Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

It’s cold outside but I’m baking

This past week, I’ve been on a multi-camera show*. For lighting and grip, multi-cameras consist of three rig days and two shoot days. Rig days are only a few hours, because it’s all just fixes, tweaks and resetting the lights that the greens guys knocked out-of-place when they hauled around all the trees. Shoot days are normal 12 or 13 hour days.

Usually with multi-camera shows, once the shooting day starts we don’t do much of anything, because all the lights are rigged and really nothing works on stands.

Except this DP a single camera guy and still has the aesthetic of that world, so we’re walking a lot of lights around on stands every time a scene changes. This is not a bad thing at all, as working makes the day go faster, and today the perception of time passing quickly was a wonderful thing, as our stage’s air conditioning unit decided that it was going to take a vacation.

Perhaps to somewhere cooler.

Lucky for all of us, the crafty room had excellent air conditioning. You know how at parties everyone ends up in the kitchen? That was us today.

The director and I had a deep discussion about potato latkes while we huddled in the draft of air coming from the soda cooler, and I met more of my co-workers than I usually do as we wandered in, sighed in relief and then left without eating anything.

Right now I’m chugging water in an attempt to not wake up tomorrow feeling like I’ve been on a bender.

Speaking of tomorrow, although it would be lovely to have chilled air, I suspect I’ll need to wear summer clothes and keep hydrated.

*That’s not a really good description, since most ‘single camera’ shows use two cameras now. Multi-camera format uses four cameras and sets all open to one side, but I’m lost for a more apt name.

Filed under: california, mishaps, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , ,

A nice easy stage rig. Oh, wait.

For the next couple of days, I’m putting in a rig on a stage in Hollywood. It’s closer than Fillmore, but because of the traffic, it’s still an hour drive. It would be an hour on the bicycle, too, but since we’re doing late calls I’d have to ride across town well after dark and I’m not super comfortable with that.

Normally putting in a rig on a stage is a pretty nice gig – sure, we’re running cable, but we’re out of the sun and aside from some dust, the stages are relatively clean.

Except that this show doesn’t use a mill. All phases of set construction are done right on the stage while we’re rigging.

Financially, this seems like a great decision – this is a really big stage (almost 200 feet long), so there’s plenty of room to set up a mill on one end and save time and costs. Just build and paint the sets right there, and then you don’t have to walk them all the way across the lot.

But there’s the noise and the dust and the fumes from the paint – these stages all have exhaust systems, but they were designed to vent heat, not fumes and dust.

When we walked onto the stage at call time, it looked like a foggy day and the fumes from the lacquer the painters were using were… thick.

Of course, the set to which the lacquer was being applied was right next to the ‘pick point’ – the area up high where we’d be attaching the hoist so as to lift the cable up to the perms.

I’d asked for a mask, and the painters gave me one of those little paper ones, which work great against particulate, but not so much against the fumes.

All of us had to take turns stepping outside and taking a few deep breaths of the fresh (by comparison, of course. This is Los Angeles) air.

Thankfully, the spraying ended about an hour after we got there and for a time it was much easier to breathe.

Then, they started on the rocks.

It’s very interesting to watch movie rocks being made. The construction guys start with a big block of Styrofoam, and reduce it to rock shape with a saw and a Dremel. After that’s done they spray on the color and the texture.

The downside is that they started right after the paint fumes cleared.  Of course, the other ‘pick point’ on the stage was right over where they were shaving the Styrofoam, so the little bits got all over the cable and then when we picked up the cable to hoist it, those bits got all over us.

I’ve discovered that Styrofoam bits make me itch. I nearly clawed my skin off on the drive home.

Here in California, we’re supposed to be taking short showers to conserve water – I usually do just that, but I was so itchy and stuffed up that I stood under the really hot water for what seemed like an eternity while my sinuses cleared.

We’re up high all day tomorrow, so we have a later call time to wait for the fumes to clear. Hopefully the Styrofoam bits aren’t able to float up to the perms.

Filed under: hazardous, studio lots, toxic waste, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

image

The giant tape ball on the Paramount lamp dock.

Filed under: camera, Los Angeles, Photos, Work, , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

Work light

Temporary worklight, in the permanents.

