Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

On second thought, maybe don’t let it snow.

I’ve worked in all sorts of environments – asbestos-filled, slimy, stinky, smoky, rat-infested, prostitute-infested (oddly enough, not the same place), etc..

But this past week is the worst I’ve ever felt from something on set. My cough has escalated into full-blown bronchitis, and one of the actors got so sick he had to take a day off.

Needless to say, once someone important got sick production put a stop to the paper snow (which, it turns out, wasn’t movie snow, but acoustic insulation – the type that is mixed with plaster and sprayed onto ceilings).

This was a step in the right direction, but what they switched to was shredded styrofoam – and still continued to throw in front of fans because the shakers are ‘for big shows’.

This led to marginally less coughing, but a lot more itching.

I only itched a bit (as in I waited until I got home to claw my clothes off and scrub my skin raw), but two of my co-workers were driven to the brink of madness by the itching.

Instead of the inadequate mask from production, I stopped off at the hardware store and bought a better one, so yesterdays 15.5 hour cluster fuck (oh, that’s a post all on its own) left me with only a mild cough.

Today, we started the wrap, so we were only there for 8 hours – but I still wore my mask as the FX guys were sweeping up the flakes and it was really dusty.

After work, I went to swim, but was almost 15 seconds slower per 100 meters due to the difficulty breathing and the coughing.

Although it’s not being blown around any longer, the snow will continue to be a problem since it’s on (and in) everything. We’re going to have to use the compressed air to blow the stuff out of the lights we’re taking down from the pipe grid.

Outside, of course, and wearing masks.


Filed under: hazardous, toxic waste, Work, , , , , ,

Hello, heat. I didn’t miss you.

It’s time for the annual ‘fry Southern California just when we thought it was autumn’ cruel joke that masquerades as Santa Ana winds.

Temperature today in West Los Angeles? 100F. Of course, we were outside for most of the day shooting dust against a green screen. Said dust was blown across said screen by two Ritter fans, which are so powerful that they created a mini dust storm, so of course my allergies went crazy before lunch.

Heat stroke? Check.

Can’t breathe? Check.

All I needed was some sort of catastrophic intestinal distress to really round it out. Oh, wait…

For lunch, they brought us Tito’s.

For those of you not familiar with Los Angeles, Tito’s Tacos has a completely undeserved reputation for good food.

Well, I suppose it’s ‘good’ in that they can take Grade C meat (mostly circus animal, some filler) and shredded newspaper and somehow manage to make a) the ‘food’ taste only moderately horrible and b) the intestinal after effects wait until just after you think you’re going to get away with it this time.

Every time I’ve eaten tacos from Tito’s, I’ve become ill (sometimes moderately, sometimes violently) within a few hours*, but since I was hungry and there was nothing else to be had I figured I’d eat something with no circus animal.

That turned out to be a bean and cheese burrito – I tried to surgically remove as much of the cheese as possible, but I guess some stuck (or there were remnants of trained zebra in the beans), as of course, a couple of hours after eating I found myself making a very hurried trip to the ladies’ room. Also of course, said intestinal distress hit just as we were getting ready to move inside the stage.


We spent the rest of the day on the stage, which was awesome – air conditioning and proximity to toilets are wonderful things indeed.

As I write this, it’s almost 9 pm and still about 90F. I predict a cold shower in my very near future.

Tomorrow, we’re inside all day, which is good since it’s predicted to still be hot as hell through the weekend.

*Late night Tito’s has taken out entire film crews before. One is hungry, so one eats and hopes for the best, only to end up stuck on the toilet cursing the day Tito was born.

Filed under: hazardous, mishaps, studio lots, toxic waste, Work, , , , ,

Why do they ask me to repeat myself when I tell them it hurts to talk?

At work Friday night, I started to feel not so great – tickle in the throat, stuffy nose, etc.

I chalked it up to either standing all day in a stage that was air conditioned to ‘arctic tundra’ or the seasonal temperature changes around here (100 degrees one day, 65 the next. Ah, fall in Southern California).

Nope. Turns out, I was actually sick. Over the weekend.

If that’s not illegal, it should be. The winds blew all the atmospheric crap out of the sky and as the city sparkled in the clear air, I lay on the couch wheezing and failing to muster up the energy to wash my hair or find the remote so I wouldn’t have to watch golf.

That, and the corner store was sold out of the nice super-soft tissues that are coated with some sort of (probably) unholy goo but don’t rub your skin raw, so I had to get the not-so-nice tissues that felt like they were coated with bits of sawdust. Or broken glass. After a few hours, the skin around my nose was a thing of the past.

I must have been the very picture of loveliness itself. No wonder even the cat wouldn’t come near me.

I took some comfort in knowing that a large portion of Los Angeles was also sick over the weekend, and starting Sunday afternoon, an even larger portion of Los Angeles was coated in ash from the numerous fires burning.

Misery loves company, after all.

Today I ventured out mainly in search of groceries, but I also went to the gym and sat in the sauna for an hour or so in an attempt to ‘sweat it out’.  I’m not sure if it was a successful attempt, because  although I feel much better now, I sound terrible. Think about that stage right before the laryngitis really kicks in.

Everyone who’s talked to me on the phone this afternoon has been alarmed and of course have not believed my assertions about feeling pretty good.

Everyone who’s seen me in person today has actually winced and have also not believed my statements about feeling fine.

But it’s true. I still can’t breathe out of my nose, I sound like death itself and I’m coughing up bucketloads of something that should be featured prominently in a horror movie, but I feel good.

