, I can’t say no.

So I pay it and grumble about it and then I sit and praise her while she eats, as she’s down to 5.5 lbs (2.5 kilos) from 8.5 (3.8 kilos), so every bite counts.

Since a kitty picture is going to make me too sad, here’s a shot of an outdoor Zumba class from CicLAvia:

P1010566

Filed under: Los Angeles, Non-Work, Photos, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

Some unpleasant surprises

All studio lots have stray cat populations which are tolerated as cats are generally preferable to the rats that flourish with the aid of Los Angeles’ mild climate and discarded remnants of second meals*.

The studios have kitty population control programs, but since it’s just not possible to catch and sterilize them all, there are always at least 20 cats (give or take a litter or three) on each lot.

Normally, this isn’t a problem except when one of said kitties decides that a corner of our set is a dandy place to heed the call of nature. The big stage doors can be locked, of course, but it’s just not possible to seal off every entrance available to a six pound cat.

The nice thing about yesterday’s set was that all the wall outlets were wired. Many times on sets although there are electrical outlets built into the set walls (for realism), they aren’t connected to anything so they can’t be used, which is a pain in a set that, say, only has one entrance which is on camera and we have to try to cable over the wall when there are 30 people standing in the way. This, needless to say, is frustrating, so we’re always glad when we can plug a lamp into a working wall outlet.

The bad thing about yesterday’s set was that the wall outlets were wired, so as I was bending over to plug a lamp into an outlet (which, of course, was installed near the floor), my face came dangerously close to what I can only assume was recycled rat with a side of kibble. Of course, since all the important people were on set I couldn’t give into my initial urge, which was to jump backwards and scream “eeeeeeewwwww!”

Since I live with a cat and dump a litterbox on a weekly basis, you’d think I’d be used to the sight of cat shit, but seeing it in a corner of a set was, well, surprising – as was the puddle of urine I found on the upper floor of the set.

Damn cats.

I suppose I should have told one of the set dressers, but we got busy and I forgot.

They’ll find it soon enough.

*film crews must be fed every six hours. First meal (lunch, no matter what time of day) comes six hours after call, second meal comes six hours after the end of lunch. All of us pray we never see third meal, but we sometimes do.

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

The beast has landed and it smells funny

Today, our job was getting insert and reaction shots of the most terrifying, time wasting, uncooperative beast that a film crew can ever have the bad luck to try and shoot.

That’s, right, I’m talking about…

Babies.

You thought it was going to be cats, didn’t you? Not by a long shot. Everybody thinks that cats are totally impossible on sets – that’s only partly true. It’s theoretically possible to train a cat to do things on cue (I’ve seen it done). Just try to get a baby to do anything at all on cue. Go on, try it. On a set, it results in seven people crowded around all jingling keys and making funny faces at the baby in a attempt to get him/her to smile and look in a certain direction, which invariably just makes the baby either get bored and go to sleep or start crying hysterically.

Basically, you have to point the camera at the baby and pray (if that’s your thing) that somewhere in the hours and hours of footage will be a few seconds when the baby has the facial expression you were hoping for and is looking in the correct direction.

Generally, the ideal situation is to use twins or triplets, but things can still go wrong even then. Sometimes, all the babies are fussy (which is when we need a smiley one) or all the babies are asleep (when they need to be awake), or all the babies are awake (when they need to be asleep).

You get the picture.

We had it easy today, as they were using babies who had very different personalities – one was smiley and happy, one was fussy, and one had that perpetual “What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis” look but didn’t cry, which made it easy to get different reactions by simply switching the babies, so we didn’t spend nearly as much time standing around waiting on the babies as we normally do.

I’m off to bed.

Filed under: Work, , , , ,

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