Tuesday, December 12, 2006

One more reason for me not to see this movie.

Last night, I accompanied The Anonymous Source to a screening of The Pursuit of Happyness (highly recommended if you're looking for a warm fuzzy movie with a feel-good ending), and before the movie started The Anonymous Source told me that last week, there had been a Cinematographer's Guild sponsored screening of Apocolypto, after which the movie's Director of Photography gave a talk.

During this talk, he'd told the audience that during the shoot in Mexico, Mel Gibson had kept the actors - even the children - on set for up to 19 hours each day.

Several days later, The Anonymous Source is still steaming about it, and I completely understand why.

Have we learned nothing from that John Landis thing?

Child labor laws may make shooting more difficult, but they exist for a reason, and I suspect that if Gibson had one of his own children in the movie, he wouldn't have kept them on set that long.

Of course, I'm not sure that there are any child labor laws relating to film production in Mexico (a 'private jungle' in Veracruz, to be exact), but keeping kids on set that long is just fucking wrong.

Although I wasn't going to see it anyways (there's enough horrible violence outside my window. I don't need to pay to see more), this just seals the deal that I'll never, ever give Gibson any more money.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

I've got the RSS Blues

Until I can figure out this RSS thing (and there’s a myriad of new stuff on Wordpress that’s throwing me for a loop), you’re just going to have to subscribe to the new feed manually.

Here’s the feed link: http://filmhacks.wordpress.com/feed/

Enter that into your RSS reader and you can subscribe from there.

Many, many thanks to the wonderful commenters who were kind enough to share this information!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Photo

Editorial Comment

Taken inside a facade on Warner's New York Street.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Of all the things I've left at home, I miss my glasses the most.

Although I didn't expect to work at all in December, I'll end up getting three days this week.

Tuesday night, I got a call to work on second unit shoots for a TV show*. My call was 11 am at Warner Brothers in Burbank.

I don't work on the Warner Brothers lot very often, and in some way that's a good thing. Warner's contains the single biggest threat to my pocketbook in the entire city - The Mill Store.

All studio lots have stores where they sell discounted DVDs and various merchandise, but at Warner's, they have really deeply discounted stuff at the Mill Store. Super cheap DVDs, CDs, shirts, hats and various assorted work-related tchotckes are too much for me to resist, and every time I'm on the lot, I spend at least a third of my check in there.

Wednesday, I had a fairly typical day - 14 hours (11 am to 2 am), two stage moves, and the nicest bunch of guys I've met in a long time. I really hope I can get back on this crew because they're all terrific** and I had a great day.

It never rains but it pours - as I was standing on set, I got called to do a day on another TV show, right after the best boy had asked me back for tomorrow to help out on the fixture rigging crew (fixtures, or practicals, are the lights that you can see on the screen) .

The fixture crew ended up being an old friend of mine who I've not seen in two years, and another person who I work with every so often who I like a lot, so I had a great time Thursday as well.

The only problem Thursday was the short turnaround. They'd set my call for Thursday before lunch on Wednesday, and when we went late and it became obvious that I'd not make the call because I wouldn't get my minimum turnaround (9 hours for studio lots), they pushed my call so I ended up coming in at 11 am (the original call was 7 am).

I can't go right to sleep when I get home - I have to take a shower and wind down before I get into bed, so I ended up getting about 5 hours sleep and being a total zombie in the morning.

When I'm a total zombie I forget things - on Thursday, I forgot my glasses.

I have great long-distance vision. I can read the tail numbers of jumbo jets flying in the stratosphere, but up close, details are a blurry mess.

We were wiring sconces that had been hung on the outside of the facades of New York street, but had to be powered from the inside (remember that if you see a power cable on camera the world will end. Okay, maybe not, but I'll get fired), so I ended up spending the day with my face right up against the walls trying to see where I was sending the fish tape. So not a good thing. The last thing I wanted to do was get my face up close to the walls on the inside of the facades.

The reason I didn't want to put my face too close to the inside of those walls is spiders. Those facades have been there for 50 years, and the arachnid life inside have dug in and gotten fat and sassy - the last thing I need to do is stick my eyeball up to a hole in the wall and have a spider jump on me. I probably wouldn't be able to see it coming, either. I'd just scream like hell and scare my co-workers and the spider.

I'm back on the fixtures crew for tomorrow.

*I will only tell you what show it is if you promise not to charge up to me on set shouting "Hey, you're that blogger. Although I do like to hear that people are enjoying the blog, being confronted at work makes me very uncomfortable, and then I think the heat's on, freak out and start posting things about my shoe collection that nobody wants to read.
Trust me, I'm a lot more interesting when I think no one's watching.

** Easier said than done at Warner Bros. The set lighting department there are intensely loyal to their regular folks, and won't hesitate to lay off people they don't know well in order to make sure their own people keep working. In this day and age of corporations not giving a shit about dedicated workers, I think it's wonderful to see a company display this kind of loyalty to workers - even when it works against me.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Okay, so some of you care.

Thanks for all the supportive comments! Following some excellent suggestions, I may make a change - I'll keep writing, but it's looking like I'm going to move over to Wordpress - I'm having issues with Blogger, and the evil corporate overlords at Google don't seem to be interested in customer service these days.

The new link is filmhacks.wordpress.com.

Right now the template's butt ugly and I'm still playing with it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Two Years

Things I've learned in two years of writing a blog:

No matter how clear I think I've been that most of what I write is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, someone somewhere will take it seriously, and send me an email advising me of the best way to pull my own head out of my ass. Screw that. Having my head up my ass is what keeps my spine flexible.

There is always someone cleverer than me.

There is always someone eager to let me know that there is always someone cleverer than me.

Speaking of people cleverer than me, Josh Friedman needs to update his damn blog more often.

Although I was afraid of offending my co-workers, they have generally responded positively (except for the one who keeps sending me - anonymously, of course - threatening emails) and have respected my desire to remain anonymous. Through this blog I've really learned to appreciate the terrific group of people with whom I'm honored to work.

In a pinch, Google's search function makes a dandy spell-check.

Speaking of terrific groups of people, the commenters here have rountinely made my day by being funny, insightful and generally well worth the effort it takes me to clean up the coffee I've sprayed on my computer screen while laughing (with you, of course. Not at you).

In a truly Pavlovian turn of fate, I am no longer able to concentrate on what I'm writing unless I see a Blogger interface. Damn you, internets.

Many more people than I like to imagine simply do not give a shit about what I think.

In my struggle to frame my recollections of my days in such a way as to make them interesting to other people, I've had to learn to look at my world differently. If I get nothing else from blogging, this one thing has made the whole experiment worth it.

Things a blog won't get me:

Free drinks
Lavish gifts

Okay, that's not entirely true. I have, in fact, gotten free drinks because of the blog.

In two years, I've met some wonderful people and have had a great time balancing precariously on my little soapbox.

