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

Ready, Aim, Wait.

I’ve never had a producer tell me to stop working.

Today, he called a meeting and told us they may decide to shoot more in the main house. He delivered this news with the air of a man who has struggled a long time, but has finally come to terms with nothing ever making any sense ever again.

Sadly, we didn’t get that note until after we’d ripped out all the cable. Not the stuff in the flowerbeds that’s easy to reach – the cable that was run through the walls and in the crawl spaces of the house so the DP could have everything on a dimmer.

I’m noticing a trend with younger DPs – they want everything on a dimmer, all the time, even when they could use scrims. I guess that’s what they’re teaching them now in DP school, and that’s fine, but if you’re not shooting on a stage we have to put the entire location on our power – which, since houses are not built the same way sets are, means going through the very few areas of the house that aren’t visible.

In LA, that means the three-foot tall area between the rafters and the ceiling which is loosely termed an attic, or the 14 inches of crawl space under the floorboards, since the only houses here that have basements were built before the Wright Brothers took their first flight.

Since the ‘attic’ of this house is above the insulation, it gets really warm up there, and since we’re currently having unseasonable heat, it made sense to wrap that area first thing in the morning, before the space became a sauna and we made our medic do some work*.

So we’re now waiting to see if we have to re-do everything we undid.

No word on if they have to re-shoot the black glop.

*Whenever we’re on location must have a medic present. The medic is the one person on the crew that the producer doesn’t want to see doing any work – if the medic is watching Netflix or trying to stay awake, no one on the crew has been injured.

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, long long drives, Los Angeles, mishaps, 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, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s seven PM and I’m going to bed

Although long days are normal for me, there’s a huge difference between a 12 hour shooting day and a 12 hour rigging day.

On the shooting crew, there are times where one isn’t doing anything and can sit and rest (or go to crafty, or read the paper, etc…). On a rigging crew, there’s no rest except when one is on one of three designated breaks throughout the day ( coffee, lunch, and afternoon) or when one can sneak off to the restroom.

Since we’re working 6 am to 6 pm on a lot that’s all the way across town (no, really) from my place,  and I’ve got a commute on either side (about 40 minutes in the morning and an hour at night), I get up (at about 4:45), go to work, come home, shower and go to bed.

No time for much else, although last night I did sacrifice some precious sleep time to go stand in line at my polling place and vote.

I’m off to bed.

Filed under: crack of dawn, long long drives, movies, studio lots, , , ,

Crack of dark

Over the years, I’ve gotten used to getting up early. Five am is pretty common, four am sucks but is doable, but yesterday I got up at 2:45. In the morning.

In a flash of foresight unusual for me, I have the alarm placed all the way across the room so I have to get up to hit the snooze button. In theory, this means if I get up, walk across the room to turn off the alarm I’ll stay up.  Most times this just means I get up, hit the snooze button and climb back into bed, but the shock of seeing the alarm go off at such a disturbing hour kept me up.

I then shuffled into the kitchen, made coffee and had some breakfast since I correctly assumed there wouldn’t be any food options at 4 am at our location – a high school in the Valley at which I’ve worked many, many times.

The good part about starting work at 4 am is that it’s not hot yet, which is a big plus in September in Los Angeles.  We ran out our cable in the pre-dawn coolness, and although I forgot my headlamp (took it out of the work bag to change the battery, and when I got home I found it sitting right there on the coffee table where I’d placed it so I wouldn’t forget to put it in the work bag), I still managed to see well enough to not trip and fall.

We changed some tubes in the classroom and the hallway, and when the caterer opened we had breakfast.

I couldn’t figure out why I was so hungry, then realized I’d last eaten at 3 am and it was now 7:30.

After wolfing down various egg products, we rigged some lights, ran some more cable, wrapped the first location and then ran more cable in a thankfully not very smelly gym.

Also, we were very lucky that the school had no students that day. It’s not that I don’t like teenagers, it’s just that it’s incredibly difficult to work around them since they tend to form packs.

The other nice thing about really early calls is getting released early. Since this particular show doesn’t want to keep the rigging crew on for more than 10 hours, we were on our way home at 3 pm – before the traffic got bad.

Once I got home, it was a struggle to stay awake until 8, when I gave up and went to bed.

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

Yay work, part 2.

After the 14 hour heat-induced extravaganza, a nice rigging job on the lot seemed perfect.

Close to home, with a group of guys that I adore, probably a shortish day.

Although we were rigging outside and it wasn’t much cooler than it was in Pasadena, it was still much easier as if we got too hot, we could sneak inside the air-conditioned stage and stand in front of the fan and cool down.

We ran a small amount of cable, rigged a few lights, and then, when the company moved out to the set we’d rigged, we went into the stage to do some clean-up behind them.

Clean up means wrapping any cable that got run out and left there, replenishing the stinger supply at the distro boxes, replacing any burned out globes and generally getting the set in shape so that the shooting  crew just has to walk onstage and start work.

One of the regular guys told me that when they were putting the rig in for this show, production refused to buy Gatorade (TM) because it was considered a ‘specialty water’.

It should be noted that they were putting this rig in a few weeks ago when it was horribly hot, even for summer.

Welcome to the new Hollywood.

It ended up being a 10 hour day, with fantastic wonderful people, and I was only moderately overheated.
Yay work!

 

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

Back and forth

The idea was pretty simple. Since this show doesn’t have a rigging crew, a co-worker and I would come in a bit before call time today, get started rigging a set on the same stage as the shooting set, and then continue as the shooting crew came in and started work.

