A shaft of light
March 21, 2016 • 8:21 pm 0
Friday, I got a call from the hall* to work on a rig (or a wrap, I wasn’t sure) in Orange County. Mind you, not super deep behind the orange curtain, but enough that I stressed about getting to work on time and left the house at 10 am, in the hopes of making my noon call with a few minutes to spare.
I managed to get there about 20 minutes early to find, to my great happiness, we were the wrap crew, and since they were still shooting I sauntered over to crafty and grabbed some coffee.
I knew crafty from another show, knew a bunch of the set lighting people and grips, a few of the ADs and PAs, and most of the wrap crew, plus the rigging gaffer, who is a great guy and who was my boss on one of the first shows I worked on when I got into the union.
There was a lot of cable – or maybe there wasn’t, since I haven’t really pulled 4/0 in quite some time, but it looked like an awful lot, and I started to wonder what I was going to do when I collapsed face down into the lovely drought-tolerant landscaping, but because production were progressing through the sets, we got to wrap gradually, over a period of about 8 hours, which helped, but I was beat up when I crawled back into my car to drive home at 8 pm.
I was afraid I’d stiffen up, so I stopped off halfway and got some take-out and walked around the parking lot a bit, and I worked as I didn’t lock up too bad when I got home.
*Our union hall. When it’s super busy, one doesn’t have to work at finding work – just call and you’ll get a job pretty quickly. Plus, one gets to meet new people and expand one’s work contacts.
March 15, 2016 • 8:58 pm 4
Ten days ago, I worked a micro budget favor job for a friend of mine who is trying to move up the food chain (which, of course, necessitates moving down the food chain first) and shoot.
I don’t have a problem with favor jobs. I don’t mind helping out friends or people who need it, but since my landlord won’t accept good intentions, I usually expect to be paid the amount I was promised.
The amount I was promised for this particular job was relatively small, but every little bit helps, and I factored that pay into the monthly budget. Job was on Friday, we were told checks would be mailed Monday.
Then we were told checks would be mailed Thursday.
Mailed on Thursday means it should show up in my mailbox on Saturday, or Monday at the latest.
Monday: No check.
Today, I worked a day on a commercial (and thankfully I know they’ll pay), and figured I’d look again when I got home.
No check, although I did get a dividend for some worthless stock – it’ll buy a shitty bottle of wine. But at least they paid, goddammit.
This is even more annoying because this was supposed to be a cash job.
Some time ago, crews got wise to the ‘promise and then skip out’ tactic, and began to demand cash. Usually at the end of the night, but some production companies had to pay upfront, and then pay again if they wanted more work.
I know, that statement makes us seem like greedy assholes, but you can only get burned so many times before you stop trying to make people like you.
So at the end of the day, we walked up to the money man, expecting to be handed envelopes.
He looked shocked.
“I never promised anyone cash. I never pay cash! Who told you I’d give you cash?”
I think that’s when we all knew.
Knew we were going to have to fight.
I haven’t had to do this in a long time – hopefully I won’t have to go to the office and make a scene, but I won’t hesitate if that’s what I have to do.
Remind me to tell the baseball bat story. It involves a shady production company, a bounced check, and a baseball bat.
Or someone who is currently working micro-budget can tell it, since I’m sure it’s the same story.
We’ll see what happens tomorrow.
February 18, 2016 • 8:35 pm 1
Since I don’t have an employment agency, I get most of my work from people who work with me and like me and, hopefully, hire me.
So personal relationships are very important and it’s critical not to piss off best boys – if you piss them off, the calls stop.
Earlier in the week, I’d sent out some work texts, gotten a ‘maybe Friday’ back and not heard anything, so I called the hall and got sent out on a job for Friday night.
Which is great, but then I got a text from the first best boy. Turns out, he’d sent me a text that I hadn’t gotten and the job was still on.
So now he’s pissed off at me.
Hopefully this job tomorrow will go well and they’ll call me, but it’s a pilot so it’ll only shoot for about 10 days.
