Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Happy New Year

As is normal for the first part of January, I’m unemployed. Even in busy years, January just doesn’t see that much action.

Although this normally worries me (even though it’s been happening for years), I guess it’s not a terrible thing as this week I seem to have picked up some unholy cough from hell. I’m talking bent double with spasms in my lungs, wheezing like an asthmatic pug.

It could be that it was 40 degrees last week and 80 degrees this week, or it could be the 8 percent humidity, or it could be the sudden lack of cat hair in my lungs.

Or, I could have caught the plague when I was flying across the country on the screaming baby express.

Who knows?

I’m sure I don’t have the flu, since I haven’t got body aches or a fever, but whatever it is has moved into my lungs and is picking out wallpaper. Or something.

I’m just glad it’s relatively warm here. According to my sister, the high at her place tomorrow is supposed to be 2 degrees (F).

I love you, California.

I do have one day of work this week, but I’ll be up in a condor so hopefully no one will hear me wheeze.

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

Slightly damp Friday Photo

20130823-192853.jpg

This is not my apartment building. It’s the building across the alley, who sometimes (often, actually) leave the pool gate open.

I see nothing wrong with taking advantage of this, especially on a hot night.  The pool’s not really heated, so it’s a very refreshing change from sweltering in my living room.

Filed under: life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Contagious Christmas

This has been the busiest December I’ve had in a long time. I worked almost every day, which was great, and thought that I’d managed to avoid the Holiday Death Plague currently being passed around here in Los Angeles.

Said plague featured a combination of the worst head cold one could possibly imagine and a tubercular cough that, like house guests, just won’t go the fuck away.

I was feeling pretty smug – I had three days of work the week before Christmas, no days of sickness, and one day off before I had to get on a plane to go visit the family and overeat.

Wednesday promised to be great – due to the slowest director in the world, we were going to get a hefty check, production were buying lunch, and holiday cookies were plentiful.

Mid-morning, one of our extras started to cough. I didn’t think much about it – after all I’d not gotten sick yet, which must have meant I was immune to the Holiday Death Plague. Throughout the day, her cough got worse and worse, and by mid-afternoon almost 20 people on set (including me) were starting to cough.

Refusing to believe that I was getting sick, I attributed it to dust from when I had to go up into the perms to drop out some power for a new set, but as I was driving home I finally had to admit to myself that the Death Plague had, in fact, won.

So, I spent the holiday sniffling, hacking and wheezing while stuffing my face full of fatty food and sweets. The day before I was to leave, my sister started coughing.

Whoops.

As of now, the head cold portion of the program is gone, but the cough is still lingering and frightening anyone who comes anywhere near me. I hope it’s gone before the middle of next week, which is when I have to work.

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

After a long weekend, more rain.

This holiday weekend was especially good to me since the antibiotics finally got the better of the upper respiratory infection and I managed to walk three steps without breaking into the horrible rasping cough (although I have to admit it was fun watching people scatter like cockroaches the second I started. One guy even got up and moved to a different seat in the movie theater despite my assuring him in between wheezes that it wasn’t contagious) I’ve had for what feels like forever.

Thankfully, it’s mostly gone now. I even managed to go for a bike ride Sunday and only had one coughing fit right after I accidentally inhaled a stray bug (that’ll teach it to mind it’s own business).

Good thing I got the ride in, too.  It’s supposed to rain for the rest of the week, which of course means the entire city has descended into a panic about wet Ugg boots and the local news is doing a feature about the horsemen spotted running across the sky somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. Or something.

In other happy news, I finally got my Axium tax paperwork – it was sent out by Avalon in an envelope from PAV (both Axium subsidiaries – guess they’re using up the office supplies that weren’t looted).

Which brings me to this years “How many W2 forms do you have?” contest:

W2 forms

The person with the most forms wins the can of champagne I managed to weasel out of drinking!

I have 17 this year, but I don’t count, of course.

Filed under: life in LA, Photos, , , , , , , ,

Weekends mean nothing to me now.

Since I’m currently unemployed between projects, the whole “Saturday/Sunday off ” thing is totally meaningless – every day is Saturday now.

What I’ve been dealing with during my endless string of Saturdays is the suitcase explosion in the living room and the fact that I’m really, really cold.

I don’t mean that I’m colder than I was in France – I mean that my house has no heat because apparently I’m too dumb to light the pilot light on my heater. It’s got this complicated little mechanism where one has to turn the gas on and then hold a button in while shoving a match into a teeny hole and hoping desperately that the pilot light will somehow come on (“Ooog see fire! Fire good!”) and then giving up once fire does not appear after repeated attempts and the room begins to smell like gas – although I’m certain that I’d be able to keep warm were I to simply create a bonfire out of the suitcase flotsam that’s currently covering the living room.

I’m saving all my receipts in the hope that somehow I’ll be able to write the trip off on my taxes.

