Saturday, August 20, 2005

"Grey's Anatomy"

Got a last minute call Thursday night from a friend of mine to replace him on "Grey's Anatomy".

"Grey's" is shooting at the Disney owned Prospect Stages in Hollywood - a MUCH shorter drive for me than Fox.

Turns out I knew a lot of the crew: two of the grips from Danika, a camera operator from The Division, and the AD who looks just like Ed Norton.

The stages were air conditioned to sub arctic levels, which was nice, but I forgot to bring a jacket, and then, when I had to run home during lunch to get my I 9 photocopies I forgot to grab one so I spent the entire rest of the day sitting next to the 10k to keep warm.

Disney is a bureaucratic nightmare to work for. The 'start paperwork' package is the size of a short novel, and full of things like: Disney also makes you sign a paper stating that you're not related to anyone at a rival studio. I have the same last name as an upper level exec at a rival studio, and although we're not related, it always causes problems for the best boy.

Lunch (an hour 'walkaway', which means that you have to buy your own) must have given someone gas, because all afternoon the stage had pockets of really nasty gas smell. It was so bad that at one point I had to run off set because my eyes were watering.

No one owned up to it, though.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Ass in Class.. Action, that is.

I love litigation, especially when I stand to benefit from it.

Coming home from the gym today, I found a fun letter in my mailbox - a notice of a class action lawsuit:

"In simple terms, the class action lawsuit alleges, among other things, that many persons who worked in the Motion Picture and/or Broadcasting Industries and/or who worked for and/or received payroll checkes from the entities listed above (a) did not recieve timely payments following their last day worked in accordance with Labor Code Sections... or (c) did not recieve overtime premuim under certain curcumstances. Based on these claims, the lassuit seeks penalties under various sections of the California Labor Code."

Blah, blah blah..

To make a long story short, the payroll companies are being sued for not paying up on time.

Good thing, too.

One of the tricks certian production companies used to pull was having the payroll company cut the checks, but not paying them the money for the payroll, so they couldn't send the check out. This resulted in the infuriating experience of calling the payroll company and having them say, "Well, we have the checks, but we can't send them out because Propaganda (the production company most notorious for doing this) hasn't sent us a check yet."

I could fill up three or four posts with Tricks We Used To Pull In Order To Get Paid.

This means that I have to gather W-2's (from 1996 - present), which is going to suck. I think the satanic CPA still has them all at her office.

It looks like members who submit proof of being paid (by entertainment industry payroll companies) an aggregate 50 thousand or more over the past 9 years will get a check for not more than $550, depending on the number of claims submitted. There is also something about check stub violations but it requires proof of actual damages.

That's crazy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Cell Phone Saga: Part 2

In May, my cell phone broke in half. When it did, I filed an insurance claim, ponied up the deductible, and took the replacement.

Last week the new phone broke in exactly the same place - at the hinge on the right side.

Broken Cell Phone

I called the insurance company, expecting to be apologized to, and of course, offered a new phone for free.

When I'm wrong, I'm so very, very wrong.

During my conversation with the insurance company's customer service representative, I learned the following things:
Asurion (the insurance company) does not, in fact, send out 'new' phones. What they send out are 'reconditioned' phones - which means that they fixed someone else's piece of crap Motorola's broken hinge, then sent it to me and charged me fifty bucks. From what I understand, organized crime works along these same lines.

Replacement phones have a seven day warranty. Only. Fuck you if your phone acts up or breaks any time after sunset on day 7.

Customers are limited to two insurance replacements per calendar year.

Have I mentioned that Asurion are evil jackasses?

Upon learning that I'm only allowed to make two claims per calendar year - even counting a shitty 'reconditioned' phone from hell, I cancelled my insurance in a fit of pique and bought a used phone off eBay.

Looking at phones on eBay, I hadn't paid any attention to anything other than price and what service they were programmed for, and had bought the cheapest one; my reasoning being why drop a ton of cash on a phone that's only got to last until the end of November - when I get my biennial upgrade.

The phone got here today, and I marched into the Verizon store to learn that non G-something phones (basically, any phone manufactured prior to last week) can't be activated in Los Angeles due to some fucking regulation about something.

This is what I get for trying to be clever.

