Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Time for a rest.

Pilot season – when, unsurprisingly, the pilots for next season’s new TV shows are shot – is officially over.

Since I didn’t get a spot on a crew, I bounced around between three shows, sometimes only getting a few hours of turnaround before guzzling coffee and going to work another job.

Also, there’s a 5 am mental barrier for me.

Getting up at 5? Fine. No problem.

Getting up at 4:30? Anxiety about oversleeping which results in sleep so fitful I’d be more rested had I stayed up and shopped for shoes on eBay, especially since one of these shows was with a gaffer I love working for, but who is absolutely intolerant of anyone being even a nanosecond late to work.

In production world, 15 minutes before call is on time, and exactly at call time is late. Well, not late, but…frowned upon.

So I got there 20 minutes early every morning. And I worked. And then I worked. And I worked some more. And when I didn’t have work, I called our union hall and got send out on a job immediately, because there was so much work.

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy going out on hall calls. I get to meet new people, who may hire me in the future, and in fact one best boy who had me as a hall call recommended me for full-time spot on a show. I didn’t get it, but it’s the thought that counts.*

Now it’s all over.

The pilots are finished, and the established episodics are ending their season within the next week or so, so it’s down time.

Which is a really good thing for me, because over the weekend I had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic and am now covered in hives.

Since I can’t seem to do anything that’s not excessive, these aren’t normal hives. They’re super hives that have spread into giant weeping mats of  blisters.

I can blame the initial upper respiratory infection on what the newsbots are calling the worst allergy season in 30 years, combined with working in a junkyard (which may or may not allow toxic waste if you slip the right person a few hundred bucks), and the city deciding to jackhammer the alley behind my place presumably for the sole purpose of coating the entire neighborhood in dust from the Yorty administration.  You know, for the lulz.

Of course I had to go off the antibiotics, and I have to wait until the reaction subsides before I start anything new.

So I’m itching, oozing, staggering around like a drunk, and coughing like a tubercular Victorian poet.

The elderly woman three apartments down keeps bringing me matzoh ball soup, which is great, but it’s 90 degrees and I don’t really want anything hot.

On the upside, WordPress has brought back the built-in spell check, so I can be lazy when I type.

Yay!

*It really does count, because a bad referral usually reflects badly on the person who made it, as in “What the fuck with that guy? You said he was good. You must be smoking shoelaces.” So any time anyone throws my name in for a job, I take that as a huge compliment even if I don’t get the call.

Filed under: california, crack of dawn, cranky, hazardous, locations, Los Angeles, mishaps, toxic waste, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

Reflections of late

Nothing will make me panic faster than thinking I’m going to be late to work. Not only do I hate being late in general, but being consistently tardy is something that will get one’s name dropped from the call list in fairly short order.

I wasn’t late this morning, but I was cutting it a bit close (generally, I try to get to the lot about 1/2 an hour early, so I can find parking, wander over to the stage and then have  breakfast and not have to rush. Getting to work later than 15 minutes before call time is cutting it too close for comfort), so when I pulled up to the guard gate, I was happy to see only one car in front of me.

A car which pulled up just short of the gate and then stopped while the driver made a phone call. Of course, he was close enough to the gate that I couldn’t drive around him.

Normally this wouldn’t have bothered me, but that cold clock-related fear gripped me after a couple of minutes of waiting on Mr. Phone Call I did something that I almost never do: I leaned on the horn.  Then, I stuck my head out of the window and yelled at him to either move forward or get out of the way so I could go through the gate and get to work.

He looked startled, and then gave me that weak sort of ‘I know this is my fault but go away’ wave and didn’t pull forward, so I leaned on the horn again. By then, I was really freaking out about sitting there just outside the guard gate while the clock ticked. Not only did I have to find parking, but I had to walk all the way across the lot to the stage.

It’s hard to explain just how frowned upon tardiness is in film crews, but it’s easy to explain why.  Mainly it’s because we have to a lot of work right at call – if we’re on location, we’re unloading our trucks right at our call time and showing up late means that we’re short a guy just as we get to push heavy carts up a hill or run additional cable or change all the tubes in the the Kinos.  On stage it’s not quite so frantic but we’re still usually busy clearing out whatever set they’re using to rehearse or setting up some light we’re going to use later so it’s unfair to the rest of the crew to be late, and that gets noticed.

