Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Finally! Some work!

Today, I was on the rigging crew for the first time in a long, long time. I don’t mind rigging and had the best day working with a really great bunch of guys.  Also, it’s not as hot this week as it was last week. It’s still seasonably warm (which, in August in Southern California is quite warm indeed), but that feeling that someone should be basting me was gone.

Our call time was 7:30, and we all did ‘new show’ paperwork (this is the second episode of the first season of this particular show so this is the first day they’ve had a location), and then went to the lamp dock to pick up our equipment.  When you pull equipment that’s to  be used at one location, it’s called a ‘drop load’, as in ‘we’re going to drop the load there, use it, and then return it’.

The drop load was there, but the truck wasn’t, so we counted and sorted and labeled and eventually drifted back to the stage where we helped the best boy pull some things off his truck for the location.

We then had coffee, and wandered back over to the lamp dock – still no truck.

Turns out, production had, for some reason, told transportation that we wouldn’t be going to rig until after lunch, so no one had gone to get the truck.

Boss: “That’s insane! Why would I wait until after lunch to put a rig in? I’d like to get home before next week.”

So, after our boss talked to the transpo captain, our truck appeared. Since we had a stake bed, which doesn’t have a roof, the truck was full of some sort of smelly, hard fruit and sticks. Guess they’d had it parked under a tree.

First order of business – find a broom and clean out the back of that truck. Nobody wants smelly crap stuck to the equipment, and more importantly, sticks add a degree of difficulty to loading a truck (some cart wheels won’t roll over them, one can slip on them, etc..)

That done, we loaded, headed over to the first unit truck, loaded some additional cable from there, and then headed out.

Once we got to the location and had a look at where, exactly, the cable run needed to go, it became very apparent due to some changes that had happened since the scout we were going to need more cable – just about double what we’d brought.

So we put in what we had, unloaded the dimmer packs and lights we’d brought, left two guys there to start getting the stuff in place and then headed back to the lot to  pull some more cable off the first unit truck, since apparently production wouldn’t allow any more equipment to be rented for that location.

Which is fine – equipment that rides on the main truck is usually marked with a particular color of tape so that we know not to return it (the bar codes have to match at the end of the season), and it’s not a big deal to lift some more cable.

By this time (about 2 pm) it had gotten hot. And humid (objectively humid, not humid for Los Angeles), and we were standing in the back of a stakebed (that still smelled faintly rancid from whatever that stuff was in the back) trying to get everything loaded in such a way that it wouldn’t fall over and become a big mess by the time we got to the location.

Since the trucks were ‘gate to gate ‘ (the trucks are parked with the cabs in opposite directions with the lift gates touching so that equipment can be rolled off one truck and right onto the other – sort of like a motorized Pushmi-pullyu), we were blocking some of the VIP parking spaces, but figured we’d be out of there soon enough.

Right when we had two heavy head carts on the truck but not tied down and our driver had headed off to the restroom, a man came wandering up, looked at me and said, “Excuse me, that white Mercedes is mine and your truck’s blocking me in. Do you think you can move the truck to let me out?”

I looked around for the driver, didn’t see him, so I told the man (I’m still to hot and tired to make up a clever nickname) that we’d move as soon as we could.

He said nothing, and looked down at his iPhone as he walked a few feet away to wait in the shade  of a fake bus stop while we found the driver.

The driver came out, apologized to the man for the inconvenience. The man ignored him. We strapped down the carts and pulled the truck forward enough for him to back out. He kept his head down, looking at his phone as he walked to the car. He pulled out and then drove off.

Our driver waved and cheerfully warbled “You’re welcome!”

The man didn’t wave back, although I’m fairly certain he was no longer staring at his phone.

We strapped our carts down and returned to the location to run cable.

Call time: 7 am

Wrap time 7 pm

I sweated off my sunblock before lunch so I resemble a cooked lobster. Awesome.

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

The one that got away

Partway through day two in the tent, a co-worker got on the walkie with a very important announcement:

“Oh, my God, a clown just dropped his pants.”

I’d been huddled in a corner with my head down, trying to find a bit of air that wasn’t full of dust, but when I looked up, there it was:

One of the clowns with his pants around his ankles and his polka dot boxer shorts swaying in the breeze.

