Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

It’s beginning to look a lot like I’m not sure what.

Normally, fall is a very busy time of year – production cranks up and I bounce around between TV shows and movies and while I’m tired, it’s all good as I’m on a mission to bank cash for the lean months that follow the holidays.

Except this year. This year, it’s dead when it should be busy. Since no one knows if SAG are going to strike or not, nothing is starting up right now out of fear of being shut down. There are no movies shooting right now, and many of the TV shows are going down early and taking extended breaks.

Of course, the producers are saying SAG are unreasonable, and SAG are saying the producers won’t talk.

Guess who I believe?

Tomorrow, a federal mediator comes out to try to salvage… something, but no one I know has much hope.

In the interest of not having a poverty-line Christmas this year, I’d like to offer my mediation services.

Bring me the SAG reps and the person who’s ‘negotiating’ for the producers and lock us in a room. No sleepy time, no bathroom breaks, no food.

Also, I’ll need the following items:

Three rolls of duct tape.

Two sets of those unbreakable golf clubs (with extra drivers).

One police-issue taser.

An unlimited supply of air cartridges.

One box of cookies (no, they’re not for me. Bad thoughts = pain. Good thoughts = cookie. Even producers need occasional positive reinforcement).

Using my patented method*,  I will guarantee a contract agreement in 48 hours.

Of course, I suppose I’ll also need immunity from prosecution and/or two suitcases full of hundreds and a fake passport.

You know where to find me if that federal mediator dude doesn’t work out.

*violates Geneva Conventions

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , ,

Surprise!

For quite some time, I’ve been anxious all the time but didn’t think anything about it as just about everyone I know is anxious right now (thanks a bunch SAG), but over the past few days I’ve started to have panic attacks.

Panic attacks, in case you’ve never had one, are like a fight-or-flight reaction gone horribly wrong. It’s that thready adrenaline rush you get when you almost have a car accident or the plane drops 1,000 feet without warning crossed with the screaming heebie jeebies of a horror movie. Times 10. For some reason, mine seemed to be much worse at night, to the point that I was averaging about three hours of sleep.

So yesterday, I went to see the doctor and he prescribed some medication (which I won’t name because if I do I’ll get several hundred spam trackbacks), plus some different sleeping pills since the ones I had couldn’t stand up to Captain Midnight Freakout. When I stepped across the lobby to fill the prescription, the pharmacist told me that my insurance had been cancelled.

This was unexpected, to say the least.

We have to work 300 hours per semester in order to keep our insurance, but any excess hours can be put into a bank so that if we do come up short for some reason (like being out of work for four months because of a strike), we can pull hours out of the bank so as not to lose our insurance. Right before the writer’s strike, my bank was completely full, and I did get some work during the semester, so I figured I’d qualified and when I didn’t get anything in the mail I thought they were just being slow about sending me the new cards and forgot about it.

Turns out, I didn’t work enough hours and had to pull out of my bank. This, I’m learning, does not happen automatically – they send you a letter asking you if you’d like to pull from your bank and guess who didn’t get hers?

Yup. I never got the letter, so I never even thought to call and ask about my status. Also, as it turns out they don’t send any kind of notice when they cancel your insurance. They just kick you off.

The pharmacist has clearly dealt with this problem (and the accompanying outburst) before. She just calmly told me to give them her fax number and fax over that form that I never got in the mail so I could sign it and they could restart my coverage.

Which they did, and then I sat and waited for them to fax the pharmacist back letting her know that all was good and she could fill my prescription.

And I sat. And sat. And sat.

Finally, I called the office back and reached a very frazzled-sounding woman who informed me that they might or might not be able to do it that day, basically told me to fuck off and then hung up on me.

Normally, this would have bothered me, but I wouldn’t have started to cry.

Which, of course, is exactly what I did. Right there in front of a dozen people in the clinic’s lobby.

I hate it when I start to cry. Some women manage to just look sad and kind of moist, but not me – my face gets all red and blotchy, my nose starts running like a faucet, and I get these hiccups which make it impossible to speak coherently.

I guess it worked out, though – as I stood there by the window of the pharmacy, blotchy and blubbering and hiccuping the pharmacist gave me the prescription, charged me the normal co-pay and told me that they’d call me if Motion Picture hadn’t updated my status by late this afternoon.

Now, I’m an adult and I’m certainly not asking to be mollycoddled by an insurance company, but what the fuck?

Why couldn’t they just send me a notice informing me that I was going to be dropped? Or how about one of those creepy automatic phone messages? One of those would have been great (“Hello _health plan participant_ this call is to inform you that your _motion picture_ insurance will terminate on _July first_ unless we hear from you about your _bank of hours withdrawal_. Thank you”), and I hear those autodialers aren’t all that expensive.

The postal delivery in Los Angeles isn’t quite as reliable as we’d like, so there’s a chance the bank of hours notice that I was supposed to get is sitting in the mailbox of some abandoned house somewhere, or being digested by the mailman-eating pitbull on the next street over (he doesn’t eat the actual letter carrier, he just chases them and then when they drop the bag full of mail, he eats that. He’s also developed an immunity to pepper spray. And people wonder why I don’t get my mail half the time).

I should be considerably more upset about this than I am, though – if the insurance company decides not to update my info until, say, next Thursday, I’m going to get a bill for the full price of the medication and the doctor’s office visit, but I’m pretty calm right now.

I’m also calm about the news that martinis are now off-limits (as is all other alcohol) while I’m on the meds. Since I do love a good martini, this should make me sad, but somehow it doesn’t.

Guess that means the medication’s working.

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

Trade-offs

I hate turning down work from best boys who call me regularly. What’s happened to me more than once is that said best boy decides that since I’m never available, he (or she) just isn’t going to bother even trying anymore.

