Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

It’s cold outside but I’m baking

This past week, I’ve been on a multi-camera show*. For lighting and grip, multi-cameras consist of three rig days and two shoot days. Rig days are only a few hours, because it’s all just fixes, tweaks and resetting the lights that the greens guys knocked out-of-place when they hauled around all the trees. Shoot days are normal 12 or 13 hour days.

Usually with multi-camera shows, once the shooting day starts we don’t do much of anything, because all the lights are rigged and really nothing works on stands.

Except this DP a single camera guy and still has the aesthetic of that world, so we’re walking a lot of lights around on stands every time a scene changes. This is not a bad thing at all, as working makes the day go faster, and today the perception of time passing quickly was a wonderful thing, as our stage’s air conditioning unit decided that it was going to take a vacation.

Perhaps to somewhere cooler.

Lucky for all of us, the crafty room had excellent air conditioning. You know how at parties everyone ends up in the kitchen? That was us today.

The director and I had a deep discussion about potato latkes while we huddled in the draft of air coming from the soda cooler, and I met more of my co-workers than I usually do as we wandered in, sighed in relief and then left without eating anything.

Right now I’m chugging water in an attempt to not wake up tomorrow feeling like I’ve been on a bender.

Speaking of tomorrow, although it would be lovely to have chilled air, I suspect I’ll need to wear summer clothes and keep hydrated.

*That’s not a really good description, since most ‘single camera’ shows use two cameras now. Multi-camera format uses four cameras and sets all open to one side, but I’m lost for a more apt name.

Filed under: california, mishaps, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , ,

Easing into the real world

Over the past two(ish) months, I’ve become accustomed to the lighter schedule of the multi-camera show.

Monday, we come in around 2 pm, and work until about 8. We hang lights – enough to ‘rough in’ the look so when they do the rehearsal with the cast the next morning, they have a good idea what the sets look like and what we need to change or add.

Ditto Tuesday and Wednesday.

Our long days are Thursday (block and pre-shoot) and Friday (audience), but neither of those days usually go over 12 hours.

Friday, the director does a ‘block and refresh’ with the cast before lunch, and then the audience load in and we shoot the live show.

Most directors finish with the refresh well before lunch, leaving us with a two-hour lunch.

This is a good thing and a bad thing.

I can go to the bank or the gym or just nap for those two hours, but I’m also on the Sony lot which means there’s a deeply discounted electronics store within walking distance, and I really don’t need to blow a paycheck on three TVs and a sound system.

But next week is our last week, and we’ve got three new sets plus an extra shoot day (to re-do the opening sequence), so we’re going to have more hours than usual.

We’ll have a nice check right when we’re unemployed, but the fact that we’re all dreading working a 60 hour week is some indication as to how spoiled we’ve gotten and what a shock it’s going to be to return to the real world of production, where every day will be 12 hours. Or more.

I have to say I really thought I was going to hate being stuck on a multi camera, but it’s been fun – largely because of the wonderful folks I’m working with, who I’ll miss when we’re done (but will see out in single camera world on a semi-regular basis).

I’ve also discovered that copious amounts of free time on a regular basis make me get less stuff done, not more.

Although I have binge-watched several Netflix series on the one new TV I bought (just one, although the salesperson really tried to get me into two).

My new hobby is watching movies from the 70s and 80s and pausing to really get a good look at the backgrounds.

I can really see the tape and spit holding the sets together.  It’s hilarious.

 

 

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

Panic and destruction

In case you were wondering, the day before we’re scheduled to shoot is not the best time to make major changes to the sets.

It screws up everyone – us, grip, camera, actors, but mainly set dressing.

Set dressers are the nice people who make the sets look like, well, not sets.

I’m sure you’ve seen the low-budget movie with sparse backgrounds that somehow look like sets – you may not be able to pinpoint what’s wrong, but you do know they don’t look right.

That, my friends, is set dressing.

They place magazines, table lamps, newspapers, pens, mismatched pillows, sex toys, statuary, flowers, coffee cups, and the difference is amazing.

