Saturday, August 13, 2005

Never believe anything anyone says to you..

The best boy on Bones brought me in for the second unit shots yesterday - the cafe shots that were supposed to be done on Tuesday, but got dropped. He swore up and down that it would be a short day. It was, after all, only an eighth of a page, with no dialogue.

I suppose it was a short day in that it wasn't 14 hours, but it was way longer than the 4 hours he promised me. That'll teach me to tell friends I might be able to meet them after work.

To be fair, we did only shoot for a few minutes, but because the director and actress were having to run back and forth to squeeze our two shots in between whatever they were shooting on Stage 6, we spent a lot of time sitting and waiting..

Luckily, our second unit gaffer was hilarious. He's close to retirement, so he didn't give a shit what he said or who heard it:

"That makeup guy looks like Uncle Fester from that monster TV show. Hey, Uncle Fester, get your ass out from in front of the light!"

"That director's an idiot."

"I need coffee." Turns to producer "Hey, kid go grab me some coffee, willya?"

I actually got a stitch in my side from laughing so hard - the last time I got a stitch in my side on a set was the time the director on a movie of the week ripped a giant fart right in the middle of a love scene.

I think that may be the most fun I've had on a set in, well, it might be the most fun ever.

Old guys are great to work for, because there's no second guesses. He'd be chatting with the DP about fishing, turn around, say "Hey, put a light back there for that thing, willya? Just hit it from an angle. Thanks!", and then go back to his conversation.

We'd place the light, gab about whatever the topic was, and then a few minutes later he'd turn around and casually place another light.

The shot looked gorgeous. I mean heartbreakingly beautiful. The thing that made the whole episode tonight so impressive is that it's much more difficult to light with 'hard light' than 'soft light',* and the entire set was lit with hard light.

So we lit it, sat there for two hours, and then shot the first angle when the director got there. The director left, we set up for the reverse angle, and then sat there for another three hours waiting for the director and actress to show up after they wrapped on Stage 6.

Because we were only there for two shots, we had no craft service and they never broke us for lunch. Luckily, Kitchen Confidential was shooting on Fox's New York Street (right across the way from the cafe where we were shooting), and we were able to raid their craft service truck. They have much better food than we do, which makes sense since it's a show about gourmet chefs.

Call time: 7 pm
Wrap time: 4 am

*Hard light is just what it sounds like. No diffusion or 'softener'. The old black and white film noirs are lit with hard light. Done right, it's amazing and creates a sense of depth in the frame, but hard light casts shadows, so it can be a bit tricky to make it look good - A gaffer has to really know his or her shit to light with hard light. Soft light is easier to use as there are no harsh shadows, but it can look flat and crappy. Actually, it usually looks flat and crappy, but since most audiences don't know the difference and it's faster to use soft light, that's how most movies and TV shows are lit these days.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

Working 14 hour days every day is really tiring.. All I really want to do at night is wash off the layer of grime and pass out for my allotted 8 hours before I have to get up and go back to work.

It makes writing the blog hard, because when I get home I don't have any energy to sit at the computer and collect my thoughts.

So - highlights of the past few days have been:

Tuesday - we set up for two shots in the Fox commissary (which is doubling for a Starbucks) at the end of the night. Because the director was so slow (14 hours to shoot two scenes of three people talking in a room), they scratched the shot - at the last minute, after we'd rigged it, had all the lights burning, and were sitting there waiting for the actors to walk on set. And they wonder why they're over budget.
Call time: 9:30 am
Wrap time: 11:30 pm

Wednesday - on location with a company move* from a tenement in the drug dealer infested neighborhood of Pico - Union (where an angry neighbor leaned out of his balcony and threw water on some of our lights) to a residential area (West Adams) filled with more neighbors who were NOT happy to see us. I can totally understand this - once again, we were the victims of the slow director who took 12 hours to shoot two scenes of people talking in a room, so we got to a residential neighborhood for a night exterior at 10 pm. On a weeknight. I'm surprised they weren't shooting at us. I went up in the condor and got stung by a bee that had gotten tangled in my hair. This was at 1 am - for some reason I thought bees slept at night.
Call time: 11 am
Wrap time: 1:30 am

Thursday - the director must have gotten a talking to, because he moved considerably faster Thursday. We were back in the set of death on Stage 6, but we had an extra guy (making our crew total 8), so we didn't get peeled quite so badly.
Call time: 12:30 pm
Wrap time: 1:00 am

Tonight, I'm on the second unit that's shooting the coffee shop shot from Tuesday. I've got a 7 pm call, but it's only two shots and there's a different director, so I shouldn't be there that long.