This is a total burn as by the time I’m off whatever I was on that was keeping me too busy to come in and work, I’ve been replaced on the call list by someone else – and folks have a list that they go down when they have work. The higher up on that list one’s name is, the more often one gets work calls.

So, as much as I hated to do it, I had to turn down an offer of a day on a fairly regular gig Friday because of numbers.

It was for a one day call, and since the show I’m currently working for shoots on a lot which gives hiring priority to their own people, were I to lay myself off for that one day to go do another show, I’d probably not be able to get back on so I’d be giving up the five days of work I’ve currently got (on a lot that’s so close to my house I don’t have to drive and use expensive gas) for one day on another show.

Normally, I’m not hesitant to give up two days for one or to work for a lower rate if it’s someone who calls me regularly – the trade off being that I continue to be on that person’s call list and maintain relationships so I make more money in the long run.

But five days is a lot of money, and with a SAG strike looming, I’m in mercenary mode. Right now, it’s all about the money and my banking as much of it as I possibly can before I’m once again unemployed and watching news coverage of picket lines from the comfort of my living room.

If the SAG strike doesn’t happen after all (something we’re all desperately hoping), I’d love to have enough money by the end of the year to buy a car. I had enough right before the WGA strike, but had to use it to keep a roof over my head instead (before the comments about my extravagant lifestyle commence: not a new car. A new-to-me car).

Hmm.. I wonder if I can use the “you put me out of work” guilt to get John August to buy me a car.

Probably not worth the effort. I’m guessing it’s going to be much easier to guilt one of the actors.

Filed under: Work, , , , ,

The logic escapes me.

I miss so much of the off-camera drama when I day-play*. This may or may not be a good thing.

Today, I noticed that this particular show’s lead actor was listed on the call sheet under a fake name. Although I’ve seen this a few times on movies starring whichever unfortunate soul is the current paparazzi whipping boy (or girl), I’ve never once seen it on a TV show.

Of course, I asked my boss about it.

Turns out, said actor had a stalker who bluffed his (or her – the stalker’s gender wasn’t specified) way onto the lot and harassed the poor guy. So production, in an attempt to foil the stalker and protect the actor decided to give him a fake name on the call sheet (they also beefed up security and moved his trailer to a less accessible location).

Setting aside the fact that someone who’s savvy enough to be able to get onto a studio lot is going to be able to figure out the little bit of call-sheet subterfuge in about 15 seconds, is that the best you people can do nowadays? Have we, as a nation, really become so unimaginative?

Of all the people in the world to stalk, you pick an actor ? Come on.

I don’t have anything against actors per se (longtime readers will remember that I used to date one), but really – as a group they’re just not that interesting. Trust me on this one.

When I mentioned something to that effect, a co-worker asked which person I’d stalk, were I so inclined.

We got called to deal with some on-set emergency or other before I could answer, but after giving it some thought I’m fairly certain I’d stalk Henry Kissinger.

It would be fun! I’d sneak into his house and tape pictures of Cambodian children maimed by land mines to his bathroom mirror, call him up at 3 am and make some sort of bad wordplay using the word ‘junta’ (hey, it’s easier than Pinochet), sign him up for Noam Chomsky’s email list, maybe periodically FedEx him a box containing little models of the Eiffel Tower, tiny plush-toy condors (if Gund doesn’t make those, they should start) and a scrawled note on stained paper about knowing what he did last summer (or something).

Plus, I speak German so I can harangue him in his native language, too. You know, just to keep things interesting.

Everybody wins!

Yes, I realize this less of a stalking and more of a grudge (and/or terrorizing of a parenthetical war criminal with one foot in the grave), but really, are they all that different?

Both are emotionally unhealthy and a waste of energy which could be used for something productive.

On the other hand, SAG will soon go on strike and I’ll have nothing but time on my hands. All I’ll need then is a plane ticket, a tube of lipstick and a plastic wrapped…

Oh, never mind. I’d rather stay home and paint the kitchen.

*Day players aren’t permanent crew on any one show. They work a day here and a day there on different shows.

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

Okay, I promise I’ll stop freaking out. For now.

Today I got a very important piece of mail – the statement from the pension and health plan which tallies my qualifying hours for the previous semester.

As previously mentioned, we have to work at least 300 hours every semester in order to keep our health insurance – we can ‘bank’ hours in excess of 300 (up to 450), so we have an emergency pad just for times like this (although just about everyone I know desperately wants to avoid having to pull hours out of the bank).

Last semester, I worked 760 hours, so even if half of them are retroactively disqualified due to our good friends at Axium, I’m still okay, and since my bank’s full I’ll at least have insurance for the next year, even if the unthinkable happens and I don’t work until June or July (remember SAG? They have contract negotiations coming up in a few months and they’re also tired of getting screwed by The Man).

Thank heavens. Of course, possibly losing 400 pension hours is going to matter a great deal to me when I’m 105 and running out the clock while trying to avoid the jobs which will require me to pull cable 14 hours a day*, but for now it prevents the total meltdown that I was working myself into.

On a happier (if unrelated) note, last night I went to a free screening of the movie Once (which I really liked), and then on the way out of the theater, stopped by the Virgin Megastore which is closing (word on the street is that the landlord jacked up the rent – there seems to be a rash of that happening all over Los Angeles these days), and took advantage of the half-off sale to pick up the new Radiohead CD. I don’t normally buy CDs because of that thing that they do where there are only two good songs and the rest are crap, but Radiohead (if they’re your thing) seem to be consistently good.

I figured I could spare the 8 bucks because I haven’t driven the car in almost a week, which means that I’ve not spent 50 bucks on a tank of gas.

*Actually, since I didn’t get into the union until I was almost 30, the chances that I’ll be able to work enough to qualify for full retirement are slim to none.

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

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