Friday, December 30, 2005
My firewall software took a dump and now my drive has been fucked up from an unfortunate influx of all kinds of nasty things. Since the only sites I visit are my email (yahoo), some blogs, myspace and Defamer, I'm wondering who's fault this is.
Since I've never changed a hard drive before, I may just end up fucking up my computer (I may not - it can't be that hard, can it?), so hopefully I'll continue to have internet access.
So, today I've got to back up the stuff I want to keep (all my photos, my blog backup, phone book, etc), and tonight I'm going to put in the new drive.
Hopefully I'll be successful - if not I'm doomed to posting everything from the internet cafe until I can make this work.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
While work is always a very good thing, I have to be honest in that I have conflicting feelings about this.
January is the one month when I know I'm not going to work, so I can do things like upgrade my computer (which requires six trips to Fry's and at least two
I also have to go through my work bag and figure out how many tools I need to replace before it gets busy again. I do tend to lose tools due to absent-minded borrowers, but some just wear out, get damaged (if you use a screwdriver to pry apart two bates connectors that are stuck together, it can bend the screwdriver - or blow a chunk out of it if there's still power to that line. They just don't make tools like they used to), or are dropped on a concrete floor from 40 feet in the air.
I also have some stuff to do for the next micro-budget we're trying to fund, finish the SAG paperwork for the last one (it's halfway through edit #3 now), re-cover the couch (I've had the fabric for two years and just haven't gotten around to it), and soak the front window screens in solvent (damn teenagers) to remove the graffiti.
I'm going to hope for more work - money doesn't spoil, and I can always put off my projects until spring.
* Does anyone have any suggestions for a good hard firewall (i.e. not a software firewall) for home use that doesn't cost a jillion dollars?
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
It happened again this trip - as I lay in the cold bedroom on the lumpy twin bed, I tossed and turned, repeatedly waking up my sister who snapped on night two and suggested that I might be more comfortable on the floor in the living room (the couch was taken up by the other sister).
I know that it's just a dream, but it's an exceptionally vivid one, and always carries over into my waking life - I just can't shake the imagery, and to drive it out of my brain, I do things like write stupid haikus (see yesterday's post), and make a valiant (yet invariably unsuccessful) attempt to finish the New York Times crossword.
None of it seems to work, though. I spend the last day of every trip with this grinding, irrational anxiety gnawing at me.
Sure enough, when I got home, everything was intact, and the only catastrophe was a very angry cat - she'd eaten her food ration too quickly and had an empty bowl.
It's good to be home.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
The shaking invigorates
Where are my fillings?
So many head colds
Recirculating air - yuck!
Please try not to sneeze.
The plane boards at last
Passengers packed like sardines
Soon I will be home
I promise I will never post poetry ever again.
Friday, December 23, 2005
Since I've been on a movie set for the past few weeks, I thought I'd write myself a reminder list - since I'm sure I've forgotten how to behave around folks who don't think farts are funny.
1. "Hey, motherfucker" is not an appropriate greeting.
2. The dessert course is not the "Abbey Singer*".
3 The proper response to someone passing gas is not to stand and applaud.
4. If someone asks me to do something, do not reply with "Copy that**".
5. Don't inhale dinner - I've got more than half an hour to eat***.
6. When we're almost done opening presents, do not yell "This and two moves us to pie!+"
7. I do not have 'cinematic immunity' in my rental car++.
8. If my mother manages to drag me to church on Christmas eve (she's usually unsuccessful, but she does try), I do not get night premium.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
I'll be back on December 28th.
*Abbey Singer was a famous assistant director from 'old Hollywood' who was famous for saying "just one more shot, just one more shot". Now, the second to last shot of the day is called the Abbey Singer. The last shot is called the martini. Okay, it was a lame joke. Merry fucking Xmas.
**Walkie-talkie speak. "Copy that" means "I've understood what you've said."
***You can always spot film production folks in restaurants - we inhale our food, faces a few inches off the plate, eating as fast as we can. It's from years of only having a half hour for lunch. The faster you eat, the more time you'll have to sleep on the lift gate of the truck.
+More production-speak. "This and two moves us" means, well, this shot and two more moves us to wherever we're supposed to be next.
++ "Cinematic Immunity" refers to film crews flagrantly breaking traffic laws in front of police officers, and not getting busted.
We ended up wrapping out Wednesday night after all (once again, they really cracked the whip on that poor director and we wrapped 12 hours after call time), although our 2+ hours of work to get everything back into the truck meant that we missed the impromptu party at a nearby bowling alley (this happens a lot - there will be a huge party around us, while we're working our butts off. It usually ends just as we close the truck doors). It's just as well - I'm sure none of us smelled all that great, and we all just wanted to go home.
We met at the rental house yesterday, unloaded the trucks which we've called home for the past five weeks, checked our equipment in, and when we were done, shook hands all around and went our separate ways - all of us on our phones, trying to line up the next job.
* The expression "In the can" means that the film has finished shooting.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Our wrap plans have gone seriously awry. Were going to wrap tomorrow night after we finished shooting (three hours of double time - since we're figuring it's going to be at least a 14 hour day and this contract doesn't pay double time until after 14 hours), do one day at the rental house and then have Friday off, but the UPM doesn't want to pay that three hours(which I can understand - she'd be paying double time for us and grip: about 10 people), so we have to go back to the school on Thursday (whatever time we get there - it'll probably be about 1 pm), wrap the location, send the truck to the rental house and unload the truck Friday morning. Although I was looking forward to having a day off before I leave town, an extra day of work is not a bad thing.
The 'eeewww' moment of the day was craft service setting out leftover pizza (last night's Domino's) drenched in ranch dressing - we figure it had to be a joke.
Please tell me it was a joke.
Monday, December 19, 2005
One of our juicers is the nicest, most fun guy in the world (and completely harmless), but he looks like he'd kill you and eat your skin for fun on a Friday night. Our producer ambushed him at the craft service table and talked him into playing the security guard role (no lines, of course -then they'd have to pay him more and possibly taft-hartley him into SAG).
His first question, of course, was "How much extra are you going to pay me?"
His second question was if our boss was okay with it - if you have one of your crew in front of the camera, then you're down a guy, and some gaffers are not okay with stuff like this.
Our boss said we were set up for the shot and he was fine, and the producer said that she'd pay him non-union background actor wages (I think it's $50 or $75 - and that's on top of what he's getting paid today), so he agreed.
They put him in wardrobe, he did the scene (where he looks menacing - and he did it really well. He didn't look stiff at all, even though he told us later that he was nervous as hell), and afterwards graciously endured about an hour of catcalls and wolf whistles from the crew.
As soon as he got back into his real clothes and onto the walkie, his first statement was "I just wanted a cup of coffee. I'm still not sure how this happened to me."
Quote of the night.
We have a 10 am call tomorrow. If I can, I'm going to go to one of those cheap tourist joints on Hollywood Blvd. and get him a fake Oscar (tm).
Sunday, December 18, 2005
The topper to the day was my accidentally locking myself in a bathroom (don't ask) at wrap and then having to pound on the door and scream for help until someone came to let me out (given how big a cunt I'd been all day, I'm really surprised that they didn't just leave me in there). I cursed at other motorists all the way home, and upon getting there the discovery that my saved take-out had gone bad (not surprising - it had been in the fridge for a week) resulted in yet another temper tantrum (and my having to scrub the walls of the kitchen at 2 am after I calmed down).
Although everyone's cranky near the end of a movie (spending too much time crammed into close quarters for 14 hours a day every day will do that) I figured out that my crankiness is because I haven't worked out consistently since this movie started. When I'm not working, I'm doing some kind of workout damn near every day (weights four times a week, cardio of some type six days a week).
I guess I've gotten addicted to it, as after two days of doing weights (arms yesterday, legs today) and swimming (both days), I feel much better -so much better that I don't want to kill anyone, and I even baked a bunch of cookies to take to work tomorrow as an apology for my being horrible on Friday.
Three more days - our last shooting day is Wednesday, and we wrap the truck on Thursday and Friday.