* A company move is two (or more if you have a really sadistic production manager) locations in the same day. What this means for us is that we go to the first location, unload our truck, set up all our stuff, shoot, wrap the set, load our truck, go to the next location and do the same thing. Company moves, although sometimes necessary, suck and crews hate them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Teamwork is for Sissies

It takes a few days to get used to a new crew, and then one starts to see the dynamics of the group. Working the set in any department is all about teamwork, and a couple of these guys are just not team players.

We have walkie talkies in order to communicate - one person brings a light, another brings power, someone else brings any gels or diffusion or anything else that's needed..some lights are so heavy that they need two or three people to lift them.. We have walkies so we don't work harder than we absolutely have to. More than once in the past few days, I've brought something that was asked for or pulled over power, only to get there and have one of the guys say "Oh, I've already got that." FUCKING TELL ME ON THE WALKIE, ASSHOLE, SO I DON'T WASTE TIME AND ENERGY BRINGING YOU SOMETHING YOU ALREADY HAVE. For fuck's sake, it's not like I don't have anything else to do.

It's the hero syndrome. They want to be superman - "Look at me boss, I got that for you. Oh, I got that too. Look how hard I'm working! You don't really need those other guys - I'm a hero!"
It's worth noting that the guys who do this (and it's only two of them), are both really young - as they get older, lose the testosterone and gain experience, I'm sure they'll settle in, but right now it's an enormous pain in the ass on a show that's not that easy to begin with. As a crew, teamwork makes you, and lack of it can break you - these days have been a lot harder than they've needed to be because of the lack of teamwork, and "Danika" was a lot easier than it should have been most of the time because everyone worked together so well.

Call time: 10:30 am
Wrap time: midnight

Monday, August 08, 2005

Peeled like a Grape

I was back on "Bones" today. One day has turned into the entire week. The best boy, first thing in the morning, told me that it was just today, and he didn't have any work until Thursday. I made plans for Tuesday (Mr. Movie Star's on a Wednesday through Sunday, so his days off are Monday and Tuesday), and then had to cancel them two hours later when the best boy asked me if I wanted to work Mon - Wednesday. Then, since I made other plans for Thursday, he asked me if I wanted to work the entire week.

No extra curricular activities for me until Saturday (although maybe not even then. We have night shots on Friday, which means I'll see the sun come up on Saturday morning).

As I tried to get into the Fox lot first thing in the morning, I discovered that Production forgot to call my pass in, and the guards wouldn't call anyone - I sat there for half an hour waiting for the pass to come through (guards at other studios will get on the phone and try to reach someone. Guards at Fox will ask you if you know who to call, and if you say no, they'll shrug and say "I can't let you through without a pass". It's enough to make me want to tear out my hair), and the whole debacle - production calling the pass in twice, and it not going through - made me 20 minutes late for work. I HATE being late.

Once I got to work, we were in the big set all day, and running like crazy. Most of the time sets are lit with soft light from above for ambiance, and all you have to do is bring in eyelights or a hard 'kick'* but this DP doesn't like the way that looks, so it's all hard light, which is much more difficult to do, and takes more units. We used every light in the floor set, and then blew a 400 amp** breaker on the transformer coming into the stage.

Then the dimmer board went down. Twice. We continued to run like crazy - at one point, I was standing under the catwalk, and I felt something dripping on me. I thought it was an overturned water bottle. I looked up, and it was one of the other juicers sweating like he was in a sauna. Of course, every time crafty brought food he'd do it right when we were lighting, so by the time we got done, the food was gone. By lunchtime I could have eaten a horse - which would have been preferable to the swill Fox serves in their commissary. Blech. I ate about half a rancid salad (when you're running around and sweating, you can't eat anything heavy like a burger or spaghetti or you'll throw it up. All of us have learned this the hard way) and then I spent WAY too much money in the Studio Store on Simpsons stuff.

The second half of the day was more of the same. When you run around like crazy because you're getting worked to death, it's known as 'getting peeled'. We got peeled like the proverbial grape today. By the time I got home I was completely wrung out - but I still managed to watch two "Simpsons" episodes from the Season 5 DVD!

Call time: 7 am
Wrap time: 10 pm

* A "kick" or "kicker light" is a hard light that shines onto the back of an actors head, and gives a bright backlight. This helps to prevent the actor from blending into the background.

** Amps are a measurement of power. 1,000 watts equals 10 amps. Our power is 'three phase' which means that we have three 'legs' carrying (in this situation) 400 amps of power each. On each side of the set. On the floor only. The power for the hanging stuff is off a different transformer.
400 amps per leg, three legs = 1200 amps. Two sides of the set = 2400 amps. Hanging stuff is probably another 2400 amps. We burned so many lights that we blew a breaker. That's nuts. To put all these numbers in perspective, if you live in a two bedroom house, you probably have 100 amps of power in the ENTIRE house. My two bedroom built in 1925 has 80 amps of power in the entire house.