I've also noticed that two years is about when most blogs start to repeat themselves.

So, what do you think? Should I keep on doing the same old shit or pack in it while a few people out there still think I'm cool?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Photo

Traffic Jam

Every year the city of Los Angeles begs people not to drive into Hollywood to see the annual Christmas Parade.

Here's why. This light changed three times and these cars didn't move (but they did all honk their horns incessantly).

On the work front, today I went by the lot to pick up my final check from the Christmas job. There's quite a lot of stuff shooting, but none of the people I usually work with are doing anything.

The perils of freelance, I guess.

Monday I've got to get on the phone and try to scare up some work for December.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

No work, but plenty of excitement.

Sometime in the past few days, I hurt my thumb. The joint's swollen and I can't bend it. I have absolutely no idea how it happened (although I'm tempted to blame Cam-Lok connectors) but since I do tend to use my thumbs quite a bit, I figured I'd get it checked out.

When I showed it to the doctor, he said, "You fucked something up. Take some Motrin and soak it in warm water. Maybe that'll clear it up."

All that medical school for a diagnosis of "fucked up"? That, I'd already figured out.

"Tell me something I don't know," I said.

He thought for a moment. "Buy low, sell high?"

I like my doctor, but sometimes I really want to kick him. Plus, I already knew that.

So, I've got a bottle of Motrin and official medical advice not to use my thumb for the next three days. Wish me luck with that one.

In more exciting news, yesterday, LA county mental health services hauled my landlady off to the nuthatch.

She's always been, um, eccentric.. but it's gotten worse in the past few weeks. It all started when her kids tried to get a power of attorney (which is a reasonable request when one's parent is 80, I think), and she freaked out. She interpreted it as an attempt at a pre-death asset grab and stopped eating or sleeping - she just cried all day and all night.

The lack of sleep turned into paranoia, and since my landlady lives next door, her pounding on my door at 1 am to tell me that the streetlight was watching her and that I should take my stove apart to make sure there weren't any electronic bugs in it. "Check your oven, too! They might be listening to everything you say!"

Honestly, I didn't realize how bad it had gotten. I'd heard pounding noises at night, but hadn't really worried about them. She's always been handy, so I figured she was boarding up the windows or installing shelves or something (sometimes I'll do stuff like that when I can't sleep). I'd offered to take her to the grocery store if she needed it, but she said she was fine.

Turns out, she's ripped out all the electrical wiring in her house (because it was listening to her, I guess) and there's a gas leak because in her zeal to find the 'bugs' - she knocked big holes in the walls and hit the gas line with a hammer.

The social workers who took her away yesterday were very nice, and implied that she'll be okay soon, once she's gotten some medical treatment.

I hope so. I haven't heard anything about how she's doing, but it's been less than 24 hours, so there may be no news yet.

Friday, November 24, 2006

'Tis the Season - it's official.

Beverly Hills has sprouted chandeliers in boxes.

Chandeliers in boxes

On Rodeo (remember, it's pronounced Row-DAY-oh) Drive, of course.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

To those of you outside the US, the Thanksgiving holiday is billed as a commemoration of... well, depending on who you ask, it's either the commemoration of the onset of a genocide or a happy fuzzy friendship party thrown by some people who were probably really glad to see land.

In reality, it's an excuse to pig out all day, fight with one's family around the table, and gossip on the way home about how fucked up everyone is since Grandma (who was, after all, the one keeping everyone in line) passed away.

Since I'm going to a friend's house, I'll miss the fights and the gossip, but the pig-out factor is certainly still there. We're doing potluck, and I'm attempting to bake the pumpkin muffins that I found on the faboo cupcake blog (although I'm not sure how well they're going to turn out. I probably should have told my hosts I was bringing a bottle of cheap whiskey or something and then surprised them - although whiskey's probably healthier than those cupcakes. I don't even want to see the calorie count on those fuckers).

So, in the spirit of things, here's a list of what I'm thankful for this year:

I'm thankful that I have a job which, although I bitch about it sometimes, I truly do enjoy.

I'm thankful that I have my health, and more importantly, that I continue to qualify for my health insurance (I have to work 300 hours per semester to keep it, and I'm unbelievably grateful that I've never lost it).

I'm thankful for all the wonderful folks who keep hiring me, and with whom I'd hang out even if they didn't just because I like them.

I'm thankful for my rent-controlled place to live.

I'm thankful that my pet loves me (hey, with cats that's not a given, you know).

I'm thankful for my family and friends, who put up with my shit and still seem to like me.

I'm thankful that I haven't had food poisoning in a while.

I'm thankful for this court decision. I've had to 86 some hilarious comments due to fear of legal action, and now everyone can snark away without fear. Huzzah!

I'm sure there's more, but right now I'm off to the gym. Hopefully I'll be able to pre-emptively burn off those cupcakes.

I hope all of you have a very happy holiday, too!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I certainly made up for those weekends I worked.

Friday night I dragged a friend to a nightclub and we saw.. get ready for it.. 2 Live Crew (remember them?) for some sort of comeback tour or something. I'm still not sure exactly what happened, but here's some video:

Yeah, I know. I thought it was going to be a lot funnier, too (actually funny, not two drink minimum funny). Plus, it was damn near pitch black in there so I'm surprised I was even able to get the shitty pixel-fest you see here.

I'll spare you the clip of the dancer shaking her thang for the camera. There are six (or so) clips on Jumpcut, so feel free to re-edit them and see if you can make something interesting out of it.

Saturday night, I decided that I had not, in fact, been ready for that jelly and decided to stay home.

Sunday, I went to see the new James Bond. Without veering into spoiler country, it's long. Too long. By about half an hour. There is absolutely no excuse for a movie with a plot that thin to be over two hours, although Daniel Craig (for whom I've had a girl boner since Layer Cake) was great.

I'm not expecting to get any work this week, since Thursday's a holiday.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thanks a lot, now get out.

"Well", my boss said as he came in our room right after our coffee break, "I've got some bad news for you."

Sometimes things get cut, jobs get shortened and then sometimes people get cut from the crew. Not fired, just.. no longer needed for this particular job.

Guess what happened to me yesterday?

Yup. Since my partner and I were doing all the hedges, and the park that had it's decorations get cancelled was apparently all hedges (and would have taken a week for us to complete), we got laid off.

Although the extra week's pay would have been nice, this isn't that big of a deal, really. One of the first lessons one has to learn in this industry is that layoffs don't mean a thing - somehow the crew size can no longer be justified to management and someone has to go. Happens all the time.

If I wanted stability, I'd have gotten a real job, now wouldn't I?

The funny thing is that throughout this whole job, we've been jokingly telling one another to stop moving so fast or we'd work ourselves out of a job.

