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

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, , , , , , , , ,

Fear and living dangerously

Work’s been busy – more so than in the past five (ish) years.

Which is a very good thing, but it’s been so dry for so long that all of us are working ourselves to a shell of what we could be had we paid attention in class.

Six hour turnaround? Sure, no problem.

Four am call two hours away? I’m there.

Three 19 hour days in a row? I love overtime. My kids don’t need me to read them a story.

In the past two months, I’ve worked as many hours as I had in the previous year (or so it feels like), and I’ve had some insanely short turnarounds – I went from one job right to another and my justification was that since I was in the condor for the first job, I could sleep.

One sleeps fitfully, at best, in a condor, so I had a few hours of shallow napping, took a shower, changed my clothes, and then worked another 14 hour day.

That, my friends, is madness, and I shouldn’t have done it as I was not able to work safely.

But I’m afraid to say no to anything.

It’s been so slow for so long and so many of us have been struggling, that we can’t really wrap our minds around the idea that it may be busy for quite some time and we can, if we like, turn down a job if we feel that we’ve just had a bit too much that week. It’ll be okay. There will be more work.

But that small part of my mind that functions as the town crier for impending disasters starts shrieking that this will be the last day I get for a long time, I won’t make my rent, and then I’ll end up face down in the gutter covered in my own filth and broken dreams.

For some reason, I believe that alarmist voice much more than I believe our call steward, who seems to think that there will be a lot of work for the next few years, at least.

I need to work on that. I’d love to be able to take a vacation and know that I’ll still have work when I come back.

That hasn’t happened in years.

For any of us.

Filed under: hazardous, humor, life in LA, locations, long long drives, Los Angeles, , , ,

More trains, fewer chickens.

After an 11 hour turnaround (reduced to 9 because of the hour commute each way), we were back in the rail yard.

Thankfully, today was just trains. Only trains. No chickens.

I checked.

The day went a bit easier, as we were in a different part of the rail yard and we had much better footing, so walking wasn’t quite as much of a challenge.

Most of our work was inside a train, and since we only had power on one side of the tracks, we had to run cable across the tracks – of course, any time a train had to move we had to disconnect the lights and wrap the cable back to clear the tracks.

This almost drove the gaffer nuts as we were working with HMI lights that need about 20 minutes to cool down before they’ll turn on again.

I’m nervous about crawling under a train, even if it’s not moving, so I kept trying to throw cable all the way across the track so I didn’t have to put my upper body under the car. To do this, I had to kneel in the dirt, but I was going to be covered in it by the end of the day no matter what I did.

We had a much shorter day today, as it was our last day in the rail yard, so all departments would have to wrap to the trucks.

It wasn’t possible to get the truck close to the set, and it wasn’t possible to get the carts over the tracks, so we had to push the carts down a ramp into the street (that we didn’t have a permit to use – whoops). Our boss finally got a stake bed, which made things much easier and we got the truck loaded in about an hour, which was really good.

Once again, I’d forgotten to bring clean clothes (left them in a bag next to the front door), so I drove home all dusty and then had a nice hot shower. It’s never felt so good.

I’m off tomorrow and then I have a stage rig on another show Thursday and Friday.

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, long long drives, Work, , , , ,

What? I can’t hear you

At the same time we’re running cable in the perms, construction are, well, constructing.

Although there’s no video, this is audio of three different saws plus the shouts of co-workers desperately trying to communicate.

Oddly enough, the one saw that was making me insane (teeth grinding, ears ringing) seems to be outside the decibel range that the phone can record. It’s that very low rumbling noise.

Welcome to the rigging crew. At least we managed to get the really loud radio turned off.

Earplugs aren’t an option as I have to be able to hear my co-workers and rigging crews don’t have walkies (on The Island, we had earplugs over the walkie headsets and those heavy-duty headphones for shooting ranges over that. Still didn’t work, though).

I ended up wadding up napkins from the cafe and shoving them in my ears, and they worked surprisingly well. The noise level went from “I’m going to kill someone” to “It’s loud, but I’m okay”, and I still managed to hear my boss, so all was well.

Have I mentioned how super happy I am to be working?

In much more important news, the cat is fine.  She’s holding down her overpriced cat food with overpriced quail eggs on top (don’t judge – she’s the kitty equivalent of 90, so every calorie counts and a chicken egg is too much since I don’t want to scrub down the litter box every day), and walking on my face while I’m trying to sleep.

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

Some interim reading for you

Since I’m currently unemployed and the blog has been very, very boring, I thought that I’d recommend some light reading written by a friend of mine which I just know will make up for my general suckiness (no pun intended).

Carly Milne , who has link over there to the right, has written a book about her time working in porn. Carly was a publicist (which I didn’t even know pornos needed) and has some hilarious stories to  tell. She’s fabulous, and we all need to work together so she can finally buy that 24 carat pool boy she’s always wanted.

Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DCJZ4MU

My one foray into lighting for a porn was, well, interesting. It was well before I got into the union and couldn’t afford to be picky about jobs (“Porn set on an un-airconditioned stage in the Valley for not much more than gas money? Sure!”).

To be fair, I currently can’t be all that picky about jobs, but it’s totally not the same thing. At all.

I’m sure the plot (what there was of it) was the same as in any other porn and honestly all I remember was the broiling hot stage and one of the women telling us that one of her implants was leaking silicone into her body, but she couldn’t get them removed because then she wouldn’t work.

Also, in retrospect, the craft service table was unacceptably carb-laden.

You can buy the book for the low, low price of $2.99, or, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow it for free.