But, like the rest of us, set dressers don’t do their best work when they’re in a ‘holy fuck what just happened’ panic.

So they rip out all the practicals* – the table lamps, the floor lamps, the wall sconces, the weird puck light things in the cabinets that I’ve never, ever seen in the real world ever and wad up all the zip cord into a ball and helpfully set it somewhere that makes perfect sense. To them.

So then we come in on the day we’re supposed to shoot and find all new practicals in all new places and all of the zip and stingers connecting them to the dimmers gone.

Well, not gone, but wadded up… somewhere.

So now it’s our turn to panic as we try to work around the actors and director and camera trying to block the scene so we can shoot.

Of course, the only people who think that practicals are important are the DP and the gaffer.

Everyone else just see them as crap that’s making the toolbelt people have to get in their way.

So we have to balance getting yelled at by the gaffer, who wants that bedside lamp to work, and the director who wants us to get the hell out of his set so he can be a creative genius.

Since the director doesn’t hire us for the next show, guess who wins that battle?

Lucky for us, we managed to get everything redone in time to shoot, and hopefully there won’t be many more changes for show day tomorrow.

Oh, and the cat’s still hanging in there. She seems to have perked up a bit since it’s not as hot.


* Any light that’s on the screen is called a practical. It plays as part of the sets, but it’s a working light fixture.

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

Half a weekend

Last week, we had a 6 day week, as we had to re-shoot the pilot episode of this show. Don’t ask why, I don’t know.

Although we were expecting the worst, day 6 turned out to be not so bad (only 10.5 hours), as the director came in very prepared and burned through the stuff.

I was home before midnight, which I hadn’t expected.

The advantage of four cameras is that it’s possible to shoot 26 pages in a day; something that’s completely out of reach for single camera shows (a misnomer, since most single camera shows use two cameras).

This show is 99.9 percent wonderful.

I really like the rest of the crew, the hours are easy, it’s close to the house and I’m really happy to be here.

The main problem I’m having is craft service.

Not the person – she’s a very nice lady who is exceptionally good at her job, but she doesn’t put out the healthiest stuff. She’s trying to make an entire crew of overgrown children happy, so she puts out comfort food.

Pasta, meatballs, chicken fingers, sliders, bacon wrapped bacon, weenie tots, onion rings, pastrami, etc..

Which is fine, as most people like that stuff and won’t complain.

Hell, I like that sort of stuff, but if I spend the next 6 weeks eating deep-fried whatsits three times a day my arteries (and my waistline) are going to explode.

Simply not eating for 12 hours isn’t an option, so I need to figure out a way to bring my own snacks without offending her.

It would be easy if we had a dorm fridge in our gold room, but we don’t.

If I bring food I have to put it in her fridge, so it’s not like I can sneak it past her.

Vegan? Gluten free? Nut allergy? Sanctimonious uber-organic locavore? These are all plausible, but I think I’m just going to tell her that I’m a super picky eater with an extremely sensitive stomach and this way is going to be easier for both of us.

Hopefully, she’ll understand and not poison my bagged lunch.

 

Filed under: Work, , , , , ,

Write? I’m lucky I can stay awake

To say that it’s been a tough few weeks would be an understatement.

I’m in my last week of the dimmer board gig, and my brain still hurts when I come home at night – the three camera shows are a lot busier for board ops than are the single cameras.

The entire formula for a multi camera sitcom is entirely different from regular single cameras.

They only shoot two days a week – one ‘block and shoot’ day and one audience day.

The block and shoot days are usually swing sets and anything that’s got an effect that might go horribly wrong in front of an audience. On the block and shoot days, the crew standing around will laugh at the scripted jokes while the cameras (and sound) are rolling, which I swear I will never, ever manage to get used to.

The audience days are the really stressful days for me. We come in late morning, rehearse, do some more blocking and more lighting, and then they load in the audience and we run the show in sequence – meaning we start with scene A and go until the end. The stuff that was shot on the previous day is played on monitors while the lights in the sets are dimmed down. By me. In real time.