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

Friday Photo

Lucky perm graffiti

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

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

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, , , , , , , , , ,

My big fat Thanksgiving hangover

It was the deviled eggs that did me in.

Thursday, I had dinner at a friend’s house. Earlier in the year, we’d decided that since times are tough all over, we’d do a potluck this year – normally my friend does all the cooking and won’t let anyone help, but this year she gave in to peer pressure and just did the turkey while everyone else handled the sides and desserts.

One friend brought deviled eggs. I love deviled eggs – even the garden variety pickle juice/paprika kind. I’d eat them all day, every day were I not so afraid of cholesterol poisoning. I’d have been happy to see any kind of deviled egg on the table, but Ms. Overachiever went all out and did three kinds: Curry deviled eggs, BLT deviled eggs, and Caesar deviled eggs.

Oh. My. God.

I scarfed.  And I drank, since the beaujolais nouveau is out. Then, our hostess brought out the heritage turkey- which I guess means ‘weapons grade tryptophan’ because about five minutes after I shoveled it into my gaping maw (amazing I had room after all those eggs) I needed a nap.

Note to non-Americans: You’ll see a lot of gibberish about Thanksgiving being a holiday about family time and togetherness and all that Currier and Ives misty-eyed nostalgia crap. It’s a PR stunt, so feel free to ignore it. Thanksgiving is about food. And eating as much of it as possible. It’s the one time when outright gluttony is not only excusable, it’s expected.

So we eat. And eat and eat and eat.

Friday I felt like one of those giant Macy’s parade balloons – even rolling out of bed was a supreme effort. I went to the gym and struggled through a rudimentary workout and a pitiful excuse for a swim, but I felt better afterwards.

Shame the feel-good moment was just that. A moment. On the way home from the gym, I stopped into a local cooking store looking for muffin pans, and spied Vacherin cheese, which is extremely tasty and until recently was illegal in the US (or so I thought) but there it was and I couldn’t resist.

Yes, I know what cheese does to me. Sometimes it’s totally worth it.

Saturday I really wanted to go out, but I was busy eating cheese and drinking the rest of the wine – hey, it’s new wine. It doesn’t keep. I have to drink it.

Sunday, in an example of really bad planning, there was a Jonas brothers concert on the same day as the Hollywood Christmas Parade. The annual parade closes many streets in Hollywood and creates a traffic snarl that must be seen to be believed, which, combined with several thousand hysterical tweens running amok in the streets makes for.. well, I’m not sure but I’m glad I didn’t have to drive.

I walked around and took some photos and chatted with some of the really nice folks who were participating in the parade, and then dragged my cheese-bloated carcass home.

Total weight gain for my holiday weekend bacchanal (with optional pig-out package): 2.5 lbs.

Could have been worse.

I’m eating extra healthy this week and going to the gym every day to work off those damn eggs.

Mmm… deviled eggs… I wish I had some right now.

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

A wrench in the works

Sometimes, out of the blue I see something so completely out-of-place that it literally stops me in my tracks.

Like today. I was riding my bike through Hollywood enjoying the sunshine and thinking that the upside of unemployment is that I’m going to avoid catching whatever it is that’s going around this year, when I saw this:

Gardner Street Guinea Fowl

That would be a guinea hen. Strolling down a residential street in the middle of Hollywood.

I stopped and looked with my head slightly cocked to the side – you know, like that dog in the old RCA ads – and when one of the homeowners walked out of his front door I asked what was the deal with the bird.

“Oh, it’s a turkey” he answered breezily “It’s been hangin’ out for a couple of weeks”

“You know, I’m pretty sure that’s a guinea hen.”

He looked at me and then repeated “It’s a turkey” in that slow, loud voice that you use when you’re absolutely certain the person you’re talking to is a complete idiot.

I gave up.

“Okay, it’s a turkey. Where did it come from?”

“Nobody knows. We figured it was going to be a Thanksgiving dinner and it got away. It’s just been cruising around. ”

Yeah, given the laws in Los Angeles about keeping noisy birds that can run like an Olympic sprinter on banned performance enhancing drugs, that’s probable.

Plus, it’s not a turkey. I’m 99.9% certain of this, but since I have nothing better to do with myself these days I’ll open up the floor to speculation.

