Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Panic and destruction

In case you were wondering, the day before we’re scheduled to shoot is not the best time to make major changes to the sets.

It screws up everyone – us, grip, camera, actors, but mainly set dressing.

Set dressers are the nice people who make the sets look like, well, not sets.

I’m sure you’ve seen the low-budget movie with sparse backgrounds that somehow look like sets – you may not be able to pinpoint what’s wrong, but you do know they don’t look right.

That, my friends, is set dressing.

They place magazines, table lamps, newspapers, pens, mismatched pillows, sex toys, statuary, flowers, coffee cups, and the difference is amazing.

But, like the rest of us, set dressers don’t do their best work when they’re in a ‘holy fuck what just happened’ panic.

So they rip out all the practicals* – the table lamps, the floor lamps, the wall sconces, the weird puck light things in the cabinets that I’ve never, ever seen in the real world ever and wad up all the zip cord into a ball and helpfully set it somewhere that makes perfect sense. To them.

So then we come in on the day we’re supposed to shoot and find all new practicals in all new places and all of the zip and stingers connecting them to the dimmers gone.

Well, not gone, but wadded up… somewhere.

So now it’s our turn to panic as we try to work around the actors and director and camera trying to block the scene so we can shoot.

Of course, the only people who think that practicals are important are the DP and the gaffer.

Everyone else just see them as crap that’s making the toolbelt people have to get in their way.

So we have to balance getting yelled at by the gaffer, who wants that bedside lamp to work, and the director who wants us to get the hell out of his set so he can be a creative genius.

Since the director doesn’t hire us for the next show, guess who wins that battle?

Lucky for us, we managed to get everything redone in time to shoot, and hopefully there won’t be many more changes for show day tomorrow.

Oh, and the cat’s still hanging in there. She seems to have perked up a bit since it’s not as hot.


* Any light that’s on the screen is called a practical. It plays as part of the sets, but it’s a working light fixture.

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

Not getting what I want

As the TV season winds down and the work starts to dry up, I become concerned about hours.

Can I, in any given week, get enough hours to keep my health insurance (now that it’s harder to qualify), and beat what I’d make were I on unemployment.

It’s doable on two days a week, but hard on one. So, yesterday, when I went in for my only day of work this week, I checked the call sheet and was very happy to see, in the director’s slot, the name of someone who is notorious for being excruciatingly slow.

This particular director not only does too many takes, but tries to get creative with the coverage, which is almost never necessary.

The camera doesn’t need to emerge from a bowl of soup and slide past the actor’s dental implants to further the story. Trust me on this one.

It’s television. Master shot, two shot, close up. That’s all one really needs, and it’s all the editor really wants.

Normally, I just shrug and try to stay off my feet as much as possible, but with only one day this week, I was ecstatic at the possibility of a significant amount of double time.

Then, I looked at the page count and saw that we were scheduled to do just over NINE pages.

Five pages are a normal day for a TV show, so even a fast director would have a long day with nine.

My first thought was how bad my feet were going to hurt at the end of the day, but the dollar signs quickly took over.

Hey, if I’m only going to get one day, it might as well be a good one, right?

Except that the producer stayed on set and cracked the whip on said director so we were out in 12.5 hours.

Damn.

Oh, well, Maybe next week.

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

Merrily we grind to a halt.

The reason to have a second unit on any shoot is either to enable the main shooting unit to work faster by not having to do small shots or to pick up stuff that either didn’t get shot due to time, wasn’t up to par for some reason, or got changed after the fact. Thus, second unit shoots are sort of a potpourri of random stuff, and today, we had two different directors as we were picking up scenes from two different episodes (television shows have a different director each episode).

Our first item up was a three-and-a-half page scene with four actors, and our first director bashed the thing out in five hours – that’s FAST. Normally, a scene that long would take most of a day (and the more actors the longer it takes because one needs to shoot the scene from a greater number of perspectives, called “coverage”. A scene with four actors will take longer than a scene with two actors, even if those actors are, say, standing around a table having a conversation), so of course we all got our hopes up that we’d continue at that pace and perhaps have, if not a short day, at least not a super long one.

Then, we switched directors.

The second director wasn’t nearly as quick as the first one – in fact, when the first unit guys came in (much later in the day) and found out who was directing the second half of our day, they just rolled their eyes and muttered something cryptic about it being a long one for us.

Apparently, this director is just – slow. Normally when things move very slowly, the reason is pretty obvious – complicated blocking (the actors movements around the set is the scene’s blocking), stunts, acts of various gods, whatever.

This director was just moving at the speed of molasses on a cold morning. Well, that, and doing a number of takes which would have horrified even David Fincher.

After the first guy who was so fast, that was just mean.

Really, though, it wasn’t that bad – I was on the dimmer board and since the board operator sits down all day I didn’t have to worry about my feet hurting, and this particular crew are a really great bunch of guys who are always fun to work with, so it was a good day.

Call time: 7 am

Wrap time: 9:30 pm

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

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