Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

I see dead people

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.

Not lately.

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.

Filed under: crack of dawn, cranky, distant location, life in LA, locations, long long drives, Los Angeles, Work, , , , ,

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, , , , , , , ,

Survival Mode

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.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, Los Angeles, mishaps, movies, 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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , ,


The powers that be finally (after almost two weeks) approved my application and activated my membership, so today was my first day getting use the Sony gym.

I lifted some weights, since we weren’t going to have a particularly strenuous day (then, of course, I had to go up into the perms to drop out cable), and I have to say I really enjoy the gym.

They’re missing a few bits of equipment that the other gym has that I like, but it’s super clean, and they were playing 80s hip-hop on the sound system, which was extra awesome.

The gym I go to – the normal gym – is fairly small and I know everyone, so it’s a friendly place.

I wave and smile at people, ask how they’re doing, chit-chat about workouts, progress, the weather, etc..

People at this gym are less smiley and chatty. Maybe it’s because I went during the lunch rush (we had a 2 pm call time so I got there at 12:30) and maybe folks were just trying to get in that workout on lunch, but they didn’t strike me as a particularly friendly bunch.

One lady, after I’d said hello, started and responded with “Oh, were you talking to me?”

Oops. Guess I’d better cool it with the friendly.

I finished my workout and then stretched on the super awesome weird cage thing that I really wish my gym would buy.

Sadly, it looks like most of the really good classes are at times when I’m going to be working, but I do love being able to work out and then walk five minutes to the stage.

I might regret the expenditure when it’s dead and I’m broke, but right now it’s so worth it.


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

It doesn’t count if it’s not on

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.




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

My phone explodes!

Normally, May and June are slow months. The television shows are on hiatus, the pilots are done, and any movies left in town are already crewed or haven’t started yet.

Movies – especially the ones that shoot in the desert – like to wait until it’s really super fucking hot to start principal photography.

So, just like January, I curtail my spending as much as possible, and use the time to complete some projects around the house, reorganize the dresser drawers, brush the cat, sell unwanted stuff on eBay, etc..

But this May has been different. Not only have I been working pretty consistently, I’m getting calls for multiple jobs the same day at least once a week.

It’s freaky. Not bad, mind you, but not expected.

Of course, I’m answering ‘yes’ to every call I can.

Sadly, this means I’ve had some very short turnarounds the past few days, as minimum ‘off’ time rules don’t apply when one is moving from one show to another.

Tomorrow, my call is 11 am – an hour drive from my place, which means I’ll work until 11 pm and be home by midnight – at the earliest , and then I have an 8 am call on another show Friday morning.

It’s all wonderful – work while it’s available and rest later.

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, long long drives, Work, , , , , , ,

I haven’t spent an entire day lifting cable in some time.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing.

It’s good because, well, I haven’t had to lift cable in quite some time, and bad because the only thing that gets one fit for lifting cable is lifting cable. Last I checked, they don’t have a 4/0 machine at the gym.

I got a call from the union hall (haven’t had one of those for a while) to wrap a location yesterday at one of our local sports arenas. Arenas are great because they have nice wide ramps and large freight elevators, but bad because most rigging gaffers feel the need to run cable all the way around said arena.

As most arenas are not small,  that’s a lot of cable.

I don’t have any problems pulling (rolling the stretched out cable into a coil – it’s called pulling because one straddles the cable and pulls it into a coil while it’s flat on the ground) cable. I can use the overdeveloped swimmer’s muscles on my back all damn day – plus it increases my sprint speed in the pool, so everybody wins.

What hurts me is lifting the cable – and moving cable from one place to the other is just about the same as it’s always been.

One picks up the 100+ lb coil of cable. One deposits said coil onto some sort of wheeled contraption. Then, one wheels the cable to the truck and lifts it again.

Coil, lift, drop. Coil, lift, drop. Coil, lift, drop. Lunch (light, unless you want to puke while you’re lifting), then repeat.

We were very, very lucky that the temperature stayed relatively low at 78 degrees, so the heat wasn’t the factor that it will be later in the year.

After we finished loading the truck, the best boy asked me if I wanted to unload the truck at the lot today.

I was sore, but work is work – and these are really nice guys that I’d love to call me back again, so of course I said yes.

The sequence for unloading the truck is just about the same for loading it, but without the coiling part.

Lift, drop, count, lift. Lift, drop, count, lift. Lift, drop, count, lift. Lunch (light, unless you want to puke while you’re lifting),  repeat.

Someday I’m going to produce a ‘Get Fit With Cable’ exercise video and make a mint.

Or not. The shipping costs would kill any profit margin.

Since I haven’t been doing many cable lifts lately, I started to hurt a little bit before lunch on Thursday, and really, really started to hurt before lunch today.

Right after lunch, we found out we had to rig two sets, which was a bit of a relief as it would allow me to use different muscles for a couple of hours.

By the time we were dismissed, I was filthy, smelly and sore. I briefly considered going to the Korean spa and soaking myself in the hot tub, but settled for  take-out (I am so not cooking tonight) and got the side-eye from just about everyone in the place.

Fuck them. I’m eating dinner after enjoying a very hot shower and a smearing of the biceps with ointment.

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, long long drives, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , ,

Have yourself a busy pre-Christmas

This has been an odd year. Totally dead, and then a completely frantic fourth quarter. I might have work between Christmas and New Years, which almost never happens.

No, I’m not complaining. Work is work and there’s nothing like an 8 month dry spell to really make one appreciate that paycheck (and the qualifying hours so I can keep my insurance. That’s nice, too).

I’d originally been booked (on a TV show featuring a former movie star who understandably likes the TV hours better) for three rigging days this week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday), which then became two (Tuesday, Friday). It happens. Things change.

Then, I got the call at 6 am Monday morning to come in and cover someone on first unit (the shooting crew) who had called in sick.

The only downside was that I’d been out the night before, and thinking I wasn’t working the next day, had a bowl of spicy ramen with extra garlic (and then grated more garlic over it – after all, the cat was the only one who was going to have to smell me) and sake.

The sake wasn’t the problem. It was the garlic. It was coming out of my pores, and whenever I exhaled, a malodorous cloud hung in front of my mouth.

So, I made my apologies about the way I smelled as soon as I got there, and then tried not to breathe on anyone for the rest of the day.

Originally the plan had been for me to work the rig Tuesday, but since there was still a sickness related opening on the crew, I stayed on the production unit and someone else was called in to rig.

Which was fine – the shooting crew are wonderful nice folks that I really enjoy working with, and we were on a stage – which, although overheated (our actress gets cold at any temperature below ‘brimstone’), is still nice.

Out of the sun, actual flush toilets handy, and a set that pretty much lights itself, so my biggest problem was finding power drops for the stinger-related needs of the crew.

My sick co-worker got better, so I was off today.

I rode the bike to the garden, did some digging and some hand-wringing over the raised-bed wood replacement I’m going to have to do very soon, and then headed home.

I’m off tomorrow, so I’m safe to eat garlic tonight.

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

October 2015
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