Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Knees, don’t fail me now

During the rare but not unheard of Sunday rigging call, we were in a very expensive boutique hotel on the Sunset Strip, which, given the only reason the hoi polloi shell out to stay there are hopes of catching a glance of a movie star, is surprisingly hostile to film crews.

We weren’t allowed to be in the hotel before 4 pm, which really sucked since the shooting unit had a 5 pm call and since there was no way we were going to get all the cable run in an hour, our boss begged or bribed or something and got us in early – on the condition that we be very, very quiet. Which, when one is rigging, is harder than one imagines.

I suppose it’s possible to gently set down a 100 lb. (45 kilo) coil of cable, but my back just wants me to drop it.

The other thing that slowed us down was the stairs. Oh, the stairs.

This particular hotel was built during an era when handicapped people were fucked (so why even let them out of the house), and therefore has no ramps. Anywhere.

The area we were rigging wasn’t accessible  any other way than stairs, which meant that cable carts were useless – we could get them about halfway to the set, and then had to pick everything up and walk it the rest of the way.

Actually, it was two sets of stairs.

This one:

P1040697

And this beauty:

P1040704

That second set is so narrow two people can’t pass on it, so the person with the lighter load yields. Unless it’s a guest, and then one squeezes to the side and waits, like Atlas, while cursing the universe.

Lucky for us the rig wasn’t that big and it wasn’t too hot – also I was working with a fantastic group of guys that make any situation fun, so it was a good day, even though at the end I would have handed back my entire day’s pay just to sully the hotel’s lovely pool with my dirty blue-collar cooties.

It was only a one-night shoot, so we were back this morning to wrap everything. Upon arriving, we were informed that the shoot had gone past the scheduled out time (shocked. I am shocked, I tell you) and the hotel management were a wee bit cross (something about the location manager’s head and a pike, but I didn’t get details), so we needed to double time it to get out of there.

As we started to gather equipment, it became apparent that, at some point during the wee hours, the hotel management mistook the shooting crew for cats and turned on the sprinklers in the hope that it would make them run away.

If only that worked.

Thirty minutes into the day we were soaking wet and smeared with dirt, and I guess my appearance was scary enough that when I greeted a guest with a cheery ‘Good Morning’ her response was a hissed suggestion that I go fuck myself.

If only I could. I’d never leave the house.

After carrying everything back down the stairs, we loaded the truck and rigged our second location – a theater with ramps. Lots and lots of ramps.

Of course it has stairs, too, but we didn’t have to deal with them.

I love you, cable carts. I’ll never take you for granted ever again.

Tomorrow, we wrap the theater and then unload the truck at the rental house.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Living it up at the Hotel California

The two things one must watch out for when shooting in hotels are sprinkler heads and guests.

During the first part of the day we were shooting in an unused conference room which had low ceilings, so although there were no guests lurking about there was a real risk of setting off the building’s fire sprinklers.

Since our lights burn at very high temperatures and the fact that we usually want to light the actors with the lamps above them (unless it’s a horror movie), usually this means having a 300+ degree lamp 2 inches away from a fire sprinkler with a melt point of 150 or so.

In case you’ve never been in a building that’s had it’s sprinklers set off, the water smells horrible (it’s been sitting in the pipes for years), and once it starts sprinkling it can’t be shut off. The firefighters have to shut off the water main, but even after that happens, the water comes out of the sprinklers until the pipes are completely dry.

Needless to say, no one ever wants to set off the sprinklers, so we do take every possible precaution to avoid it from happening.

We never put lamps directly under the sprinkler heads and we used a thermometer to keep track of the temperature, kept heat shields over the top of the lamps – plus we had the hotel’s engineering guys with us, who also had infrared thermometers and the morning was incident-free.

Back in the day, we used to tape a Styrofoam cup over the sprinkler head itself, but that seems to upset the fire marshall (and doesn’t work as well as you’d imagine unless you fill said cup with dry ice, which also seems to upset the fire marshall), so I haven’t seen anyone do that in a long time. Nowadays we just have to be aware of the location of the sprinkler heads and make sure that we don’t put any of our equipment too close to them.

This can be a bit frustrating for the gaffer as he or she sometimes can’t get the lamps in the exact right spot, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who has had a ‘damn the torpedo’ attitude about fire suppression systems – everyone in this industry has either been on The Show That Set Off The Sprinklers or has heard the stories*

In the afternoon, we moved down for a shot in the hotel’s lobby and had to contend with the second part of the equation – the guests. For some reason the amount of common sense displayed by hotel guests is in direct inverse proportion to the amount of money they shell out for the rooms.

Guests in low and mid-priced hotels will carefully watch their step, ask if we’re shooting and if it’s okay for them to walk through a work area. Guests in expensive hotels? Not so much.

The guests at expensive hotels walk around not paying attention to where they’re going, and then when they run into something they scream at the staff, who have understandably become insanely paranoid about movie crews.

Hotel Employee: “Excuse me. You’ll have to move that light”.

Me: “The one that’s over there in the corner with red flashing “danger” signs around it being guarded by three dobermans and a nest of trained hornets?”

Hotel Employee: “Yes, that one. A guest could walk into it and get hurt”.

Guests in expensive hotels also refuse to move out of the way of anyone carrying anything or vary their planned route for any reason at all – even if said planned route means that they have to clamber over the lower rungs of a ladder which is blocking a door to an outdoor patio instead of diverting four feet to either side and using an unobstructed door.  Really, at that point if you’re that invested in not veering to either side you may as well just walk under the fucking ladder.

Luckily, none of us were injured by errant guests and we only damaged the hotel a little bit.

We got finished early enough for me to go to the gym and swim for an hour, which was nice except the network hysteria about the swim team has led to a bunch of people with no clue about pool etiquette to have decided to try to break a world record after they get off work.

*Just because I know you’re wondering – I have, in fact, been on The Show That Set Off The Sprinklers. Twice.

Filed under: locations, Work, , , , ,

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