Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Thanksgiving vacation

I don’t know if I really wanted to go camping over the holiday or if I just wanted to escape the empty apartment, but either way I had a good time in the Mojave desert. Please enjoy some photos:

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Sand dunes. In case you were wondering, climbing a 600 foot sand dune is really hard.

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Footprints. According to the chart in the ranger station, they were made by a shrew.

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Burnt tree at sunrise

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Rock formations and cliffs

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Cactus

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Petroglyphs

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Joshua Tree

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Inside a lava tube

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Desert sunrise

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

It takes some getting used to

Last night was my first time going up in the condor in almost a year. Although I’m not normally too terribly afraid of heights, it does take me a bit to adjust to being in a lift after extensive periods of time spent on terra firma.

We were shooting on a Y-shaped studio lot street, so we used three condors. Mine was the lowest, armed out over the intersection, mimicking various streetlights. This had two advantages. It kept me lower, so there was less adjustment panic, and since I was a few feet below the tops of the facades, I was sheltered from the wind (spring has not yet sprung here in Los Angeles, so it’s still a bit brisk at night, especially up in the air).

The other two condors, at opposite ends of the street, were ‘full stick’ (meaning they were at full extension of 80 feet, almost straight up) and at the mercy of the wind and fog.

At least it didn’t rain, but the billowing clouds did make for some entertaining nighttime viewing:

Misty night in the air

The operators in the other two condors told me that the wind died down after about an hour, so everyone had an easy night.

Most terrifying night in a condor ever was the night I was armed out over the LA river for an elaborate car chase scene – my base was on one of the bridges and my bucket was full stick, so the distance to ground was about 200 feet. Adding to the terror spawned by an overactive imagination was a windy night and a very ‘bendy’ condor arm (some of the arms flex more than others).

At the end of the night I think I might have kissed the ground.

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

Friday Photo

Wet Down

For some reason, the accepted visual language of the movies means that all streets are wet at night. Anywhere, anytime, any place. Night = wet street.

Which is fine. These visual cues help movie viewers to figure out time and place without tiresome dialogue about it (“We’re going to go outside at night!” “Swell!”).

To achieve wet streets takes water. On location, it’s water trucks, but on studio lots they use hoses to spray the street with water right before we shoot.

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

But it’s a dry heat

“Someone said it might be too hot for the goat to work.”

Of course, we were shooting outdoors on what was predicted to be one of the hottest days of the year. In Griffith Park, which can be either nice and breezy or an intolerable furnace depending on one’s location.

Our first location was nice and breezy. No shade, but right in the wind so not too bad. Also, it was 7 am, and although it was getting warm, it wasn’t anywhere near scorching. Yet. All we were doing was rigging a process trailer, and then we’d leave the gaffer and one juicer to babysit while the rest of us went to rig.

Right after we got the process trailer on the road, we went  to another, less breezy location and rigged tomorrow’s set, which was shady but full of yellow jackets nesting in the muddy banks of the one creek that’s still running in the park.

Halfway through lunch is when it really started to get noticeably hot. We knew this because we were sitting outside in the heat while the network suits got to sit in the air-conditioned lunch trailer. Hey, they had a table read and had to concentrate.

After lunch we moved to our final location of the day, which was the side of a road right across from a cemetery. No shade, no wind and a construction site right next door so it was hot and dusty.  When I finally screwed up the courage to check the weather app on my phone, the temperature in downtown Burbank was 103.

The temperature at our roadside set? 107 – 41.666 C for those of you on metric.

That’s when the rumor started that the goat wouldn’t work because of the heat.

Which makes one wonder, if it’s too hot for a goat is to too hot for a film crew?  Of course, there’s no such thing as Humane Society monitors for the health and well-being of the dirty (and today, smelly) toolbelt people.

The heat felt like opening an oven door. The fans in the truck were blowing such hot air that they felt like standing in front of a heater. Even the cooling tents equipped with giant misters that production had rented weren’t really helping once a certain heat threshold had been passed, but I have no idea what the number was. 102? 105? 106? It all melted together into hot and miserable.

I started to fantasize about diving into the ocean off McMurdo Station. In the winter.

“But Peggy”, I hear you thinking “in the winter, the ocean there is frozen so you’d just lay there on the ice and get freezer burn with the penguins.”

Fine. That would be just fucking fine.  Throw me a goddamn Popsicle while I’m down there and I’ll be just ducky, thanks.

Lucky for us we didn’t have to do much lighting, so we could mostly cower in what little shade was cast by the trucks. I kept pouring water over my head to cool off and my hair would go from soaking wet to bone-dry in about two minutes. Also, for some reason, the sunblock washed off of my chin, but not the rest of my face, so now I’ve got what looks like a big red chin bindi. Or a giant pimple.

Awesome.

Then, right about 6 pm, on the last shot of the day when it had cooled down to a relatively brisk 102, the goat worked.

So I guess now we know at what temperature a goat can work.

I managed to get enough water in me that I kept having to pee, and took some electrolyte tablets every couple of hours so right now I don’t have that feeling like I’ve been beaten with a pillowcase full of doorknobs.

Lucky for me, I’m rigging on the stage tomorrow, so although it’ll still be hot (they don’t turn on the stage air conditioning if no one’s shooting), I’ll be out of the sun.

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

Yay work! Pass the ice water.

I’m always happy to get a day of work, but lately I’m downright joyful, even if I’m working somewhere that’s going to make me very, very uncomfortable, such as Pasadena.

In case you’re not familiar, Pasadena is east of Los Angeles, and, in the summer, is hotter than the surface of the sun.  No, I’m not exaggerating.

Our call time was 6 am, which meant there was no traffic, so I got there in about 20 minutes, and then had another 20 minute van ride up to the top of a hill in a park I didn’t know existed.

Of course, the director changed the location of the first shot to a part of the park that hadn’t been scouted at all – so right when they were ready to start rehearsing, the sprinklers came on.

Then, the sun came up.

The heat was tolerable as long as one stayed in the shade, but any venture into the sun resulted in a very uncomfortable frying sensation.

After the first half of the day in the park, we moved to a home in Pasadena. A very lovely hillside home with a very lovely view of the city.

A hillside home, though, means that we have to push our carts up a hilly driveway and fight with all the other departments for level ground on which to stage equipment. In this case, it was a parking deck which, on the scout, it was determined we’d never, ever see so it was, in theory, safe.

Of course, as soon as he walked on set, the director decided that the parking deck was the best looking part of the stunning mid-century modern home and that he absolutely had to have the shot include it.

So, we pushed our carts back down the hill.

The good news is that the home was on an east-facing hill, so the yard was out of the worst of the sun. The bad news was we were shooting day for day so the east facing home would lose any usable light far earlier than we were going to finish shooting.

So, when we were finished shooting in the direction of the parking deck, we pushed our carts back up the hill.

Which was a good thing, since as we lost the light we started pulling out the HMIs to create light that was dissapearing behind the hill.

Once the light started to go, the director kicked it into high gear and we finished just as it was getting really, truly dark.

Then, we had to wrap out of the house – which was fine as the heat, finally, was gone.

Cruelest moment of the day: The pool. One can never, ever, EVER jump into a pool at a location. Firstly, because the homeowner doesn’t want a sweaty film crew clogging up the filters, and secondly, because one doesn’t want to work in wet clothes, but when one is really overheated the sight of an empty swimming pool is pure torture.

Oh, sweet cold water.. how I want you.

Call time: 6 am:

Wrap time 7:30 pm.

We closed our truck doors at 8 pm.

Yay work!

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

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