A shaft of light
September 29, 2015 • 8:34 pm 5
For the past few weeks, it’s been extremely hot and humid here in Los Angeles.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s always hot this time of year, but the wonderful thing about living in an arid climate is that it cools off at night so, for a few hours, there is some relief. The important hours – when one is trying to rest without sweating like the proverbial whore in church.
It’s been so awful at night that sleep has been impossible – and not just for me.
Everyone on the crew (maybe the cast, too, but they have makeup) have black circles under their eyes and are downing coffee (iced, of course) as fast as they can.
It’s not just us, though. Tempers are flaring all over the city, as the police cope with near-record cases of cranky pants.
Excessive horn-honking, overly aggressive shouts of “points” when one isn’t carrying anything, passive-aggressive latte ordering, crafty grabbing*, scuffles over shaded parking spaces, crowded beaches,
Today, I snarled at a man in the grocery store for breathing.
No, really. That’s all he was doing. Through his nose, making that goddamn high-pitched whistle from hell.
I’ll kill him.
I mean it’s cooled off tonight and maybe I can get some sleep so I’ll feel less homicidal tomorrow.
Although I have a 4 pm call in northeast Bumfuck, so I doubt it.
*Those peanut butter cups are mine. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.
June 30, 2015 • 9:31 pm 2
After working on a show that I absolutely cannot write about (super-secret paparazzi bait) – and working 14 hour days so there was no way to do anything worth writing about besides work, I got a call to work on a cable show in Santa Clarita.
Good news: I was going against the traffic, and working with a crew of wonderful people. Bad news: It was 104 degrees, with ‘monsoon conditions’, which feels like one moved to Florida, but without the awesome Cuban food.
Lucky for us, we were on stage all day – the other unit were out in the parking lot, finishing up the previous day’s work that had to be cut short because several people had succumbed to heat-related illnesses (including one of the actors).
These stages have really powerful air-conditioning units, as they have to combat not only the external heat, but the inferno created by pumping enough electricity through large lights to power a city block.
But the air-conditioning only works when it’s turned on (insert joke here).
For some reason, this production has decided that they can’t chill the air while they rehearse. Which would be fine, except that when it’s that hot outside and we have lights burning, it takes a few minutes for the temperature in the stage to climb past 100 degrees, and the air-conditioning, when turned off for the hour or so it takes to rehearse a three page scene, just can’t catch up.
Although I don’t know the exact temperature, by lunchtime it was very, very hot on set.
Our actor was begging for them to turn on the air during rehearsals, but no dice. Gotta keep it quiet.
At lunch, when we turned the lights off, the stage cooled off, but heated back up right afterwards.
You know the smell that wood saunas make? I can’t describe it as other than really superheated wood. That’s how the set smelled – so it was about as hot as a sauna.
Lucky for us, the director got us out of there in about 10 hours (super impressive for a 7 page day!), and I was able to crank the air in my car on the way home to my apartment.
Which is not air-conditioned, of course. But at least there are no 10ks.
September 17, 2014 • 10:06 pm 1
The way our schedule on this show works is that we shoot Thursday and Friday, and Monday – Wednesday we light.
For folks from single camera world, this is bizarre beyond belief.
Block it, light it, shoot it, move on.
But multi cameras don’t work that way.
We hang some of the big lights, they block. We hang some more lights, they rehearse and change the blocking. We hang more lights after moving all the previous ones, and then finally we shoot.
Which is fine – the rig days are shorter as our call time is after they finish rehearsing, but as soon as the actors and important people leave, they turn off the air conditioning on the stage.
In case you hadn’t been informed, it’s currently hotter than the proverbial four-balled tomcat here in Los Angeles.
So when we rig after the rehearsals, we go up into the lighting rig using either lifts or ladders.
Since heat rises, this makes the temperature in our working environment approximately 500 degrees.
Last night when I came home from work I was able to wring out my bra.
Say what you will about desert heat, it’s considerably less sweaty than tropical humidity.
We’re all glad that tomorrow is a shoot day, so we’ll have chilled air for the entire day.
July 1, 2014 • 4:57 pm 4
Day exteriors are usually pretty uneventful for electricians. We might move around a few lights, but generally the ones getting worked are the grips.
But even if we have an easy day work-wise, this time of year the heat makes everything seem more difficult.
The heat can be not so bad or completely terrible, depending on where one is shooting. Yesterday, we were shooting in the cement-lined quad of a community college.
A few trees, but not even a hint of a breeze and the thing about cement is that it radiates the heat back – even the soles of my feet were hot, and my face got burned under the brim of my hat just from the reflected heat.
