Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

A bird in the hand

Pigeons love old sound stages.

I don’t know why, but there’s almost always one or two lurking up in the perms, crapping on our cable and doing whatever it is pigeons do when they’re not crapping on everything.

Sometimes they get trapped on the stage when we’re shooting and fly around, bumping into things and crapping on everything until they either find their way out or we call cut and open the doors.

Today, right in the middle of a very long, very complex scene requiring concentration from the actors on the dead-silent stage (this show has a really serious AD staff) – the song of the flying rat.

And they kept singing (or cooing, or telling each other where to crap next) during every single sound take.

We tried everything. A laser pointer, a light aimed at them, luring them towards the small door with a trail of bread crumbs, throwing things at them, you name it.

They’d be quiet for a few minutes and then as soon as the stage got nice and quiet  would resume their conversation.

Eventually, the exasperated sound guy decided that it wasn’t worth the headache and they should just ADR the whole thing, and we moved on.

As soon as we opened the big doors of the stage for lunch, both birds flew out.

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

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, , , , , , , , , , , ,

June

There are two months of the year where work is usually scarce for me – January and June. I always know it’s coming and prepare for it as best I can, but near the end of the month, with rent and bills due, I panic.

I know that there will be more work (and soon), but still. I panic.

I worry that I’m going to drain my bank account on the first of July, never work again, lose my apartment and have to consolidate into a shopping cart.

I worry about not being able to pay my bills and trying to live without electricity.

Or even worse, the internet.

I start looking around for stuff I can sell, even though I don’t own anything of any value.

 

So today I’m in panic mode. I have to pay rent, cell phone, electricity bill, gym, car insurance and union dues all this week.

Yes, I know I’m over-reacting, but I can’t stop myself.

It’s like this every single fucking year.

You’d think I’d learn.

 

Filed under: Non-Work, , , ,

Hearing and Lady Problems

Normally, the gaffer is the head of the lighting department, but on shows with anything more than a passing resemblance to theater (operas, concerts, ice shows, ballroom dancing), there will also be a lighting designer, who is responsible for the theatrical lighting.

Anything that’s part of what would be the theater rig falls under the authority of the lighting designer, so since I was working a follow spot today, I was on the channel with the LD, and not the gaffer.

Normally, the LD sits in a sound proof booth and during the performance, will call out directions to the spotlight operators. The spotlights are given numbers to simplify things, so instead of having to remember names, the LD can just call out “spot 3, pick up downstage left”, or “spot 4, pan up to get the drummer”.

Which is great, when it works.

For this particular show, there was no booth for the LD, so he was sitting next to the monitor, and when they turned on the playback, all we heard over the walkies was something like a radio not quite on the right channel.

KKSSHHHHEHHHGHHLEFTSSSSKKKSHHHHFEETSSHHHHKKRIGHTKSSSHHHSFOURSSKKKKKKKDAMMIT

Since the venue in which we were shooting is not known for stellar acoustics, none of us could even hear what we were thinking.

The LD, once we explained that we couldn’t hear him during playback, sighed and just gave us direction in between takes.

Lucky for all of us there wasn’t too much movement on stage.

The main problem was that our spotlights were on a catwalk that required steep stairs and a ladder to reach – which was fine, except for the lack of a loo.

At this point, I’m sure someone is going to suggest I just pee in the chain bag.

First, eeew.

Second, I have my period, because of course I do. And trust me, no one wants to find that in the chain bag.

I got lucky today that the periods of inactivity coincided with when I needed to slip away, but tomorrow I might be fucked because the call sheet has performance numbers all day.

I’ll have to double up (tampon and a giant pad), and bring up a plastic bag and some wet wipes.

Good thing this show is requiring we all wear black clothes.

I’m back tomorrow and Friday.

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

The check is in the mail

Ten days ago, I worked a micro budget favor job for a friend of mine who is trying to move up the food chain (which, of course, necessitates moving down the food chain first) and shoot.

I don’t have a problem with favor jobs. I don’t mind helping out friends or people who need it, but since my landlord won’t accept good intentions, I usually expect to be paid the amount I was promised.

The amount I was promised for this particular job was relatively small, but every little bit helps, and I factored that pay into the monthly budget. Job was on Friday, we were told checks would be mailed Monday.

No check.

Then we were told checks would be mailed Thursday.

Mailed on Thursday means it should show up in my mailbox on Saturday, or Monday at the latest.

Monday: No check.