Usually with the video playback people yelling ‘playback’ in one ear and the gaffer yelling ‘playback’ in the other.

Lucky for me everyone has been remarkably patient with me, even when I melted down and threatened to fill a co-workers underpants with that bowl of mayonnaise that had been sitting, un-refrigerated, on the crafty table all day.

The other three days of the week are rigging – a brand new rig every week, with brand new cues and brand new opportunities to let it all get away from me.

At least I can say I really know this board now. Not well enough for theater, mind you, but well enough for what I’m going to need to use it for.

On the home front, the cat is unwell.

Her kidneys are starting to fail, so I’ve been having to give her fluids under the skin.

The vet made this look so very easy, but honestly I really need a third hand to manage it. One hand to hold the cat, one hand to manage the disturbingly large needle and one hand to fend off the claws.

It was only moderately difficult when she wasn’t feeling well, but now that she’s got some spunk back, it’s like trying to hang on to, well, a cat. A squirmy cat. With teeth. And claws. And a grudge.

She’s also decided that she will only eat liverwurst and canned salmon – not the cheap canned salmon, either. The Alaskan wild-caught $5 per can stuff.

And since I know she hasn’t got much time left, I can’t say no.

So I pay it and grumble about it and then I sit and praise her while she eats, as she’s down to 5.5 lbs (2.5 kilos) from 8.5 (3.8 kilos), so every bite counts.

Since a kitty picture is going to make me too sad, here’s a shot of an outdoor Zumba class from CicLAvia:

P1010566

Filed under: Los Angeles, Non-Work, Photos, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

A completely new kind of pain

I’m used to my job being physically exhausting.

I’m familiar with coming home worn out and sore. So familiar that I have an entire drawer full of ointments, unguents, and assorted quack remedies for sore muscles.

I am not, however, familiar with being mentally exhausted at the end of the day.

I haven’t used my brain this much in a decade. Or more.

Part of the problem is that this show requires the dimmer board operator (that’s me) to also wire practicals (the ‘normal’ lights that you see on camera). Since “they” made me download an app which allows me to bring up channels using my phone (no, really, the console has wifi), I still get numbers yelled at me non-stop even when I’m not physically attached to the board.

It’s fine – it’s just… mentally taxing.

By the end of the day, my head is swimming with numbers, I’ve got that throbby thing in my eye,  and I can’t stare at a computer screen for one more second.

For the first time ever, I’m having to take work home.

Right now I have a folder full of lighting plots that must be completed over the weekend. You know, the weekend. Like when I’m off the clock.

I understand a great deal of the rest of the world routinely does this and it’s no big deal, but it’s … disquieting to know I have to work (for free) when I’m supposed to be downing martinis, brushing the cat,  and going for a nice long swim (not at the same time, of course).

The guys I’m working with are super wonderful and have been very patient (especially my boss who is an angel), but it’s  still frustrating when I have to tell everyone to wait while I figure something out – which usually means dealing with more numbers.

On the bright side, I can wear running shoes (‘trainers’ for non-Americans) instead of my work boots.

Sweet.

 

 

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

New School / Old School

Since I’ve decided I can only learn one new thing at a time, I’m going to be making my lighting maps the old-fashioned way – with paper and a template.

When I came up with the idea, it seemed reasonable enough – just go and buy a template and then I’ll be tracing my way to not having to learn a fucking CAD program on top of everything else I’m trying to absorb.

Except that prancing into Studio Depot, whipping out my credit card and bypassing technology wasn’t as easy as I’d imagined.

The templates haven’t been stocked in quite some time, since apparently everyone in the world is using the aforementioned fucking CAD program.

Guess I’m going to have to have a talk with the gaffer about how we’re going to map this. Hopefully he’s got a template somewhere and can bring it in.

Maybe in a week or so I’ll be able to tackle new learnings, but right now my brain is worn the hell out.

Also, it’s hotter than ass here in Los Angeles, so there’s that.  Wait. I was trying to make a point, then I kept sweating and now I… forgot.

UPDATE: Filmtools has them. Sweet.

Guess where I’m going after work tomorrow?

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

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