Friday, December 16, 2005
I've managed to spend most of my adult life avoiding teenagers. Even the 'teenage' extras in our movie are actually in their 20's due to restrictions about working minors long hours.
These actual teenagers would stick their heads into the room that we had our equipment or into the set (us, grip, camera, sound, wardrobe, beauty* and video village** all in a medium sized classroom) and demanding to be put in the movie, be given something off the craft service table or to meet one of the actors:
Teenager 1: "Ohmygod, I HAVE to be in your movie. Put me in your movie!"
Teenager 2: "That actor is so superhot - you have to put me in the movie now! Ohmygod!"
Teenager 3: "Give me some of that food! What do you mean you don't have enough?"
Teenager 4: "Ohmygod, that actor is so totally superhot! Ohmygod - what's he like?"
Teenager 5: "Hey, put me in the movie! Hey! HEY!! Why are you ignoring me?"
Me: "Look, I'm just an electrician. The biggest favor I can do for you is to tape down all my cables so that you don't trip and fall on your ass in front of that so totally superhot actor (who, for the record, is cute in that non-threatening boy kind of way, but I'd hesitate to call him 'superhot'. Maybe I'm just old)."
Teenager 5: "Ohmygod! I so totally need to be whatever you are so I can get put in the movie."
Me: "Fine, call me when you get your union card and I'll give your number to my boss."
Teenager 5: "BITCH!!!"
If I'd ever wanted kids, today would have killed that desire. Like totally. At least they were all gone by about 4 pm.
Today was only 12 hours, due to the producer cracking the whip, and we finished everything on the call sheet, which is a good thing - no added work tomorrow.
*Beauty, sometimes called "Primp and Crimp" is the hair and makeup departments.
**Video Village is the monitor where the director, producers et al. sit and watch what's being shot. It's always in our way.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Wrap time: 11:45 pm
We left at 12:30 am
Call time tommorow (in the west San Fernando Valley - about 35 miles from my house): 10:30 am.
I really feel bad for the grips. They're still there, trying to wrap out of the stage. We left everything for our rigging crew. They'll pick it up tomorrow and sent it out to the Valley in a stakebed truck.
I'm off to bed.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
The major fuck up of the morning was the guy with the lighting balloons got sent to the wrong stage and had to break down and then set up again, which took some time, but since today was our first day with a really big blue screen ( I mean really big. This one is 30' by about 100 '. The big hanging screens have to be set up properly - they can't have any wrinkles and this takes some time and effort on the part of the grips), there was enough going on that it didn't matter. I think we ended up starting a half hour behind schedule, which isn't bad for a huge move from one stage to another with a really small crew who weren't given a pre-call*.
Once we got set up, two of the guys who didn't want to be on set with the raging cold went back and wrapped up the other stage, although the rental company's not coming to pick the stuff up until tomorrow (Wednesday).
Everything went pretty smoothly, which I'm very happy about - the last thing I wanted to do was have to call my boss and say "Hey, there's been a huge catastrophe on the day that you left me in charge!"
Speaking of my boss, he's feeling better (that weird Chinese shit he's been taking must have worked), and will be back tomorrow.
* A pre-call is when the crew comes in early in order to get set up on time.
Monday, December 12, 2005
I think it's the static lighting. On a stage, you can't see the sun moving across the sky, so it's impossible to tell how much time has passed; meaning it's very easy to slip into thinking you have much more time than you actually do.
This director, who's the nicest guy in the world but isn't very fast even on location, has slowed to damn near a full stop since we've been on stage.
Scenes are being cut and added to the next day's work in an effort to keep the hours down, which just means that we'll have a super long day on the last stage day (Wednesday). We had a second unit today just to help us catch up, as we're moving to another stage first thing in the morning.
Inertia is frustrating. When you sit and do nothing, it makes the day seem longer - although after all these night exteriors, I'm happy for the opportunity to sit and read the paper.
The cold from hell is still raging around set (when you work 14 hour days your immune system doesn't work well). My boss got it today, so he's staying home tomorrow (in a much appreciated effort not to get the rest of us sick), which means that I'm the best boy until he gets back.
For the humble re-rate of $1.00 per hour, I get to return stacks of equipment from two different rental packages, wade through piles of paperwork, and fill out timecards instead of sitting on my ass, staring slack-jawed at a spot on the wall while we do 17 takes of every angle.
Hey, it'll make the day go faster.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
I guess it shouldn't surprise me that taking that stuff makes you more sensitive to alcohol. I just wish I'd been smart enough to figure it out beforehand.
After being incapacitated all day yesterday, I'm now left with half a weekend. I have to finish my shopping, ship all of my gifts (which I was going to do yesterday and now won't get to do until next weekend which means I'll have to pay extra for express shipping), do my laundry, get the car serviced, and try to clean the house.
Guess which one of these I'm going to let slide. That's right - the house. I'll just have to live like a pig for another week (although I'm not home more than a few hours at a stretch anyways).
I also have no food, and that's not an exaggeration. There is absolutely nothing edible in my house - I used the last of the coffee this morning, and although I'm tempted to dig into my earthquake supplies, I'm not going to do it.
I'm going to go to the Hollywood Farmer's Market and get a tamale from Corn Maiden. I'm not going to buy more food as it's just going to rot in the fridge - this movie's going another two weeks.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
If you remove the handrail from the catwalks (to load equipment into the perms), you really should re-install it when you're done.
Whomever took this out didn't bother to put it back (yes, it was like this when we got there) - and, if you're wondering, this photo was taken from about 35 feet up in the air.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
At some point during the early afternoon today, someone accused the set lighting department of 'being dishonest with production'.
I have no idea why it happened, how it happened or what led up to the accusation. At the time, I was on the truck and only heard about it second-hand - in the form of "Wait 'til you hear this!" from one of my co-workers.
Of course, this immediately caused a lot of mirth in our supposedly dishonest little department. My boss started it by jokingly calling one of the other juicers a "lying bastard", which sent us all into hysterics right there on the lift gate of the truck.
It quickly escalated on the walkie when we started referring to each other as "lying sack of shit" - as in "Hey you lying sack of shit - where are those stingers?" or "I know you told me you wrapped those lights, but I should probably double check because you're a lying sack of shit."
If someone didn't respond to his or her name the first time (and sometimes you don't), the next step would be to yell - you guessed it - "Clock in*, you lying sack of shit!"
By the end of the day, I was breaking up halfway through "Sack of shit", and one of the other guys couldn't even say that much because he'd start laughing right after he managed spit out the word "You".
This has officially usurped the "Cheez Nips and a punch in the mouth" joke that had just about run it's course (it had actually gotten out of control - I have a water bottle holder on my toolbelt and yesterday, someone removed the water bottle and filled the holder with Cheez Nips while I wasn't looking).
On the way home, my boss called to tell me that he'd moved me to the rigging crew tomorrow (they're day exterior and don't really need three people since they'll probably not do any lighting). The stage is three blocks from my house, so this is a huge favor - tomorrow's location is a half-hour drive for me.
When I said that I would miss them (so not true - I'll have an eight hour day and my call's two and a half hours later than theirs), he said "Don't worry - I'll call you every 15 minutes and lie to you".
If only I could believe him.
We are, after all, a bunch of lying sacks of shit.
*"Clock in" being what someone says to you when you're daydreaming and should be working - as in "punch the clock, you're at work."
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
There's actually a lot to write about, but I'm off to bed.
UPDATE: This LA Times article (which, today, I've really been regretting - I'd dug myself into a nice little rut and now I'm all out of sorts) has spawned some fantastic emails.
Here's one from tonight: Chris Hager's Local 80 Photographs
These are fucking amazing. Local 80 are grips - and these are some fantastic portraits of my grip brothers and sisters. You want to see what "we" look like?
Here we are.
Monday, December 05, 2005
If you turn someone down too often, they stop calling you at all ("Oh, she's booked all the time, I'm not going to even bother"), which is a very bad thing.
The job I had to turn down today (my day off) would have been working until 9 pm and then I'd have to be back on the low budget at 6 am tomorrow. The problem with that is that a 9 pm wrap (if they wrap at 9) means I'm not leaving the stage until 9:45, I don't get home until 10:15, and I won't get to sleep until 11:30.
