Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Easing into the real world

Over the past two(ish) months, I’ve become accustomed to the lighter schedule of the multi-camera show.

Monday, we come in around 2 pm, and work until about 8. We hang lights – enough to ‘rough in’ the look so when they do the rehearsal with the cast the next morning, they have a good idea what the sets look like and what we need to change or add.

Ditto Tuesday and Wednesday.

Our long days are Thursday (block and pre-shoot) and Friday (audience), but neither of those days usually go over 12 hours.

Friday, the director does a ‘block and refresh’ with the cast before lunch, and then the audience load in and we shoot the live show.

Most directors finish with the refresh well before lunch, leaving us with a two-hour lunch.

This is a good thing and a bad thing.

I can go to the bank or the gym or just nap for those two hours, but I’m also on the Sony lot which means there’s a deeply discounted electronics store within walking distance, and I really don’t need to blow a paycheck on three TVs and a sound system.

But next week is our last week, and we’ve got three new sets plus an extra shoot day (to re-do the opening sequence), so we’re going to have more hours than usual.

We’ll have a nice check right when we’re unemployed, but the fact that we’re all dreading working a 60 hour week is some indication as to how spoiled we’ve gotten and what a shock it’s going to be to return to the real world of production, where every day will be 12 hours. Or more.

I have to say I really thought I was going to hate being stuck on a multi camera, but it’s been fun – largely because of the wonderful folks I’m working with, who I’ll miss when we’re done (but will see out in single camera world on a semi-regular basis).

I’ve also discovered that copious amounts of free time on a regular basis make me get less stuff done, not more.

Although I have binge-watched several Netflix series on the one new TV I bought (just one, although the salesperson really tried to get me into two).

My new hobby is watching movies from the 70s and 80s and pausing to really get a good look at the backgrounds.

I can really see the tape and spit holding the sets together.  It’s hilarious.

 

 

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

Go on, say it.

Did I say I had steady work coming up?

Whoops.

What I meant was I thought I had a gig but the best boy made a change at the last-minute (as in the Friday before I was to start), and didn’t tell me.

These things happen, and I’m sure he had a good reason – there are so many folks who are really, really hurting right now. It’s possible that whoever replaced me is going to lose his/her house or insurance or become destitute save for this gig.

I’ll never know. It stings a bit, of course, but I just have to let it go and hope that it’ll all work out for the best.

It usually does (most of the time).

The first thing I did was get on the phone and start informing people I was available.

My “I need work” texts must have seemed sufficiently desperate as I’ve managed to scrape up one day this week, which is better than nothing,  but still…

Right now would be the appropriate time for the  ‘I told you so’ chorus.

Remind me to spend the rest of my life at financial DEFCON 1 no matter how well work is going.

On the bright side, I’m now officially too broke to drink so my liver gets a nice vacation. Hooray!

Filed under: mishaps, overspending, Work, , , , , ,

A crash and a bang and that’s lunch.

I’m starting a show next week (hooray for work!), so I’ve not really been looking for work – just getting some random projects done around the house (fun fact: the walls in my apartment are not plumb, as I discovered when I tried to anchor a bookcase to the wall. Awesome).

But I’m certainly not going to turn anything down, so when I got a call to work a stunt unit yesterday, of course I agreed.

Stunts are a producer’s nightmare – they take forever and you cannot for any reason rush a stunt performer. Because if you do, and there’s an accident…

I don’t really need to finish that sentence, do I?

So we set up, lit the very small set and then we sat. And sat and sat and sat. Then, we went to lunch, came back and sat some more. The actors sat. The camera people sat. The producer sat and gnashed his teeth.

This particular movie had a very bad experience with a thing called an accelerator rig (cable system to pull a stunt performer through the air rapidly), so they won’t use them any more* – the ‘kick the bad guy right through the ceiling’ scene had to be shot in little bits, which isn’t a bad thing as we got to do some lighting.

The last shot of the day was a fist fight on top of a train scene – which was really a fight in front of a greenscreen with fans blowing for extra realism. Aside from the scuffing of a very expensive costume, it was uneventful.