Of course we knew about the transportation strike before we left, but I think all of us were hoping that it would be over before we landed – no such luck. When we landed at the airport, we had to wait 45 minutes for the airport bus to take us to a city train station that was kind of near our hotel, and then taxi it the rest of the way.

One thing I’d forgotten about Europeans is that they don’t line up – they just crowd around and shove each other. I will never understand this, but I’m really good at shoving people without being too obvious about it (an important skill when the producer’s having a conversation in the only doorway into the set and I’ve got a 60 lb. light on my shoulder that’s hotter than the surface of the sun), so we got on the first bus out and managed to arrive at our hotel in about the same amount of time it would have taken had we gotten on the train.

Our first night in Paris, we just walked across the street from the hotel and grabbed dinner at a cafe which was really smoke filled (another thing I’d forgotten about Europe) but had good food. With the exchange rate, dinner cost approximately $17,000. Each.

Because of the transportation strike, we were pretty much limited to stuff in the center of the city – there was some train service, but it was unpredictable and the lines were being shut down with very little notice. I, for one, didn’t want to get stuck in some far-flung corner of the city when the subway line went down and have to pay a small fortune to take a taxi back to the hotel.

Our hotel was on the left bank near the Luxembourg gardens, which seemed fairly central when I booked it, but when faced with the whole walking thing, I really wish I’d been able to afford something even closer to the center of the city.

Oh, well.

The advantages of travelling in the off-season were the lack of huge lines. We got into the Louvre right away, although I skipped the paintings, which I’d seen before and went straight to the old fortress that’s on the lower level.

Louvre

So. Cool.

Later the same night, we went up the Eiffel Tower – when we got up to the top, there was freezing rain and the wind was howling around us. I stayed in the lee of the elevator shaft, but still managed to get some great photos before my hands stopped working because of the cold:
Night cityscape

The blue beam was coming from the tower itself – it rotated around, and I’m still not sure why, but the tower was definitely the highlight of Paris for me. The last time I was in Paris, it was the summertime and it was so crowded with tourists that you had to wait hours to go up, so I didn’t get to go.

Eiffel Tower

Although I had a good time, I still stand by my statement that I can take or leave Paris. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that it’s, well, it’s a large city – it’s crowded and dirty and the stairwells all smell like piss. Just like LA, just like New York, just like Berlin, just like London.

Everyone was really nice, though, and they were very understanding about my atrocious French.  We had some wonderful hot chocolate on the Ile St. Louis (someone at work had recommended Angelina, but the place we found had better hot chocolate and now I can’t remember the name of it although were I there I’d be able to find it again just by following the smell), and I ate a bunch of stuff I really shouldn’t have and didn’t gain any weight because I was walking 50 miles a day.

On Monday morning, we packed up and headed out to pick up the car and start driving south – which is where I’ll pick up tomorrow (or Monday, depending on how lazy I’m feeling), since this is getting a bit long.

Filed under: Non-Work, travel, , , , , , , , , , ,

Back again after all this time

For the past two days (Wednesday and today), I’m working on a show that I’ve not worked on for almost two years. In the interim, they’ve completely changed crews (twice, I hear), although they’re still on the same stages in Hollywood.

The sets are still the same, but the stash points and staging areas have all changed, so I’m not that familiar with the stages or this crew’s slang terms for things (every crew has their own lingo and on some crews that lingo is more, um, obtuse than on others), but I managed to get through the day yesterday, although we’re on a different stage today and I’m finding myself having trouble navigating through this particular set, so I’m doing a lot of set up work at the carts (when the gaffer calls for a light, I’ll pull it off the cart and get it ready and then hand it off to someone who’s capable of running the rat maze of a hospital set more quickly than I am).

The ‘new’ crew are all really nice, plus, there’s enough of us that we’re not getting worked half to death – and since we’re in a stage with wifi all day and not moving too much I was hoping to catch up on some internets.

That’s probably not going to work out, though. This DP’s a “tweaker”. This means he’s always adding and moving lights up until the last minute (and sometimes between takes) so I’m not getting to sit down very much. This is opposed to the show I’ve been working on (and hence have gotten used to), where once they’ve declared the scene ‘lit’, they walk away (most of the time – everyone changes something at the last minute sometimes).

This is actually not a bad thing – this particular stage is so vigorously air conditioned that it feels like a meat locker. Every time I sit down, I get really cold since I didn’t bring a jacket with me (I usually don’t when I’m working inside all day), so really moving around is the better choice.

My stomach is feeling much better, although I’m still not eating much due to about three million canker sores which have suddenly appeared in my mouth – this makes eating rather painful, and today the caterer served Mexican food, which I can assure you is not something to be avoided when one has a mouth full of sores.

Tomorrow, I’m on another show, and since we’re going to be here until at least 10 pm I’m hoping once again to get lucky on the turnaround time.

UPDATE: Of course, every single morsel of food that’s been on the craft service table today has been loaded with salt. Second meal tonight is Italian food which I’m not going anywhere near. It hurts just to think about it.

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

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