I'm still taking today off, since that six days in a row thing hurts me bad (and I have no more clean work clothes), but I'll start to make calls tomorrow. Hopefully I'll turn up something for next week, and if not, I'll have some time to work on other things - like the cupcakes I got talked into baking for Thanksgiving next week.

Oh, shit - Thanksgiving is next week.

Bet I won't get any work, then. Hello, unemployment check.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

People, please!

This morning, as I was drinking my coffee and catching up on my reading I came across an article which made reference to "all the gaffers" on a set.

This (and I've seen the same mistake before) makes me nuts.

There is one gaffer per shooting unit. He (or she) works directly with the Director of Photography (DP for short) to light the scene and is the head of the set lighting department. If you see more than one gaffer lighting a set at the same time, something's gone terribly wrong.

All those people moving lights around are called lamp operators or "juicers". As a side note, you are safe referring to "all the grips" on set, although grips do not handle lights. They have enough to do without having to do my job (which would be moving lights around and, it seems, confusing certain magazine contributors).

So, if you're thinking about dropping the "all the gaffers" bomb, please refer to this handy dandy guide to lighting-related crew folks:

Director of Photography: The guy (or gal) who makes the creative decisions about how the scene will be lit and shot. The DP is the head of the camera department, but he (or she) also decides the general look of the lighting and what "mood" the scene should have.

Gaffer: The gaffer (remember, there's only one), after discussing the scene with the DP, is the person who gets on the walkie talkie and tells us exactly what kind of lights to use and where to place them. The gaffer, since he (or she) stays on set, is also a good source of information about what's going to happen later in the day ("Remember when we wrapped that set because they were done shooting in it? Start getting it ready again. It's up next").

Best Boy Electric: The gaffer's assistant, so to speak. The best boy is responsible for hiring additional crew and laying them off when they're no longer needed, supervising the lighting crew ("You're late again, asshole. You owe everyone a Starbucks drink after lunch"), which can be like herding cats some days, ordering equipment from the rental house and making sure it doesn't get lost or damaged, and keeping track of everyone's hours so we get paid the correct amount. Unless we start to get peeled really badly, the best boy is never on set.

Lamp Operators: On set, our job is to carry out the gaffer's instructions about which lamps he (or she) wants and where. If we don't have a rigging crew, we show up early (a "pre-call") in order to run cable from the generator to the set and try to grab the best equipment staging area before the grips get it.

Key Grip: The key grip works with the DP and the gaffer. Grips don't touch lights unless they're being nice and helping us out. The rule of thumb is that anything which casts a shadow is grip - one can't just aim a light at a set and leave it, because of a phenomenon known as "spill". Lighting is a precise thing, and one only wants the light to shine on a certain area of the set (or the left half of the actor's face) - so the key grip instructs his crew where to place "flags" to keep the light only on one area.

Best Boy Grip: same as the BBE (best boy electric), different truck.

Dolly Grip: The grip who's in charge of the camera dolly. No, not the dress-wearing kind of dolly, but a very heavy wheeled hunk of steel which can roll (on metal track), and has an arm which can raise and lower the camera in order to create those fancy moving shots that take forever to set up and audiences don't even notice. Dolly track, when laid down, must be perfectly level or the camera shakes as the dolly's moved down the track.

Grips: Grips, in addition to precision shadow-casting, are responsible for general safety on set. They build ramps, reinforce stairs and handrails, move set walls, hang pipe grids and greenbeds (walkways which are suspended over a set), build tents outside building windows so we can shoot night scenes during the day, and assemble and operate those gigantic, complex camera cranes.
Don't believe those ads on the back pages of certain film-related publications ("Learn to be a grip movie technician in 10 days!"). Grip is not an entry-level position.

On a show with more than one shooting unit, these positions will be duplicated for the second unit, and shows with rigging units will have a rigging gaffer and rigging key grip with associated personnel. On shows without a rigging crew, the best boys are responsible for pre-rigging sets.

I could go on (and on and on and on), but I'll stop here.

If you're writing something and aren't sure about what any particular crew person does, please don't guess - just email me and ask. Although I sometimes take a few days to answer emails, I'll be more than happy to help.

Unless you want me to go insane - in that case, just keep it up with "all the gaffers". I'll eventually snap, I promise.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A very food-centric post today.

Yesterday afternoon as we were getting into work, there was a Red Hot Chili Peppers (honestly, I didn't think those guys were still around) video shooting on the lot - as soon as we found out, we all sauntered over to the set which was on the lot's New York Street.

Not so much to see the band (I can't speak for my co-workers, but I really don't care that much), but to see if there was anything good at the crafty table and to say "hi" if any of us knew any of the crew, since this job will be over in a couple of weeks and we're all on the make for future employment.

I'd not met the crew before, but they all seemed nice (even though they were having a typically long day), and the food was typical music video fare*.

Once we'd said our hellos, determined that nothing there was of much interest to any of us, and had gotten our crew set up in their respective work areas, our boss told us that there were two other parties on the lot last night.

One was a screening of a movie followed by a wine and cheese reception in the parking lot next to the water tank and the other was a dressy party and silent auction for some charity. The charity party let the lot workers pick over the buffet left-overs, and I was bad and overindulged on corned beef. I love corned beef, even if it is about 90% fat and really bad for me.

So, I'm off to the gym right now to try and work off the million calories of yummy I ate last night.

*Craft Service/Catering hiearchy is as follows:

Commercials: Expensive caterers, craft service people who shop at high-end markets and stock everything but the kitchen sink and will, if asked nicely, accommodate special requests (soymilk, sugar-free snacks, strange tropical fruits, etc..). Commercial craft service doesn't come cheap, but you get what you pay for, after all.

Large budget movies: Although the between-meals spread's not quite as elaborate as commercial fare (but still good) there's still a wide variety of stuff to eat (both healthy and not) and the catered food's worthy of an expensive restaurant.

TV shows: Hit or miss, depending on how much the producer's budgeted, but since TV shows shooting on studio lots don't have caterers (they can give the crew a half-hour lunch if food is provided or an hour-long "walkaway" if it's not. Why pay for a caterer if there's a commissary 200 yards away?) those shows tend to have better crafty, plus they'll have bread and cold cuts for sandwiches.

Music Videos: Normally stocked with the type of food that musicians and their hangers-on like to eat - junk food and lots of it, unless the artist is on a diet and then there will be a veggie platter with a tin of low fat ranch dressing.

Low budget movies: Cheap coffee (with powdered creamer which I hate) and a box of stale cookies, plus some of those sodium-laced ramen noodle packets if they were on sale at Costco. Hey, what would you put out if you had to feed 40 people on $100 per day?

Having said that, I've been on a couple of low budget movies that have had decent food. Once again, it depends on what the producer's willing and able to spend. Having one of the lead actors get sick from eating cheese that's been sitting at room temperature for six hours and then hysterically accuse the producer of trying to poison them will increase the food budget pretty quickly.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Quick, Look Busy!