The only time I have ever passed out from the heat at work was under similar circumstances – hot day, cement quad, relentless sun.
In addition to the heat, it’s suddenly gotten uncomfortably humid here in Southern California. Not Florida humid, but 40% is like a steam bath to those of us accustomed to the desert.
One of the things I notice about humidity is that I never get any relief from the sweat. It doesn’t evaporate, it just clings to me and makes me clammy and smelly. I also tend to not drink enough water when it’s humid.
This production, in an effort to be ‘green’ doesn’t supply water bottles, only those teeny waxed paper cups.
Luckily I remembered to bring my own bottle, but I clearly didn’t drink enough as by wrap I had no strength left.
Even carrying a head feeder across the quad’s pitiful patch of burned grass made me feel like Atlas.
I downed about a liter on the drive home, and thought I’d be okay, but I woke up this morning sore and feeling hungover, even though I’d had no alcohol.
Today was day two in the heat (in a different location with more trees and marginally less cement) and my strategy was to mix electrolyte powder with every other bottle of water, and to make sure to keep the bottle somewhere I could get to easily – I can’t hang it on my belt as a liter of water is surprisingly heavy, but I kept it near (but not on top of) the HMI ballasts, so as we moved the heads around I would see the bottle and take a swig.
I think it worked as right now I don’t feel terrible and I had to pee about every hour.
I’m still going to try to get through another liter with the powder before I go to bed, though.
Tomorrow, we’re on stage all day – a stage with crappy air conditioning, but at least we’ll be out of the sun.
Call time Monday: 6 am
Wrap time Monday: 8 pm
Drive home: 45 minutes
Call time today: 6:30 am
Wrap time today: 7 pm
Call time tomorrow: 8 am
May 14, 2014 • 1:07 pm 2
It’s hot. Really, really hot.
Normally, in Southern California, it’s hot inland and cool near the beach, which makes said beach an ideal spot for summertime day exteriors.
Unfortunately for most of us, inland seems to be the preferred summertime shooting location, so when I got a call to work on a low budget shooting at the beach with a bunch of really wonderful guys, I had a brief moment of joy.
Beach in Ventura? Sure. It’ll be nice and cool. It’s always nice and cool up there. Hell, I might not even have to run my car’s air conditioning during the 90 minute drive.
Except that now it’s not cool at the beach. And we weren’t shooting on a beach so much as a dusty highway turnout on a cliff above the ocean with no shade anywhere – no trees, no tall buildings, nothing. Just the sun, the heat, the wind and a haze of fine dust which permeated any fabric and formed a coating on skin, teeth, eyeballs, toes, etc…
The first day we lucked out and it was a relatively brisk 90 degrees F. Craft service only had one small cooler so most of the bottled water was also a relatively brisk 90 degrees. One of our more intrepid makeup artists put a teabag in a water bottle, set said bottle on a rock and brewed tea. The sun beat down all day. Had there been a way to get to the water, I would have jumped in – and I did briefly consider just jumping off the cliff, but with my luck I’d hit the rocks, break every bone in my body and just bake there because no one had cell service to call an ambulance.
Not even my hat helped me.
I have yet to find the perfect hat for hot weather. Ball caps don’t provide enough coverage, and anything with a brim seems to either just hold in heat (if it’s cloth or felt) or let sun through the holes in the straw. I’ve got tiny little sun damage dots on my forehead from straw hat leakage.
I tried a damp bandana underneath the hat, but I changed my mind and wrapped in around my face as a dust mask in the failed hope of eating marginally less dust.
Day two sprouted some EZ ups so there was a bit more shade, and chairs under the shelter became hot property – as soon as one got up for any reason, one’s chair would be occupied.
Also, they only had two bathrooms for 40 people, so the restrooms very quickly became unusable, which meant that people didn’t drink any water to avoid having to brave the toilets, so one PA passed out.
The actor has been 90 minutes (at least) late to work every single day, so we do nothing for the first two hours we’re there. This particular production team seemingly haven’t caught on to the fake call time trick.
Tonight we’re downtown – and it’s projected to still be 99 degrees in the late afternoon, which is when we’re scheduled to go into work.
Hopefully they won’t run out of water.
August 29, 2013 • 8:57 pm 1
Production on the sitcom graciously allowed me two ‘prep’ days before the actual show starts on Wednesday.
Today was my first ‘prep’ day, and I used it to get the console set up – which required the assistance of the lot’s super amazing IT guy.
A few years ago, dimmer boards (or lighting consoles as they’re now known) had a technical revolution.
The boards used to be pretty simple. Plug in the DMX cable, turn on the power, and you were good to go.
Not so much anymore.
