Saturday, July 02, 2005

"Danika" Day 2

Call time 6:30 pm Friday night
Wrap time 7:00 am Saturday morning

What makes night shoots so hard is not the lighting - you do just as much lighting during the day. Night shoots are hard because it's dark, and no matter how much of a night owl you are, at some point you start to get really, really tired. I woke up about 10 am Friday morning(which is really late for me), and call time was 6 pm. Since I didn't manage to take a nap (I can't really sleep during the day), that's almost 24 hours straight.

That hour or so right before the sun comes up is when the fatigue hits and the entire crew's out of their minds. Lame jokes become hilarious, and even simple tasks require an immense amount of concentration. The end of the night is also when most accidents happen - I got hit in the face with a 100 amp bates connector (they're about the size of a paperback book and are made of hard plastic). We were pulling the lamp off a stand - two guys were on a ladder (it was a tall stand), I was on the ground, the guy who was holding the connector dropped it and BAM - Right in the kisser. Okay, it was actually right on the cheekbone, and I've got a really good bruise.

Our crew got cut back today, so we only had three people for a huge lighting set up. Luckily, once we were lit, there were only little changes all night, but it was a scramble there at the beginning. Have I mentioned how grateful I am that this Gaffer isn't a screamer?

The camera department warned us that this producer is notorious for altering time cards in order to reduce crew overtime costs (someone tell me - is that just a labor board violation or is it a federal crime?). My boss ran down the road to Kinko's and photocopied all our time cards and the production reports in case she tries it.

Oh, and the grips went to Starbucks around 10 pm and didn't tell us they were going (we'd have put an order in as well - normally they'd ask, we'd pitch in and then we wouldn't have to lose a guy to a coffee run when we're undermanned).

Friday, July 01, 2005

"Danika" Day 1

Yesterday was my first 'real' day on "Danika". Our location for the next two weeks is a house in Sherman Oaks (I HATE the Valley in the summer - the backyard of the house is like being in a oven). This particular payroll company are strict about wanting employees to provide a photocopy of I-9 information, so I hit a Kinkos on the way to work to copy my expired passport. At the Kinkos, there was an abandoned puppy - apparently someone had just tied her up to the door during the night and left her. The good news is that there were three people on cell phones trying to find her a home. She was very cute - no day can be bad if you get a puppy kiss first thing in the morning!

We had a one hour 'pre-call' so we could run the cable and get the lights set up, and I misheard the best boy when he told me the call time, so I ended up getting there WAY too early. I walked down to a little cafe on Ventura and got some breakfast and read the paper.

The first obstacle of the day was trying to get the big lights into the backyard. The only door into the backyard (through the garage) was too narrow, so we had to take out a section of fence and pull up a bunch of decorative paving stones (the family are planning on re-landscaping after this, so no one cares. They've even agreed to leave the sprinklers off for two weeks, because they're reseeding the lawn. This is a good thing. HMI lamps and power runs do NOT like getting watered).

The second obstacle was inside the house. Production were too cheap to bring in a company to put a protective cover over the REALLY expensive wood floors, so we're having to be extra careful inside. We've got padding on all our stand legs, and every time we move something someone starts yelling for us to be careful.

A single family home (even a very nice one that's on the large side) was not designed to have 30 people in there at once trying to work around one another, so inside the house it's crowded, hot, and frustrating.

Luckily, the Gaffer's not a screamer. He's a really, really mellow guy who's doing his best not to bone us, which counts for a lot.

I've worked w/ the DP before - years ago, on some crappy AFI movie that I still have nightmares about. He looks exactly the same, and said hello. Neither of us can remember the name of the movie, though.

Then, we had to run power to craft service*. He's got a really nice trailer with a stove and fridge and expresso machines, but his generator is loud, so we had to run him a line off of our generator. Because the compressors in the coolers will make the lamps flicker, he's got to have his own line. Normally, this is not a problem, but he's so far away that we used up ALL our extra cable to power him. The best boy wasn't happy, as now if we have a piece of cable burn, we don't have a replacement.

The cherry on the sundae, so to speak, was that next door there was a garage band practicing - ALL DAY. Production somehow managed to stop them during takes. I'm sure they had to pay them off.

Call time: 10:30 am
Wrap time: 12:40 am (20 minutes before we would have hit double time)

*Craft Service is the film industry's way of circumventing OSHA regulations about meal and rest breaks. If there's food out and crew members can go eat anytime they want, then the company doesn't have to give them as many breaks.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Those Wacky Casting Directors.

They've voted to join the Teamsters*, not IATSE**.

While everyone in town is snickering about this, it's a really good move.

IATSE has repeatedly sold out it's members to the producers, and the Teamsters haven't.