I guess he just felt the need to air it out.

I normally have my camera in a pouch on my tool belt, but when it gets really hot said tool belt gives me an awful case of the flop sweat (we’re taking Niagara Falls here) so Friday I left it in my bag and just jammed my gloves in my pockets.

So when I saw clown undies, I dove for my bag, desperately scrabbling for the camera so I could have evidence that once in my life I had seen a pantless clown and lived to tell about it.

I found the camera, turned it on and raised it up to frame a shot – just after the clown pulled his pants up.

Damn, damn, damn.

Note to self: Next time, staple camera to face so I don’t miss any more shots like this.

In a way, Southern California’s fire season has worked in the crew’s favor – we were supposed to shoot the dusty location four days straight, but since we had a fire delay we have the weekend to recover before doing two more days in the tent.

I took advantage of the two days off and sat in the steam room at the gym for an hour yesterday and an hour today.

I’m still coughing, but I don’t taste dust any longer, so I’m calling it a victory.

Filed under: Work, , , , , ,

Weekends can be dangerous

Some locations are only available on the weekends.

Parking garages in business parks, for example. Not shootable on weekdays when workers fill the spaces, but on weekends, they’re a wasteland just begging for some stunt driving, which is what we were shooting on Saturday.

This particular parking garage was in Santa Clarita, which, if you’re not familiar with Southern California geography, is north of the city and approximately three degrees cooler than the surface of the sun. It was so hot up there that I stopped having to pee despite drinking copious amounts of water all day. I’d just go to the bathroom for the opportunity to make a big puff out of toilet paper and desperately dab at whichever body part I could easily reach in a futile attempt to dry off.

We were shooting on the lower levels of the parking garage and were all very grateful for the cover provided by the roof. It was hot inside (and full of exhaust fumes, of course), but not nearly as hot as it was outside with the sun beating down and reflecting off the acres of cement and steel. Near the end of the day there was a shot on the roof of the garage (involving a helicopter and gunfire) but as we didn’t light it (a wide shot during a day exterior means little, if any lighting) our boss was the only one who had to be up there. Poor guy.

Despite the heat and the humidity (storms over the desert, while they’ve given us some lovely puffy clouds in the sky, have made it feel like Miami around here) the day went fairly smoothly – since we were doing driving shots all day the lighting was fairly simple and there’s a huge difference between the ‘artiste’ type of director and stunt directors. Stunt directors just want to get the stuff shot and move on so they can get their day while the drivers are still fairly alert.

Even the fairly simple stunts take a lot of time to set up, rehearse and shoot (and it’s not possible to rush stunt people) so we had a 14 hour day. In one of nature’s cruel jokes, just as we were leaving the temperature dropped and a nice refreshing cool(ish) breeze picked up.

Filed under: locations, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Like sticking one’s head in an oven

Summer has officially arrived Los Angeles – early last week the temperatures were in the 70’s, later in the week they were in the 90’s, and over the weekend they broke the triple digit barrier – although today it’s cooled off to a relatively brisk 90.

One of the advantages of living in a place that used to pass for a desert is that it cools off at night- the knowledge that once the sun goes down the temperature is going to be in the high 60’s or low 70’s it’s much easier to cope with 100 degrees during the day.

This past weekend, however, nature played a cruel joke on Los Angeles and it didn’t cool off at night so much as become marginally less hot and miserable, but still too hot to sleep.

If I wanted to toss and turn in my sweat-soaked bed at night, struggling to breathe and wondering how to sleep in a bathtub full of cold water without drowning, I’d go to Florida. Or NYC, but at least I could manage to sleep on the fire escape there.

Although I’m not near the beach, which is the preferred place to be when the weather gets this hot, at least I’m not in the San Fernando Valley, which is 10 degrees (or more) hotter. During the summer, I dread going into the Valley even though I sometimes have to do so.

Since I’m currently on a short enforced vacation due to bursitis in my left shoulder (what I really need to do is take a few weeks off, but right now I can’t do that because there’s not enough money in my account to survive another strike so I’m only taking a couple of days of turbo-rest and I can actually let the thing heal when SAG walk out and I’m unemployed for an entire month. Or four),  I decided to take the time to drive up into the valley to go to Contract Services for the I-9 debacle.

