Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

All night, all night, all night

Night work is never ideal for me, the ultimate morning person.  One night is usually a pain, but doable – I just take a short nap, power through the rest of my day, go to bed early and I’m fine.

But multiple nights are much more difficult, since that pesky body clock thingy insists on waking me up at 7 am every single fucking morning, no matter how late I’ve been up the night before.

I have to get some rest, because I’ll have to function for the rest of the week and even I can’t manage to not sleep for more than a couple of days.

Last night went fairly quickly as we were running around the whole time, and I got home about 6 am, where I miraculously managed to get about four hours of sleep. That’s making me feel, well, not chipper, but semi-human.

I’ve got a 4 pm call about 40 miles away in the high desert, and they’re going to put us up in a hotel somewhere in northeast bumfuck, because driving back home through rush hour traffic and then driving back to work trough rush hour traffic would mean no rest for anyone, even the people who need it.

I normally prefer to sleep in my own bed, but this time I’m glad to have the hotel. Plus, it has a pool so I can get in a swim Wednesday morning before work.

Tonight, I’m going up in the condor, so I might manage a nap or two, which would be nice, but with this gaffer it’s unlikely.

Also, did I mention the doctor wants me to stop drinking so much coffee? Something about acid something. Whatever.

Filed under: distant location, locations, long long drives, Work, , , , , , , ,

At least it’s a dry heat. Oh, wait.

After working on a show that I absolutely cannot write about (super-secret paparazzi bait) – and working 14 hour days so there was no way to do anything worth writing about besides work, I got a call to work on a cable show in Santa Clarita.

Good news: I was going against the traffic, and working with a crew of wonderful people. Bad news: It was 104 degrees, with ‘monsoon conditions’, which feels like one moved to Florida, but without the awesome Cuban food.

Lucky for us, we were on stage all day – the other unit were out in the parking lot, finishing up the previous day’s work that had to be cut short because several people had succumbed to heat-related illnesses (including one of the actors).

These stages have really powerful air-conditioning units, as they have to combat not only the external heat, but the inferno created by pumping enough electricity through large lights to power a city block.

But the air-conditioning only works when it’s turned on (insert joke here).

For some reason, this production has decided that they can’t chill the air while they rehearse. Which would be fine, except that when it’s that hot outside and we have lights burning, it takes a few minutes for the temperature in the stage to climb past 100 degrees, and the air-conditioning, when turned off for the hour or so it takes to rehearse a three page scene, just can’t catch up.

Although I don’t know the exact temperature, by lunchtime it was very, very hot on set.

Our actor  was begging for them to turn on the air during rehearsals, but no dice. Gotta keep it quiet.

At lunch, when we turned the lights off, the stage cooled off, but heated back up right afterwards.

You know the smell that wood saunas make? I can’t describe it as other than really superheated wood. That’s how the set smelled – so it was about as hot as a sauna.

Lucky for us, the director got us out of there in about 10 hours (super impressive for a 7 page day!), and I was able to crank the air in my car on the way home to my apartment.

Which is not air-conditioned, of course. But at least there are no 10ks.

 

 

Filed under: california, locations, long long drives, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

An unexpectedly busy week

I had planned to swim Monday morning around 7, but I woke up with a sore shoulder, so instead I called into the union hall right when they opened and put myself on the available list. I figured since it’s busy I’d get a call in a day or two.

Five minutes later the phone rang.

Usually, calls from the hall in the morning are for work the same day, so half an hour later I was on the freeway driving to the furthest reaches of the San Fernando Valley.

There’s an entire neighborhood in the northwest valley that consists mostly of the very tacky spare homes of very rich people who live nearby in other very large homes, some of which are probably also very tacky

I don’t really get the concept of an extra house. Spare jacket? Sure. Spare car? Sure, especially if you have to get to work. Spare underpants? You betcha.

But a spare house a few miles away from your actual house? That just sits there and isn’t rented?

Maybe move one of the more annoying children into it, along with some help – okay, maybe I do get the spare house after all.

This call was for Super Hyped Horror Movie 5 (or 6, who’s counting). The lighting crew were a bunch of really nice folks that I’ve not met before, and since this is the new style of cinema verite, we didn’t do a whole lot of lighting.

I figured it would be a nice day with fun folks and I’d call in and pick up another day later in the week.