The main challenge was to light the actors without casting shadows onto the greenscreen. Easy on really big greenscreen set ups (you can get the actors way away from the walls), not so much on small ones – you can’t get your action far enough away from the screen to make it easy (the screen has to be lighted separately from the actors, and there can’t be any cross contamination – the actor light has to stay on the actor, and the greenscreen light has to stay on the screen).

But again, once it was done, we sat. Lucky for me my co-workers were really wonderful folks and we had a very good time.

I have to give the director credit – we did three really huge, complicated stunt scenes in under 12 hours. That’s amazing.

* I wasn’t there, but I’m told a part of the rig failed (mechanics, not human error) and almost bruised a very expensive actor.

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

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, , , , , , , , , ,

Thankfully, a busy week

This week didn’t start out busy. This week started out with just Monday on a three camera kids show. Let’s call it Sassy Tweens.

Then, as I started the Tuesday morning worry, I got calls for Wednesday and Thursday within five minutes of each other. Sweet.

Wednesday was a condor call, on Been Done Before.  Since it’s been a while since I’ve been up in a condor, I had to  pause for a few minutes at about 50 feet to get my ‘air legs’.  Condor calls are usually 8 hours – so both of us came in before lunch, and helped work the set (a teeny tiny bar. Really teeny) and move back to the lot.

We wrapped about 11 pm, and I hurried home to get to bed as soon as possible because I had an 8 am call on a new TV show that has an unbelievable amount of security – a co-worker told me that one of the background actors tweeted the name of the show and security nailed him 10 minutes later.  A PA actually approached me and checked my name against the call sheet. Wow. Let’s call it Super Secret.

Please no guesses at the name in the comments. Don’t get me blacklisted from a show with a crew I adore.

We had a nice day on an air-conditioned stage (hooray!) and aside from being a little sleepy (I like to try to get at least 6 hours, and I  fell just a bit short), it was a great day with guys I  really like.

Today, I’m back on Sassy Tweens. That gives me four days this week.

Hooray for work!

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, studio lots, up all night, Work, , , , ,

Wait, what happened?

I was lucky enough to get a day of work last week, and figured I’d have the check in the mail and all would be good, and then today I got a call that I can honestly say I’ve never gotten before in all my time working in the film industry.

“They” lost my start paperwork.

When one starts working on a new show, one must fill out a packet of start paperwork. It’s always the same thing. Deal memo, some sort of confidentiality agreement, which name one would like for one’s credit*, any applicable equipment rental (if one has specialized equipment for which production must pay – like a dimmer board, certain tools for installing fixtures, etc…), and the promise that one won’t sexually harass one’s coworkers. Much.

The best boy didn’t specify who lost it, but I’m assuming it was somewhere in one of the maze-like offices on the lot where, apparently, paperwork goes to die along with dreams.

So, I need to redo the impressive pile of paperwork that I originally worked my way through last week.

Paperwork

That’s one seriously tree-killing pile of redundancy, but the upside is that I’ve gotten another day of work out of it (Boss: “You’re driving up here anyways, you might as well work.”).

Hooray!

*Despite my constant efforts to get a joke name (I.P. Freely, Heywood Jablowme, Michael Bay, Prince Albert of Cannes) as my credit, it’s never happened. They always just use my real name.

Is it too much to ask that my IMDB read “sometimes credited as…”

Filed under: mishaps, Photos, Work, , , , , ,

Friday Photo

Lucky perm graffiti

A bas-relief perm graffiti, taken at Hollywood Center Stage 8.

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

Insurance day

Friday was all about  being in the right place at the right time.

I was rigging on some re-shoots of a movie that shot back east (as most of them do now), and happened to be standing there when the best boy got a call asking  if anyone knew of any lamp operators that were available.

Some people prefer just to rig for various reasons – shorter hours, less chaos, etc.. and some folks on rigging crews do not like to work set, but some of us are perfectly happy doing both.

So as I was standing there, gathering supplies I needed to run DMX in the perms, my name got thrown in the hat for a lamp operator on a movie that – wait for it – is actually shooting in Los Angeles.

Jaw, meet floor.

There are several totally awesome things about this particular movie –  it’s crewed by a great group of folks that I really like to work with, and it’s running through the middle of December. And the main location is really close to the apartment so the morning commute is a breeze. Also, kickass caterer.

