Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

A nice Tuesday on Stage.

Wait. It’s Tuesday, right? I had to check.

After getting home about 9 last night (90 minutes to get to work, just under 60 to get home), today I got to work a set on a nice air-conditioned stage with guys I really like.

Lucky for me, because I’m not sure I could have lifted more cable.

We walked lights around, talked about college basketball, and the heaviest thing I had to lift was a 2k, which was about all I could lift after yesterday. The older I get the more that 4/0 hurts me – and I go to the gym to try to stay in shape. I can’t imagine how horrible I’d feel otherwise.

During a break when one of the actors had to go to the other unit, some of us started talking about our least favorite places we’ve worked. The standards came up – The Ambassador Hotel, Kaiser Steel, Downey Studios, Pick-a-part junkyard, or any of the movie ranches during the summer.

Two of us – simultaneously – said shitters alley. Shitters alley was downtown (not the nice new downtown. The old, foul, nasty downtown) and it was, natch, the place were all the locals relieved themselves. Production would shoot in it because sometimes your script calls for a shit-splattered alley, and minimal set dressing was required.

They’d usually steam clean the ground, but the worst of the filth was usually about 24 inches up.

More than once, I threw away my clothes and drove home in my underwear.

Two of the younger guys couldn’t believe it. Turns out, shitters alley hasn’t existed in quite some time. I think it’s now a private gated park for high-end condos.

Fine with me.

I got a text right before lunch that my Wednesday call would be 5 am. A 12 hour day on a 9 am call with a one hour lunch means we’d be released at 10 pm, and I wouldn’t get to bed until about 11.

Since 5 am really means I have to be there about 4:45, I have to get up a little before 4 tomorrow, so I swapped with one of the guys on the unit that got dismissed after 7 hours.

Yes, I missed out on big money day, but I’ll be semi-human tomorrow. I hope. It’s already 8:30. I need to go to bed.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, Los Angeles, toxic waste, Work, , , , , , ,

I didn’t like those clothes anyways.

There are two downtowns in Los Angeles.

The first is the newly gentrified downtown of nice restaurants, microbreweries, amenity-laden lofts and a Starbucks on every corner.

That’s a nice downtown. Nice to visit, nice to work, relatively clean and safe.

Then, there’s the other downtown. The older downtown. The downtown from…before.

The downtown of smelly bars open at 6 am, aggressive entrepreneurs (one of our drivers was solicited and I was informed that I needed to buy some drugs), houseless citizens, and what basically amounts to open sewers.

Why, oh why, when people have an entire city in which to defecate do they always choose to do so on our cable? I’ve never been able to figure it out.

Honestly it wasn’t as bad as it could have been –  we came in to wrap about an hour after the shooting crew had left, but that was still enough time for the locals to… decorate our cable.

In this situation, there’s always a decision to make.

Do we wrap the (relatively) clean cable first, saving the gross stuff for last, or do we dive in and deal with the stuff that might make us sick when it’s before breakfast and we still have empty stomachs?

In this case, we decided to wrap the ‘clean’ stuff first, in the hope that the sun would dry up the worst of the filth, which sometimes happens. Mostly in the summer.

Then, it’s just a matter of avoiding the piles of dried up I don’t want to know*.

At one point, I noticed a discarded syringe a few inches from my foot.

Lucky for me, the needle was gone. One of my co-workers saw a syringe with needle intact, though. Yikes.

Lucky for all of us we finished wrapping and had everything staged by the truck, ready to be loaded, by the time the nice lady who was screaming about invading lizard people started doing what looked like the Watusi while she crapped in the middle of the street.

Ah, downtown. It used to be like this everywhere.

I’ve been on the show where the cable was covered with so much runny shit that the best boy called the rental house and told them if they wanted the cable back, they could don hazmat suits and come and get it.

We loaded the truck, threw away our gloves, and headed out.  I decided to make a stop at an en route Korean Spa to relax and scrub off the worst of the funk.

They almost didn’t let me in, which I sort of understand, given how I must have smelled.

Lucky for me, I had some clean clothes in my gym bag and was able to soak, sweat and shower so I could head home not smelling like skid row.