Either way, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

Filed under: Non-Work, Off-Topic, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Retro(ish) Friday Photo

From the Flickr archives:

Fake blood dispenser

What’s the best way to drip fake blood (corn syrup and food coloring) over a set? Why, with a repurposed ‘maple’ syrup dispenser which once held a product also made from corn syrup and food coloring.

The fake blood is harmless, but very, very sticky. And nearly impossible to get out of your hair.

How do I know this?

Please enjoy a bonus photo from back in the days before digital, when we used Polaroids:

Bloody!

Bloody!

That, my friends, is a largish puddle of fake blood from a low-budget horror movie which, to the best of my knowledge, was never released.

There was so much blood that we had to clean the cable before we sent it back to the lamp dock – since production wouldn’t pay for a pressure washer, we had to use a kiddie pool. We wrapped the syrup covered cable, then dropped the coils into the kiddie pool and scrubbed.

By the end of the day I looked like a serial killer, my hair was sticky and matted with fake blood and although I had no groceries I was afraid to stop anywhere on the way home.

The place in the back of the car where I dumped the wet clothes for the drive home was stained red until I got rid of the car.

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

You dropped a bomb on me

Yesterday’s location was an abandoned furniture store in one of LA’s many overbuilt suburbs – our director, after surveying the half empty shopping mall and the few customers circling the vast parking lot like vultures,  referred to the place as ‘one exit too far’.

Although the actual store which housed our set was really big, there was one problem – lingering farts left by.. someone.  All would be well and I’d be going about my day and then I’d walk into the fallout of a gastric war zone.

At one point, I asked local 80 goddess: “does this whole building smell like a fart”?

“No, it’s little pools of farts.”

“Oh, good. I thought it was my imagination.”

At first, we thought it might be the production company’s air conditioning guy – the large portable studio A/C units get parked outside the building and the cool air is moved through the set via flexible ducts that lay on the floor (often running right through our staging area, meaning we have to step over a 24″ round pipe while carrying heavy equipment, but that’s a different story).

As the shoot moves to different areas around the building, the A/C guy has to re-run the tubes – bending over and stretching the flexible tubes out, so it seemed a reasonable assumption, but the smell was pervasive when he was outside the building at craft service, so no go on that idea.

Then, we thought that it might be someone who was sitting outside near the ac intake vent and farting  but the smell wasn’t coming out of the tubes, which we figured out after a game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ to determine who had to stick their head in the tube and breathe deeply.

After polling the rest of the crew, we decided that it was someone doing a “drive by”.  Gas, on set, can be used as a weapon. Load up on beans*, walk by target, let loose, walk away.

The targets of drive bys are normally fairly predictable – someone who’s being a prick but who can’t leave the set or the video village area: director, DP, producer, actor.  Normally, when someone in Grip or Electric farts, it gets mentioned on the walkie, but since there was radio silence, none of us had any ideas.

The gas continued throughout the day, and we never figured out who was doing it or  the intended target.

We never figured out who it was, or the intended target – if anyone.  I guess sometimes gas is just gas.

*I’ve been told that the best ammunition for a drive by is a hard boiled egg and a Dr. Pepper.

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

And the days keep slipping by.

 Part of the problem of being totally unemployed with no work prospects coming down the pipe is inertia – seems that the less I have to do, the less I’m able to do. I sink into a sort of slug-like state where it’s a Herculean effort just to haul myself up off the couch at all, and going to the gym feels like a grueling expedition to some far-off place.

When there’s work, I get a lot of stuff done because I know I only have the one day (or two days) to squeeze in everything – I get up, get moving and start going down the list of stuff (gym, laundry, projects, etc…)

Since my immediate future is a blank slate of nothing there’s no urgency to do anything. That, and I’m broke.

Well, not completely broke yet, but unemployment are dragging their feet about cutting me a check so I can’t even go out and do anything that costs any money (a great source of amusement which costs money is hanging out in Z-list celeb infested holes on weeknights. It’s way more entertaining – in a train wrecky kind of way – than anything that’s on TV. Really, now. Who raises these people? Wolves?). I’ve got some movie passes to some theaters, but everything I want to see is playing somewhere that doesn’t take the passes I bought at Universal the last time I worked there. Dammit.

At some point the awards season screenings will start, but I’m not even sure how many of those I’m going to care about enough to haul my ass outside.

I’d start squawking about a deal between the writers and the producers needing to happen, but honestly at this point it doesn’t matter – by now just about everyone’s scrapped the remainder of the season (it’s just a 4th quarter loss, after all), so I, at least, am completely fucked and not in a happy way.

Speaking of fucked in a happy way, the only romantic prospect on the horizon is a guy who… get ready for it… is in jail for DUI.

Him: “Can I call you when I get out of jail?”

Me: (heavy sigh) “Sure, why not?”

Friend (after hearing this): “Are you insane? He’s a drunk!”

Me: “Yeah, but he’s got all his teeth. That counts for something, right?”

On the vacation recap, the next couple of days consist of us getting hopelessly lost and swearing a lot. Someone – and I think it might have been me – actually burst into tears at one point.

Here’s some photos:

This was the first sunny day of the trip at the Chateau Chenonceau

Clouds above Chenonceau

View of Chateau Chenonceau

This is the town of Montrichard. Everything was closed because it was lunchtime in November.

Montrichard was closed

Montrichard Fountain

Montrichard Roses

On the bright side, I just did all my holiday shopping by ordering prints off Flickr.

Filed under: Nikon, Non-Work, Photos, travel, , , , , , , , , , ,

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