Until the end of the day when I was informed that I’m on for the entire week and since I’m now the best boy. I assume because I was available for the entire week.

Since this show has been shooting for months and I have no idea what’s where or which rental order is what, my job is mostly paperwork, for which I’m paid the princely sum of two dollars an hour more.

Hooray!

Filed under: locations, long long drives, movies, Work, , , , , ,

Continuing Education

In order to shift liability for accidents onto the crew, we are required to undergo safety training.

The bulk of the classes were some time ago, and now it’s just the occasional add-on whenever someone gets hurt, or someone important thinks they might get hurt.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for education and safety training, I really am. An educated workforce is the best insurance against accidents.

This particular class was about process trailer safety. And that’s an important class, especially for people who haven’t had any experience with process trailers.

That funny-looking thing you see in the link is a process trailer. Because it’s asking a bit much of actors to remember their lines and drive at the same time (no snark here, it’s difficult), one puts the car on a trailer and tows it around while the actors mimic driving and say the lines.

It’s also very useful if your car is a stick shift and your actor doesn’t know how to drive one – or if you want a dolly shot of the car while it’s moving, or if you want…

Hell, there’s a million reasons to use a process trailer and very few to let an actor drive.

It was taught by a former AD, so it was a very interesting perspective on the whole thing, and despite the warnings I’d heard that the class was boring and useless I found it very interesting.

The only bad part is the driving all the way across town.

I’m not kidding. The training facility is on the other side of the Los Angeles Metropolitan area, and I have to traverse the worst traffic corridor in North America to get there.

So I went to the 12:30 to 3:30 class in the hopes of missing the worst of the traffic.

I combined errands and went to the bank, dropped off the recycling, swam in the 50 meter pool in the valley, and then hit the class.

I’d intended to go to Ikea after, but Obama is coming so I went straight home in the hopes of missing that clusterfuck.

Still no work, but I’m hearing it’s going to be really busy, soon.

Until then, I will continue with cleaning the apartment and weeding the garden – two tasks that get neglected when I get busy.

Filed under: life in LA, long long drives, Los Angeles, Non-Work, , , , , , , ,

Beachside barbeque

It’s hot. Really, really hot.

Normally, in Southern California, it’s hot inland and cool near the beach, which makes said beach an ideal spot for summertime day exteriors.

Unfortunately for most of us, inland seems to be the preferred summertime shooting location, so when I  got a call to work  on a low budget shooting at the beach with a bunch of really wonderful guys, I had a brief moment of joy.

Beach in Ventura? Sure. It’ll be nice and cool. It’s always nice and cool up there. Hell, I might not even have to run my car’s air conditioning during the 90 minute drive.

Except that now it’s not cool at the beach. And we weren’t shooting on a beach so much as a dusty highway turnout on a cliff above the ocean with no shade anywhere – no trees, no tall buildings, nothing. Just the sun, the heat, the wind and a haze of fine dust which permeated any fabric and formed a coating on skin, teeth, eyeballs, toes, etc…

The first day we lucked out and it was a relatively brisk 90 degrees F. Craft service only had one small cooler so most of the bottled water was also a relatively brisk 90 degrees. One of our more intrepid makeup artists put a teabag in a water bottle, set said bottle on a rock and brewed tea. The sun beat down all day. Had there been a way to get to the water, I would have jumped in – and I did briefly consider just jumping off the cliff, but with my luck I’d hit the rocks, break every bone in my body and just bake there because no one had cell service to call an ambulance.

Not even my hat helped me.

I have yet to find the perfect hat for hot weather. Ball caps don’t provide enough coverage, and anything with a brim seems to either just hold in heat (if it’s cloth or felt) or let sun through the holes in the straw.  I’ve got tiny little sun damage dots on my forehead from straw hat leakage.

I tried a damp bandana underneath the hat, but I changed my mind and wrapped in around my face as a dust mask in the failed hope of eating marginally less dust.

 

Day two sprouted some EZ ups so there was a bit more shade, and chairs under the shelter became hot property – as soon as one got up for any reason, one’s chair would be occupied.

Also, they only had two bathrooms for 40 people, so the restrooms very quickly became unusable, which meant that people didn’t drink any water to avoid having to brave the toilets, so one PA passed out.

The actor has been 90 minutes (at least) late to work every single day, so we do nothing for the first two  hours we’re there. This particular production team seemingly haven’t caught on to the fake call time trick.

