Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Coming through!

I can’t figure out why so many tiny, tiny bars put themselves in the location books* Even the medium-sized bars are a challenge to shoot in because bars, while they’re designed to accommodate a largish number of people (or not) are generally not designed with traffic flow in mind. Actually, it’s the opposite. If you’re trapped and can’t leave your spot at the bar, you’re more likely to spend money.

Today’s  location was a very small and very, very trendy bar in Koreatown.  We came in on a two-hour precall** to light, and of course everything we did on our rig day yesterday got changed. So when call time rolled around, we weren’t ready but they wanted to rehearse so we got sent to breakfast.

Also of course, production blamed grip and electric for the delay in getting started.

The entire day was an exercise in how many times one could manage to clear a path by yelling over the roar of the loud conversations (oh, for the days when the ADs used to clear the sets for us to work. Long gone, of course.) and the din of the other departments trying to work, while navigating around the bar’s furnishings and various set debris without hurting anyone too badly.

Most of us are really good about  letting each other know that we’re back there (and moving when there’s someone behind us with something heavy), but every now and again someone gets bumped with a stand or a table or a camera front box, and there’s just nothing to be done about it.

We used a lot of the bar’s equipment for set dressing, which saved some money I’m sure, but a disappointing number of glasses got broken – some by me when I was on a ladder adjusting a rigged light, lost my balance and swung my leg around to regain it. Ooops. Put it on our tab.

Speaking of tabs, one of our actors decided to indulge in some stress relief and downed a few shots of the bar’s top shelf  liquor. Before lunch.

We were all very impressed that she managed not to flub too many lines or miss too many marks. I don’t know that I could do as well after drinking that much.

The caterer’s food is great, but it’s a bit heavy, so because we were shooting in Koreatown, I walked a couple of blocks to a noodle house  and had a bowl of delicious noodle soup with veggies and some spectacularly hot Kimchi. Despite downing mints, I’m pretty sure I could have cleaned the kitchen’s ovens with my breath, but it was so worth it. So much so that I might go back tomorrow.

Also, I’ve resigned myself to having a sore throat (and the voice of a boy in the throes of puberty) for the next couple of days as for some reason the zeitgeist has decreed all bars must be full of smoke, despite the fact that most bars don’t allow smoking any longer. But smoke we must, so they bring in a guy with a smoke machine and a fan and he fills the bar with this… stuff that’s not supposed to be bad for you but it makes me sick every time. Plus, it smells like my grandmother’s mothbally closet, and I certainly wouldn’t want to spend 14 hours in there.

* One can go to the film office of LA (or any city) and ask to see the location books – these are binders full of potential filming locations all over the city, usually categorized by area and specifics (mansion, tenement, hipster bar, etc..). Many of these locations are insanely difficult to shoot at and should be removed from the books immediately.  When I rule the world….

**Exactly what it seems. Because we have so much work to do, our call is earlier than general crew call.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, movies, Uncategorized, Work, , , , , ,

Get down, get funky. Or something.

Right after I hauled myself out of bed in the morning, I got a call from the best boy  of Reluctant Porn Star to come in and replace someone who’d called in sick.

They were shooting all the way across town in a roller rink that hasn’t seen a remodel since the Carter administration (perfect for a movie set in the 1970’s). After almost two hours of fighting traffic, I dumped my bags in the truck and started changing gels on the lights we had rigged in the ceiling over the rink.

Roller rinks, in case you’re not familiar, are made of sanded and varnished wood, kind of like a basketball court. Ladders and nice smooth antique wood surfaces don’t really go together very well, so we had to keep layout board (4′ by 8′ sheets of heavy cardboard) under the ladders. Which was fine, except that we had a limited amount of time until the company moved inside and having to move the board does tend to slow one down.

As soon as the shooting crew moved inside, the rink got insanely hot. I guess they decided to rely on the building’s AC instead of renting a stand alone industrial one, which never works when one has close to 200 people inside plus a bunch of really hot lights. The smoke machine didn’t help, either.  The stuff they use to make theatrical smoke is supposed to be harmless, but after a while it makes my chest hurt and my eyes burn.

Some of the extras didn’t really know how to roller skate, and were careening around the rink, out of control – one kept smacking into the wall which didn’t hurt anyone, but another crashed into the dolly and took out one of the camera assistants.  Walking through the crowd of unsteady projectiles while carrying a hot light was an added degree of difficulty for the day. Lucky for me I managed to avoid getting hit.

In addition to the work for the day, we shot a music video for the band who were playing in the scene. One of the things I hate about working on music videos is, well, the music.

It’s not that I don’t like music, it’s that I don’t like hearing the same song over and over and over and over. I’m not sure if it’s worse when it’s a song I like or a song I don’t like.

Our last shot of the night was outside in a parking lot visible form the street, also known as paparazzi Christmas.

As soon as they spotted their thespian prey, they crowded as close as they could to the set without violating trespassing laws. Unfortunately, this made it very difficult for the rest of the crew to do our jobs.