A 6 am call means 5:30 for breakfast, which means I have to leave my house at 5 am, which means I have to be up at 4:30 am. No matter how I crunch those numbers, I'm left without enough sleep, and I used up my carte blanche to be cranky last week.
That and I put off doing my laundry until today, so had I worked I'd have had to walk around in rank clothing all week. Eeew.
I did the laundry, and went to see Jarhead with the Boy Who's Really Cute But Is Way Too Young For Me.
Right after the movie let out, I got called to work on the scale show that I helped load in a week ago. It's a week of work downtown at night - but I'd have to bail off the low budget for those five days (starting December 11th).
Five days at scale is a considerably larger amount of money. Five days on a scale show with a full crew and good coffee. Five days on a show which runs beyond Christmas (the low budget ends December 23rd), so there's a chance of getting work in January, when I know it's going to be slow. Five days with a best boy that I really would like to keep calling me, so I don't want to turn him down.
Five days on a show which would leave my boss on the low budget - whom I like a whole lot - scrambling to find someone to replace me.
I know what he'll say when I talk to him. He'll say "of course you should go to the higher paying show. You'd be silly to turn down that kind of money. We'll find someone", and he'll mean it, but I've seen him in the truck, making phone call after phone call because no one wants to work for this rate when it's busy and there are so many shows paying scale.
So now I feel guilty.
I told the best boy on the scale show to pencil me in, pending my ability to find a replacement for myself. If I have to turn him down, hopefully he'll understand.
If not, I'll have potentially burned a bridge (so to speak), and that sucks.
I'm off to bed.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Although I still feel the attention isn't justified (I am, after all, just a worker bee), I'd like to welcome any new readers and raise the following points:
I welcome reader responses, but sometimes can't reply to them due to a seriously overloaded work schedule (or an exhaustion-blown brain). Don't take it personally if I don't reply to your comment or email right away.
I try really hard not to lapse into techie jargon here, but I sometimes slip. If there's a term you don't understand, please ask and it will be explained.
Swear away. I have a potty mouth, why shouldn't you?
Speaking of potty mouths, this blog does sometimes raise adult subjects and uses adult language. It's probably not appropriate for children, although I doubt any of them would want to read it anyway.
I'd also like to apologize to the writers of all the wonderful blogs out there that I haven't had time to read lately. I still love all your blogs, I just don't get the computer time when I work 14 hour days.
Since I have Monday off (woohoo!), I'm going to a friend's party tonight.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
The world is just waking up, parents are dropping their kids off at school (well, not on Saturday, but you get the idea), lines are forming at coffee places, and I'm cracking open a cold one while I watch the morning traffic report, grateful to have made it home in one piece.
We shut the doors of our truck just as the sun was coming up - the end of our weeklong night exterior extravaganza.
Thank the deity of your choice that it's over. Night work is tough - just staying up all night is a pain, and when we're outside after dark, it's a lot of work for us (there's a huge difference between the movie version of dark and actual dark. Movie dark involves a surprisingly large number of lights).
People get tired and cranky, tempers get short - it's a contagious case of what one of the camera assistants calls "the pissy-pants".
Last night, however, the crew were not the crankiest people around - and I actually felt shamed into not complaining about being cold.
This movie takes place in the summertime, so last night we shot an outdoor pool party scene.
An outdoor pool party on a cold night in a pool that despite the rented water heaters never got over 68 degrees.
A pool that was full of actors pretending to be having fun on a balmy summer night which was actually 48 degrees with a very cold wind.
They did a good job, though. They didn't even visibly shiver on camera.
I came home, slept for about three hours and am going to try to stay awake until 8 or 9 tonight. I have to get back on a day schedule - we have a 6 am call on Tuesday (they're giving us an extra day off over the weekend to get re-adjusted, which is very, very nice of them).
Friday, December 02, 2005
The only thing that was cold was my face. My boss suggested one of those ski masks that cover your face, but aside from the bank robber look not doing it for me, how am I supposed to drink coffee while wearing one of those things?
The location itself was a pretty tough one - we had our trucks in the campsites just above the lake, and the set was 30 feet down the hill on the shore of the lake itself. The production company had stairs built (which was a good thing - that hill was steep), but they were really crowded (that and I don't do stairs well because of my knees), so I ended up just running up and down the hill all night (there was a little trail and it ended up being faster anyways). We kept two guys downstairs on the set and two guys upstairs by the trucks so we could meet in the middle with equipment - that way we were only running up and down half a hill all night.
I lucked out and got posted upstairs near the trucks - which also happened to be near the space heaters and the coffeepot. Maybe that's why I was warm.
On night one, we had some lights placed underwater (they make special lights for this), so one of the guys had to go into the water with them. Right before he went in, he asked our boss what his dive rate was on this show - normally, you get extra money for going in the water - and I jokingly turned to him and said "The dive rate's a cup of Cheez Nips and a punch in the mouth." (this is sort of a riff on the fact that there's a really low 'dive bump' on this movie).
It reads really lame now, but it was hilarious at 3 am. Now it's mushroomed into a huge joke on set ("Hey, great job! Come to the production office for your rate bump*!")
I went straight from my motel room in Castaic to last night's Granada Hills location - in a neighborhood that doesn't get filmed in very often (I can tell because the residents are putting up lawn chairs on the sidewalks to watch the movie being filmed. Normally the residents where we're filming shout curses at us while they're calling the permit office trying to get us shut down).
We're back there tonight, for a night exterior in the rain. That same guy's got to get in the pool tonight - and the water's just as cold as the lake was.
Don't worry, he'll get his rate bump.
*A rate bump is a temporary raise - generally for doing something extra shitty, such as wading into a cold body of water at night.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Last night, in Chatsworth, the temperature was in the very low 40's (if you think that's not cold, then try standing outside all night in low 40's), and I didn't bring enough clothing (my torso was fine, but my legs were really cold). I also got stuck baby-sitting the condor (it's being sent up unmanned, but someone has to stay with it just in case). Had I gone up, I'd have had my sleeping bag and would have been fine. Instead I got colder and colder and ended up trying to burrow under the camo netting* to keep warm.
Camo netting is not an effective blanket.
I ended up having to hike the half mile back to the truck and get my rain gear because I needed the extra layer.
Call time: 2:30 pm
Wrap time: 4:30 am
For the next two nights, we're in Castaic, which is going to be super cold (the predicted lows are in the mid-forties, but we're shooting right on the shore of the lake, so it'll probably feel colder than that), but I'm ready. I've packed every warm thing I own, and if I have to, I'll wear them all at the same time.
Since Castaic is so far away (and we're on nights, so we'd be fighting the traffic both ways), we're being put up in hotels. I'll be back Friday morning.
*When a large piece of equipment which can't be moved might be in the shot (last night it was the condor base - it's normally our trucks), it's draped with military-style camoflauge netting. It looks cheesy as hell to the eye, but the film can't read it. Sort of. If you know what to look for, you can see it - but if you're looking at the background trying to see the camo netting, the movie's got bigger problems than a truck in the frame, now doesn't it?
Saturday, November 26, 2005
I think I'm going to go to M-Bar to see the Lenny Bruce show (okay, it's not actually Lenny Bruce - it's a guy named Jason Fisher who's doing some of Bruce's routines).
Although next week's going to suck (I hate nights and working them intermittently for years is the main reason why I have such a terrible problems sleeping now), I'll have fun tonight!
UPDATE: The show was great - although some of the material felt dated, I was surprised at how much of it still seemed relevant. Jason Fisher did a good job of giving the half-century old routine life, and I recommend the show highly if you're interested in seeing some of Bruce's material 'live'.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
First thing in the morning, the production designer warned us that we had to be super careful with the doors in the office as they were very expensive (over $1500 each). Of course, it was about 10 minutes before one of the doors got scratched - but not by us (thankfully).