Tonight we’re downtown – and it’s projected to still be 99 degrees in the late afternoon, which is when we’re scheduled to go into work.

Hopefully they won’t run out of water.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, long long drives, movies, Work, , , , , , ,

Tour de Courthouse

A few weeks ago, as I was leaving work, I was pulled over.

I had a burned out headlight, and given how incoherent I was after a 14 hour day, I’m surprised the cop didn’t haul me out and administer a field sobriety test, but he just gave me a fix-it ticket.

As he was finishing up, he told me I could go to any police station in the city to get a sign-off on the repair, and then go to any courthouse in the county to pay the small fine.

Sweet. I currently reside within a ten minute walk of both a police station and a (small) courthouse.

I figured I’d get the headlight fixed, get it inspected, then get it off the books and not even have to burn a gallon of very expensive (for America) gas.

So this morning, I rolled up to the West LA police station, ticket in hand, and asked at the desk to have someone check my car.

I was met with blank stares from the attending officers.

After an uncomfortably long pause, one of the civilian volunteers said “I’ve got this” and handed me a sheet explaining that the LAPD isn’t authorized to inspect vehicles and I’d have to drive to one of the county sheriffs’ inspection stations to get my signature.

Fine.

Except that the nearest inspection station happens to be in Beverly Hills.

I hate driving in Beverly Hills.

Under normal circumstances, the traffic is horrific because it’s apparently déclassé  to time one’s stop lights, but now it’s springtime and the tourist bloom is beginning.

In spring and summer, the normally crowded streets of Beverly Hills become impossibly clogged with tour busses and rental cars.

Which is great – the city and the county greatly appreciate your visit and your tax revenue, but residents tend to snap when traffic speeds drop from ‘slow crawl’ to ‘perambulate’.

This results in tempers accelerating from ‘recreational asshole’ to ‘nuclear war’.

Generally, I prefer to bike or bus it through the area – I can either sail past the problem or be encased in the T.Rex of vehicles and be safe from random punchings or headlocks.

But, if I must drive into the fray, 10 am on a weekday is a good time to do so.

Rush hour’s mostly over, and the lunchers haven’t started stalking parking spaces.

So, off I went – thinking I’d get inspected and paid off and then be back home in time to catch the afternoon talk shows.

I guess I wasn’t surprised when the clerk told me that although I got my inspection in Beverly Hills, because my officer had checked the ‘Chatsworth’ box on the ticket, that’s where I’d have to go to pay the fine.

To those of you not familiar with Los Angeles, Chatsworth is not near anything.

Not a freeway off ramp, not any sort of landmark, not any sort of train or bus stop or life support.

So because I’d tried to save gas by not driving, I then drove to the edge of civilization.

Where I stood in line for what seemed like an eternity behind a woman arguing with anyone who would listen that her failure to appear for her court date wasn’t her fault because she’d lost her phone and had written the judge a letter proving her innocence.

Lucky for me another window opened and I paid my $25 and then fought traffic back home.

I have work tomorrow (non-union, but it pays and it’s with a bunch of guys that I really like), and since I’m going downtown I’m going to take the bus.

I’ve had enough of the car for now.

 

Filed under: life in LA, long long drives, Los Angeles, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, overspending, travel, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A rare opportunity makes me silly happy

I almost never get to ride my bike to work.

Usually, I’m working in either some far-flung place or too many hours to brave a bike commute home when the drivers start getting drunk.

So yesterday, when I had a 9 am call for what was predicted to be an eight-hour day at a lot 3 miles from my apartment, I gleefully loaded up the bike bags with my work gear and headed out.

I giggled as I sailed past the traffic on the more than usually clogged up Santa Monica Blvd, and then glided through the full-to-the-brim parking lot (valet on the dungeon level and good luck finding your keys), then dismounted right in front of the catering truck. One egg white omelette (with a side of bacon) later and I rode over to the stage.

Sweet.

I did take the precaution of locking my bike, as I don’t want to lose my commuter to one of the lot bike “borrowers”.

We worked about 6 hours, had a very good time with super nice people, and then I rode home while it was still light – and even managed to make a stop at the pet store to get the cat’s ridiculously expensive (but she’s worth it) food.

I wish I could do this more often.

