Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Surprise, with an aftertaste of ouch

Sometimes one is just not prepared for the day one gets.

It was supposed to be a fairly light day, work-wise, which was just what I needed because tomorrow I know I’m going to get the shit beaten out of me.

We were supposed to change some tubes, run some light cable, then go home. Maybe 6 hours.

We showed up at 7 am, but the equipment we needed to start working didn’t arrive until 10 am, due to traffic.

Fine. Maybe 8 hours.

We changed our tubes, ran the cable we needed to run and were hopeful we might still get out by lunch.

Then, surprise!

We had another set full of fluorescent fixtures that no one knew about before. So we got more tubes, and changed those fixtures.

I suppose I should mention that the standard-issue fixture for drop ceilings (aka troffer), isn’t designed to have the tubes changed very often. The whole point of installing these fixtures is the lack of maintenance needed.

Stick them in the ceiling, and forget they were ever there. They should last for years.

Unless you rent out your space for shoots – then we have to change out the tubes for color balanced ones, which involves wrenching open the bottom of the fixture (the delicate plastic part), wrestling out the tubes by twisting them and swearing, breaking some of the tiny parts that aren’t that fucking important anyways because I have to do 100 more of these fucking things, shoving in tubes that are just a micron too long, so there’s more shoving and swearing and sweating and 20 years of dust from the fixture falls everywhere – which is really bad if you wear a bra, because guess where that dust likes to land?

You haven’t lived until you’ve stood in the shower and tried to scrub off a combo of asbestos* dust and sweat.

But we got it all done, albeit a bit later than we’d originally intended.

Then, we got the call.

Something, somewhere, had changed.

We had to go back to all the fixtures and change the tubes for a different color.

Dammit.

I’d just used up all my baby wipes scraping off the asbestos. Now I was going to get covered in it again and itch all the way home in rain traffic.

The rain isn’t predicted until midnight, but the mere mention of water falling from the sky is enough to send the entire city into a blind panic.

All of us were hoping to be home before said panic.

Alas, it was not to be and I spent 1.5 hours crawling home on a route that should have taken me 20 minutes.

Thanks, rain.

I’ll be standing outside all day tomorrow.

 

 

*If you’re in an office building built before the era of ‘holy shit this causes cancer’, look up. See those white tiles on the ceiling? They’re not the asbestos (maybe). The asbestos is the weird popcorn looking stuff that’s sprayed everywhere between those tiles and the actual ceiling. Calm down, it’s not going to get to you. Unless you’ve rented out the building to a movie, and the riggers came in and changed the tubes. If that happened, your lungs are fucked – but it’s okay, you won’t have any issues until you’re old and decrepit and too old to care. Or so I’m told. Excuse me while I cough. It’s totally unrelated.

 

 

Filed under: crack of dawn, cranky, hazardous, locations, movies, toxic waste, Work, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo 

A shaft of light 

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , ,

Friday Photo

Dimmer board mood lighting:

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Filed under: Photos, studio lots, up all night, Work, , , , ,

Friday photo

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Condor. This time, I’m not in it. I’ve got several drafts that I’ll polish and post on my one day off this week.

Maybe.

Filed under: camera, locations, movies, Photos, up all night, 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, , , , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

Poor man's process

Normally, scenes which feature actors in a moving car are shot using a process trailer. The advantage of using a process trailer is that since the car containing the actors is being towed around the city, the shots look, well, real.

Sometimes, though, process trailers are impractical – either the show can’t afford them, the show isn’t shot in the city in which it takes place or there simply isn’t enough work in the car scene to justify the hassle (get trailer, rig trailer with lights, drive around, de-rig trailer. It eats the better part of a day, and requires extra equipment and manpower, so it’s not worth it for one short scene), so then we do what’s called a poor man’s process.

Poor man’s process is when the car sits stationary on a stage and we use lighting to create the illusion that it’s moving.  In this photo, we’re using a projection screen behind the car which really helps to sell it on film, but many people skip this step. There are lights placed around the car, and each light’s got a crew member (usually a grip, but since this process is labor intensive, the electricians help out, too) with it waving a solid flag in front of it periodically in order to mimic the shadows that fall across a car as it moves through traffic.

When done properly, it’s damn near impossible for the viewer to tell the difference.

Here’s a really excellent video showing (and doing a better job of explaining) a poor man’s process.

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

Ready, aim, fired!

I’d been doing a day here and there on a low budget for a friend of mine, and was supposed to come in to wrap a location this afternoon, but around 6 am I got a text informing me that the entire lighting crew had been replaced.

Not that any of said lighting crew were shedding any tears over this, mind you. Most had better paying jobs lined up within minutes, and firing crews is something that happens all the time on the lower rungs of the pay scale.

It usually happens like this:

Low Budget Producer (LBP), after four or five go-rounds of producing micro-budget cluster fucks and then foisting them off on some of the less-fashionable film fests, decides it’s time to run with the big dogs (so to speak) and gets a gig as Line Producer or UPM on what (for him or her) is a HUGE show, but is, in reality, just over million dollars (which, in movie world, is equivalent to the change you find under the couch cushions).

Now, LBP is used to dealing with small amounts of equipment (most of LBP’s previous shows have had lighting packages that fit nicely into a minivan that’s seen better days) and 10 person crews (two electric, one grip, three camera, director, two production assistants, and him/herself), so he or she takes a look at this show’s numbers, becomes horrified at how much the dirty toolbelt people are costing the show, and freaks out.

LBP can’t understand why we keep asking for more people (“can’t they come down out of the condor and work the set? Why do we need a wrap crew? Can’t the set guys just do it after we’re done? What, now you want water, too? It’s only 110 degrees out.”) and more equipment (“just pull the cable off the last set. I know we’re going back there tomorrow, but you can put it back in just before we shoot, right?”) and at some point decides that it’s a vast conspiracy (possibly right-wing, LBP’s not sure) to drive him or her crazy and run the production into the ground just for shits and giggles.

At this point, LBP starts making completely unreasonable demands – usually cutting crew and equipment orders to the bone while expecting things to get done more faster and more better with fewer people and less equipment – and when warned by the best boys of what’s going to happen (“We can try to rig three sets in four hours with two people who are ‘breaking away’ from the shooting crew when they have the time in between lighting set-ups, but we probably won’t be ready and you’ll all have to sit and wait while we scramble around trying to catch up”) if they stick to the plan, freak out again and decide to deal with the vast conspiracy (right wing, LBP’s now dead certain) by firing the crew and bringing in people who are more co-operative (read: less experienced).

Let me just take a moment to address any of you producer hopefuls that might still be reading:

Your crew is not trying to screw you over.

We are trying to do things in the most efficient way we know (based on experience. We’ve done this a lot), and sometimes that involves a scary amount of oddly-named stuff upfront (yes, they really are called ‘snakebites’ and we really do need a dozen of them). If an equipment list we’ve turned in really starts to make you dyspeptic, you can always come to us and ask us to try to get the numbers down for you and we’ll do the best we can.

We don’t want you to go over budget, really. We want you to help you impress your evil Porsche-driving overlords so you’ll get better-paying gigs and hire us to come work on them, but you have to trust us.

And I don’t mean that in the “fuck you” sense of the saying. I really mean it. Demanding that we defy the laws of physics and then throwing a temper tantrum when we can’t do it may be entertaining, but it’s ultimately unproductive.

DISCLAIMER: Just because someone is a producer on a low budget show does not mean they’re incompetent – I’ve worked with several who can shave the skin off a nickel and not kill the crew while doing it. These are the folks who trust their crew and let us do our job.

Filed under: mishaps, movies, rants, Work, , , , , , ,

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