At some point between wrap on Tuesday and call time on Wednesday, our boss got spoken to by lot management about us not looking busy enough.

It's important to make it clear that the problem was not our not working fast enough or doing good work (what we've done so far looks great, and we got a compliment from the CEO himself on how nice everything looked), but that we weren't giving the appearance of being productive worker bees as the important people sped past us in their cars on the way through the security gate.

We've actually been working pretty quickly, but every so often we have to stop for a few moments to a) stand up straight b) think for a moment c) untangle lights or d) have a sip of water.

Apparently all these things are completely unacceptable, and we must be moving at all times or memos are sent and threatening phone calls are made.

I should probably note that moving around more than absolutely necessary is something that all of us, after years of having to conserve one's energy throughout long days, have learned not to do. Repeatedly picking things up and putting them down in order to justify the crew size to the bean counters just means I'm going to run out to gas right when it's time to load the truck at the end of the night.

All these memos and calls (this is just the latest volley in the 'crack the whip on the dirty laborers' round of memos*) have been hard on my boss, who is a terrific guy and doesn't deserve to have this kind of shit heaped on his head when he is, in fact, doing a pretty bang-up job.

After I protested that for once in my life I was actually working and not just running out the clock, my boss sighed and said "Look, just make them think they're getting their money's worth - make sure they see some kind of activity as they pass by. If they see you just standing there they think you're goofing off."

"Don't they see the lights? Isn't it obvious that we're making progress?"

My boss, who is very diplomatic, just said "Well, you know how these people are".

Good point.

Unfortunately, I do know how these people are. It's just that usually, they have no idea what exactly it is that I do (they just have some vague idea that my carrying weird looking equipment into and out of the set prevents them from standing in the doorways), so they can't normally tell if I'm really working or just filling my down time by fucking off while I get off my feet ("I'm very, very busy here. If I don't get these widgets organized by size and color, we won't be ready to light the next set").

This time, it's different. Everyone knows how to do holiday lights, right? We'll never get away with blatantly staged busyness when people actually know what we're doing, will we?

Apparently, we will.

Whenever an overpriced luxury sedan would pull out of the executive parking lot, one of us would yell "Incoming!" and we'd all start trying to look busy - fiddling with lights, moving things from one pile to another, crouching down and standing up again. At one point, my partner just started waving his arms around as the cars drove by.

"C'mon, man.. No one's going to fall for that. You look like a crazy person."

"Oh, please. They can't tell what I'm doing. They just see movement. You know how these people are."

I guess it worked, since my boss didn't get any angry phone calls last night.

*What the fuck is it with the memos? I'm not used to this - I'm used to insane people screaming and throwing things, which is easier to cope with than a seemingly endless round of passive-aggressive memos. In times like this, I remember exactly why I decided to bypass corporate America.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's an ill wind that blows nobody good

Or something like that.

For those of you not in Southern California, we're currently being fried by Santa Ana winds.

A Santa Ana wind feels like... well, you know when the oven's on "high" and you crack the door open and get that blast of hot air right in the face? That's what a Santa Ana feels like. The humidity plummets (I think it's at 16% right now), the temperature skyrockets (it's over 90 degrees), people get cranky and drive worse than usual - I've been riding my bike to work and I've been honked at, flipped off and had more near-misses than normal.

Right now, I'm very grateful to be working in the evenings - it cools off about 6 pm when we get back from dinner, and the rest of the night is really nice.

Although the Santa Ana winds are traditionally believed to be evil, they do have one big advantage:

As long as they're blowing, there's no way it's going to rain.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ain't life a bitch?

So after years of lifting 100 lb coils of cable and not having back problems (knee and foot problems, yes, but the back's generally fine), what finally gives me a pain in the back?

Putting in fucking holiday lights, that's what.

It's the constant bending down and straightening up that's done it (stretch up to reach the top of the hedge, bend down to anchor the lights to the base, repeat for 10 hours). My lower back's killing me, but it's not bad enough to warrant my staying home so I'm just torturing my co-workers by bitching about it.

I've got an ice pack on it right now. Hopefully it'll feel better by morning for my next shift of bending and stretching.

"TUESDAY" AM UPDATE: It feels much better this morning - I figure if I put the ice pack on it during lunch, I should be fine.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

It's Friday!

I think.

Well, today's the last day I work before having two days off, so I'm calling it Friday.

Yup, definitely Friday.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Illegitimi non carborundum

Last night was frustrating - we can't just loosely drape the lights over the hedges - they have to be passerby and gardener (oops, I meant "landscape technician") proof and they'll have to stay put for weeks - some of our shoddier work has already been knocked down and we're going to have to do them over, which is sending our boss into panic mode as he's afraid we're not going to be done on time.

We have to wind the lights around any sturdy twigs we find in the foliage (since we're only hanging the lights on the side facing the offices - no one cares about holiday lights in the parking lots), and some of the shrubbery is more difficult to wrap than others. Last night's hedges had plenty of sturdy twigs, but my partner and I were both having problems getting the strands to stay where we put them (damn slippery leaves), so it took us our entire shift to finish about 60 feet of hedge.

At the beginning of the job, our boss warned us that some of the office workers might be belligerent when they saw us working on holiday lights so early, but everyone's been pretty nice so far.

Last night, we were working right in between the studio president's one miiilllllion dollar (C'mon, say it like Dr. Evil - you know you want to) office and the VIP parking lot. The execs had to walk by us as they were leaving for the day, and most of them passed by without even acknowledging our presence (we are, after all, just the help). The folks who did make comments were pleasant and surprised at how much work the lights were.

Then again, we were listening to Sinatra on the little portable CD player, and it's hard to be a jerk when Frank's belting out Witchcraft.

All was well until about 10 pm when a lady walked by us and snarled "Can't you people at least wait until after Halloween?"

As I was opening my mouth to politely explain, she shook her head, muttered "Unbelievable!" and stomped off.

Lucky for me years of working on sets have rendered me utterly incapable of caring about someone's attitude problems when they're related to something that's beyond my control.

As she stomped towards her BMW, still muttering to herself, I cheerily called after her "Think of it as a reminder to start shopping soon!"

She didn't turn around.

I bet our boss gets a memo about the gardeners (oops, I meant "landscape technicians") talking back to the important people.

Oh, and Happy Halloween. With my current hours, I won't have to worry about getting ambushed like I did last year .

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It's Saturday for you but it's Monday for me.

My days off are Thursday and Friday, and while it's nice to have a weekday free for certain things that aren't open on the weekends, this schedule makes it difficult to remember what day it is.

Saturday is my Monday, so last night I kept forgetting it that not only was it Saturday night, it was the Saturday night before Halloween, so as we were working outside, I kept wondering why there was so much traffic through the city at midnight on a weeknight ("Don't these people have jobs?"), only to suddenly remember (or be reminded by my co-workers) that it's not a weeknight for the rest of the local population - just for us.