Contract Services are the people who keep track of who in the union is in good standing, up to date on safety training and able to work, and a few years ago someone there had a really good idea.

For those of you not in the USA, when you work here you have to fill out a form called the I-9, which is a proof of citizenship/work eligibility. The information required to prove work eligibility is just about all someone else needs to apply for credit in your name, buy a bunch of expensive shit and then not make any of the payments and leaving you to sort it out, which can take years and years and turn just about every hair you have grey.

So, Contract Services decided that we’d all go there once every three years and fill out the I-9 info at the office and they’d keep it on file and not show anyone and the production companies could just give them the list of names and they’d tell them if we were cool or not, and then we wouldn’t have to fill it out the form for each job and subject ourselves to potential hair-greying problems.  Saving a couple of trees by reducing the amount of paper required would also have been a good thing.

Except that none of the production companies will accept the Contract Services on-file I-9, so we still have to fill one out each time we start a new show, plus since Contract Services simply will not admit that this program, while a good idea, just. isn’t. working.  we still have to go up into the inferno that is Encino once every three years and fill out that stupid fucking redundant form that no one ever accepts.  My complaints about this have so far fallen on deaf ears.

Perhaps I should complain louder. Or write someone a very angry letter which would probably be put in the same file as the I-9 and used against me at a later date.

I’ve been getting up at the crack of dawn and not going to the gym because of my shoulder, so I’m starting to bounce off the walls.  I’m not working tomorrow, either, but that will be the last day I can afford to be off work so that shoulder better hurry up and get better.

Dammit.

Just for a giggle (and because I’ve been home and able to partially catch up on my internets), Laurie at Crazy Aunt Purl has some hilarious pictures of what San Fernando Valley heat will do to a pillar candle:

http://www.crazyauntpurl.com/archives/2008/06/enough_talking.php

I won’t be able to completely catch up on my internets, though – the way I hold my arms when I type hurts that damn high-maintenance shoulder after a while.

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

Well, at least it smells good now.

The knee brace (no longer the world’s largest – a guy that was in the PT office with me today has one that’s way bigger) is made of neoprene which, as any of you who have a passing familiarity with neoprene will know, doesn’t breathe so well. Combined with it being seasonally warm here in Los Angeles, at the end of the workday both my knee and the brace have been soaking wet and kind of funky-smelling.

Also, the brace is very snug, so there’s a real danger of my throwing my back out while pulling it on in the morning.

So Tuesday night, as I was digging around in my bathroom drawers, looking for something else, I came across a gag gift that I’d gotten for my birthday and then thrown in the drawer that I’m pretty certain leads to an alternate dimension (stuff goes in, but doesn’t come back out. To date, the drawer has swallowed at least five bottles of shampoo, twice that number of expensive foo-foo soaps, a curling iron and about a million condoms).

Someone made a deodorant that smells like vanilla chai and one of my sick, sick friends purchased a stick of it for me.

Now, while the idea of wandering around with my armpits smelling like a coffee drink is more than a little disturbing, for some reason I have no problem wandering around with my knee smelling like a coffee drink, so I used the stuff on the area of the knee that’s under the brace.

The deodorant really does smell like a coffee drink, and also made the knee brace easier to slide on. Later, when when I got to the physical therapist it slid off a bit easier than it did pre-deodorant, and although the knee and the brace were still soaking wet, they both smelled like, well, a coffee drink so I didn’t offend anyone nearby. Good thing, too – I don’t want to piss off that physical therapist. She’s what you would get if you tried splicing together a Kindergarten teacher and a really mean drill sergeant.

Some of her better lines while flitting from patient to patient were “I don’t care if it hurts! You have to give me 15!” and the ever popular “If you lose track, you have to start over!” all delivered in that happy Kindergarten teacher voice.

Fucking sadist.

All joking aside, though – she’s a nice lady (as sadists go), and gave me a lot more information than the doctor did about exactly what’s wrong with the knee and how to fix it – and she told me I don’t have to come three times a week (which would have been impossible). I just have to come back about once a week, do the surprisingly difficult exercises at home and ice the knee twice a day.

Although my knee doesn’t feel any better, the rest of my leg is hurting so much that I hardly notice.

That’s progress, right?

Filed under: Non-Work, Off-Topic, , , , , , , , , ,

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