Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

From one extreme to the other

Monday, I was working the shooting set, so I showed up early, dosed up on free coffee, and then stood in the air conditioning (the stage was so cold I needed a sweater to keep from shivering) and walked lights around at the gaffer’s direction. The set was a slow one – hard to get into, hard to move around once inside, no place to stage lights within easy reach, so we did a bit of running, but still…

That air conditioning was awesome, and our gaffer and DP both understood about the access problems, so there were no ‘impatient moments’ all day.

Since Monday was the last day of shooting, I got invited back to wrap the stage, which was a good thing – nice guys on the crew and a stage so close to my house I can bike to work.

Originally, production wanted to wrap the entire stage in two days with two guys – luckily, they were shamed by the derisive laughter into giving us three days with four guys (that, and the production office is on a stage that was a very difficult and slow wrap, so they were more than likely already watching and re-thinking), which allows us to finish in time without killing ourselves (remember: haste makes injury).

The first day, we wrapped all the loose stuff on the floor (lamps, distro, etc..) and took down all the lamps and hardware from the pipe grid (luckily, no vertigo moments for me).

Today we realized just how lucky we were to get the extra days and extra guys when we went up in the perms and saw exactly how much cable was there – when you see a light hanging above a set, there’s a lot of cable associated with said lamp (enough to run across the perms from the ‘can’ to the lamp and then down to where the lamp’s hanging, usually right above the set. Average cable to hanging lamp ratio for stages that have power available in the perms is 150 – 200 feet. If there’s no power upstairs, then double that as the power will have to run from the ground up to the perms, then across and down again), but what we saw was bordering on overkill – and not laid out neatly either – this stuff looked like Medusa’s hair on a windy day. Twisted, knotted, piled up randomly – someone at some point had tried to make space on the floor by tying bunches of cable to the knee rail every five feet, which meant that we had to walk along while bent over and cut the ties before we could even start to wrap.

Normally, we wrap the stuff on top first and then work our way down, but when it’s not possible to find the top, we just have to pull.

One selects a cable, pulls like hell and if the cable doesn’t move at all (or if it moves a teeny bit and that vein in the forehead blows out from the strain), then one chooses another cable and pulls like hell.

Repeat until at least two colleagues have been tripped and mess is untangled enough to tell what’s what and then pull like hell again – only with more precision.

Did I mention that it’s currently about 90 degrees outside and all the heat in an un air-conditioned stage rises to the roof? We were all completely soaked in sweat within a few minutes, so we were all very happy to come down at lunch. Not so much to eat – a meal followed by wrapping cable in the heat in a bent-over position leads to a terrible mess that looks absolutely nothing like Medusa’s hair on a windy day, but more to get a break and walk upright for half an hour or so.

I wasn’t hungry, but was afraid not to eat at all, so I had the filling of about a quarter of a sandwich and an iced tea. I normally don’t drink really cold drinks (they hurt my fillings), but today the ice-cold felt so good I didn’t care.

Then, we went back up the the perms and finished wrapping the cable. After lunch, we had an extra guy who had been on the cluster fuck that was the other stage (and who came over to help us after they were done over there instead of going home and relaxing) and we went much faster with the extra person. We managed to get everything in the perms wrapped.

Tomorrow, we’ll lower it all down to the floor (one coil at a time, using rope because although this particular stage does have hoists available, production won’t rent one for us) and then check it in when the rental house guys show up.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

Back again after all this time

For the past two days (Wednesday and today), I’m working on a show that I’ve not worked on for almost two years. In the interim, they’ve completely changed crews (twice, I hear), although they’re still on the same stages in Hollywood.

The sets are still the same, but the stash points and staging areas have all changed, so I’m not that familiar with the stages or this crew’s slang terms for things (every crew has their own lingo and on some crews that lingo is more, um, obtuse than on others), but I managed to get through the day yesterday, although we’re on a different stage today and I’m finding myself having trouble navigating through this particular set, so I’m doing a lot of set up work at the carts (when the gaffer calls for a light, I’ll pull it off the cart and get it ready and then hand it off to someone who’s capable of running the rat maze of a hospital set more quickly than I am).

The ‘new’ crew are all really nice, plus, there’s enough of us that we’re not getting worked half to death – and since we’re in a stage with wifi all day and not moving too much I was hoping to catch up on some internets.

That’s probably not going to work out, though. This DP’s a “tweaker”. This means he’s always adding and moving lights up until the last minute (and sometimes between takes) so I’m not getting to sit down very much. This is opposed to the show I’ve been working on (and hence have gotten used to), where once they’ve declared the scene ‘lit’, they walk away (most of the time – everyone changes something at the last minute sometimes).

This is actually not a bad thing – this particular stage is so vigorously air conditioned that it feels like a meat locker. Every time I sit down, I get really cold since I didn’t bring a jacket with me (I usually don’t when I’m working inside all day), so really moving around is the better choice.

My stomach is feeling much better, although I’m still not eating much due to about three million canker sores which have suddenly appeared in my mouth – this makes eating rather painful, and today the caterer served Mexican food, which I can assure you is not something to be avoided when one has a mouth full of sores.

Tomorrow, I’m on another show, and since we’re going to be here until at least 10 pm I’m hoping once again to get lucky on the turnaround time.

UPDATE: Of course, every single morsel of food that’s been on the craft service table today has been loaded with salt. Second meal tonight is Italian food which I’m not going anywhere near. It hurts just to think about it.

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

April 2023

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"If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." -Anne Lamott

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