We're still having generator problems, so my boss spent the entire day running around swapping out random stuff. Well over 100 years after it's discovery, there's still an element of voodoo to electricity - the littlest things can make portable generators go haywire. Basically, what's happening is that our generator is having a problem with something somewhere in our cable or distribution and is having to work so hard that it shuts down ( a Power Factor problem - only click the link if you can speak fluent geek). When the generator shuts down, all the lights on the set go out. When this happens while they're shooting, this is a huge problem.
What's causing this is anyone's guess. It could be one thing, or it could be five different things all working together. (I can't really explain this very well without veering in to major tech-speak).
Luckily, the producers have been very gracious about it and are trying to work with my boss to find the problem and fix it (again, this is largely guesswork - and involves replacing most of our cable* and distro in the hopes that we'll eliminate the problem).
The other source of amusement today was the pedometer reading.
Last weekend, on a whim, I bought a pedometer, just to see how much I walk at work (we've all been saying for years that we walk a lot every day, but no one I know has ever tallied it up). Today was the first day I wore it (well, I wore it Monday, but that doesn't really count), and I kept checking it throughout the day.
I knew I walked a lot at work, but I had no idea just how much: from 6 am until 8 pm, I walked 16.9 miles. The camera loader (who probably walks way more than me) wants to wear it Monday.
Since tomorrow's a holiday, after work, some of the crew went to Alpine Village in Torrance to have a drink. Alpine Village is a bad German themed, well, mall. It's got bad German food, bad German Tschokes, and bad German music. Unbeknownst to us, after dark it's also a major senior citizen nightspot.
The weird thing is the cover band was playing modern music. Kylie Minogue, Madonna, Santana, etc.. and the seniors, dressed to the nines (some of them in rather revealing disco-mamma wear), dancing like crazy. It was hilarious, but I hope I'm in that spry when I'm their age.
One of the sound assistants and I had a conversation that this would never be in a movie because casting folks can't come up with stuff like this.
It's true, you know. Casting people don't want the background to upstage the actors.
Call time: 6 am
Wrap time: 8 pm
Senior party time: until 10:30 pm, when I ran out of steam and headed home.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
*In layman's terms, electrical cable is a bunch of really thin wires held together by insulation. This is true for 4/0 (pronounced 'four-ought') cable (which can conduct hundreds of amps), your vacuum cleaner cord (which conducts about 18 amps), and everything in between. When the cable is mishandled, coiled backwards (it should always be coiled up clockwise), or run over by cars, these little thin wires break and the cable doesn't conduct as much electricity. It is a possibility that fucked up cable could be causing the generator problem. Have I mentioned that there's still an element of voodoo to electricity?
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Three hours later, I was slightly nauseous and by lunch I was really nauseous, had stomach cramps, and was apparently pretty green around the gills. Despite my protestations that I could tough it out, my boss sent me home.
Good thing too. It got worse as soon as I got home (at least I made it home - I had visions of me pulled over on the side of the freeway, being sick into oncoming traffic). I called the doctor who told me I probably had salmonella and that I should try to drink fluids if I could.
The only problem was a complete lack of fluids in my house (I had a half bottle of wine, some coffee creamer and an expired can of Red Bull); so I went to Trader Joe's to get some ginger ale and sparkling water. I figured there wasn't anything left in my stomach, so I'd be safe as long as I got in and out quickly.
I'd forgotten about Thanksgiving.
Trader Joe's was jammed - the lines stretched halfway across the store, and by the time I got to the checkstand I wasn't feeling so hot. I managed to pay for my groceries, but I couldn't quite make it out the door.
They were very nice about the whole thing, but I'm not sure I can go back in there.
Since I'm feeling better, I'm back to work tomorrow - when I talked to my boss on the phone, he said they'd been having generator problems and we're going to have to swap out all the cable - I missed all the excitement.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Hell, I've even tried hot sauce on ice cream (now that one didn't work so well).
My favorite had been Cholula, but the caterer on this movie's been stocking a brand called Tapatio, which is now officially my favorite. It's got a good heat level, an excellent flavor, and it's not too vinegary (Tabasco, while great on oysters and in cajun-style stuff, is a bit too thin for general use).
I'd seen Tapatio at restaurants, and had always reached over it to get to the Cholula, but now I'm converted.
My two missions today were getting the laundry done and procuring some hot sauce. I struck out at Whole Foods and that hot sauce store in the Farmer's Market (although they do carry Cholula).
Third try's a charm (or something like that) - I found it at Monsieur Marcel, a gourmet place that's also in the Farmer's Market (I'd gone in there looking for something else and just checked the hot sauce selection out of curiosity).
I bought two bottles (I was going to give one to my cousin, who also loves hot sauce; but screw her - she can rot in Tabasco land), and to celebrate my score, for dinner I had oven fries (slice potatoes, bake in oven till crispy) with about a quarter bottle of Tapatio - and a glass of the 2005 Beaujolais Nouveau, which held up surprisingly well to hot-sauce loaded potatoes.
Don't hate me because of my hot sauce habit.
Hate me because I paired it with a perfectly innocent wine.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
On this show, the gaffer is using a lot of his own lights, and he's just come back from Canada (he left X-Men 3), so we've been having to change out the plugs on all the lights (and test them - a lot seem to have been broken by the shipping company), mark everything with our tape color (hot pink for us, yellow for the rigging crew), test fire everything, and then load it in the 48 foot trailer - and it has to be loaded in such a way that it can all be seen, found and gotten out quickly if the gaffer calls for it.
The cable all goes in the belly (lighting trucks have 'belly boxes' which are storage areas under the chassis of the trailer - they're for heavy things like cable and distro, and they're also good places to sneak a nap), the small lamps get loaded onto carts (so they can be rolled close to the set), and the BFL's (Big Fucking Lights) and lights that don't get used often get stowed on the shelves.
Since the rental house closed at 6 (and once the rental house closes, there's nothing to do), I had the luxury of a free Friday night - which I utilized to the fullest by falling asleep halfway through The Magnificent Seven.
I'm back on the low budget Monday.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
I decided I needed a mini-vacation from the low-budget beatdown and took a two day call loading a truck with some really good friends of mine (whose show happens to be paying scale).
Of course, Tuesday was a 15 hour day on said low-budget beatdown - We closed the doors of our truck at midnight (at our location in bumfuck - a 45 minute drive for me), and today's call time was 8 am at the rental house.
I'll fill in on the load-in (Loading the truck at the beginning of the show = load in. Unloading the truck at the end of the show = load out) tomorrow.
Right now, I'm tired.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
This is actually a big deal - having the truck close means being able to get stuff into set quicker, and means less distance to schlep things - plus, no matter how much stuff you've got staged right outside the set, the gaffer will always call for something that you've left on the truck. I think they have radar or something. If the truck's two blocks away, that's a huge problem.
Normally the camera truck is the closest to set (of course - they have the most pressure on them and the loader's always running in and out of the truck), but grip and electric (separate trucks - having two departments share a truck is a fucking nightmare) are next in line. Murhpy's Law being what it is, whomever's truck is the furthest away will always get peeled and have to empty their truck (if you empty your truck completely, you say you've "puked the truck").
Of course, if you piss off the Teamsters, they'll make damn sure your truck is always the furthest away. I can walk onto a new show and tell you right off the bat who's pissed the Teamsters off just by where the trucks are parked in relation to the set.
Today, we were shooting in a diner in the Valley ("Heavenly Pancakes"), and our driver literally put our lift gate four feet away from the back door of the restaurant.
Whenever our driver would walk by, our boss would say "Dammit, could you have gotten us any further away?" and then we'd all laugh.
We have a great bunch of Teamsters on this show.
Call time: 9 am
Wrap time: 10:00 pm.
The rest of the movie's going to be like this. I don't think we'll be in the same place for more than three days again.
We're also going to be on 'splits' (a late morning call or near noontime call as there's both day and night work) for the rest of the week. I don't mind splits - I can still do things like go to the bank in the morning.
Right now I'm tired, and I have to be back at work in nine hours.