I totally understand why they voted the way they did.

In honor of their wise decision, here's a few Teamster jokes (all told to me by Teamsters, BTW):

Q: How can you tell the Teamster's kid?
A: He's the one sitting on the playground, watching the other kids play.

Q: How can you tell when a Teamster's dead?
A: The doughnut falls out of his mouth.

Q:Why is a horse the symbol of the Teamsters?
A: It's the only animal that can sleep standing up.

Q: What does it mean when the sleeping Teamster's drooling out of the side of his mouth?
A: The truck's not level.

Congrats to the Casting Directors!

* Teamsters are the drivers in the film industry. They drive trucks, vans, stakebeds, forklifts, etc. They work like hell before we get there and they work like hell after we leave, but when we're there, they don't do much - hence the jokes.
Teamsters are great guys. If you want to know what's really happening on the set, ask them. They know all the gossip, and when you're working on a movie, they're the first guys you should make friends with.

**IATSE = International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees. The union I belong to.

Welcome to Low Budget Land!

I went out to another low budget movie this morning. As low budgets go, I lucked out - two of us had to reinstall some lighting fixtures in a school where they shot yesterday. We were done in two hours, and got paid for 12.

This movie's contract is even worse than yesterday's.. it's $15 per hour under union scale.

This sucks ass, but work is work, and it pays into my health insurance (I have to work 600 hours per year to keep my health benefits).

The other fun part of the day is that my co-worker was a very interesting fellow. When he was younger, he was a lawyer (somewhere in the midwest), and decided that the justice system was too corrupt and quit.

Now he's a juicer, and a scuba diving instructor. There's something amazing to me about someone who walks away from a life, and starts another midlife.. like it was buying a car or something. That takes guts, and it's not something I'm sure I could do.

Later in the day, the best boy on this show ("Danika") called me up and offered me a slot on the show. I took it.

Why would I take a job at an incredibly shitty rate?


The guys on this little show normally work on stuff that's well over $100 million (they're doing it as a favor to the DP), so I'm hoping if I get in good with them, they'll call me when they've got a good budget.

Of course there's the off chance that I'll get relegated to the list of people they only call when they have a chump budget, but we'll see.

I've got an 11 am call tomorrow. In the Valley. Yuck.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"Lack of Planning on Your Part..

...Does Not Constitute an Emergency on My Part".

Yesterday was exactly as bad as I thought it was going to be.

The crew were all terrific - I'd not met any of them before (except the other 'day player' with whom I've worked on on a number of projects), and they're the nicest bunch of guys..

Production, on the other hand, were useless. They kept changing things at the last moment, and they were unbelievably disorganized to the point of comedy.

Our first location got changed at the last moment, so we ended up having to frantically rig a location that we thought we'd have hours to work on, and folks kept stopping us from working, as they were trying to rehearse while we were rigging. There was also another movie shooting in the same building, which made communication on the walkie fun.

Scratchy voice: "Move those 20K's now, we have to roll!"
Me: "What 20K's? Oh, it's the other show. Nevermind."

We were shooting in the auditorium of a high school, and it had this catwalk that had about a 4 foot ceiling you had to stay doubled over the entire time you were up there - EVERYONE working up there hit their head at least once, and one of the guys did it so hard that they sent him to the hospital to check for a concussion.

Meanwhile, production were yelling at us constantly to hurry up -which isn't possible when one is trying to work while bent at a right angle.

The day ended up not being that long, though.. only 14 hours.

It's low budget season - I'm going on another one tomorrow.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Yay, work! Oh, wait....

I just got called to work tomorrow, which is a good thing!


Just like a shiny happy quarter laying on the sidewalk in Malibu that's got sticky gum on the underside so you can't see it and you pick it up and get gum all over you (guess what happened to me today), there are a few things about this job which are not so shiny and happy.

This movie's hourly rate is almost $10.00 under union scale - not a bad thing by itself, but generally any movie with a rate that low is disorganized.

I think the entire time I've been doing this I've worked on ONE movie with a budget under 10 million dollars that wasn't a complete cluster fuck - the problem is that at the lower rates, you can't get really experienced production people. Good Assistant Directors (and producers and UPMs) don't come cheap.

The best boy is making his manpower calls for Monday on Sunday afternoon (he should have made them Friday) - when I talked to him, he said they 'got beat up really bad on Friday' and he doesn't know the location for tomorrow, so he'll have to have the AD call him and tell him.

That's bad. It means that the show is disorganized, and (what affects me more) that set lighting's second in command is not on top of things.

The cloud in the silver lining is overtime. Disorganization and chaos usually means 15, 16, 17 or more hours, and when you start clocking in overtime like that, the rate gets a lot better really quickly.

We'll see what happens tomorrow.