Smelly? Toothless? Wearing an offensive T-shirt? Covered in boils? Had a stroke last week and can’t use one arm? Fine, fine.. we’ll work around it. But show up after call time without a damn good excuse and word gets around.

“Yeah, he’s an okay worker, but he was… late.”

Some crews are more tolerant than others, of course, but no one counts ‘tardy’ as a quality they’re willing to overlook.

For someone who gets work based on repeat calls and referrals, this is the stuff of nightmares.

After a few more excruciating minutes during which I contemplated using my car to push his to the gate, the guard came out and got my chatty friend to move. He pulled forward and got his pass, and then drove veeeerrrrrry slowly into the parking garage.

I tore like hell through the garage, found a parking space fairly quickly and then hightailed it across the lot as fast as I could, got to the stage with a few minutes to spare and then found out that the gaffer was late that day.

At least it wasn’t me.

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

Insert snappy title here

Normally, showing up to work late is a terrible thing in the film industry. The saying goes “15 minutes early is on time, right at call is late” (and much after call time without a really good reason means no more work calls from that show), but sometimes one gets a last minute call and then it’s okay to show up later.

I got called yesterday morning at 6:40 to be at work at 7 am, which was never going to happen (damn LA traffic), so it was just understood that I’d be there as soon as I could. Sure enough, I got stuck in traffic and didn’t get there until almost 8. There are some places in LA that, while they’re not all that geographically far away from me, take forever to reach because of traffic congestion and lack of side-street alternate routes.

When I finally got to work, we spent the day checking lights to make sure they worked – something you really should do before you’re on location and can’t get that light the gaffer wants now to fire up. Note – this only really happens with HMI lamps. Tungsten lamps do, on occasion, fail to work but since they only have two moving parts (flood/spot knob and on/off switch) it’s much easier and faster to troubleshoot and repair them right there on set before the boss starts screaming.  We generally don’t even attempt to fix HMI problems. We just send them back to the rental house and let them deal with it.

Hence the testing. The procedure to test HMI lamps is to set up the whole mess (head, feeder cables, ballast), globe it up (some of the lamps can’t travel with the globes installed due to breakage factor), turn it on and then wait to see if it flickers (which HMIs sometimes do) or if it’s putting out a really fucked up color and will need gel correction.  Then, we break everything down, label the heads which are putting out said fucked up color and load everything back onto the truck.

We did only do an 8 hour day, so we got done early enough that I was able to go vote and then do some work in the garden. Also, to check on the progress of Darth Tomato.

Having started out life as an innocent Sungold Cherry, Darth Tomato was somehow turned to the darkside (probably by my neighbor’s Home-Depot purchased plants – they’re nothing but trouble) and is now on a mission of intergalactic domination.

By using the Force and growing like crazy, Darth Tomato is now 10 feet tall and six feet wide and has only been in the ground since April. If this growth rate keeps up, Darth Tomato will blot out the sun to the entire western half of the US by next Thursday.

Darth Tomato currently has the grapevine in a sleeper hold and is shading all the surrounding plants, plus some poor light-starved hollyhocks next door.

Although I’m going to have to amputate some of Darth Tomato’s many diabolical limbs in order to keep peace with my neighbor (and salvage everything else in my garden, which is now being oppressed by shade), I’ll be sad when I do because all that evil makes Darth Tomato taste extra good.
The evil makes Darth Tomato extra yummy!

Mmmm.. evil makes a nice salad.

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

Should I or should I not?

Since today’s call time is 11 am (it was originally 9 am, but got pushed*), I’m wondering if I should go to the gym before work or not.

I’m tempted to, on the grounds that I’ll preemptively burn off any accidental non-diet friendly craft service that should find it’s way into my gaping maw (BBQ potato chips: my Achilles heel), but if I do, then it’s a sure bet that I’m going to overwork my muscles and end up collapsing in a sniveling heap somewhere.

If I do legs, then I’ll have to run up and down the stairs to the perms at least 50 times, and if I do arms, I’ll have to repeatedly pick up heavy things.