Call time: 9:00 am
Wrap time: 9:30 pm
We finished at 11:00 pm
Sunday, November 13, 2005
I must have walked 15 miles Friday (night exterior - lighting up an entire suburban block with only four of us. Between call and wrap, I sat down for a grand total of an hour - and that's including lunch), and when I got up Saturday morning, I could barely walk. Normally I swim for an hour or so and then I feel fine, but no dice this time.
I remember telling my grandmother that the liniment she rubbed on her joints was gross and that I'd never do it. She'd just give me that look and say "you'll be surprised the things you do as you age." Sure enough, I've smeared my knees and ankles with this nasty smelly Chinese shit and am now wearing leg warmers to keep the chill off in the hopes that I'll be able to walk without hobbling in the morning.
I so totally did not expect this to happen while still in my 30's.
One week down, five to go.
I'm not sure I'm gonna make it.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
My boss is taking it pretty well.
Thankfully, it didn't rain, but since everything was still soaked from the previous day's showers, I had to wear plastic rain pants (very clammy) most of the day. The grips had to dry out their day blues* which got soaked in the rain. They set up a really long metal rail, sort of like a heavy duty clothesline, and hung them out to dry in the sun. They looked really pretty - sort of like one of those laundry commercials (you know the ones - where the housewife runs happily between the clotheslines full of extra fresh wash), except on a way bigger scale.
Today was also the first day that we've not had any major equipment problems, and everything on our end ran pretty smoothly.
The house we're shooting at has a really gorgeous lawn and beautiful landscaping, and the homeowner (a really nice guy) is being incredibly gracious about the fact that there's a film crew trampling it, parking equipment on it, and generally abusing what has to be a few thousand dollars worth of premium bluegrass. One of his rosebushes is already dead (that's what happens when you shine a 10,000 watt light on a plant), and he's just laughing about the whole thing - although the lawn getting fucked up is really hurting him. I can tell.
Call time: 9:30 am
Wrap time: 10:00 pm
*20' x 20' (6m x 6m) cloth sheets of light blue - they're used to create the illusion of sky, or in this case, a sunny day when it's really raining cats and dogs.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
It's kind of strange - the lights fool your eyes and make it look like the sun's out, even when it's pouring rain.
The neighborhood's stray cat has adopted us - he's hanging out on our truck, and the best boy's threatening to give him a home. He's got a collar, but the neighbors swear that he lives on the street and mooches food. We figure someone moved away and forgot him.
Our equipment problems continue - we had a head go down just after lunch, and once again the entire production company was waiting on us.
Call time: 8 am
Wrap time: 8 pm
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Our equipment problems continued today - it seems like half our cable is fucked up, and our 'blanket light' - which we used for the first time today - had about half the tubes dead.
Of course, we had to change them while the entire production waited on us - the AD didn't make things any better when he announced "We can't roll yet!! There's a lighting problem" - thus causing everyone to stare at us while we frantically tried to get the light working.
We've looked like clowns for two days now - just because of the equipment. None of us are happy about it.
The problem isn't our boss (he understands the equipment problem) - the problem is production. They don't pay attention to us when we do things right.. they only notice us when we fuck up. If we fuck up too much, then they won't hire our boss again.
We all really like our boss and want him to keep working - even if he never hires any of us again.
I'm going to bed.
Call time: 8 am
Wrap time: 9 pm
Monday, November 07, 2005
I usually try to make sure the entries on the blog are at least written decently, but it's not an easy thing to pull off while my brain has given me the finger.
So, here's the question:
Do you want me to post something semi-incoherent (see the previous entry) every day, or do you want me to post once a week (I'll take notes every day and then polish the posts and publish on the weekends - still a post a day but not published until the weekend)?
You tell me.
I ran into an old friend whom I haven't seen in about 10 years - he and I used to go to the same clubs in LA, and we sort of looked at each other for a few moments before we figured it out. He's working art department now. He looks exactly the same as he did back in the day.
Since production got the lighting equipment from the crappiest (and cheapest) rental house in town, we're already having problems with it - mostly minor (lights not working, latches breaking, etc..), but one piece of cable was mislabeled ( the neutral and hot legs were mixed up - I'll explain the whole thing later. I'm wiped out right now), and we ended up blowing up a light.
It could have been a lot worse. Someone could have gotten hurt.
Later in the day, I was telling the sound guy what happened, and I finished the story with the phrase "Hey, at least no one got hurt - they just have to pay for a light. It's only money after all."
The production manager was standing right next to me - she shot me a dirty look and said "Yeah, only money".
Well, it is.
Call time: 6 am.
Wrap time: 8 pm (they actually wrapped at 7, but it took us an hour to load our truck).
Sunday, November 06, 2005
I guess that's why I said yes.
Even if the rate's bad (and it is - almost $10 per hour under union scale) and we get worked half to death, I'll have fun and get to hang out with a great bunch of folks.
That, and the movie shoots until the end of December (six weeks of steady work - even at a reduced rate - is a very, very good thing), and they'll let me jump off for a few days here and there if I get a few days on a better-paying show.
Hopefully, my previous statements about low budget shows won't be true this time.
I'll know tomorrow - I've got a 6 am call for our first day of shooting.
Friday, November 04, 2005
Damn. I turned down other work because I thought I was booked, and they cancelled so late at night that there was no way for me to pick up any work for today.
I really, really hate it when that happens.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
For the past two days, I've been wrapping a location on Fast and Furious 3.
A parking garage in a mall that's been closed for 10 years. How dirty could it be?
Really dirty. There was a fine film of black dust everywhere. We were pulling cable* through it all day (not to mention the Gators - which we were using to drive stuff back to the staging area - kicking up a dust storm every time they drove by). By lunchtime, the dust had coated us from head to toe, making us look like derelicts.
They were shooting car stunts in this location, so every now and then we'd find something that fell off one of the cars they were driving. A bumper, a headlight, part of a blown tire - all covered in dust, of course. Where the hell was it coming from?
On the way home last night, I stopped at the grocery store, where people tried not to look at me as I walked past in case I did something crazy. I saw one woman start to push her cart down the aisle I was standing in - then she saw me and backed up as quickly as she could.
What I really want to do when this happens is grab them by the lapels, shake them and yell "I'm a responsible tax-paying citizen just like you, motherfucker!"
What I actually do is sigh heavily, purchase whatever it is that I came in for, go home and shower - after which I look (and feel) solidly middle class again.
*heavy cable is wrapped by pulling it towards you into a coil at your feet, hence the term 'pulling cable'.
Monday, October 31, 2005
Of course, I got ambushed as I tried to get from the car to the front door (I almost made it, too).
"Trick or Treeeeet!" yelled a fairy princess (I think she was a fairy princess - she could have also been Prom Night Barbie with a plastic scepter or a slutty party-going socialite with a misshapen golf club). "Give me something good to eat!"
I rummaged through my paper bag of take-out sushi (some nights I'm too tired even to open a can), trying to stall for time.
"Um.. let me see here... what do I have... You can have a salmon roll or... Miso soup! Yum!"
Dammit, why don't they give you fortune cookies in Japanese restaurants? I could have made a run for it while she was distracted.
"MOMMY! She's trying to give me food that's not in plastic! And sounds yucky!"
Mommy said "Leave the nice lady alone, honey", but still glared at me as she hustled the kids past, and kept shooting me dirty looks until I slunk into the house.
So I guess now I'm the weirdo that tried to give a kid sushi on Halloween.
I should have offered her my wire-strippers. Or a cube tap.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Friday, October 28, 2005
Tonight, I left my light* for a few minutes to pee and make a sandwich (not simultaneously). When I came back, I saw a really big rat.
A really big rat perched on the arm of my camp chair (with nifty built-in cupholder), daintily sipping my coffee (I still can't figure out how he got the plastic lid off the cup).
In case you were wondering, flapping your hands and yelling "Shoo!" does not frighten rats in downtown Los Angeles - in fact, it barely makes them look up from their coffee.
I had to lure him off my chair with part of my sandwich.
We're in the same set-up tomorrow night. I'm going to load up a cup with sugar and milk, hunker down and wait - hopefully I can get a picture of the Really Big Coffee Sipping Rat.