At the end of the night, as we were prepping for the next days' work by running cable (what do you mean, why are we running cable? We have millions of lights - that does add up to a lot of amperage, you know), one of the "See Hollywood and Stars!" tour busses rolled by in full party mode - loud music and drunken revelers dancing on the top deck of the old London city bus that now rattles around my neighborhood - only these days it's full of tourists who take millions of pictures of anyone they think might be famous* - and once again I wondered what the hell was going on on a Monday night to warrant a party.

Wait - it's not a weeknight, is it?

What day is it again?

*I know that tourism contributes a eye-popping amount towards the local economy, and I'm glad that people from around the world choose to spend their vacation time in Los Angeles, but goddammit, those busses are annoying as hell.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Snowball fight!

We spend the first couple of hours each day prepping the strands of lights that we have to use - we have to cut the tags off (because the white tags are visible in the greenery of the bushes and trees) and it's better to do it all at once. That way there aren't little amputated tags all over the lot (which pisses off the groundskeepers).

The room where we do this is right next to where a commercial has been shooting and blanketed part of the lot in snow - some of it fake, but some of it real. They don't normally use real snow, and I have no idea why they did this time, but there it was, right there on the street collecting dirt (like real snow does) and making a terrible mess in the heat.

Although they wrapped several days ago, it's taking them some time to scrape the snow up and throw it into dumpsters (where it's been melting into a funny-smelling lake through which we've been driving our golf cart at full tilt to see how big of a splash we can make) and there's still quite a bit left, so we went out to play in it on our coffee break.

They've cordoned off the area that was covered with snow in order to facilitate clean-up, but people have been driving carts through it anyway - it's the best shortcut on the lot. As we were standing there, trying to see how well the snow would pack (not so much - it's mostly ice), the best boy of another show (he's a great guy and I like him a lot) drove by in a golf cart and guessed what I was thinking - he floored the golf cart, but let's face it, those things aren't that fast. I managed to throw accurately, and nailed him right in the back. I had to run through three inches of slush to get him so I had to work the rest of the night in wet shoes, but it was so totally worth it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

So it's come to this...

For the next five (or six, I'm not sure anymore) weeks, I'm going to be putting up holiday lights at a studio*.

I'm working with a bunch of guys whom I've never met before, but who all are really cool and it's a fun group, but basically I'm a glorified gardener right now.

A gardener who's making union scale plus a night premium, so I certainly can't complain (okay, I can complain about being attacked by a bougainvillea that wasn't in the holiday spirit - I never realized that those things had half-inch long thorns, and apparently they don't enjoy being draped in lights).

The hours aren't so bad - 2:30 pm to 1 am. We're working a nights because our presence is upsetting to the important folks - after all, everyone wants to read the great American novel, but no one wants to watch the room full of chain-smoking monkeys typing away.

*I'm not going to name it, as I'm currently an employee of the studio and not a production, and I'm not certain what the policy on blogs is, so let's all just keep our guesses to ourselves, shall we?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Photo

Cable Cart

Taken at the Los Angeles Sports Arena (slated for destruction soon, which is probably why they didn't really care that we were rolling cable carts across the basketball court), October 2006

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

To sleep, perchance to stay that way for a few hours longer.

On Saturday, I'm starting a job that will have me in splits (half day, half night - about 4 pm to about 3 am) for five weeks.

When I'm given a chance to fall into a consistent sleep pattern, I tend to be a fairly early riser - I'm almost always up before 8 am. This must stop if I'm going to make it through the first week of this job without being a raging bitch and tormenting my co-workers.

I've been trying to stay up late and sleep late, but no matter how late I'm awake, I'm still out of bed by 8 am.

Dammit. I'm working a split today (on a commercial), so hopefully I'll be able to stay asleep later tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

At least I know I'm not crazy.

Yesterday's work was preparing a set for a TV show - we were getting it ready for first unit to shoot and I don't think it's been used in a while, because a lot of the power had been re-routed to other sets and some of the lights had been taken down.

My job was to check and make sure all the practicals (a lamp you can see on screen), wall sconces*, and duplexes (wall outlets) worked in this huge set - there were about 50 practicals and duplexes.

I got all of them working, except two sconces and a duplex (all on the same wall) - I had the dimmer board operator bring them up on the dimmer system, and nothing came up. I checked again, and tried the neighboring numbers. I crawled all over the set to see if they'd been repatched into 'hot' power (sometimes the dimmers get wacky and we have to do this). Nothing. My boss went up into the perms to check the power up there. Nothing. We couldn't find where they were powered from.

I damn near went bananas trying to find the tails (because if I can find the cable that's powering the sconces - the tails - I can trace them out and find where they've been plugged in), and at some point during the process I'm fairly certain my boss formed the opinion that I was an idiot (Boss: "They have to be plugged in somewhere." Me: "I got nothin'").

On the back side of the big set, and directly behind the wall with our dead sconces, they were painting a walk in closet set - as I stood there, staring at the top of the wall, hoping I could make the connecters for the lamps appear by sheer force of will, I noticed that the floor had sawdust on it.

"Say, when did you guys build the set on this side of the wall?"

The painter looked up "Yesterday, why?"

"Would you happen to know if they disconnected some of our cables?"

Just then, one of the construction guys walked by.

"Oh, yeah. You had three connectors back there - I figured you didn't want connections sealed in the wall so I cut them off for you. I figured you could drill down with a [piece of equipment only the construction department has], then pull a new cable up so your connectors will be on top of the wall."

In the construction guy's defense, he's right. One does not want cable connectors buried between walls where no one can get them. In any power run, the connections are always the weak point. Cable almost never catches fire (it can, but you really have to work at it). Connectors melt and/or burst into flame all the time.

But I'm not a construction guy with an arsenal of strange drill bits and power tools which one needs a license to operate. I'm set lighting - you want to know what I've got on my toolbelt? I've got a Leatherman, a pair of moldy gloves, and a chalk bag full of clothespins, that's what I've got. Drill down, indeed.

When I told my boss what had happened and why I wasn't able to get the sconces on, he wanted to know if we could just cut thorough the wall directly behind the sconces and duplex - he figured they'd have clothes hanging in front of it (since the set's a closet), so no one would see the holes or our power.

"I don't think so," the painter said. "I don't know how they're going to dress this and if it's in the wrong place, it could get ugly."

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, brother, but it's ugly now - I have to have those lights on because of course, if we can't get them on, guess what they're going to point the camera at first thing?

When I told the rigging gaffer that his solution wasn't going to work, he just shrugged and said "Well, go get the [piece of equipment only the construction department has] and start drilling. We've got to get those hot."