When I’ve got a cart full of equipment, I’d really rather use the sidewalks as walking in the roadway is a hazard, but when there are ‘photographers’ blocking the sidewalk and refusing to move because “it’s public property and you can’t make me”  I go in the street and hope for the best.

Luckily this was late at night on a weeknight.

After wrapping, packing the truck and driving back across town, I got home at 1:30 am. Tomorrow, I have to be at work on Been Done Before at 8:30 am.

Filed under: hazardous, life in LA, locations, long long drives, up all night, Work, , , , , , ,

An 11-step plan to keep oneself occupied during a normally boring day exterior

1. Notice that sky seems to be getting awfully dark and full of ash.

2. Wonder if ash-laden air contains enough oxygen to keep an adult human being conscious.

3. Begin to have trouble maintaining verticality.

4. Notice ground approaching head at a terrific speed.

5. Completely miss point of impact after hitting head on leg of crank-o-vator stand on way down.

6. Wake up in ambulance wondering what the hell just happened.

7. Notice that colleagues removed toolbelt, which was the only thing holding up pants.

8. Hope desperately that pants did not fall off during the trip from set to ambulance.

9. Regret choice to ‘go commando’ (due to laundry issues) this particular day.

10. Vow never to ‘go commando’ ever again, even if it means staying up all night washing underpants by hand.

11. Get released from hospital just in time to go back to set and help load truck because the producer called an ‘insurance day’ after four other crew members and director passed out, too.

Filed under: hazardous, life in LA, locations, mishaps, Work, , , , , , ,

I fell into a burning ring of fire.

The main topic of conversation on every set as of late has been the impending writers’ strike – since very little real information is forthcoming from anywhere, armchair quarterbacking is rampant – they’ll strike, they won’t strike, they might strike but they’re not sure, they’re having a naked tea party right now, and so on.

For the past few days, though, people have been talking about the massive fires and assorted issues (who we know who needs housing, the related bad traffic, the related bad air, when the hell this is all going to end and what they’re going to do when they catch the people who started a few of them).

The fires just keep getting bigger (pushed by Santa Ana winds – someone emailed me and asked me why the firefighters just can’t “do something” – they can’t really fight 100 foot tall flames which are being driven by 60 mph winds so they just have to wait for a break in the weather), although the light is gorgeous. One of the camera assistants today described it as “perpetual magic hour“, and that’s pretty accurate. The golden orange glow of the sun’s last rays has lasted all day.

It would be enchanting if it didn’t also smell of smoke and rain ash at seemingly random intervals – oh, and it’s really hot and the humidity is about 5%. I have a humidifier at home, but frankly it’s not doing jack shit right now. I suppose I should just be grateful that I’m not one of the approximately 500,000 people who have had to evacuate their homes, and am in not in an area that has any risk of burning.

Today, while standing at craft service perusing the morning snack, the conversation shifted back to the writer’s strike and what, exactly, the hell we’re all going to do if we get put out of work over the holidays.

A passing woman (I don’t know what department she was from – I only saw her a few times throughout the day) stopped, glared and spat “Those fucking assholes – they already make too much money. They can all go to hell.”

I just stood there, my mouth hanging open despite being filled with half-chewed food.

While I should note that some IATSE members do bear some ill will towards SAG, DGA, and WGA* members (many of whom routinely cross our picket lines and some of whom have hurled abuse at us while doing so), most of us, while we desperately hope the writers (and actors and directors) won’t strike, understand why they need to and will support them.

After all, we’re all in the same little boat that’s floating on rough seas and there’s a producer with scuba gear sawing a hole in the bottom and waiting to pick us off one by one if we don’t stick together.

However, even if she was a producer, saying something like that while standing on a set took some serious huevos. I just kind of stared, afraid to say anything because I was just a day player, but wanting to see if someone else was going to say something, but everyone just walked away, leaving just the two of us alone in a weird kind of standoff – her glowering and me with a mouthful of food.

Then, we started lighting so I had to chew what I had, throw out the rest and get the hell back to work.



*IATSE = International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees.

SAG = Screen Actors’ Guild

DGA = Director’s Guild of America

WGA = Writer’s Guild of America

Filed under: life in LA, Work, , , , , ,

Almost-Friday photo

I’m having to stay up a bit later than usual due to my having a later call time tomorrow (which means, of course, that we won’t wrap until later – like early Saturday morning), so here’s a photo from Wednesday’s job:

Air tastes better when you can see it.

As I’d predicted, it was hotter than hell. At lunch, when I stepped out of the air conditioned stage (which was a bit warm – they turn off the air conditioning between takes, and sometimes the PAs forget to turn it back on), it felt like, well, it felt hot – and it didn’t help when they hauled out that fucking smoke machine and ‘hazed’ the room. I know that stuff’s supposed to be mostly harmless, but it always gives me a sore throat and a cough.

Luckily, I was working with a really wonderful group of folks so I had a good time – but not so much of a good time that I didn’t bail when I got called to work Friday and Saturday on a job that pays more.

Filed under: hazardous, Photos, Work, , , , , , , , ,

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