The customer service lady at Verizon's Hollywood retail store, who normally has a disposition similar to that of a cat who's just been given a cold bath, actually apologized to me for not being able to activate the phone, and then told me they were going to give me a new phone for free!

Verizon have never given me anything for free. Not a charger. Not a plastic headset earbud. Not advice. Not a kick in the ass. Nothing.

As I was looking around the store for the cameras, thinking I'd been punk'd, she smiled at me. Somehow, that was the most alarming part of the entire exchange - a creaky, out of practice smile from a woman who usually can't be bothered to even look up at the customer while she snarls "We don't do that here."


They gave me an LG VX3300, which is functional, but which lacks the display screen on the front, so I have to actually open up the phone to see who's calling. It's annoying, but I was afraid to complain; I clutched my unheard-of free thing from the great Verizon gods and scurried out of the store, amazed that I hadn't just been screamed at and sent packing along with my ghetto eBay phone.

I had an LG three phones ago and loved it. We'll see how long I can live without the outer display screen. Right now, it's really driving me nuts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Whatshisname's Big Music Video

Yesterday's adventure was a rig day for a music video (I'm off of Bones. The gaffer is leaving to do Fast and Furious 3 in Tokyo, and when a new gaffer comes in, he or she usually brings his or her own crew. If I can find out who the new best boy is, I might be able to get back on).

I'm lucky in that I've managed to spend most of my career not working on music videos (I think I've only done 10 or so), and that's a good thing. The hours are long, the pay's not good, and for some reason music video directors pick the crappiest, dirtiest, most uncomfortable locations they can find, such as yesterday's asbestos riddled airplane hangar - part of the former McDonnell-Douglas plant (which is now called the "Playa Vista Stages").

I'm being unfair - the actual hangars don't have that much asbestos in them. It's mostly oozing out the walls in the office buildings, which I've also worked in - ironically, on another music video.

This video that we were rigging was for some guy that used to be in Creed, but is now a solo artist, and the set is a raised lucite stage with about 400 nook lights underneath it - shooting up through the clear floor (actually, the real number of lights is 700. There are 400 under the stage itself and another 300 around the outside of the stage), in addition to a bunch of other BFL's* that are crammed into the 10-ton waiting for those poor bastards on first unit today.
When a gaffer lights like this (lots and lots and lots of lights), it's called "flamethrowing".

Music Video

The thing about nook lights is that they get really, really hot. 700 nook lights get, well, 700 times really, really hot.
The running joke was that lunch for the shooting crew would be barbecued musician.

Burn test

Nooks also blow globes a lot. I pity the fool that has to crawl under there and change one after those lights have been burning for 12 hours.

* BFL = Big Fucking Light

Monday, August 15, 2005

D'oh! Again.

Of course because I made plans for today, I got called in to go to work.

Luckily, it's at the stages at Playa Vista (near the ocean for those of you not in LA), so it'll be nice and cool.

Last night, when I called to cancel on him, Mr. Movie Star heaved a frustrated sigh and muttered something about maybe having better luck getting both of us in the same room next week (he's on a Wednesday - Sunday schedule but only has today off this week because of a still shoot on Tuesday).

It sucks, but I have to take the work when I can get it - if you turn folks down, they stop calling you, plus I never know when I'm going to work next.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

An Open Letter to Michael Bay

Despite the performance of your last movie, you're still one of the most powerful men in Hollywood.

Therefore, I'm sure you have a girlfriend. Why don't you let her dress you?

When two grips and an electrician (all women - I was the redhead who spewed pasta and barely missed the Local 80* Goddess seated across from me. Just so you know, we were laughing at you, not with you) point at you and break into hysterics as you walk past, it's high time for a closet cleanout.

You're not a bad looking guy. Really, you're not. You have a terrific smile and you're more than a little sexy. Were it not for the heinous jeans and moldy tennis shoes, I'd do you in a heartbeat - but you really do need to update your look.

Please. I'm begging you.

The Goddess (who's been on location in Australia where the men dress like crap, and yet she still laughed at you) will even consider speaking to you in less than insulting tones if only you'll dress like less of a retard in the future.

*It's customary to refer to departments by the local number. Grip is Local 80. Set Lighting is Local 728. Camera is Local 600. While this may seem like jibberish, standing in the middle of the set and yelling "seven twenty eight" will result in all the electricians turning our heads and saying "What?".