So, we got the [piece of equipment only the construction department has], figured out how to use it and then cut straight down through the set wall to the sconces - then we tied the cable to the string we'd sent down and pulled it up. It took us over an hour to do the two sconces, and we couldn't get to the duplex at all because it was on the bottom of the wall and the [piece of equipment only the construction department has] wasn't long enough to cut through 10 feet of serious miscommunication.

Due to the shape of the big set (and how the second set was built behind it), we couldn't even drill to the duplex from the side. I ended up putting the plate back on and labeling it "N.F.G." where the dimmer number would be.

*What is it with set designers and wall sconces? I can count on the fingers of one hand how many homes I've been in that have wall sconces, and in movie-world, every single private home has them on every single wall.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Video

I got a late start today, due to my having had way too much fun at Carly's book party last night, so here's something to keep you amused while I'm recovering:

I'm not sure if I should be proud or ashamed of the fact that I've burned the nerve endings off of my fingertips through years of handling 12K Par scrims.

There's a longer version on YouTube, in which I attempt to prove, with a shaky boom up (my knees aren't what they once were), that the stove's burner is indeed lit:


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

How to tell when the film industry is way busy:

When rental houses start sending out really old equipment that normally sits on the shelves and gathers dust.

This is a lug connector:

Lug End

Since lug ends can't be connected directly together, they're clamped onto a bus bar (a big metal plate made of copper, because that's one of the better electrical conductors) which is inside a distro (or spider - they're similar, only the distro box has outlets so you can plug things into it and the spider box doesn't) box:

Distro box

Since the copper's 'hot', there's a leeetle platic shield over it (with holes on top so you can reach and tighten the set screw that's on the top part of the connector and holes on the side to stick the cable into - it's worth noting that the hole which one shoves the cable through isn't much bigger than the cable end. Normally not a big deal, but just try it when you've been awake for 18 hours), which, although it looks pretty flimsy, is surprisingly strong.

This requires a special tool - the T-Handle:

T handle

The method for connecting lug end cable is to slip the open end of the lug over the bus bar (it just fits), positioning it under the hole in the plastic. Then, stick the end of the metal shaft of the T-handle into the little hole in the set screw on the lug and turn until the whole mess is tight enough not to move around.

Do you see the flaw in this system? Once the cable is energized (and the type of cable, 4/0, carries 400 amps per hot leg, and we usually run three hot legs - that's more "juice" than I have in my entire house) things can still get to the copper through the holes in the plastic. Rainwater, spilled coffee, pee (there's a rumor that the original dog who played Spuds MacKenzie died when it peed on an energized distro box - the power traveled up the urine stream and cooked the poor doggie. According to Wikipedia it's not true after all, but the story's been going around since I've been in the biz).

Lug connectors were industry standard for many years, but nowadays most shows use a type of connector called Cam Lok(TM), which is much safer (there's no exposed metal parts - the connectors twist together and when connected are water resistant), and doesn't require any additional tools to connect together (just wrists of steel).

The point of all this is that rental houses will generally only send out lug cable if they have no Cam-Lok left (or if someone specifically requests it for some strange reason), since most people don't want the lug cable - plus, those lugs are metal, and when one of those ends breaks loose from the coil of cable that you're carrying over your shoulder and smacks you in the shin, it's beyond painful (I think "lug-to-the-shin" torture is banned by the Geneva convention).

Yesterday was a commercial which basically was different people standing and talking against a white background. Once we got set up (and after we tried and failed to send the lug cable back and get some Cam-Lok cable), there was nothing to do - and I always forget that most stages have wireless internet these days and I leave my computer at home, so once I read the paper I was fucked until they called wrap and it was time to tear everything out.

I had to borrow a T-handle since if I still own one (and I'm not sure that I do) it's somewhere in the purgatory for forgotten gear (i.e. in a bin somewhere in my hall closet).

Warning: Girly content ahead. Proceed at your own risk:

Over the holiday weekend, I hit the Fred Segal sale. For those of you not in Los Angeles, Fred Segal is a horribly overpriced clothing store that's frequented by, well, people who can afford horribly overpriced clothing, but once a year they have a 75% off sale which gets the prices knocked down to levels manageable for the hoi polloi.

Although I almost never buy anything, I always go. Free entertainment, you know.

This year, I found the best pair of shoes ever:

Nine hundred dollar shoes

All the shoes were 50% off, so these were marked down to... wait for it.... $450.

Yup, that's right. The normal price of these shoes is NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS.

WAY too rich for my blood, but they sure were purty.

I didn't set the white balance on the camera correctly - they're silver, not gold.

Here's a side view:

Side view


Even if I could afford it, I'm not sure I would pay it.

According to the salesperson, about 15 women had tried them on, looked at the price, sighed heavily and then put them back on the rack.

Oh hell. Who am I kidding - I so would pay it if I had that kind of cash. Never mind that they were horribly uncomfortable and completely impractical for anything other than sitting in a chair and looking alluring. When you have shoes like that, you don't even have to get up. People will do things for you.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Mid-week music video

Late-night call times somehow seem just wrong - first off, there's the drinking coffee at 10 pm. Then, there's going home and going to bed at 6 am.
Then, there's the aforementioned sleeping all day (okay, not all day, from about 10 am to 3 pm, but it's that time of year when the weather's not too hot and it's beautiful to be outside, so I HATE being in during the day).
Then, there's the recovery time.

I got to work Wednesday at midnight, and we were done by 6 am (the joys of being 'off production'. We were just coming in to wrap out and load the truck. We ended up spending most of the night standing around waiting for them to call it. I think we only worked for about two hours, and in case you're wondering I have no idea who the video was for. Some forgettable rap group) , although it was this morning before I felt human again. The older I get, the more those all-nighters (or semi-all nighters) hurt me.

As promised, here's the pig race video (I'm a YouTube newbie, so let me know if I've done something wrong and fucked it up):

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sleeping the sunny afternoon away

Monday, we wrapped everything - we got to Sony at 5 am and got everything wrapped before lunch, then spent the rest of the day at the rental house, unloading the truck and counting out equipment.

We did pretty well - 10 sets in 2 days (Disney Ranch and the Sony lot), and we only lost three stingers.

Normally, when you do that many rigs, the L&D (lost and damaged) is a lot higher, so the rigging gaffer was pretty happy with us, so hopefully I'll get called back when this crew goes to another job.

Tuesday was laundry day (and I went through an entire bottle of "Shout" - wrapping cable makes my clothes really dirty - I looked like a transient at the end of each day), and after I got all my clothes clean I went and saw School for Scoundrels (which I worked on, and wasn't intending on seeing, but a friend really wanted to see it so we went).

I'm still on a super-early schedule, so I was up at 6 am Tuesday morning and 7 am today (hey, I managed to sleep in!), and I have a midnight call tonight at Long Beach Airport (although I'll probably head down early and swim beforehand), so I'll have to take a nap this afternoon, although sleeping during the day makes me feel weird (but I have to - I can't work at night without a nap).