The guy I pissed off is on a show that will go for 7 months. I really hope he calms down and calls me again.
January 13, 2016 • 11:07 pm 2
Over the course of the holiday season, I’ve had a little over three weeks of no work – which is to be expected, because holidays.
Many of the TV shows didn’t come back until this past Monday, and a few aren’t back until next Monday.
I spent some time back in the land of unseasonable warmth (70 degrees when it should be 30), but for most of the break I cleaned a lot of the old junk out of my apartment, organized my receipts to send to the accountant for taxes, and caught up on other stuff I needed to do when I had time.
But mainly, I divested myself of junk. Five bags of clothes and shoes went to the thrift store, old papers got shredded, kitchen crap I don’t use got donated, and all the drawers got organized.
My apartment feels much better now. Calmer. More zen, if you will.
I even organized my work bag with those pack cube things, but we’ll see how long that lasts.
And I got used to not working so much.
I got used to not wearing heavy boots.
I got used to eating healthy food and not having any coffee after 11 am.
I got used to going to bed at a decent hour, and watching the morning news.
You know, like a normal person.
Then, this morning, I got a call to come in to replace someone who called in sick, and ended up with the rest of the week booked.
Which is great, but I’m not used to all this work stuff, with the standing up and the paying attention, and the ladders. Definitely not used to the ladders.
But no one else is, either, so we all muddled through it together and somehow managed to get our day.
I’m back tomorrow. My feet will hate me.
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 11, 2015 • 10:32 pm 0
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.
March 30, 2015 • 9:19 pm 1
The (hopefully) very last shot of this movie was a green screen of black goo shooting at the camera.
As fun as it is to make actors actually vomit, union reps and the health department frown on it, so we had to do a shot of the actress with her mouth open and a shot of the black goo shooting out of a pipe poking through the green screen that will be combined to make it look like projectile vomit.
So we lit the green screen, with the lights far enough back to be in the ‘safe’ zone, the camera had a Lexan shield in front of it, and all the spectators were well back from the screen.
Everyone was ready.
The first try was a trickle of goo which didn’t shoot out so much as dribble down the green screen leaving a really gross streak.
The special effects guys then turned up the power and tried again.
Still a trickle, but it looked more like a gloppy drinking fountain.The effects guys then had an extremely animated discussion, remixed the black stuff and did something to the pressure in the lines.
Everyone in the area had been lured into a false sense of security by the first two shots, so they went near the green screen to watch this attempt.
Pro tip: Any time you see effects guys get worked up about something, take cover. Preferably in the next county.
The guy with the trigger started a countdown.
People edged closer to the camera.
Phones were raised in anticipation of something really cool to put on social media.
There was a noise like a gunshot and a titanic amount of mystery goo shot towards the camera with enough force to slam the Lexan shield against the matte box.
Since Lexan is a flat surface but very flexible, the shield bent over the camera – which protected it, but acted like a springboard and impressively extended the splatter range.
Blobs of… whatever the hell that was flew outward from the convenient boost like some sort of satanic Flubber.
My co-worker and I were standing 30 feet away at the rear of the catering tent (because what better place to make a mess), clawing at each other as we frantically tried to get behind… anything.
But there was nothing.
Someone’s panicky scream of “incoming”, when combined with that sensory perception thing where everything slows down convinced me to do the only thing I could do.
I turned and I ran.
Call me a coward if you like, but as I cleared the doorway of the tent, I heard the splats of the goo hitting the back wall – right where I’d been standing a few seconds before.
My co-worker chose another survival tactic – the cower. He bent over, making himself as small as possible and miraculously avoided getting slimed.
Everyone else? Not so much.
One of the PAs was wearing a pink T-shirt that I suspect will never be the same again, and I don’t even want to contemplate the number of phones that will never work again.
November 12, 2014 • 9:37 pm 5
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.
September 29, 2014 • 6:05 pm 2
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.