Today, I worked a day on a commercial (and thankfully I know they’ll pay), and figured I’d look again when I got home.

No check, although I did get a dividend for some worthless stock – it’ll buy a shitty bottle of wine. But at least they paid, goddammit.

This is even more annoying because this was supposed to be a cash job.

Some time ago, crews got wise to the ‘promise and then skip out’ tactic, and began to demand cash. Usually at the end of the night, but some production companies had to pay upfront, and then pay again if they wanted more work.

I know, that statement makes us seem like greedy assholes, but you can only get burned so many times before you stop trying to make people like you.

So at the end of the day, we walked up to the money man, expecting to be handed envelopes.

He looked shocked.

“I never promised anyone cash. I never pay cash! Who told you I’d give you cash?”

I think that’s when we all knew.

Knew we were going to have to fight.

I haven’t had to do this in a long time – hopefully I won’t have to go to the office and make a scene, but I won’t hesitate if that’s what I have to do.

Remind me to tell the baseball bat story. It involves a shady production company, a bounced check, and a baseball bat.

Or someone who is currently working micro-budget can tell it, since I’m sure it’s the same story.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

Filed under: cranky, life in LA, mishaps, movies, rants, Work, , , , , ,

Lights, Camera, Shop!

One of the occasional perks of my job is wardrobe and prop sales.
Most of the really nice (read: expensive) stuff is rented, but the cheaper stuff is usually purchased, in multiples, and kept beyond the date by which it can be returned to the store.

There are reasons for this, of course – spills, tears, and daily wear make multiple items necessary, and hanging onto the items for so long is a must in case there are re-shoots.

So a few times a year, the nice folks in wardrobe will let the crew pick through the racks and sell off some fairly nice things for Salvation Army prices.

Tags

Today, I was really in the right place at the right time.

As we breakfasted before call, one of the costumers wheeled up a rack and told us to grab whatever we wanted, gratis.

Most of the items had weird logos on them, but a few things were really nice and (I hoped) my size.

I wasn’t sure because I couldn’t try anything on.

As totally willing as I was to whip off my top at the old Barney’s warehouse sale (deep discounts, no dressing rooms), I have to pretend to maintain some semblance of professionalism at work, which means just guessing on the size and hoping.

Of the five tops I got, four fit, which is pretty good.

One item that I thought might be too big was, predictably, too big.

But it’s a really nice soft cotton T-shirt so I might just wear it anyways.

Tomorrow, I’m on a special effects shoot which will mainly be sitting around and wondering where my life went so fucking off course.

At least I’ll look good.

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

Still slow, but I’ve been busy

January (and the first part of February), have, predictably, been slow for work. This year, during the slow time, I read a book about tidying up. The approach of the book is a bit different that the usual ‘maximize your storage’ stuff. The author, Marie Kondo, opines that one’s clutter problems come from simply having too much fucking crap.

Since my current domicile is the size of a postage stamp, it gets cluttered very quickly, so I was about ready to try anything. I didn’t go as extreme as she recommends, but I did dump a massive amount of stuff – out-of-style clothes, brik-a-brak, about 3/4 of the re-usable shopping bags that have been  breeding on the shelf in the kitchen, shoes I can’t wear any longer, way too many bath towels (I think they were having babies, too), etc..

Not only is my place less cluttered, but since there’s a place for everything, it’s been staying uncluttered, which is really unusual for me.

The other weird thing that’s happened is I’m now very reluctant to buy anything new – clothes, shoes, kitchenware, whatever. All I can think when I look at it is that it’s going to upset the nice calm zen(ish) atmosphere I’ve got without all that goddamn crap crammed into every single crevice and cranny.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend and walked past one of those stores that sell that resort-wear I love so much. On sale. Like really on sale. And I looked, shrugged and kept walking.

Sweet.

Next up, I tackle the avalanche of old family photos. I figure I’ll scan the ones I want, send the rest to my sister, because if they’re in her house, they’re not my clutter any longer. Heh.

Filed under: life in LA, Non-Work, Off-Topic, , , , , , , , ,

The first day is always the hardest.

Over the course of the holiday season, I’ve had a little over three weeks of no work – which is to be expected, because holidays.

Many of the TV shows didn’t come back until this past Monday, and a few aren’t back until next Monday.

I spent some time back in the land of unseasonable warmth (70 degrees when it should be 30), but for most of the break I cleaned a lot of the old junk out of my apartment, organized my receipts to send to the accountant for taxes, and caught up on other stuff I needed to do when I had time.