Or maybe I just felt so terrible over the weekend that I only feel comparatively good and I just can’t tell the difference.

Nope. I feel fine. Objectively fine.

Which is good, since I have to work tomorrow.

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

I really want to, but I can’t.

A sure-fire way to be certain a best boy never calls you back again is to refuse to do something, even if there’s a really good reason.

Yesterday, I was asked to go up in the condor and I had to do exactly that – over the walkie, no less.

“Um.. I’ve got a.. health situation right now that’s going to prevent me from doing that”.

One of the guys standing next to me immediately started teasing me: “What.. you got yer peeeeriod?”

Why yes, actually. That was, in fact, why I couldn’t get in a condor,  raise the basket to eye level of upper floor apartment dwelling yokels and then sit there for 10 hours. Thanks for asking.

Of course, I couldn’t actually say that, so I made some crack about not being able to get off the shitter because I’d eaten his mamma’s cooking the night before, but this was ill-timed.

Hopefully, it won’t be held against me and this particular best boy will call me back again.

Oh, well. It was probably better for me to refuse to go up than to go up and then have to come back down a few hours later.

In the ‘damn, I’m glad I wasn’t on that show’ department, one of our drivers told me another show that’s shooting a few blocks away had almost a quarter of a million dollars in cable stolen.

Since the copper market (cable is, of course, copper with a rubber coating) has skyrocketed and the scrap metal buyers downtown don’t ask any questions, unguarded cable lying around pretty much has a ‘free money’ sign on it.

Bet that security guard’s salary isn’t looking so expensive now, huh?

Filed under: locations, Work, , , ,

Third time’s a charm, I guess

I hate getting sick at work – there’s this guilt at leaving the crew a ‘man down’ if you go home, but you’re no good to anyone if you stay and continue to be sick, so the crew’s a man down anyway so why not puke (or whatever else it is that you’re having to do) in the comfort of one’s home and not in a semi public restroom (or worse, the portable ‘shitters’ that we use on location)?

Guess what happened to me today?

We broke late for lunch, so they had to hold the commissary open for us (past their normal closing time of 3 pm), so I guess the food just sat there in the steam trays festering and growing… something.

It was so tempting, too. They were serving corned beef and cabbage. I love corned beef and cabbage, and it’s actually a good choice to hold for a while because you really have to work to dry out something with that much fat (an occupational hazard of ours is production telling the caterer that we’re going to break at a certain time, and then getting delayed and breaking an hour after the food’s mummified from sitting and waiting for us to break).

Right after they called us back from lunch (and as soon as we started lighting, of course) I started not feeling so great and had to go to the ladies room. Right when we really started lighting (and right when I really needed to be back on the set to help my co-workers), my lunch decided to come back up.  Yuck.

The one good thing is that it was over quickly, and once lunch came up I felt well enough that after a quick visit to the on-lot nurse (at the insistence of our lot best boy who’s a great guy and just has my best interests at heart) I was able to stay at work. The last couple of times I’ve eaten something bad and been sick at work it’s been much, much worse (here and here).

I still haven’t wanted to eat anything (it’s now almost midnight and this happened at around 5 pm), but at least I’m not defiling the plastic plants in my neighborhood food store.

Oh, shit. It’s almost midnight.

I have to be back at work (but on a different show this time so it’s damned lucky we wrapped when we did because all the rules about turnaround* don’t apply when one’s on a different show the next day) at 8 am.

*Turnaround is the time between when wrap is called on one day and the call time the next day. 12 hours is ideal, 10 hours is common and 9 hours, while allowed, is generally considered to be poor sportsmanship on the part of production.

Filed under: mishaps, Work, , , , ,

They tricked me!

Due to my being sick yesterday (okay, not so much the contagious type of sick as suffering the onset of Southern California’s allergy season with my sinuses packed so full of goo that I’m afraid my head’s going to explode at any moment – you know, like in Scanners), I didn’t do anything productive like I’d planned. No gym, no bike ride, no working on anything. I just went to the movies where my constant nose-blowing would blend in with everyone else’s constant nose-blowing.

Did I mention that it’s now allergy season here in SoCal? I did? Sorry. I’m blaming the antihistamines, which don’t clear my head up so much as make me so loopy that I don’t notice it – or have a short term memory, but that’s..

Wait.. what was I saying?

Oh, the movies.

I saw 3:10 to Yuma, which was fun – I love Westerns (and in fact, I wrote my film school thesis on the evolution of the western), and I’m sad that now we’re going to see a resurgence of simple-minded dreck thrown together by suits hoping to cash in on a trend.

Seriously, go see this one – the dude playing the bad guy’s sidekick really steals the show.

Then, because I could, I theater-hopped and snuck into The Brave One. I was expecting to see an action movie where people get shot every few minutes (which would have gone great with the surreal time-delay thing I’ve had all day), but instead what I saw was a chick-flick disguised as a real movie. I hate chick-flicks more than I hate any other movie genre (including cheap, crappy horror movies, which are at least funny).

Had I known this was a chick-flick, I never would have seen it – I blame the deceptive marketing campaign that made it look like fun. Bastards.

The dirt. It won’t come off no matter how hard I scrub.

On a happier note, I feel much better today. My head’s still packed with goo, but at least my brain seems to be working a bit better.

If my brain continues to function throughout the day, I’ll get on the phone and try to drum up some work.

Filed under: cranky, humor, life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, Off-Topic, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

June 2023

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