Unfortunately, although I’m working on the same lot tomorrow, I’m going to make a long day longer by going to masters swim before work, and I can’t make the ride from the pool to the lot in time.

So, car it is. But the swim makes it totally worth it.

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

The Streets of Beverly Hills

For the past few months, I’ve been taking part in a visual survey documenting road hazards for cyclists in Los Angeles.

That translates into riding my bike around and taking pictures of the shitty roads crisscrossing our fair city.

I don’t understand when and why Los Angeles county decided that having usable roads was near the bottom of the priority list, but cycling here can be an adventure.

There’s a choice if one is going to commute by bike – road tires or fat knobby mountain tires? There are advantages to both. The road tires, which is what I ride on, roll easier so you can go further, faster with less effort, but the fat tires can roll over the city’s plentiful potholes with less of the breaking and crashing.

I like the lower rolling resistance of the road tires – I made my choice, and I’m happy with it, but I do have to worry more about pavement than do the mountain bikers.

Today, as I was riding home from the garden, I spotted this:

P1040305

And this:

P1040307

And this:

P1040309

Oh, and this:

P1040313

And last but not least, this beauty:

P1040318

These are not so much potholes as they are small canyons. All of them on the same 2 mile stretch of road in the glamorous metropolis of Beverly Hills.

I’m not even sure a mountain bike could roll over those top two, and while I can roll over the last one I’m not sure I’d be able to keep all of my fillings in my head.

So what I have to do – since this stretch of road has no sidewalks – is veer out around the potholes into the path of the luxury SUV driven by the guy talking on the cellphone and simmering road rage.

There’s a residential street just north which has better pavement, but since there’s a stop sign every block it’s slow and frustrating.

Happily, though, the roadway is due for a reconstruction project which will mean a complete repaving (not just shitty asphalt patches), and there seems to be support for bike lane striping.

This is especially wonderful news since Beverly Hills has historically been, um, resistant to bike lane striping (and bike racks, and people on bicycles), even though the city’s streets are wide enough to accommodate bike lanes without giving up traffic lanes or parking (both are legitimate concerns for motorists).

But of course, the consultants hired recommended some weird mixed use travel lane which will just put cyclists and other undesirables in a center lane and right in the path of angry drivers.

But until whatever happens happens, I’ll still marvel at the crappiness of the street right in the middle of Beverly Hills.

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

Wait, there’s a 4 am now?

It’s been a thin year and not looking to get much better, so of course I’m eternally grateful for every day of work I get.

Even tomorrow, with a call time of 4 am in west bumfuck (take freeway until it ends, drive another 10 miles), which, since it’s a long commute, will require me to leave my house at 3 am, which means I have to get up at an hour I don’t want to think about.

Which means I should be in bed right now, except that it’s not dark yet and for some reason I have a real problem falling asleep when it’s still light out.

Also of course, I have zero idea of how long a day tomorrow will be, so I have to assume that I’ll need as much sleep as possible – which, if I’m lucky, will be about 6 hours.

Lucky for me I’m working with a group of guys that I really like so even though I have to be there at the crack of dark, I’ll still have a great time.

I’m off to bed.

Filed under: crack of dawn, long long drives, movies, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Traffic

I will never understand traffic patterns in Los Angeles if I live to be 100.
Yesterday, as I was drinking my morning coffee and watching the amazing commercial-free BBC Olympics feed via a proxy server (NBC will never stop sucking, so why fight it?),  the best boy of Doctors in Love texted me wanting to know if I could come in to cover someone who called in sick.

The answer, of course, was yes, but since Doctors in Love shoots almost, but not quite, all the way across the city, I figured I was in for an incredibly annoying two-hour drive.

Not so much.

I threw on some clothes, headed out the door and didn’t get stuck in any traffic at all.

I’m not kidding. 8 am – the height of rush hour in one of the most traffic-clogged cities on planet Earth and there was no traffic. At all.

I travelled from my house to the set in under an hour.

This, or course,  made me nervously scan the sky for horsemen as I drove onto the lot.

Finding none, I parked, grabbed a walkie and proceeded to have a wonderful day working with people who I like a whole lot and don’t get to see nearly often enough.

Then, driving home at 10 pm on a Tuesday, I got stuck in traffic for an hour and a half.

Filed under: life in LA, long long drives, mishaps, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , ,

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