I’m not dayplaying, I’m actually full-time, and I can’t remember the last time that’s happened.

Today was my first day, and as usual, was spent getting acquainted with the set, where the power is, how the gaffer likes things done, etc..

About three hours into the day, the ADs announced that our main actor would not be in due to illness. Actual illness, mind you, not coked-out former starlet “illness”.

When things like this happen, the production company calls the insurance company*, informs them that they won’t be able to shoot that day and the insurance company has to cover the costs.

Production companies hate insurance days and try to never, ever use them, but sometimes your actor gets sick or your set burns down or no one can find the director because he went to Tijuana over the weekend with two of the extras and there’s nothing to be done about it other than to throw in the towel.

So, we spent some time cleaning up and organizing our carts, and then left. I went to a nearby restaurant and celebrated the full-time gig with a glass of wine and a fantastic lunch (chickpea and rosemary soup with a nice glass of wine. And bread), then came home, changed and went for a run.

Followed, finally, by a swim.

As of right now, we’re working tomorrow and I’m so happy about it.

*Every production has insurance. One can’t get permits or rent equipment without it.

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

So now I have to think.

I hate it when I break down and cry in front of a complete stranger.

Actually, I hate it when I cry in front of anyone, as I’m not one of those women who can cry and look halfway decent. When I start crying, my face turns beet red, I get the hiccups, my nose runs and for some reason my hair frizzes out and makes me look like Rosanna Rosannadanna.

But today, in the office of the career counsellor at the Actor’s Fund, I did just that.

Broke down and cried instead of doing something productive with the nice lady’s time.

What started the waterworks was when I was given the well-meaning offer of help to build a resume and get a job.

I’m sure most of the folks who come through the Actor’s Fund have had it up to here with the film industry and can’t wait to get out.

I’m not one of those. I love my job. I really love it, and I adore the people I work with. I don’t want out.

That I even have to consider not being able to continue making a living at it hurts.

Really, really hurts.

Hence the tears.

After offering me a tissue,  the counsellor said “You know, you don’t have to leave entirely. Maybe you just need to think about what I like to call a parallel career where you still work in the industry but have something else generating income.”

I peered through my fogged up lenses at the soothing blur and, except for the hiccups, stopped crying as I thought about this.

I must confess that this had simply not occurred to me.

“Think about what you’re passionate about and what you want and then, once you’ve figured that out, then you find something that will work for you”.

She then asked me if I’d thought about going back to school.

I had not, but in today’s America, that would require much more financial… ooomph than I currently possess.

“Well,” she replied, “think about it and the next time we meet make a list. Make two lists. One of the things you’re passionate about and the other of the things you want from life and we’ll go from there.”

Wow. She’s good.

So now I just have to make lists.

I’m guessing she won’t allow ‘rich husband with a weak heart’  or ‘professionally slapping sense into people who desperately need it’ as bullet points, though.

Although, when I think about it, that second one would require relocation to Washington DC, and I really don’t want to live there, either.

 

Filed under: Non-Work, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

Heavy diffusion

One of the more challenging challenges of lighting involves older actresses.

Since, in Hollywood world, men are allowed to age but women must forever look 19, even when they’ve officially qualified as a dowager for a few decades and makeup can only do so much, so we in the lighting department have to pick up whatever slack we can.

It’s not as difficult as one might imagine.

A large light through multiple layers of heavy diffusion will, in effect, remove wrinkles.

The light has to be large as a small light through multiple layers of heavy diffusion results in no light at all, which also makes wrinkles difficult to see, but not in the way we want it to.

So today’s photo is a BFL (big fucking light – 9 light variety) shining through two layers of very heavy diffusion in order to make our 40-something actress look dewy and gorgeous.

Not pictured are the other two BFLs (10k variety) doing the exact same thing from two other angles, also through heavy diffusion.

It’s a lot of work for us, but boy does it make said actress look gorgeous.

So the next time you’re tempted to feel bad about yourself because you don’t look as amazing as 40-something actress, remember that you don’t have a lighting crew following you around all day :)

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

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