Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Oldie Friday Photo

How to instantly ‘brickify’ a wall:

Set Wall

The ‘bricks’ are sheets of vacuformed plastic that is painted after it’s attached to the wall.

It looks just like real brickwork, even up close.

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

After the rain

Line drying

Since it’s almost never a good idea for lighting equipment to get wet, when there’s the threat of rain (or heavy dew overnight) we have to cover, with plastic, any carts and loose equipment not under some sort of cover.  For a long time, we just cut chunks off big rolls of landscaping plastic and wrapped that around the carts (and no matter how thorough a job one thought one had done, water always leaked in somewhere), but then someone invented these giant sandwich bag things called Bag-its. They come in all sizes and are super awesome, but are far too expensive to be considered a throwaway item, so they get re-used until they’re so battered that they fall apart (this takes a surprisingly long time to happen).

For obvious reasons, we can’t fold them up and put them away when they’re wet, so we have to dry them. The best way to do this is to suspend them from two stands like giant lines of plastic laundry.

We had to keep the sidewalk clear so that the nice people who live in this neighborhood could pass through, so we couldn’t just line them up like we usually do, and we only had enough space to dry three at a time.

Lucky for us there’s no rain predicted for the rest of our very short (due to the Thanksgiving holiday) week.

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

Friday Photo

Full Moon

Balloon lights – one lit, one not. These are helium balloons with lights inside of them (hence the name) and they do a very good job of imitating moonlight.  You have to keep them away from trees on windy nights, though, or they pop.

Filed under: locations, Photos, up all night, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

Wattage label

Although household light bulbs come from the factory labelled, good luck reading that label in near darkness on a stage while you’re in a hurry because there’s a burn out and the gaffer’s yelling at you on the walkie because they need a replacement Right. Now.

So, we label the bulb with a marker so it’s easier to see. Obviously, this particular bulb is a 60 watt.

Oh, and that whole thing about no more tungsten light bulbs? We can still get them.

Filed under: Photos, 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, , , , , ,

Friday Photo

All stands come in two versions – regular and low. Regular stands, at the lowest point, are about four (ish, I’ve never measured) feet high.  Should one desire to have the light lower than that, one must use the ‘low’ version of the stand, which is pictured here.

This is a ‘low crank’, which is used for large, heavy lights – the crank makes it easier to raise and lower them.

Low cranks are also used for large lamps that aren’t all that heavy, but are a pain in the ass to carry around – since the low crank has wheels, one can just drag the giant lamp around instead of straining one’s back and the credibility of the set lighting department.

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

Friday Photo

Background slash of light

In the background of just about every night scene in every movie or TV show you’ve ever seen is The Slash.

It’s the thin diagonal line of light that highlights curtains, walls, blinds, trees, shrubbery and slow-moving extras.

The Slash is one of those things that has no base in reality at all, but looks really nice and brightens up the background in an interesting way so everybody does it.

Should you be very bored and have on hand a bottle of some sort of alcohol, I recommend putting on a movie with a lot of night interiors and taking a shot each time The Slash makes an appearance.

On second thought, maybe not. You might not make it to the end of the movie.


Filed under: movies, Photos, Work, , , , , ,

Fun with crustaceans

Friday’s work involved a  scene with crabs. Not the kind you get from a cheap date, but the kind that scuttle across the beach when you try to catch them.

The scene as written  involved an actor lifting some debris and having the revealed crabs scuttle away thus making some sort of plot point or something.

I’m sure it seemed like a good idea in the production meeting, but the problem is that this particular type of crab, when they’re frightened, freeze and play dead until the predator or actor moves away.

As you can probably imagine, being dumped into a set and having a bright light shined on them scares the bejesus out of crabs. So when the debris was lifted and my co-worker hit them (not literally) with the light, they froze and just sat there despite all best efforts to get them to do something. Anything.  They were so scared that when they were dumped back into their bin, they still refused to move. Or, they could have actually been dead. The crab wrangler wasn’t 100% certain.

After many, many failed attempts to get the terrified (or dead- remember we couldn’t really tell) crabs to scurry, the director gave up and decided he was okay with them just sitting there.  Which was fine (except for the maybe dead part. That’s terrible and I care deeply. I swear) because the crabs’ recalcitrance turned a 9 hour day into a 12 hour day. Go crabs!

The overtime was a good thing, because this was the last scheduled day of the season for our unit (there may a few more days, but they aren’t scheduled), so at least we’ll go out with a decent check.

Over the weekend, I went and saw some more wild flowers – those of you who recommended the side of the highway were spot-on. The flowers there were much better than in the super crowded poppy reserve.

Poppies and Goldfields

Field of poppies

Roadside poppies
Yesterday,  I went to the doctor to have a chat about my foot – I’m going to the podiatrist on Friday (unless, of course, I have to work) and see if he’s going to recommend surgery.

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

June 2023

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