I’ve got tomorrow off and then Friday I’m working on a nice studio lot where the filth won’t kill me right away.

Hooray!

*I know what it is. I just don’t want to think about it. I’ve never stopped being grossed out by piles of human  excrement on the pavement.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, movies, toxic waste, Work, , , ,

Wow, things got busy!

There I was, expecting the usual not-so-busy December, and out of nowhere suddenly work is going gangbusters. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just… unexpected.

I’m bouncing back and forth between two shows crewed by awesome folks that I love to work with – a one-hour ensemble drama (let’s call it Been Done Before) and Yet Another Cop Show.

The two have been syncing up nicely. This week, I have four days rigging on Been Done Before, and Friday working the set on Yet Another Cop Show.

Since BDB is rigging, the hours are shorter (normally not over 10 hours), except today which was a bit longer because we had to rig at the world’s smallest loft.  Had we a cat handy, there wouldn’t have been room to swing it. Seeing a largish production trying to cram a crew into the space was probably hilarious, but I’ve very glad I didn’t have to work the set.

After helping the shooting crew move to the loft (the day’s second location), we went back to wrap our first location at the old LA Times building.  We were shooting in the currently unused Chandler-era executive offices on the top floor in a room called the Round Table – which features, unsurprisingly, a big round table. You’ve seen it in about a bazillion movies.

I really do believe that being honest (within reason) is the best way to live one’s life, but I have to tell you all – had there been a way for me to sneak the original Paul Horiuchi painting out of the building, I’d have done it. It’s just hanging on the wall in an empty office, making no one happy instead of inspiring joy and general well-being, which is a painting’s job.

Oh, well.

Once we’d gotten the shooting crew moved and wrapped, it was right in the middle of rush hour, so a co-worker and I went and had some Pho at a place around the corner from the Times building. Hot noodle soup is perfect on a cold night.

By the time we finished eating, the traffic had died down enough for me to venture onto the freeway towards home.

Tomorrow, we’re wrapping the world’s smallest loft, which shouldn’t take very long, and then Friday, it’ll be a split on YACS.

Five days this week! Yay!!!

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

A glove-ruining kind of day

Some things are better in the summer – the beach, outdoor barbecues, swimming pools, street fairs, fresh produce.

But one thing that’s decidedly not better in the summer is running cable in a downtown LA alley that doubles as a de facto relief station for the area.

Although the temptation is to blame the mess on the local homeless population, many of the people who we saw pissing in the alley (right in front of us) did not appear homeless. They just appeared to not want to walk the 50 yards or so to one of downtown LA’s  self-cleaning public toilets.

Guess that cable just screams “hey, come relieve yourself here!”

Depressingly enough, most of us are used to dealing with a certain amount of human filth – it’s just something that’s to be expected when one works in certain parts of Los Angeles (although we’ve been known to simply leave extremely heavily soiled cable right where it is and call it a loss), and it wasn’t any worse than any other downtown alley in the morning while it was still cool – sure, we had to watch for the fresh liquid (thankfully, there was much more liquid waste than solid waste) on the ground and on the walls, but as soon as the sun moved into a position to be able to hit the alley the smell got really bad, really fast.

Normally, the production company will pay to have downtown alleys steam cleaned and then block off access until we’re done shooting (in order to prevent re-pooing of said alley), but this particular alley wasn’t able to be blocked as it serves as the access driveway for some of those overpriced downtown ‘lofts’, so I guess production just didn’t see the point of cleaning it in the first place.

Of course, the center of most alleys are not all that gross (admittedly, though, after years of working in downtown alleyways most of us have a pretty high filth tolerance), but we run our cable down the very sides – up against a fence or a wall, and that’s where most folks choose to do their business, if you get my drift.

While I’ll spare you some of the gorier details, I will say that I’m not sure which smells worse after baking in the summer sun – shit, piss, vomit, or used tampons.

At least I was on the crew that was laying the cable. I feel for the poor bastards who will have to wrap the stuff after it’s been pissed on (and worse) for days. I won’t be there. That’s one circumstance under which I have no problem at all turning down work.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , ,

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