If I don’t go to the gym, I’ll sit on my ass all day and do nothing that even makes me break a sweat. Plus, there will be chips.

Or, I could sit here and dither about it until I run out of time – which I’ve probably already done since I have to drive across town to Culver and it’s now almost 10 am.

*When a call time is changed to a later hour due to turnaround issues for cast or crew, it’s pushed.

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

Welcome back to work. Have some coffee.

I’m a habitual early riser – barring an all-night shoot or some sort of post-midnight catastrophe, I’m up by 8 (if I manage to do anything productive by noon is a completely different story). So when I got a mid-day call to report to work at 3 pm the first thing I did was go to my favorite overpriced coffee joint and order the equivalent of a Big Gulp. Saying ‘no’ to the job didn’t even enter my mind, once I figured out I’d be able to make it to the location on time. Right now I’m in no position to turn down any sort of work – even if it means my having to prop my eyelids open with toothpicks on the drive home. Killer bees at the location? Dust storms? Toxic waste? Poison Oak? Hottentots? Rabid gophers? Michael Bay? Fine, fine. Just tell me when to show up.

Being picky about which jobs one takes is a luxury reserved for when it’s busy. If I’m fielding work calls every day, I can afford to turn down the two-and-a-half hour drive or horrible pay rate or the location that’s hotter than hell/infested with angry rattlesnakes/oozes green goo.

This time, though, I got lucky – the drive wasn’t too bad and I was working with a great bunch of guys who I like a lot, so I had fun and my pre-work coffee guzzle turned out to be unnecessary as we didn’t work that late. I was home by midnight.

Filed under: Work, , , , , ,

Early arrival has some perks

When one works at this particular lot, one has to consider the garage factor into the arrival time.

This lot’s parking garage simply isn’t large enough for all the cars that need to park in it, so late arrivals have to use the valet service. While this may seem cushy, in reality it’s a huge pain in the ass. Since shooting companies work far later than do the valets, the solution is for the valet to park the car in a space that opens up after the garage empties out, and then take the keys to the front gate (on the other side of the lot from the garage) after the garage closes. If one is working on a stage that’s near the parking structure, this means that after wrap one has to traipse all the way across the lot to get the car keys, and then all the way back across the lot (while carrying all of ones work gear) to get back to the car.

Call me a whiner if you like, but after a 14 hour day that double walk across the lot seems more like a 400 mile hike while lugging a boulder.

So, for an 8 am call I got to the parking garage at 7:15 am, and that was almost too late – all the ‘good’ spots were gone, but at least I didn’t have to cruise the garage with my fingers crossed hoping against hope to find a spot that everyone else had overlooked, plus I had time to finish my coffee and stroll over to the stage and raid first unit’s craft service (since they were in an hour earlier than us and the main unit generally gets better stuff than the second unit).

While I was driving to work, I kept having this nagging feeling that I was forgetting something, and I kept going over my work gear checklist in my mind: change of shoes, change of socks, hat, tools, sunglasses, phone, etc..

I couldn’t figure it out until, of course, I’d gotten far enough away that I wouldn’t have been able to turn around and go back and then I remembered. My knee brace. I left it sitting on the bench next to the front door where I’d placed it so I wouldn’t forget it.

D’oh.

So it was really a good thing that I got put on the dimmer board (since the guy who was supposed to be running the board called in sick). I got to stay off my feet (the dimmer board is almost never on set – it’s usually in a small room somewhere, and the operator gets to sit down, although one generally can’t walk away from the board because as soon as the operator steps away, the gaffer will start adjusting light levels) and I didn’t have to do anything more complicated than bring up the lights the gaffer wanted (one can do incredibly complicated things with dimmer boards – but I’m a bit out of practice on this particular model, so requests for something complicated would have sent me frantically paging through the manual while trying to stall the gaffer) and only had to call the first unit dimmer board op a few times with questions. The rig in that stage hasn’t changed in so long that he doesn’t leave notes out because he’s got it all in his head, so every now and then I’d not know something and then have to call, but luckily our gaffer and the DP were calm and no one flipped out.

Plus, I managed to get out of the studio store without shopping myself broke.

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

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