Saturday, October 15, 2005

You didn't see nothin'.

Okay, let's try this without the Vicodin (I tweaked the wrist at work yesterday, and then made the mistake of trying to update the blog last night - which resulted in one hell of an incoherent entry):

Yesterday, I was back on the Bones rigging crew (and thank heavens for that - the shooting crew had a 5 pm call, which means they probably called wrap at 7 or 8 this morning).

Most of what we were doing was wrapping out a courtroom set that we shot yesterday (the set was part of the recently cancelled show Head Cases: Bones shot in it Thursday, and House is shooting in it Monday).

One of the things that's not so great about the new, evolved, safety-conscious film industry is that we have a ton of restrictions on what we can and can't do, and all of the studios now have 'safety compliance' departments - which consist mostly of people who wander around and bust you if you violate that particular studio's written safety policy*.

For work on elevated walkways (the permanent catwalk system or 'perms', and 'greenbeds' which are walkways hung just over the top of the sets), people not trained on and certified to use fall arrest systems ("yo-yo"s) must stay within the confines of the handrails at all times.

Someone (like me) who hasn't got this certification may not stand on the knee or hand rails (to increase reach), crawl out onto the beams of the perms to retrieve objects, or go for a stroll on top of the set walls (which are outside the confines of the handrails).

Of course, we end up violating these rules on a fairly regular basis.

The trick is to violate the rules as quickly as possible to make sure that one doesn't get caught. You can't use the walkie to ask where the safety rep is, because production usually monitors walkie conversations, and if they hear a request for the safety rep, they'll call them and send them to your stage.
For obvious reasons, it is unwise to use the walkie to announce intentions to break the rules - "Hey, I'm going to climb up onto the handrails of the walkway - somebody make sure the coast is clear."

Naturally, there was one stubborn stinger (that's what we call an extension cord) that I couldn't get from the greenbed (despite my pulling really hard), so I had to go out onto the ceiling pieces of the set (not such a big deal if you know where to step, big problem if you don't) in order to retrieve it. Of course, because I was in flagrant violation of Fox's written safety policy, the damn thing had been taped down every few feet, requiring me to walk out further and further away from the greenbed in order to free it up. By the time I got the damn thing coiled up, I was standing on top of a set wall which was at least 20 feet away from the walkway.

Generally, among crew members, there's a policy of turning a blind eye towards that sort of thing - it's assumed that you know what you're doing and are doing it for a good reason. If it becomes clear to a crew member that whomever's violating a safety policy doesn't know what he or she is doing, we'll report it to that person's direct supervisor ("hey, Bob - your new kid's about to get himself killed. You might want to check on him.").

Luckily, I didn't get busted - although one of the painters looked up at me as I was WAY far off the greenbed. I just looked back at him and said (with a smile, of course) "You didn't see nothin', pal" to which he replied (also with a smile) "Wow. It sounds like there's a voice coming from up there, but I can't see anyone."

*I wholeheartedly support the industry's attempt to make the job less dangerous, and I applaud the safety program for basically forcing producers to pretend to give a shit about my health and welfare. I also do not condone or advise in any way, shape, or form violation of established safety procedures.

Rules, however, were sometimes made to be broken, and I'd just love it if they'd trust my judgment and knowledge of what's safe and not safe - for myself - in any given situation.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


I get asked the question "What made you start this blog?" a lot.

I started this blog to prove myself right.

After years of hearing "Wow, your job must be so interesting", "People really would eat this up", and "You should write a book" I started the blog - if only to prove to everyone that I'm really a complete bore and no one wants to read about me or my job.

I guess I've been proven wrong, as folks do seem to be interested, but I'm still afraid that I make my job seem a lot more action-packed and fascinating than it really is.

I blog about stuff that happens to me - but there's a lot of time in between that stuff, and most of it's spent waiting.

Waiting for talent.
Waiting on camera.
Waiting on lunch.
Waiting to see if they're going to move on.
Waiting for the AD's to call 'cut' so I can turn the page of the newspaper.
Waiting on the sun to go down so we can light the night exterior.
Waiting for no fucking reason at all.

Even rigging (setting up for the shooting crew) involves waiting:

Waiting to be let into the location.
Waiting for equipment to be delivered.
Waiting on the truck to show up so we can load it.
Waiting for the rigging gaffer to tell us what to do.
Waiting for the guys 'up high' to send the rope back down so we can tie on another load of cable.
Waiting on paperwork from the rental house.

I'd say that, on average, about 70% of my day is spent waiting.

When we have to wait, we take the time - even if it is just an attempt to stave off boredom - to talk to each other, find a common ground, and make friends of people we'd otherwise never speak to. I once had a 20 minute conversation with one of the biggest producers in Hollywood who never, ever would have spoken to me if we hadn't been trapped on a set - waiting, of course - and both been huge Futurama fans.

No matter who we are, where we come from, or what job we do, the beast that is the film industry forces us all to wait - locked on a sound stage, trapped on a location with no cell service, shivering on a night shoot in the dead of winter - and thus we find a strange sort of equality.