Hey, it beats reading a hand-me-down issue of InStyle over and over. Once I learn which color is the new black, I kind of lose interest.
*When a gaffer places lights on top of buildings or in other hard to reach places, he (or she) usually wants to keep a guy next to the lamp all night - just in case. While this may seem excessive, it's better than telling him (or her) that it will take 20 minutes to get someone across the street and up onto the roof to move said light 12 inches to the left.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
I don't go to Santa Clarita very often, and N.C.I.S. shoots in a converted warehouse that's jammed into a huge industrial park where all the buildings look exactly the same from the street, so by the time I found the right place, I'd missed breakfast, but they'd locked everyone out to do a 'private rehearsal', so it all worked out and I ended up being able to grab something from the caterer after all.
For the most part, the day was uneventful - we were insanely overmanned for what we needed to do, and this show uses flat lighting, so there wasn't a lot of hustling for us. Most of my day was me trying to get my bearings in a new set and figure out the dynamics of a crew I've not worked with before.
At lunch, they screened this week's episode - I'm glad they did, because I'd never otherwise see this show - I will guarantee that it's on at a time when I'm normally at work; which is why I don't see that much television.
About an hour after lunch, while we were standing there waiting for camera to reload, I turned to the on-set dresser* and asked, "Why, if this is Naval Crime Investigation, is the lead guy a Marine?" He responded "Oh, the Marines fall under the jurisdiction of the Navy." According to him, the first Marines were the guys that sat in the rigging of sailing ships with rifles, and they became their own branch of the armed forces sometime before WW1.
I had no idea.
About 10 pm the power went out. I don't mean just the power to the stage, I mean the power to a large portion of Santa Clarita (all that darkness is odd for city dwellers - it's so freaky looking up to the night sky in LA and seeing stars).
Of course, this happened just as we were getting ready to roll on our last scene of the night - a scene which had all five of our main actors sitting around a table in a set which immediately went pitch fucking black. I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. Most of the crew carry flashlights, so everyone got out okay and there were no injuries (that I heard about, at least). Craft service had just put out dinner, so everyone (except us, of course) got to hang out in the parking lot, munching on gourmet hot dogs (only in California) and chatting in the car-headlight ambiance (in this case, it was a good thing. If they're thinking about food, they're not thinking about the delay - no department ever wants to be the one who's holding up the show).
That extra manpower really came in handy, as we had to scramble to get our big tractor-mounted** generator (normally used only on location), a spare "tow plant" (we had two units running on two separate stages - lucky they had the smaller generator on hand or one of the units would have had to go home) and run cable to the stages so we could get the lights back on and finish the day's work.
We got it done in about half an hour (very fast). I have to give an 'attaboy' to the actors and production team. They didn't comment on the delay or ask any of us any questions (while it happened or afterwards). They just walked back in and got right back to work like nothing had happened.
About two hours later, one of the guys (who was outside for a smoke) announced over the walkie that the area was swarming with Edison trucks trying to get the power back on.
Although the power came back on about half an hour before we wrapped, we never switched back to stage power - we finished the night on the generators, and they're going to leave the cable runs down today in case it happens again.
Call time: 10 am
Wrap time: 1 am
* The on-set dresser has nothing to do with wardrobe. Set Dressers are responsible for that stuff that makes a set look like, well, not a set. Paper, coffee cups, unopened mail, empty Chinese take-out containers - the general flotsam of life that accumulates in the corners of every room; even the really tidy ones. It may not seem like much, but it makes a HUGE difference on screen.
Sets are 'dressed' well before the shooting crew shows up, but the guy who stays on set and moves things around while we shoot is the on-set dresser. He (or she) also vacuums carpets, polishes grubby fingerprints off glass tabletops and wood furniture, replaces books that crew members have been reading, and generally keeps everything camera ready.
**No, not Grandpa Clampett's rusty John Deere. 'Tractor' refers to the cab section of a tractor-trailer, or semi, or "goddammit, get those damn things off the road before they smash someone flat". Film trucks will have generators mounted right behind the cab - usually two - called 'the twins' (as in "Shit, the power's down to the whole area - start running cable and we'll pull the twins around).
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
When it's busy (like now), I don't have to work that hard; all I have to do is call our union, register as out of work and I'll be sent out on a call within a few hours.
This won't last, so I'm taking advantage of it while I still can.
Today, I'm off to NCIS (I have zero idea what that is) which shoots in Santa Clarita. Santa Clarita is a suburb about 30 miles north of L.A, and there's only one way in and out - Interstate 5.
I have a 10 am call, and I'm going to have to leave in about 10 minutes in order to make it by 9:30.
(generally, one wants to be there at least 15 minutes early - 30 if there's a caterer who's serving breakfast. Arriving right at call time is considered 'late').
Plus, I have to stop along the way and get coffee so my brain will be working by the time I get there.
I promise I'll be more coherent when I get home.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
This particular call was for Fast and Furious 3. The notable thing about this is the rigging department's outgoing voicemail message.
"Hello, you've reached the rigging office of Fast and Furious two... no, three.... wait. Four."
"Which fucking movie is this? Two? Four? Oh.. Three. You sure? Okay, then".
"You've reached the rigging office of Fast and Furious Three. Please leave a message, and we'll call you back right away. If you need to page us, call XXX - XXXX. Thank you."
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
One of the guys was waxing poetic about the greatest dog that he'd ever had - which happened to have been a pit bull. As he continued the story, it took me a few moments to realize that he was saying "pet bull" and not "pit bull". It was on the tip of my tongue to ask "You meant pit bull, right?", but I stopped and thought about it for a moment.
"Pet Bull" is, in fact, a very descriptive term. It brings to my mind a big, joyous drool factory of a dog who's always jumping on you to kiss you, trying to crawl into your lap while you're watching TV, wagging it's entire back end when you get home from work, and dropping slobber laden chew toys at your feet in an attempt to get you to play 'fetch'.
Turns out, this is a spot-on description of the dog.
The dog also loved everyone - the mailman, the cops, the guy reading the gas meter, muggers - with equal enthusiasm.
Since most people who get pet bulls - er, pit bulls - want them as guard dogs, the coining of a new phrase for a happy friendly pit bull seems perfectly logical.
Pit Bull + Pet = Pet Bull.
Makes perfect sense to me.
Tragically, the pet bull disappeared one night - stolen by robbers who broke into the house, took the TV, the stereo, the dog, and all the dog's food and toys.
Good pet bulls make bad guard dogs, I guess.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Yesterday, I was back on the Bones rigging crew (and thank heavens for that - the shooting crew had a 5 pm call, which means they probably called wrap at 7 or 8 this morning).
Most of what we were doing was wrapping out a courtroom set that we shot yesterday (the set was part of the recently cancelled show Head Cases: Bones shot in it Thursday, and House is shooting in it Monday).
One of the things that's not so great about the new, evolved, safety-conscious film industry is that we have a ton of restrictions on what we can and can't do, and all of the studios now have 'safety compliance' departments - which consist mostly of people who wander around and bust you if you violate that particular studio's written safety policy*.
For work on elevated walkways (the permanent catwalk system or 'perms', and 'greenbeds' which are walkways hung just over the top of the sets), people not trained on and certified to use fall arrest systems ("yo-yo"s) must stay within the confines of the handrails at all times.
Someone (like me) who hasn't got this certification may not stand on the knee or hand rails (to increase reach), crawl out onto the beams of the perms to retrieve objects, or go for a stroll on top of the set walls (which are outside the confines of the handrails).
Of course, we end up violating these rules on a fairly regular basis.
The trick is to violate the rules as quickly as possible to make sure that one doesn't get caught. You can't use the walkie to ask where the safety rep is, because production usually monitors walkie conversations, and if they hear a request for the safety rep, they'll call them and send them to your stage.
For obvious reasons, it is unwise to use the walkie to announce intentions to break the rules - "Hey, I'm going to climb up onto the handrails of the walkway - somebody make sure the coast is clear."