Is this:

Are you still here, human?

a) a guinea fowl

guinea fowl

b) a turkey

turkey

c) Rupert Murdoch

rupert murdoch

One of the other neighbors thought it was a quail and said it had been around for ‘a few days’. She’d been putting out a pan of cat food for it at night because she didn’t want it to starve but was worried that the neighborhood stray cats were chasing the bird away from the food.

You know, I’ll freely admit to being an awful person, but I gotta say that I’d pay good money to see a cat – any cat except mine, of course – fight this bird over a pie plate full of Nine Lives kibble.

Filed under: life in LA, Los Angeles, Nikon, Non-Work, Photos, , , , , ,

Why yes, I am an asshole. Thanks for noticing.

In a moment of spectacularly bad planning, I have a 5 pm call today (I’m the ‘8 hour guy’ who’s just coming in to help wrap), and I have no idea what time I’ll have to be at work tomorrow morning. If it’s 7 am, I’m totally screwed – rules about turnaround only apply when one is on the same show from day to day.

So I decided to spend the day running errands, and started out with a stop for coffee. While walking back to my car, an Indian (sub-continent, not North American) guy – complete with beads, turban, sandals and nearly incomprehensible accent – stopped me and said “You look happy on the outside, but you’re disturbed inside. You have too many thoughts. Let me see your right palm.”

Then he grabbed my hand and started examining it.

At this point, I figured I was being punked (or New-Age robbed) so I started frantically looking around for either a camera crew or Officer Friendly.

Personally, I think fortune-telling is bunk (I see claims of ‘seeing the future’ as a grave misunderstanding about the nature of time), but you can’t actually tell these people that, now can you?

I must have looked wary because he continued (still clutching my hand) more earnestly, “You have a very long life-line and will live a long time with happy life and successful. You will have three lucky news in December. There are two men who love you – one loves you too much and the other is bullshit but you won’t know it for some time.”

No, I think I can see the source of the bullshit just fine, but thanks.

“Now, if you will pay me $40, you will have happy life.”

I stared at his beads for a moment, idly wondering if they ever got caught in his chest hair and asked “Does that mean that I’m not going to have a happy life if I don’t pay you $40? ‘Cause I got some bad news for you, my friend.”

“Well how much do you have?”

“Nothing. I will pay you nothing. I resent being hustled.”

“Asshole.”

Awesome. I’m still going to live a long life, though. Everyone on both sides of my family has lived past 90 (except the ones that had accidents and died young, but for genetics purposes, they don’t count), so unless the asbestos exposure gets me first I’ve got every reasonable expectation of living far, far beyond my usefulness.

So there.

Later, as I was sitting in the laundromat waiting for the dryers to finish, a guy wearing a T-shirt expressing his patriotic disdain for anyone of Middle-Eastern ancestry, wandered in and demanded I give him money. “My phone ran out of minutes,” he said, shaking his pink Razr at me for emphasis. “I need ten bucks. Please, sir.”

Sir? You need to work on your panhandling skills, kid. Scoot.”

“Asshole!”

Actually, I was more of an asshole than he’d imagined. A few minutes later, after I watched him buy some meth from the tranny hooker who hangs out in front of the coffee shop (I guess he got someone to give him some money after all), I called the cops and gave them a very detailed description of him, his meth, and his t shirt.

My laundry done, I headed back home – only to arrive right as the school across the street was letting out and all the parking was being taken up by waiting parents.

Except one space, which I slipped into ahead of the lady who was trying to make an illegal U turn in her minivan despite the heavy traffic and nearby police cruiser.

“Hey!” she yelled out her window as I got out of the car and started to unload my laundry “I want that space!”

“I want one of those really ripped Calvin Klein models and a big tub of butter, but…” I trailed off with a gesture intended to convey my good-natured disappointment at the lack of condiment-covered male models roaming the streets of American cities.

Actually, I’m on a diet, so perhaps I should want a really ripped Calvin Klein model and a big tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.

She glared at me for a moment and then yelled “Asshole!” before driving off.

Wow. Three times in one day and I’m not even wearing a costume.

Do I get a prize for that?

Oh, and happy Halloween.

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

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