It would work out great, because we could rig in between working the lighting set-ups with the guys to make things move faster than usual, right?

The problem with this should be blatantly obvious – the time in between lighting set-ups is either shooting or rehearsing, and the excessive noise that comes with rigging lights (which, no matter how quietly one tries to work, makes noise)  is frowned upon in both situations.

Since we needed finish rigging a set that was scheduled to shoot the next day, this plan didn’t work out at all.

Also, this particular set had a pipe grid instead of green beds, so all rigging had to be done from a lift, which, naturally, makes a lot more noise.

So eventually we told the set guys just to call us if they really got in trouble, which, of course, they never did (“oh, no.. we’re fine. No, really. Carry on and ignore the screaming”).
Once we gave up on the whole ‘working set’ idea, we got everything done, even with having to stop working during takes and rehearsals.

This was the first time in quite some time that I’ve managed to work three days in a row, so by the end of the day my feet were aching and I was very, very glad to be done. And, of course, very, very glad for three days of work with wonderful people.

Call time: 6:30 am

Wrap time: 8:00 pm.

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

Night Two

Of course, when we showed up at work the first thing we did was split the crew – some stayed down at the beachside set to work the day exterior, and the rest of us went back up the hill to re-rig the set up from the night before.

It wasn’t as bad, since we were rigging the turn around from the first night – the original shot had been looking down the hill, so we saw (and had to light) much more than we did when the camera was aimed up the hill.

Still, we barely got finished in time, and once the shooting crew landed, everything got changed around, but this time we had more people and I was more emotionally prepared for the hard, long day, even though I started out sore and in pain from the night before.

After they finished the night exterior, the set guys went down to the beach to work the night exterior on the beach, and we stayed up top to wrap.

One of the things that is, in reality, much less wonderful that one might imagine is working on the beach.

No matter if it’s day or night, working on the beach is difficult. Sand gets everywhere, carts are useless, and the big inflatable wheels that are supposed to make lighting stands roll don’t really work as well as they’re supposed to.

Did I mention sand gets everywhere?

So I was very happy to just be wrapping – we got there, got the stuff from up the hill loaded into the truck and then wrapped cable (covered in sand, of course).

The wrap went quickly as we had the entire crew working, then we had to wait for the rental company to show up. Lucky for us, they got there half an hour early, and we were on our way home before the sun came up.

I came home, slept for a couple of hours, then got up and did something. I know I did something, I just don’t remember what.

Today, my legs are incredibly painful and my left shoulder’s stiff. I know the legs are stiff from the hill, but I’ve got no idea what’s up with the shoulder. Hopefully it’ll sort itself out in time for me to go swim.

Filed under: locations, long long drives, up all night, Work, , , , , , , , ,

When will I ever learn?

It started out innocently enough.

We were rigging a location in one of Los Angeles’  more upscale neighborhoods. I’ve believe I’ve mentioned before that the more expensive the area, the more the residents hate film crews.

Since this was to be a night shoot, we had three condors to rig with BFLs (Big Fucking Lights).

Said condors were parked on the street – the bases didn’t block anyone’s ingress, but when we had the arms lowered to load them up, the basket of one of them was right in the middle of a driveway.

We figured that since it was the middle of the day, it wouldn’t be a problem as long as we worked quickly.

Oh, so wrong.

Just after we got the arm down, a woman came charging out at us like an angry hornet, yelling at us to get that damn thing off the street.

At first we thought she was trying to get her car out of the driveway, and we explained to her that we’d raise the arm back up for her to back out, but it turns out she was getting upset about the condor base parked in front of her house (and probably the whole shoot in general).

I can’t blame her. I hate it when a fucking film crew invades my neighborhood. Bastards. Who do they think they are?

The main problem was that she wanted us to move the base of the condor, which we’d put there because our boss the Rigging Gaffer told us to do so. The Rigging Gaffer was presumably informed of condor placement by the Gaffer, who was asked to have ‘some sort of big light’ in that place by the Director of Photography.

Me? I’m just following orders. I can’t move the condor to the next house over. I’ll get yelled at and likely beaten (or something) if I start to think for myself.

In any case, crew people are not encouraged to try to problem solve when it doesn’t involve inanimate objects, so any angry homeowners must be sent to the locations people, who are all much better  at dealing with umbrage than are rigging crews.

After being told that we were looking for the locations manager, she rolled her eyes, told us that wasn’t good enough and added “Get that thing out of here or I’ll have it towed!”

I couldn’t help myself.  She stood there, glowering at me while holding her auto club card and her cell phone, poised to dial, and I responded with “I’d like to see that.”

She turned purple and accused me of mocking her, but I was serious.

I would love to see Billy Joe from BJ’s towing show up, whistling a happy tune, expecting to hitch up some Honda and finding an elevated work platform with an 80 foot boom arm. Hell, besides ‘a shitload’ I don’t even know how much those things weigh. When the rental company pick them up and drop them off, they come in a 48 foot flatbed trailer with a full-sized tractor.

Somebody please video that and upload it to YouTube. I need a good laugh.

Eventually, it all got smoothed over, after the locations guy told her I wouldn’t be back the next day (I’m on a different show and was only on a one day call). She’ll look out at the shooting crew, not see me and feel a flush of beige triumph that she got that awful toolbelt person fired.

Joke’s on her, though. She’ll still have a condor parked in front of her house.

Filed under: locations, Work, , , , ,

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