The newer consoles are much more powerful and flexible, but the downside is the networking.
I understand as much about networking as I understand about derivatives, so the appearance of the IT guy was the happiest I’ve been in weeks.
After about an hour of re-configuring and trying to explain what he was doing (which I pretended to understand but didn’t. I just hope my eyes didn’t glaze over), he had to go back to the shop to get something to make the whole damned mess work.
I used the time to go to the commissary and get a very large cup of iced coffee. I think I might have been shaking my head and muttering “subnet mask” to myself, but I’m not sure.
When he came back with whatever it was he needed (he told me what it was, but I can’t remember. Point and laugh if you want. I’m okay with it), there was some more configuring and a few re-boots, but then… magic.
My console was speaking to the dimmer packs, who were speaking to the lights.
Anything that went wrong from here on out was my fault.
I managed to get through my to-do list (build a few cues, build a few groups, duplicate what was on the old console) by using the manufacturer’s online forums and only making about 10,000 calls with stupid questions to my friend who has the patience of a saint.
The problem with the more powerful consoles is there’s always some programming thing that trips you up – that thing won’t be in the manual, it won’t be in the videos, it may or may not be in the forums, but whatever it is, it’s really, really simple and will fuck you six ways from Sunday if you don’t deal with it right away.
With this particular console, it’s tracking.
If you’re in concert lighting, tracking is the greatest thing in the world. If you’re in film/television lighting, tracking is the devil. On meth.
This particular console is a tracking console by default, so it didn’t behave the way it was supposed to and I ended up making a horrible mess of things until my friend told me to turn off the (default) tracking.
After that, everything was much easier than I’d expected and I got the to-do list done in time to sit on the freeway in traffic.
My second prep day is Tuesday, then the DP and gaffer come in to start lighting Wednesday.
Just hope I don’t do that thing where I forget basic things when I’m under pressure (“What’s your name?” (pause) “I don’t know!!”)
August 23, 2013 • 7:25 pm 0
This is not my apartment building. It’s the building across the alley, who sometimes (often, actually) leave the pool gate open.
I see nothing wrong with taking advantage of this, especially on a hot night. The pool’s not really heated, so it’s a very refreshing change from sweltering in my living room.
October 5, 2012 • 8:12 pm 0
I was ready for the heat Monday. I drank water, I took electrolytes, I stayed in the shade whenever possible. Except for the sweaty smell (and the fact that my bowels stopped working for about 24 hours – TMI, sorry), I was fine.
I came home feeling not nearly as bad as I’d anticipated. I made it through the hot day, and the next two days would be easy, right? On stage, in the shade where it would only be 100F.. cake.
Then, I woke up.
I rolled out of bed feeling like absolute shit. I felt like I’d been on a three-day long bender in Tijuana and topped it off with 6 am rotgut shots and one of those dirty water hotdogs from a street vendor. No sauerkraut.
I made the mistake of having a cup of coffee, which, instead of making me feel more awake, made me feel worse.
Once I got to the stage and started rigging lights, I didn’t feel any better. I was drinking water and taking more electrolytes and still felt bad.
Four liters of water later and I started to feel semi-human again. We got off work early-ish and I went to the gym, but didn’t work out. I jumped in the pool and the 80 degree water made me shiver – which, by the way, felt great. I then hung out in the cafe and played Words With Friends with one of the personal trainers until it was cool enough to return to my un-airconditioned apartment.
Wednesday, we had a much later call (10 am) because we had to wait for the set dressers to finish before we could start (doesn’t help us to wire up wall sconces when the decorator comes in at lunch and changes everything), and miraculously, I felt pretty good all day.
I kept drinking water just to be safe, though.
Today, it’s finally cooled off enough to be bearable. Let’s hope it stays that way.
August 8, 2012 • 8:22 pm 4
There’s still no work.
The cat’s still shaved.
It’s still hot as hell.
I still have no air-conditioning.
I still refuse to pay that much money for an iPad. In the past, I’ve paid less for cars.
Crabgrass is still taking over my garden despite my ineffective attempts to eradicate it.
The ocean water is still polluted, but it’s so hot I’m jumping in anyways.
I still can’t stay at the beach as long as I’d like because my pasty white skin burns after about an hour, no matter what sort of goop I smear on.
America is still in an election year, so I’m still afraid to turn on the television or pick up a newspaper.
I still can’t watch the Olympics due to NBC being dicks and not allowing people with no cable access to view the online streaming.
I still hate you, NBC.
I’m still calling around and being told people aren’t picking up crew just yet, but call back next week and there may or may not be something, depending on how the scout goes tomorrow.
There’s still no work.
Still, maybe next week.