Friday, July 22, 2005

Friday Photo

Stair Car
Originally uploaded by Peggy Archer.

My version of a celebrity sighting!

The infamous (for those of us who watch the show) Stair Car from "Arrested Development" - now painted yellow and riding a flatbed through Hollywood.

"Danika" Last Day

Today was our 'load out' day.

This is when we unload the truck, and inventory all of the equipment with the rental house to see what the L&D (Loss and Damage) is. Considering that the show was all location (we didn't spend a huge amount of time on a stage, and the longest we were in the same place for was 10 days), the L&D wasn't bad at all - but everything we lost or damaged was expensive, which drove the best boy nuts - and forced him to spend about an hour on the phone with anyone he could reach to try to locate the missing stuff.

Our equipment was rented from Santa Clarita Studios, and it was hotter than hell up there - added to that the worst air quality in the greater Los Angeles area. The good news is that since our package was so small, we were out of there fairly quickly.

We went to lunch at a sushi place in Santa Clarita that one of the guys swore was great, but I'm spoiled living in LA, so it just seemed mediocre to me. The fish was good, but the rice was too crunchy.

We drove the waitresses nuts by not sitting at the sushi bar and demanding separate checks, and then at the last minute, the gaffer decided to buy everyone lunch (thus rendering the separate checks pointless). I can never, ever go back there - they'd probably remember me and rub the food around on the floor or something.

The grips had more L&D than we did. They tore a 20' x 20' day blue (very expensive), and broke a mirror board (even more very expensive).

Plus, they found out that we drank all their beer last night after they'd finished loading their equipment and gone home (the perils of sharing a truck).

"Danika" Day 15

Last shooting day of the movie. We were only in one set (a motel room), but it took every light we had in the truck. When the best boy told the producer that we had no more lights or cable (she'd asked him if there wasn't something he could send back a day early), she didn't believe him and had to go look at the empty truck for herself.

Since we don't have a rigging crew or enough equipment to pre-rig, it took us until lunch to break down the old set and get the new set cabled and lit, but since we were only shooting one scene today, after lunch we just sat there and didn't do much of anything. We couldn't get a jump on wrapping as everything we had out was working, so we sat there.

The director's assistant (NOT the Assistant Director) came in today wearing flip flops. Since we were pulling enough power to light up a city block AND it was a shower shot so there was water all over the floor, about 10 people mentioned to him that he should put on some closed toed shoes - Cupcake being the 10th person . He got mad about it and ended up threatening kick Cupcake's ass (Cupcake's 4 inches taller and outweighs him by at least 30 lbs) if it got mentioned again. Needless to say, we all thought this was hilarious, and for the rest of the afternoon every time Cupcake left set, did something or said anything someone would threaten - in a squeaky falsetto, of course - to kick his ass.

We also found out that our producer/UPM used to be a teamster (well, I'm sure she still has her teamster card, but she's obviously not driving talent around anymore) - Pretty cool!

When they finally called wrap it was 1 am and still hotter than hell, which made it more torture to watch all the producers, director and folks who didn't have to load trucks stand in the parking lot and drink icy cold beer while we were dripping with sweat trying to get out of the stage as quickly as possible.

By 3 am, the parking lot soiree was over, and everyone had gone home, except us and the grips.

We didn't finish until almost 4 am.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

"Danika" Day 14

Today was "old Hollywood Day" and a bunch of the AD's and producers showed up in ties and nice clothes - when you look at those old pictures of sets, everyone had on nice shirts and ties, but I think it was because that day was "picture day" and the crew had to dress up. My job hasn't changed that much in 100 years, and a tie is a serious hazard when you're dealing with hot lights and heavy equipment - so none of us participated, although my boss did throw a tie on over his t-shirt (but he doesn't handle lights).

They added shots first thing in the morning (some close up stuff in the van that the didn't get at Universal), but it was all shot using available light, so we were able to clean up yesterday's set, and light both of today's sets (actually three sets, since they have EPK on set again today).

This means the day started out with a bit of a hustle. We were really busy until lunch, when we moved into a set where the lighting didn't change much for the rest of the day.

I'd rather be busy. When you just sit there, time slows and you can think about how hot you are, how much your feet hurt, etc..

The HMIs were fine all day until one of them got too hot and it's globe blew up - on the last shot, of course. It made a sound like a gunshot, and at first I thought a stand had fallen over because the grips were out there working - but then one of the guys got on the walkie and said "We blew a globe", which got everyone scurrying back there - normally when HMI globes blow up, the lamp catches on fire, but thankfully that didn't happen this time.
We just dumped out the glass shards, put a new globe in and everything was fine.

Blown globe

One more day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"Danika" Day 13

What a rotten day. I was late because I got lost trying to find the stage - it's one I haven't been to before, and I looked briefly at the call sheet, thought it was a place called Delfino (which I have been to), and went there. Oops. I had to call my boss to get directions, because I stupidly left the call sheet at home.

Thank heavens for the Thomas Guide.

The stage where we're shooting for the next three days (Thursday is the last day of this movie) is a few miles up Interstate 5 - almost in Santa Clarita - and it was well over 100 degrees outside when I got there and we had to start pulling lamps off the truck. We rushed and got all the lamps set up and patched into the stage power in about an hour (which is really fast), and then..

Our lights didn't work.

HMI's are funny - because of the way they work*, they're picky about power, and they did NOT like whatever was coming out of the stage's transformers. We'd get them burning, they'd burn for a few minutes, and then click off. Finally, we figured out the nature of the problem (after trying everything we could we could think of in a desperate effort to get the damned things to burn), so we had to run cable from our truck into the set - while the entire production sat and waited on us. It's never, ever good when production's waiting on you.