Naturally, there was one stubborn stinger (that's what we call an extension cord) that I couldn't get from the greenbed (despite my pulling really hard), so I had to go out onto the ceiling pieces of the set (not such a big deal if you know where to step, big problem if you don't) in order to retrieve it. Of course, because I was in flagrant violation of Fox's written safety policy, the damn thing had been taped down every few feet, requiring me to walk out further and further away from the greenbed in order to free it up. By the time I got the damn thing coiled up, I was standing on top of a set wall which was at least 20 feet away from the walkway.
Generally, among crew members, there's a policy of turning a blind eye towards that sort of thing - it's assumed that you know what you're doing and are doing it for a good reason. If it becomes clear to a crew member that whomever's violating a safety policy doesn't know what he or she is doing, we'll report it to that person's direct supervisor ("hey, Bob - your new kid's about to get himself killed. You might want to check on him.").
Luckily, I didn't get busted - although one of the painters looked up at me as I was WAY far off the greenbed. I just looked back at him and said (with a smile, of course) "You didn't see nothin', pal" to which he replied (also with a smile) "Wow. It sounds like there's a voice coming from up there, but I can't see anyone."
*I wholeheartedly support the industry's attempt to make the job less dangerous, and I applaud the safety program for basically forcing producers to pretend to give a shit about my health and welfare. I also do not condone or advise in any way, shape, or form violation of established safety procedures.
Rules, however, were sometimes made to be broken, and I'd just love it if they'd trust my judgment and knowledge of what's safe and not safe - for myself - in any given situation.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
I started this blog to prove myself right.
After years of hearing "Wow, your job must be so interesting", "People really would eat this up", and "You should write a book" I started the blog - if only to prove to everyone that I'm really a complete bore and no one wants to read about me or my job.
I guess I've been proven wrong, as folks do seem to be interested, but I'm still afraid that I make my job seem a lot more action-packed and fascinating than it really is.
I blog about stuff that happens to me - but there's a lot of time in between that stuff, and most of it's spent waiting.
Waiting for talent.
Waiting on camera.
Waiting on lunch.
Waiting to see if they're going to move on.
Waiting for the AD's to call 'cut' so I can turn the page of the newspaper.
Waiting on the sun to go down so we can light the night exterior.
Waiting for no fucking reason at all.
Even rigging (setting up for the shooting crew) involves waiting:
Waiting to be let into the location.
Waiting for equipment to be delivered.
Waiting on the truck to show up so we can load it.
Waiting for the rigging gaffer to tell us what to do.
Waiting for the guys 'up high' to send the rope back down so we can tie on another load of cable.
Waiting on paperwork from the rental house.
I'd say that, on average, about 70% of my day is spent waiting.
When we have to wait, we take the time - even if it is just an attempt to stave off boredom - to talk to each other, find a common ground, and make friends of people we'd otherwise never speak to. I once had a 20 minute conversation with one of the biggest producers in Hollywood who never, ever would have spoken to me if we hadn't been trapped on a set - waiting, of course - and both been huge Futurama fans.
No matter who we are, where we come from, or what job we do, the beast that is the film industry forces us all to wait - locked on a sound stage, trapped on a location with no cell service, shivering on a night shoot in the dead of winter - and thus we find a strange sort of equality.
Okay, maybe it is kind of interesting.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Once upon a time (okay, late 1990's), a then-wealthy foreign businessman decided to give his wife the mother of all anniversary gifts - a hillside home in Malibu with stunning ocean views and huge walk-in closets (or whatever it was that was trendy in the late 1990's).
He bought a gigantic parcel (I seem to remember it being at least seven acres), and hired a contractor to build his dream home - where he and his beloved would spend the rest of their lives in opulence and bliss.
One fine day, standing in the middle of his breathtaking ocean-view property, he held up a five dollar bill and said to the contractor "I want a house that looks exactly like the one on the back of this bill."
The contractor, being a working man, probably said "Sure thing, boss", while thinking what the hell would these wackos ask him to build next.
But the contractor, being a working man, gave the wealthy businessman exactly what he asked for - A huge, gaudy white marble house that, from the front, was a dead ringer for the Lincoln Memorial.
The businessman spend who-knows-how-much on the house and elaborately landscaped grounds (sort of Versailles-like: topiaries, garden paths, fountains and a pool that looked like it belonged at Ceasar's Palace), and then, on the big day, drove the love of his life to the new house to surprise her.
As they came up the winding driveway, and the brand-new house came into view, his wife said "Ugh - it's horrible! It looks like a mausoleum! I could never live in such an ugly house!"
I have no idea what he said next, but I do know that he turned the car around, went back home, and put the property on the market the very next day.
While he was trying to sell it, he allowed a bunch of rap videos (and rock videos, and infomercials, and anything else that would pay him - as the whole process apparently ruined him) to shoot there, and that's when I heard this story.
Speaking of stories, the moral of this one is that the next time you drop a few million dollars (which I just know you have lying around - admit it) on a house for your wife, maybe you should be very, very certain that she'll like it.
Like maybe ask her first.
Just a suggestion.
I was not working at the five dollar house today, but a few miles up the road in northern Malibu, just south (by about 100 yards) of the Ventura County line (for non LA-based readers, this means it's in bumfuck).
Everything about the day was unremarkable, except for the views. Good Lord, the California coast is beautiful at sunset.
Okay, the layer of smog's not so pretty, but otherwise it's stunning.
This is the guesthouse. I love the warm tones of late-afternoon sunlight.
This is the last of the light and the first star in the sky at the same time.
And as I was walking to my car, I noticed this sign on the neighbor's gate:
That's not very neighborly, now is it?
Oh, and I have no idea what happened to the five dollar house (which I seem to remember being above Trancas market, which is a few miles south of where we were shooting today).
It's probably been torn down and is now more than likely a condo complex called "Lincoln Estates" or something like that.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
This morning, I dragged my pain-killer hung-over self out of bed and went back to the doctor's office to have him pop the wrist back in - only to have it pop (audibly) back out less than an hour later as I was making a left turn.
After probably traumatizing the pre-schoolers in the next car by screaming "Fuck fuck fuck fuck!", I called the chiropractor and started to beg.
He finally agreed to see me at 5 pm, so I had to run around all day (film festival deadline snuck up on me) with only one fully-functioning arm. Thank god the P.O.S. has an automatic transmission.
When I got to his house, he took one look at my wrist, rolled his eyes, sighed, and said "It's not your wrist, it's your elbow."
Me: "But I heard the wrist pop."
Chiropractor: "I'm sure you did - the wrist bone's not in the right place, but the real problem is with the elbow. Shit rolls downhill, you know."
Me (confused): "Okay."
Anyways - it's not totally back in yet (he says it'll take a few days to move itself back, and it's still sore, so I'm keeping this post short), but it feels about a thousand percent better. I've got an ice pack on it, and he told me to take Advil for the next few days to keep the inflammation down.
It hasn't popped back out yet, although I was extra-careful on the drive home.
Monday, October 10, 2005
But my number came up in the' injury lottery' today.
After lunch, as I was tightening the bale* on a light we were pulling off the shelf, I heard a 'pop'.
It took me a moment to realize that it came from my wrist.
The doctor popped it back in; but, of course, after I got home it popped back out. Also of course, as soon as I got home, I took the pain medication and now can't drive back to the hospital (it seems to be having little effect on the pain, but is very effectively screwing up my motor skills).
I don't want to call in a favor (for a ride) to sit in the ER for 5 hours. I just want to go to bed.
*I'll explain it later. Typing is excruciating.
Friday, October 07, 2005
This was on a dusty shelf in a dark corner of Universal's lamp dock.
I had no idea what the hell this thing was (I stood and looked at it for a while, with my head cocked to the side like that dog in the old RCA ads) - I ended up having to hunt down one of the older guys to tell me.
It's a DC (Direct Current) underwater light from the 1950's. There's not a good sense of scale in the photo, but it's about two feet (60 cm) tall.
Back in the days before specialized underwater lighting systems, electricians would take a bare 10k (10,000 watt) globe, epoxy (the gooey looking grey stuff) the connection to make it waterproof, drop the bulb in the water and turn it on. This was how they lit the pools on all those old Ethel Merman movies.