Right now, I just got done at the gym, had lunch at Baja Fresh (two chicken soft tacos, no cheese - Carly's book party's coming up and I'm determined to fit into some of my super-hot smaller sized clothing) and now I'm sitting in a coffeehouse (Groundwork - they have free wireless and it's a cool place, although I wish the food were better) with my ghetto little IBM laptop (everyone else here seems to have those super-expensive Mac powerbooks), typing and trying not to listen to the guy sitting at the next table, who's loudly complaining about his boyfriend to another guy who's commiserating by loudly complaining about his boyfriend.

I love LA.

Oh, and you know you're getting older when the homeless punks on Sunset Blvd. start calling you "Ma'am" and saying "thank you very much" when you give them your Baja Fresh chips.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I've got a truck full of cable and an ache in my spine.

Friday's work was on the Sony lot - rigging 8 or so sets (pickup shot days move fast because it's just a few snippets, hence the large number of locations) in different areas of the lot in one day.

It was the same drill as yesterday - rig a set before first unit got there, wrap it after they shot, use that gear to rig the next set. We ordered more equipment, which enabled us to leave three or four sets down at the same time, which was a good thing since the shooting order got changed (and a shot dropped at the last minute) and we would have been up shit creek without the extra stuff.

Our day started out with our 10-ton truck breaking down (I don't know what was wrong, but I overheard one of the drivers say to another "It's not going to get any better" as they were looking at the engine), so we had to offload all of our equipment onto a much smaller truck (not a big deal, since we were going to lay all of it out) for the day's work.

Since there were so many sets, we never stopped working for the entire 12 hours (there's usually some down time involved, even on rigs), and I was too worn out Friday night and Saturday to do much of anything.

It's Sunday night and I'm still worn out. I guess I've been set boy too long, and these two heavy rig days have hurt me bad - I know I've been mostly rigging lately, but I've not been throwing around as much heavy cable as I have been for the past few days - this rig was all 4/0 ( it's the heaviest cable we have - 100 foot coils of it weigh 100 lbs. It's pronounced "four ought", as in "I ought not to be lifting this shit by myself").

I have to be at work at 5 am tomorrow, which means I have to leave my house at 4 am in order to get there, park, make it through the security checkpoint and walk across the lot to where we're meeting.

We're wrapping the rest of the cable and taking it back to the rental house, as there were only two shoot days on this.

Today was the last day of the LA County fair, so a friend and I went, ate some deep-fried food (the deep-fried avocado was a disappointment), drank some beer, watched a pig race (video coming soon), and then came back home.

I'm off to bed.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tiny Bee Feet

I got a last minute call yesterday to come work on the rigging crew for a movie ("Holiday") that's shooting some pick-up shots (they've finished principal photography and are just getting some small things that they missed the first time around) - we loaded the truck yesterday, and today we were at Disney Ranch which is about three miles past bumfuck (but very scenic).

The plan was for us to show up early and rig the first set of the day - then, once first unit had gotten up and running, we were to proceed to set #2, rig that, then rig set #3 and then wait for first unit to get into set #3 before wrapping sets one and two and then going home.

Production cancelled set 2 (after we'd rigged it of course), which was fine - it meant that we didn't have to wait as long for first unit to get into the third set, although we had a bit of a scramble near the end as we tried to get all our cable wrapped before it got dark (little things like small lamps and extension cords tend to get lost in the dark).

Disney ranch is a big one - it's got a lot of acreage and numerous structures - a western town, barns, east-coast looking houses, a lake and today, two different companies shooting (us and a commercial). It also has a lot of bees - they were everywhere, and most of them seemed to be crawling all over the food at craft service and catering.

I can't remember who described lunch as tasting like "tiny bee feet", but it cracked me up - I can't even type it now without smiling.

I'm really tired, and I have to be back at work (not at the ranch, though - on the lot) in 9 hours.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Displaced weekend

So my place got painted over the weekend, and I thought I could manage to stay there while they worked - until I walked in and saw everything I own wrapped in plastic, with 6 inches of old paint chips on the floors and a haze of dust floating in the air - so I decided to go to a hotel.

Although I wanted desperately wanted to stay at one of the really swanky hotels that allow pets (W, Peninsula, Grafton, Beverly Wilshire), since there was the possibility of my having to stay more than one night, I figured I'd better go for something more affordable - that, and my cat is not a good traveler (she hates the carrier and screams bloody murder the whole time she's in there), so I decided to stay at the Best Western Hollywood Hills, which is close to the house and fairly reasonably priced.

It's also party central for the "star maps and rental car" set - for some reason, management has decided that it's a good idea to blast frat-party rock and roll into the pool area until about 11 pm (I had a poolside room, of course), and the hotel is mid-remodel so there's construction during the day. Not surprisingly, kitty stayed under the bed most of the time due to the noise. She came out very briefly the first night, stared horrified at the door for a few minutes (I'm guessing she doesn't like Motley Crue), shot me a dirty look and then crawled right back under the bed, where she remained between brief forays to the food bowl.

I had a hell of a time getting her out from under there when it was time to go.

While not as fab as the W, it wasn't that bad. There was basic cable, spotty wireless (it faded in and out, so no quality internet time for me), and the room was Spartan, but clean. The cafe, however, was disappointing (huevos rancheros is pretty much a tasty breakfast order anywhere in Los Angeles - when a place makes bad version, run far, far away), but it did the trick.

Checkout time was 1 pm, so I had to stay the second night since the painters didn't finish until almost 5 pm Sunday - and then I had to move all the furniture back, scrub the overspray off all the surfaces (how does paint dust get under the plastic?), and air the place out.

We came back home yesterday afternoon, and I spent today cleaning (and I still haven't gotten all the dust - it's everywhere), so I've not been looking for work - I'll call and put myself "on the books" tomorrow and make some phone calls.

Enjoy a photo:

Hotel room

"Best Western: The Final Frontier"

Thursday, September 21, 2006

There's something in the air, apparently.

I've spent the last two days doing typical end-of-wrap stuff with a group of guys that I really love to work with - so even though we were doing mundane things like sorting equipment and loading returns, I had a great time.

For some reason, I've had a huge problem sitting down and focusing this week - on anything, and it's made writing anything more than a terse email very difficult.

Hopefully, it's some strange cosmic hiccup and it'll sort itself out.

In the meantime, have a look at the couches.

Monday, September 18, 2006

If I'm not at work, I may as well have fun

I woke up this morning to our seasonal mid-September crushing heat and thought "Fuck this, I'm going to the beach".

Okay, that's not entirely true - I didn't decide to go to the beach until after I'd been trapped in a boiling hot laundromat for an hour and a half.

Fortified by fine Trader Joe's snack foods, I drove up the coast, past Malibu to where the water's really cold - not Santa Monica Bay chilly where you get used to it quickly, but really truly cold - you don't acclimate so much as numb out.

