Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Friday Photo


Most of the time when we unload our truck at the end of a show, we’re not missing much. On the whole, we’re really diligent about counting and re-counting.

But there’s something about stingers.

Everyone wants them, everyone takes them, uses them, drops them when they’re done and then fails to tell us where.

So at the end of a show we’re almost always missing a few. It drives best boys mad, but it’s just the way it goes.

Except today, when we unloaded the “truck” (so small that it took two of us 15 minutes to empty and the rental house guys less than an hour to count), and laid out all the stingers, we weren’t missing any.

Everyone was shocked.

Not literally, of course, but I can’t remember the last time the stinger count matched the paperwork.

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

All or nothing

Sunday night, I got a work call, which is really unusual. Most of the time, best boys fill their Monday calls by Friday, unless someone gets sick or there’s some extenuating circumstance.

It took me almost an hour to return the call, as I was in the pool and didn’t bother to check my phone (hey, it was Sunday), but when I got out I texted back that I would love the day if he still had it available.

Lucky for me, he did, so I got booked to work on the rigging crew.

Most of our day was spent sitting around waiting for equipment – it’s still fairly busy out there and since most of the rental houses sent astounding amounts of gear out-of-state, it can be a bit of a scramble to get certain things, even when it’s only moderately busy, as it is now.

Apparently it’s been such a scramble that one-day rigs have been getting turned into two-day rigs just because of equipment delays.  Although this rig should have taken about 10 hours, we were only going to be able to complete the cable runs due to not having… stuff.

So we sat, talked, taped cable, sent what we had up into the perms, went to coffee, taped some more cable and then, right before lunch, the rest of the order showed up.

While we finished our cable runs, I got four texts to work the next day. Four. Right in a row. Since I’d taken the first one, I had to turn the other three down and made the joke that I probably wouldn’t get anymore days this week as they all came in clumped up into one.

After a shortish turnaround (day exteriors in winter – early calls to get as much of the light as possible), I worked a 10 hour day on an insert unit where we only had to light the last few shots, so I was fully awake by the time I actually had to do any work.

Sure enough, I didn’t get any work calls for later in the week, but I wasn’t expecting any.

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

After the rain

Line drying

Since it’s almost never a good idea for lighting equipment to get wet, when there’s the threat of rain (or heavy dew overnight) we have to cover, with plastic, any carts and loose equipment not under some sort of cover.  For a long time, we just cut chunks off big rolls of landscaping plastic and wrapped that around the carts (and no matter how thorough a job one thought one had done, water always leaked in somewhere), but then someone invented these giant sandwich bag things called Bag-its. They come in all sizes and are super awesome, but are far too expensive to be considered a throwaway item, so they get re-used until they’re so battered that they fall apart (this takes a surprisingly long time to happen).

For obvious reasons, we can’t fold them up and put them away when they’re wet, so we have to dry them. The best way to do this is to suspend them from two stands like giant lines of plastic laundry.

We had to keep the sidewalk clear so that the nice people who live in this neighborhood could pass through, so we couldn’t just line them up like we usually do, and we only had enough space to dry three at a time.

Lucky for us there’s no rain predicted for the rest of our very short (due to the Thanksgiving holiday) week.

Filed under: camera, crack of dawn, locations, Photos, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

You may think you’re being clever, but really you’re just boning me.

Although I’m sure it seems like a great idea to shoot an infomercial in a friend’s 4th floor studio apartment to save money on location fees, I think I can safely speak for everyone on the below-the-line crew when I plead for sanity.

We’ve shot in this building before – pre WW2, MacArthur Park adjacent (drug-dealer infested neighborhood, BTW), tiny elevator, no ramps, small apartment, narrow hallways – basically, everything one doesn’t want in a location all rolled into one big ball of unhappiness and production delays.
Because there was no room inside the apartment (and it was big for a residence, but when you get 30 people and lighting equipment into one room, it gets tight really quickly) to put, well, much of anything other than the set dressing and the lights, they had to rent two other apartments for the day – one for the production office, makeup and hair (and the agency people ended up in there as well since there was no room on set), and one for the actors (or something – I’m not exactly sure why the rented the third apartment. We weren’t allowed to stage equipment in it, it just seemed to be a place for one of the ad agency guys to make calls).

We had to schlep most of the contents of a 10 ton truck up four floors in the world’s smallest elevator, and stage everything in the narrow hallway while keeping a walkway open (made more difficult because the poor sound guy was also in the hallway – between the set and our staging area, so we kept having to force our way past him carrying hot lights and pointy things while he was trying to work), so it took us over an hour to even get our stuff upstairs and run our cable to the set, plus we kept getting delayed by having to fight our way into and around the set when we were trying to light.

Aside from all this, the main problem with shooting four floors up and not really having a place to put one’s equipment is the gamble factor.

When we can’t bring up everything but the kitchen sink, we take a great big guess at what we think the gaffer’s going to use, based on how well we know the gaffer and what we think he or she is going to do, lighting-wise (what the gaffer actually tells us counts as well, but we do indulge in a fair amount of second-guessing), and then haul up the stuff that we think we might need.

The flaw in this plan should be obvious – no matter what we haul up, we’ll end up having to run down four floors and get something that we either forgot or were sure we weren’t going to need while the whole production sits there and waits on that one item.

Although it’s tempting to just shout “damn the torpedoes” or something and cram every single bit of stuff from the truck into the world’s smallest elevator and stack it in the hallways (where some mild entertainment would be had by taking bets on when that teetering pile of cable would fall over and who it would hit), sometimes there’s just not any space and we go into it knowing that all of us are going to have to make at least one frantic run to the truck during the day.

I lost count of how many times I ran up and down the stairs – and the real kicker is that the grips blacked out the windows so we could have been on the first floor.

Hell, we could have been on a stage with air conditioning.

But the production team were all nice (even though they were all really young. I mentioned to a co-worker that I thought the first AD was kind of cute, and said co-worker replied “Oh, please. He’s a pre-schooler.”) and everything was calm, even though two of the actors were two hours late so we started out behind schedule.

Call time: 7 am

Wrap time: 10 pm

Filed under: locations, Work, , , , ,

April 2023

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"If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." -Anne Lamott

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