Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Friday Photo

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Most of the time when we unload our truck at the end of a show, we’re not missing much. On the whole, we’re really diligent about counting and re-counting.

But there’s something about stingers.

Everyone wants them, everyone takes them, uses them, drops them when they’re done and then fails to tell us where.

So at the end of a show we’re almost always missing a few. It drives best boys mad, but it’s just the way it goes.

Except today, when we unloaded the “truck” (so small that it took two of us 15 minutes to empty and the rental house guys less than an hour to count), and laid out all the stingers, we weren’t missing any.

Everyone was shocked.

Not literally, of course, but I can’t remember the last time the stinger count matched the paperwork.

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

From one extreme to the other

Monday, I was working the shooting set, so I showed up early, dosed up on free coffee, and then stood in the air conditioning (the stage was so cold I needed a sweater to keep from shivering) and walked lights around at the gaffer’s direction. The set was a slow one – hard to get into, hard to move around once inside, no place to stage lights within easy reach, so we did a bit of running, but still…

That air conditioning was awesome, and our gaffer and DP both understood about the access problems, so there were no ‘impatient moments’ all day.

Since Monday was the last day of shooting, I got invited back to wrap the stage, which was a good thing – nice guys on the crew and a stage so close to my house I can bike to work.

Originally, production wanted to wrap the entire stage in two days with two guys – luckily, they were shamed by the derisive laughter into giving us three days with four guys (that, and the production office is on a stage that was a very difficult and slow wrap, so they were more than likely already watching and re-thinking), which allows us to finish in time without killing ourselves (remember: haste makes injury).

The first day, we wrapped all the loose stuff on the floor (lamps, distro, etc..) and took down all the lamps and hardware from the pipe grid (luckily, no vertigo moments for me).

Today we realized just how lucky we were to get the extra days and extra guys when we went up in the perms and saw exactly how much cable was there – when you see a light hanging above a set, there’s a lot of cable associated with said lamp (enough to run across the perms from the ‘can’ to the lamp and then down to where the lamp’s hanging, usually right above the set. Average cable to hanging lamp ratio for stages that have power available in the perms is 150 – 200 feet. If there’s no power upstairs, then double that as the power will have to run from the ground up to the perms, then across and down again), but what we saw was bordering on overkill – and not laid out neatly either – this stuff looked like Medusa’s hair on a windy day. Twisted, knotted, piled up randomly – someone at some point had tried to make space on the floor by tying bunches of cable to the knee rail every five feet, which meant that we had to walk along while bent over and cut the ties before we could even start to wrap.

Normally, we wrap the stuff on top first and then work our way down, but when it’s not possible to find the top, we just have to pull.

One selects a cable, pulls like hell and if the cable doesn’t move at all (or if it moves a teeny bit and that vein in the forehead blows out from the strain), then one chooses another cable and pulls like hell.

Repeat until at least two colleagues have been tripped and mess is untangled enough to tell what’s what and then pull like hell again – only with more precision.

Did I mention that it’s currently about 90 degrees outside and all the heat in an un air-conditioned stage rises to the roof? We were all completely soaked in sweat within a few minutes, so we were all very happy to come down at lunch. Not so much to eat – a meal followed by wrapping cable in the heat in a bent-over position leads to a terrible mess that looks absolutely nothing like Medusa’s hair on a windy day, but more to get a break and walk upright for half an hour or so.

I wasn’t hungry, but was afraid not to eat at all, so I had the filling of about a quarter of a sandwich and an iced tea. I normally don’t drink really cold drinks (they hurt my fillings), but today the ice-cold felt so good I didn’t care.

Then, we went back up the the perms and finished wrapping the cable. After lunch, we had an extra guy who had been on the cluster fuck that was the other stage (and who came over to help us after they were done over there instead of going home and relaxing) and we went much faster with the extra person. We managed to get everything in the perms wrapped.

Tomorrow, we’ll lower it all down to the floor (one coil at a time, using rope because although this particular stage does have hoists available, production won’t rent one for us) and then check it in when the rental house guys show up.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

So now I’m out of a job along with everyone else.

Today marked my last day of work until all this strike business blows over.

The show that I was working on is an unfortunate victim of the downsizing that’s been happening all over town – a lot of shows are getting the axe because, well, because it’s an excuse to cut some fat and cancel expensive shows that are not expected to do well for one reason or another, so we were completely wrapping out the stages – which meant having to return all the equipment and tear out the rig that’s up in the perms so as to leave the stage ‘clean’ for whichever show comes in next.

As we dropped the cable out of the perms, the talk turned to what we’re all going to do if this strike outlasts our unemployment checks. I’m at a distinct disadvantage here because I’m single – most of the guys on the crew have wives that work in other industries, so they’ll get by on one check.

After spending my entire adult life in the film industry, I’m not sure exactly what it is that I’m qualified to do in the real world. I’ve been making jokes about supplementing my unemployment check with the occasional spot of pole dancing, but the reality is that even if I could find someone to pay money to see me in a bikini my knees would probably give out and I’d make an ass of myself.

Even more so than usual.

The upside was that I was working at Sunset Gower studios, where it’s way easier to park off the lot and walk in (the parking structure fills up super fast) – which meant I was able to make  a face-to-face apology to the writers for crossing the picket line (something I’m deeply uncomfortable doing, but I have to bank every cent I can right now).

Filed under: Work, , , , , , ,

Two hours makes all the difference

I’m having one of my “I can’t focus” days, so this’ll be short (those of you without ADD have no idea the Herculean effort even this much writing has been).

Monday, we wrapped out the Lane Victory – on Friday, my call time was 9 am and it took me 90 minutes to get to San Pedro. Yesterday, my call time was 7 am and I made it in 25 minutes.

Since wrapping out a set goes much faster than putting in the rig*, we were done by 1 pm, so luckily I missed traffic both ways.

But, enough about me.

Fellow blogger John August’s movie (that he directed, even) is out and since he’s just generally awesome I’m sure the movie’s going to be great. It’s called The Nines, and everyone should drop whatever it is that you’re doing and go see it right now.

*the rule of thumb is that it takes half the time to de-rig as it takes to rig, although that can change depending on how difficult things are to remove, access issues, etc…

Filed under: locations, long long drives, Work, , , , , , , ,

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