Friday, October 07, 2005

Friday Photo

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

I was right about that one.

As predicted, I ended up working on the lamp dock all day. Lamp dock duty involves typical warehouse stuff - putting away equipment, testing stuff that's going out, sorting, repairing, etc...

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.

Great day, bad coffee.

After almost an entire day wasted sleeping,* I went back to Bones second unit (yesterday was Wednesday, right?).

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

Next time, Just Say No.

I had almost forgotten why I hate rap videos so much (I've managed to not work one in years), but yesterday reminded me all over again.

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.