Okay, maybe it is kind of interesting.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Five Dollar House: A bedtime story.

I know the following story to be true - it was told to me (a long time ago) by the location rep of the house as we were standing on the front porch, watching the sun set and wondering when the hell they were going to call wrap.

Once upon a time (okay, late 1990's), a then-wealthy foreign businessman decided to give his wife the mother of all anniversary gifts - a hillside home in Malibu with stunning ocean views and huge walk-in closets (or whatever it was that was trendy in the late 1990's).

He bought a gigantic parcel (I seem to remember it being at least seven acres), and hired a contractor to build his dream home - where he and his beloved would spend the rest of their lives in opulence and bliss.

One fine day, standing in the middle of his breathtaking ocean-view property, he held up a five dollar bill and said to the contractor "I want a house that looks exactly like the one on the back of this bill."

The contractor, being a working man, probably said "Sure thing, boss", while thinking what the hell would these wackos ask him to build next.

But the contractor, being a working man, gave the wealthy businessman exactly what he asked for - A huge, gaudy white marble house that, from the front, was a dead ringer for the Lincoln Memorial.

The businessman spend who-knows-how-much on the house and elaborately landscaped grounds (sort of Versailles-like: topiaries, garden paths, fountains and a pool that looked like it belonged at Ceasar's Palace), and then, on the big day, drove the love of his life to the new house to surprise her.

As they came up the winding driveway, and the brand-new house came into view, his wife said "Ugh - it's horrible! It looks like a mausoleum! I could never live in such an ugly house!"

I have no idea what he said next, but I do know that he turned the car around, went back home, and put the property on the market the very next day.

While he was trying to sell it, he allowed a bunch of rap videos (and rock videos, and infomercials, and anything else that would pay him - as the whole process apparently ruined him) to shoot there, and that's when I heard this story.

Speaking of stories, the moral of this one is that the next time you drop a few million dollars (which I just know you have lying around - admit it) on a house for your wife, maybe you should be very, very certain that she'll like it.

Like maybe ask her first.

Just a suggestion.

I was not working at the five dollar house today, but a few miles up the road in northern Malibu, just south (by about 100 yards) of the Ventura County line (for non LA-based readers, this means it's in bumfuck).

Everything about the day was unremarkable, except for the views. Good Lord, the California coast is beautiful at sunset.


Okay, the layer of smog's not so pretty, but otherwise it's stunning.

House in Afternoon.

This is the guesthouse. I love the warm tones of late-afternoon sunlight.

Malibu Night

This is the last of the light and the first star in the sky at the same time.

And as I was walking to my car, I noticed this sign on the neighbor's gate:

Angry neighbor

That's not very neighborly, now is it?

Oh, and I have no idea what happened to the five dollar house (which I seem to remember being above Trancas market, which is a few miles south of where we were shooting today).

It's probably been torn down and is now more than likely a condo complex called "Lincoln Estates" or something like that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I love my chiropractor.

Actually, he's my former chiropractor - he closed his human practice and started working on show horses (the pay's better and the horses don't talk back). He's exceptionally talented (he's the sole reason why I haven't had to have knee surgery), and since he stopped seeing patients I've not been able to find another chiropractor that seems to know his (or her) ass from a hole in the ground.

This morning, I dragged my pain-killer hung-over self out of bed and went back to the doctor's office to have him pop the wrist back in - only to have it pop (audibly) back out less than an hour later as I was making a left turn.

After probably traumatizing the pre-schoolers in the next car by screaming "Fuck fuck fuck fuck!", I called the chiropractor and started to beg.

He finally agreed to see me at 5 pm, so I had to run around all day (film festival deadline snuck up on me) with only one fully-functioning arm. Thank god the P.O.S. has an automatic transmission.

When I got to his house, he took one look at my wrist, rolled his eyes, sighed, and said "It's not your wrist, it's your elbow."

Me: "But I heard the wrist pop."

Chiropractor: "I'm sure you did - the wrist bone's not in the right place, but the real problem is with the elbow. Shit rolls downhill, you know."

Me (confused): "Okay."

Anyways - it's not totally back in yet (he says it'll take a few days to move itself back, and it's still sore, so I'm keeping this post short), but it feels about a thousand percent better. I've got an ice pack on it, and he told me to take Advil for the next few days to keep the inflammation down.

It hasn't popped back out yet, although I was extra-careful on the drive home.

Monday, October 10, 2005

This is exactly as painful as you'd imagine.

Had an interesting day, and there was something that I really wanted to write about (someone remind me to do a post about the 'tier system')...

But my number came up in the' injury lottery' today.

After lunch, as I was tightening the bale* on a light we were pulling off the shelf, I heard a 'pop'.

It took me a moment to realize that it came from my wrist.


The doctor popped it back in; but, of course, after I got home it popped back out. Also of course, as soon as I got home, I took the pain medication and now can't drive back to the hospital (it seems to be having little effect on the pain, but is very effectively screwing up my motor skills).

I don't want to call in a favor (for a ride) to sit in the ER for 5 hours. I just want to go to bed.

*I'll explain it later. Typing is excruciating.