This one is clearly an attempt to build a better mousetrap, and has a metal reflector to magnify the light, a steel cage to prevent bulb breakage, and a weighted plate on the bottom to keep the whole contraption near the bottom of the pool (light bulbs - even big ones - float).
Wacky. I can't believe the lamp dock still has these things. I'm almost positive they're not allowed to use them anymore.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Hey, it may have been busy work, but it was in the air-conditioning - and that was a good thing, as my other prediction also was true. It was approximately five thousand degrees on Universal's back lot, thanks to the Santa Anas.*
I've known the guys on the Uni dock for a long time, and they're a nice bunch of folks. I got to catch up on what's been going on (I mentioned in a previous post that Universal's dock is gossip central), saw a few friends who are loading shows, and got to see a new baby for the first time (well, the baby's almost two, I just hadn't seen her).
Before lunch, I was working on the cable side of the dock (cable on one side, lamps on the other) with a proselytizing Jehovah's Witness and an observant Muslim (who's fasting for Ramadan). These two have worked together for years and get along fine - at work, at least. If they hate each other, they're doing a damn good job of hiding it.
After lunch, I got moved to the lamp side of the dock and spent a few hours test burning HMI's**, and then it was time to go home.
As leaving for the day, my walk to the parking lot took me through the extras holding area for "The Good German". There were at least 300 extras milling about in 1940's costumes. I couldn't see any AD's, so for a minute or so, I was the only person around not in period costume.
*For those of you not familiar with Los Angeles; this time of year we get hot, dry winds called the Santa Anas. The temperature rockets up, the humidity drops to single digits, and anywhere outside feels suspiciously like a blast furnace - even the beach areas, which are normally cool and overcast.
** HMI's are electronically controlled lights, and must be tested to be sure they start, burn at the correct color temperature, and don't flicker.
We had yet another new gaffer (just for second unit, though. No crew changes on first unit that I've heard about), and while he was a bit uptight for the first half of the day, after lunch he relaxed, started cracking jokes, and we all had a great time. We only had about 6 pages to shoot, so no one was in a hurry (to the point that production moved a bit too slowly and what should have been a 9 hour day turned into a 12 1/2 hour day - it's true that the work expands to fit the time allotted).
The only major bummer of the day was that, for some reason, the coffee on second unit tasted like ass (hey, the DP said it, not me). We kept having to walk all the way across the lot to stage 6 (where first unit was) to get decent java. The craft service guy kept telling us that it was Folgers, which 'scored higher than Starbucks in a taste-test', but no one was buying it.
Next door to stage 10, Arrested Development were shooting on NY street - I ran into a friend of mine who's been working on the crew and I took a few minutes to shmooze the best boy in an attempt to get days on one of the only TV shows I watch consistently. I so rarely get to work on anything I like anymore.**
During lunch, I took a 9 am call at Universal, which I instantly regretted; but once you say yes, you can't really back out. Universal's back lot is about five thousand degrees during the summer, and I generally say no when they call me anytime between June and Thanksgiving.
The fact that it's a 9 am call leads me to believe I may be working on the lamp dock, which I ferverently hope as I'll be in the air conditioning all day.
* There was a time in my life when hours like Monday's didn't seem to bother me. Once, when I was trying to get my days to join the union, I worked for 24 hours straight (on two different jobs). Afterwards, I went home, took a six hour nap and then went out to a nightclub.
Needless to say, I can't do that anymore. Nowadays, anything more than 14 hours hurts me bad - I must be getting old.
**That statement makes it seem like I've often - in the past - worked on shows that I liked.
This is untrue. I've very rarely worked on anything that I'd actually want to see.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Call time: 7 am
Wrap time: 3:30 am
Highlights of the day: One of the rapper's "posse" threatening the craft service girl because she 'disrespected' him by telling him he'd have to wait a few minutes for coffee.
Another one of the "posse" telling the transportation co-ordinator that they felt the lighting trucks should move because they didn't want to park a block away and walk. They threatened him when he suggested that they park in crew parking with everyone else.
Yet more "posse" eating ALL the food that had been set out for second meal - before the crew got to eat. I'm fairly certain they threatened someone, I just didn't hear about it.
Can you tell that most rap video problems are "posse" related?
Luckily, it was my turn to be "truck bitch",* so I managed to avoid any direct contact with the rapper, his friends, associates or assorted hangers-on. Thank goodness.
Now I remember - very, very clearly - why I hate working on rap videos so much.
On the bright side - there was a little stray dog hanging around the trucks all day. He was dirty, skinny and afraid of everyone (but he was very hungry and we were feeding him, so he hung out). At some point during the day he fell in love with one of the production assistants, and followed her around looking cute (he even let her pick him up and pet him) until she decided to take him home with her; so the day worked out really, really well - at least for the dog.
At the end of the night, I overheard about three of the production staff telling the producer to lose their phone numbers if this was the type of job he was going keep getting.
*"Truck bitch" is the person who stays in the truck all night - putting things away, prepping lights that are called for so they get on set faster, and going on the coffee (or in this case, food) runs. It's boring, but sometimes it's the best place to be.
Friday, September 30, 2005
The air in Los Angeles is about 45% smoke today (there's a layer of ash on my car right now), it's hotter than hell, and the sky is a really gross color.
Hopefully, this fire will be out by the time I get back on Sunday night, and no one in or near the burn areas will lose homes, pets or loved ones.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Fallen Fruit is a website which maps locations of publicly available fruit.
Since I'm not working today, I'm off to pick some free avocados!
Monday, September 26, 2005
I hopped in the car with a few friends and we headed out to Pomona (drive 10 miles past east bumfuck and make a left). We got to the fair about 11 am, and it took us a full hour to get from the car through the ticket lines and into the fair itself.
The LA County Fair was enormous. It had to be over a mile from one end to the other, and the trams were too crowded (and the line for the chair lift was too long), so we ended up walking all day.
The midway was colorful, but I skipped the rides - a few years ago, I worked on a commercial with a bunch of carnies and they scared me so bad I'll never again set foot on anything they've touched.
Instead of sitting on the ferris wheel, I decided to spend the day eating deep-fried food.
The deep-fried snickers bar was not really my thing. I'm more into a food that would be healthy were it not fried - that way I don't feel so bad about eating it.
Over a span of about 7 hours, I ate the following items that had been deep-fried: An avocado (not so good), artichoke hearts (not bad with hot sauce and vinegar, awful with that horrible packet of ranch dressing), an onion (very tasty), and a banana (very, very tasty).
I also had some beer, some wine, and at least a gallon of water.
The official temperature was 85, but with the asphalt and the crush of humanity, it had to be over 100.
I spent a lot of time in the barns, looking at the cute baby animals and getting the hell out of the midday sun.
I also watched a horse race from the outside rail of the track - right next to the winner's circle (where the poor panting, shaking winner had to have his picture taken before he was allowed to go back to the barn and rest), and I got to pet one of the Budweiser (tm) Clydesdales.
On the way home - stuck in traffic, of course - we started talking about what LA will do if the "Big One" hits us.
We, as a city, have always been told that after a large earthquake, we'll most likely have to fend for ourselves for a few days (this was true in 1994 - the power in Hollywood was out for a week, and although there wasn't looting, no stores were open), so we need to have supplies laid in.
After I got home, I surveyed my 'earthquake supply closet'.
One bottle of diet peach Snapple
One half-eaten box of Ritz Crackers
One can hearts of palm (which I ate while contemplating the shitty state of my disaster supplies)
One half box of bandaids.
Empty tube of neosporin.
Compare this list to what the LAFD tells me I should have.
Yikes. Were 'the big one' to hit tomorrow, I'd be totally fucked. So, Sunday I went out and did some of my earthquake shopping. I got six gallons of water, a bunch of canned food (all low-sodium. The LAFD recommends only low sodium food so that you don't drink too much water), some peanut butter and two boxes of a cracker brand that I don't like (Wasa rye) so I won't be tempted to eat it.
I still have to stock up on first aid supplies and a camp stove, though. That'll be another paycheck.