After we got everything working, the sound guy kept saying that he could hear the fans on the ballasts so he went and covered them with a blanket. This made the ballasts overheat and the lights click off again. We then had to reroute all the power for the THIRD time to put the ballasts in a different room.

The best boy was really pissed about all this. It took us almost to lunch to get the problems sorted out. We ended up swapping out a few lamps, and the rental house guys tried to help us troubleshoot when they came out.

Did I mention that today was the day production really, really wanted to start shooting an hour after call?

Production didn't want to pay for the stage's air conditioner, so the stage management turned it off about four hours into the day - we tried to get it turned back on by arguing that since we weren't using their power, it would even out. The compromise is that they'll let us turn it on during lunch and between set ups. That means that inside it's 90 degrees, not 100.

Cupcake's back, and for some reason he's being REALLY rude to me.

Two more days.

*HMI's don't use a bulb (or globe) like normal lamps. The globes have two metal rods which sustain an arc of electricity - kind of like an arc welder, or a lightning bolt.
They have ballasts, which electronically ignite the bulb and maintain the correct amount of power to sustain the arc. The old ballasts from the 70's were magnetic, and were basically a big clutch. They worked great, but they were heavy as shit. The new ballasts are computerized and although they're a lot lighter, they don't work as reliably. They need clean power and they HATE any kind of moisture.

Monday, July 18, 2005

"Danika" Day 12

Today was our second (and last) day at the Uni lot. Still hot, still no golf cart (I unsuccessfully tried to find an unattended one with the keys still in it), so we're stuck.

We had two units today, but no extra guys so we were all running around like crazy trying to light two sets - not making things easier is that the second unit DP is an annoying micro manager who makes everything harder than it has to be. He was just working my last nerve when the second unit grips hit a beehive with the corner of a frame, and since I'm allergic to bee stings, I had to go back over to the first unit very, very quickly. The rest of the day was spent on 'bee watch' as every so often one of the by now really pissed off bees would fly over to the main set and buzz around - I could tell where the bee was because the crew or extras around the bee would all of a sudden get up and do that funny hand waving 'bee dance'.

We also had EPK (Electronic Press Kit) on set today. What they do is set up a video camera somewhere and do interviews with the cast, producers and director. They normally set up where they can see the set without being in the way, or ask us for a couple of lights to use as background. This guy set up in the other movie's space - and set up the camera so that the interviewee was in the shade, and the background was in the blazing sun. Then, because the interviewee was nothing but a silhouette (video cameras, as I'm sure you're all aware, expose to the brightest part of the frame), he made us get out an 18K (big, huge light) and light his little set instead of just moving the camera 15 feet.


We had a motion control shot, which took forever to set up, so we lost the light for the last shot of the movie (when the VERY IMPORTANT plot twist is revealed) - the sun was going down so the shadows on the plate shot aren't going to match the shadows on the live shot. Of course that meant that we had to get out all the big lights for the very last shot.

Our DP is really, really good at shooting with low light levels, so the Gaffer said that he might surprise us and make the shot match. I hope so.

On the last shot, they needed more cars driving through, so if you see the movie, the Scion box thing (I don't know what they're called) that's the second or third car to cross the frame is driven by my boss - the best boy electric. The director walks through the frame as well. He's wearing a light blue short sleeved shirt.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Warning for the guys! Today's post is very girly.

Read at your own risk.

Mr. Movie Star cannot dress himself.

I'm serious.

He has a closet full of expensive, well cut clothes that fit him, and yet once he actually tried to leave his house wearing baggy orange corduroys with a hole in the butt, a green tee shirt, and a blue fisherman's hat.

I think a stylist 'garanimalized' his closet for him - when he has to get dressed up, he looks great, but all of his nice clothes are organized by outfits, and there are actually little colored tags sewn into them so he can tell what goes with what.

I was sitting right on the edge, and today's outfit pushed me the rest of the way over (threadbare olive drab camo pants with brown corduroy patches in the crotch, orange flip flops and a purple tee shirt with the neckband and sleeves cut out - once again, he was planning on leaving his house dressed like this), so this afternoon he finally let me update his casual look (i.e. I went on a rampage and threw away the most worn out, stained and generally heinous stuff that he'd been wearing and then we went to get him some new clothes).

Mr. Movie Star is a typical guy in that what he'd really like to do is go on the internet, order a bunch of stuff from the Gap website and then throw it in a pile in the corner if it doesn't fit.
In a panic to not go shopping, he informed me that he was far too famous to go wandering around the city on a Sunday. I argued that I thought he was probably okay in Beverly Hills, and if I was wrong and a hoarde of teenage girls attacked him, he'd at least have nice new underwear when they tore his clothes off (don't get me started on his underwear - that's a whole post on it's own).

Also, I was holding most of his rags hostage, so he really had no choice.

I managed to find a suitably enthusiastic salesgirl with tastes similar to mine, we spent a few moments discussing Mr. Movie Star's wardrobe needs, and then she shoved him into a dressing room and just threw clothes at him until we found a good number of items that were casual and comfortable yet presentable - and nothing clashes with anything else so no 'garanimalization' needed.

As we were leaving, Mr. Movie Star had that "deer in the headlights" look that guys get when they spend three hours trying on clothes, so we decided to grab some dinner. A nice meal and a couple of glasses of wine later and he'd finally relaxed, although I doubt I'll ever get him to thank me for throwing out those horrible orange pants.

And although there were polite autograph requests throughout the day, the dreaded hoarde of screaming teenage girls and rabid paparazzi never did materialize.