But mainly, I divested myself of junk. Five bags of clothes and shoes went to the thrift store, old papers got shredded, kitchen crap I don’t use got donated, and all the drawers got organized.

My apartment feels much better now. Calmer. More zen, if you will.

I even organized my work bag with those pack cube things, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

And I got used to not working so much.

I got used to not wearing heavy boots.

I got used to eating healthy food and not having any coffee after 11 am.

I got used to going to bed at a decent hour, and watching the morning news.

You know, like a normal person.

Then, this morning, I got a call to come in to replace someone who called in sick, and ended up with the rest of the week booked.

Which is great, but I’m not used to all this work stuff, with the standing up and the paying attention, and the ladders. Definitely not used to the ladders.

But no one else is, either, so we all muddled through it together and somehow managed to get our day.

I’m back tomorrow. My feet will hate me.

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

I’m back!

I had to take a little break to deal with some problems personal enough to not be shared on the internet (I know, right? Weird), but I here I am again and thankfully, work seems to be picking up just as thunderstorms roll through Southern California.

The worst combination possible is a condor and thunder. Rain is fine (if a bit uncomfortable for the poor sap in the bucket), but as soon as any sort of turbo-charged static starts flying around, people get nervous.

So last night, with the predicted thunderstorms in mind, we kept an eye on the tall clouds that thankfully moved north and not west, just missing us.

Not even a drop of rain – good thing I brought my rain gear. It’s a pain in the ass to haul around two work bags, but the second one thinks “oh, it’ll be fine” and leaves the waterproof stuff at home or crew parking, that’s when the heavens open and Mother Nature’s fucked-up idea of a joke sloshes around in one’s shoes for six hours.

Last night, we were a splinter unit, shooting a couple of quick bits whenever we could get the actors from the main unit.

Since one can’t really light night exteriors until it’s dark, we placed a few lights that we all knew were going to move again, then waited for it to get dark enough to start lighting.

Then, we placed some more lights, had a run through with the stand-ins, then waited for actors.

Once the actors got there we adjusted the lighting, shot, and then waited while they went back to the main unit.

We adjusted the lighting again, then had some ice cream that our crafty guy ‘liberated’ from the main unit, then did our second bit when the actors showed up again, and then we wrapped.

The one downside was that those beautiful tall clouds is humidity.

Once the sun went down, it was a nice temperature – until we started wrapping.

The temperature didn’t change, but the act of moving around had me soaked in sweat after about five minutes, even though I still didn’t feel hot. Just sticky. Very, very sticky.

Once we got our equipment back onto the truck, we went home, at slightly under 8 hours.

A cold shower has never felt so good.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, Los Angeles, Work, , , , , , , ,

At least it’s a dry heat. Oh, wait.

After working on a show that I absolutely cannot write about (super-secret paparazzi bait) – and working 14 hour days so there was no way to do anything worth writing about besides work, I got a call to work on a cable show in Santa Clarita.

Good news: I was going against the traffic, and working with a crew of wonderful people. Bad news: It was 104 degrees, with ‘monsoon conditions’, which feels like one moved to Florida, but without the awesome Cuban food.

Lucky for us, we were on stage all day – the other unit were out in the parking lot, finishing up the previous day’s work that had to be cut short because several people had succumbed to heat-related illnesses (including one of the actors).

These stages have really powerful air-conditioning units, as they have to combat not only the external heat, but the inferno created by pumping enough electricity through large lights to power a city block.

But the air-conditioning only works when it’s turned on (insert joke here).

For some reason, this production has decided that they can’t chill the air while they rehearse. Which would be fine, except that when it’s that hot outside and we have lights burning, it takes a few minutes for the temperature in the stage to climb past 100 degrees, and the air-conditioning, when turned off for the hour or so it takes to rehearse a three page scene, just can’t catch up.

Although I don’t know the exact temperature, by lunchtime it was very, very hot on set.

Our actor  was begging for them to turn on the air during rehearsals, but no dice. Gotta keep it quiet.

At lunch, when we turned the lights off, the stage cooled off, but heated back up right afterwards.

You know the smell that wood saunas make? I can’t describe it as other than really superheated wood. That’s how the set smelled – so it was about as hot as a sauna.

Lucky for us, the director got us out of there in about 10 hours (super impressive for a 7 page day!), and I was able to crank the air in my car on the way home to my apartment.

Which is not air-conditioned, of course. But at least there are no 10ks.

 

 

Filed under: california, locations, long long drives, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

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