I waded in and floated until I couldn't feel my toes, then sat on the sand shivering and thought "This is the life - tomorrow, I'm coming back up here".

On the drive home, I thought about signing up for unemployment (usually, that gets a job within 48 hours of sending in the paperwork). This time, as soon as the thought went through my head, the phone rang.

"Hey, you wanna work for the next two days?"

Hell, yes I do.

The ocean will still be there.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Poor, poor roaches. No one asked them!

So I went to the Banksy show yesterday afternoon and dragged Carly with me - it turns out, the show is in a warehouse that for a while was host to a ton of music video shoots (I don't remember which ones, though - music videos all sort of blur together after a while. Set up, bad coffee, no crafty, lunch, turn around, bad coffee, no crafty, "Hey, what's that pile of stuff on the cable..eewwww", wrap, load the truck, freak out about the hours we just worked, go home). I don't know if that's what it's still used for, though. Thankfully, it's been a while since I've worked on a lot of music videos.

Although we missed the official opening party on Thursday night, that wasn't a bad thing - I really wanted to see the art and on Friday afternoon the place was just about empty so we got a chance to linger and really enjoy the show. Props to Banksy for being able to make a living by being a smartass (a very clever and creative one, but a smartass nonetheless).

There's a contingent of folks who are up in arms about the use of a real elephant in the show, and I'm here to report that she seems just fine. She's an 'animal actor', so she's used to being indoors on sets and around people, and she's been painted before. The paint used is non-toxic, and she gets to go outside for breaks from standing in the exhibit eating her fill of the carrots that her handlers toss on the floor for her to find.

I notice that there's no outcry over the poor little cockroaches that are trapped in a case, being forced against their will to crawl all over Paris Hilton's CD.

Now that's animal abuse.

My photos from Banksy's show are on Flickr.

Here's the link

Friday, September 15, 2006

See you there!

If you were thinking about going to see Banksy's show, here's how to get there:

Directions to Barely Legal:
2476 Hunter St.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

From the 10 fwy East: Exit Santa Fe Ave. SOUTH. When you come to a stop at the end of the exit, Hunter St. will be directly in front of you. Cross Santa Fe Ave. and proceed down Hunter St. to the end. 2476 is at the end of the street on your right.

From the 5 FWY North or South: Make transition to the 10 FWY West, (Santa Monica Freeway). Exit the first exit with is Santa Fe Ave/Mateo St. (Exit 1A). Follow sign to Santa Fe Ave. After you stop at the end of the exit, turn right and proceed to stoplight. Turn right again, go under the freeway and Hunter St. is the first left past the freeway. Proceed down Hunter St. to the end. 2476 is at the end of the street on your right.

Remember: Hunter St. is right next to and runs parallel to the 10 FWY. If you go more than 100 feet from the 10 FWY, you've gone too far!

Please do not park on the street. Complimentary valet parking will be available.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Pick it up, put it down. Pick it up, put it down.

I have some bad memories of working at Sony:

Losing my composure and screaming like a girl the time my foot went through a rotten board on the catwalk of stage 6 and I tripped and ended up with most of my upper body dangling over thin air 70+ feet above the deck. "It's fine! I'm totally fine. There's nothing wrong" I lied, after I was pulled back onto the walk by my co-workers. I'd just gotten into the union and I didn't want the crew I was working with to think I was weak - especially since a guy had fallen out of the perms on stage 6 and died just a few years before. But honestly? I think I might have actually pissed myself. I can't remember - before or since - ever being that afraid. I spent that day's lunch break in the girls' room, crying and shaking.

Stage 6, by the way, is no longer a stage. It's being turned into an office building, and those rotten, fucked up perms are now in a landfill somewhere and will no longer terrorize crew members. Fine by me.

I also remember getting dumped by a man I thought loved me - once again, trying not to cry, I said "you're absolutely right. It is all for the best", because I didn't want him to think that I might care.

My last memory of him is seeing him sitting on the couch in his trailer, with his head in his hands as I stepped out into the heat, late back to work from my lunch hour and wondering how I was going to get all the way across the lot in 30 seconds.

That time, I managed to wait until I was in my car before I started crying.

In contrast, I have only good memories of working on Sony's lamp dock. The staff there are a great bunch of guys, and every time I've gone in to work the dock, I've had a terrific (and stress-free) day.

Lamp dock work is warehouse work - it's filling orders, testing and stocking returned equipment, etc... I don't mind it once in a while (although more than a few days in a row on any lamp dock will make me nuts) - it's kind of zen as there's no real hurry, and I get to connect with a few old friends (one co-worker from the first season of Deadwood), even if I did spend just about all of my meager paycheck on DVDs in the studio store (the TV series Action is out on video, and it's still some of the funniest stuff ever put on the air - well worth the 20 bucks).

So after an entire day of moving cable from one pile to another, I celebrated our first cool day ( I can't use my oven in the summer - it makes my entire place about as hot as a sauna) by stopping off at the grocery store on the way home (my fridge is empty) and cooking Ruth Reichl's roasted chicken recipe (of all the roasted chickens I've tried, this one is the best - and it's fairly cheap to make, but you do have to shell out for a really good chicken. The instructions are at the end of the linked article).

Tomorrow night is the first night of Banksy's LA show, and I can't wait!

No, really, I can't. I'm going to explode or something.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Something's moving!

So I've been wanting to try out Wordpress (blogger's been pissing me off lately), and now here's my chance!

Sitting at home, waiting for painters to show up, I decided to spin the "Couch of the Day" feature into it's own blog, and you can find it here. The blogroll's still incomplete, due to my not being able to figure out how to batch import.

Email me at randomblogmail at yahoo dot com if you'd like to be a contributor (I think you might have to have a wordpress account, but it's free)!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Pow! Right in the kisser!

There are no gas stations in Beverly Hills.

Okay, there are two (according to the NFT Guide) - one at Olympic and Beverly Drive, and one at Little Santa Monica and Crescent. There's also one that's not listed in the guide on Wilshire right next to the Beverly Hilton.

All of these gas stations, might I add, are of the "76" variety (actually I think they're a BP company now) and are at least 10 cents per gallon over market price, and there's an impressive stretch of high-end retail that's sans filling stations of any brand. If you pick the wrong part of Beverly Hills to stall out in, you're in for a long hot (or cold, or wet, depending on the time of year) walk followed by and extremely expensive gallon of gas, my friend.

Guess what happened to me today?

I had some errands to run in Santa Monica, so after a quick stroll on the beach I headed back across town in an attempt to beat the rush hour traffic. My gas gauge has been broken for some time now, but it's normally not a problem - I just fill up when I've driven a certain number of miles or it's been a few days, but since I've been working at Paramount and haven't been driving, I forgot about the system and stalled out right in front of Crustacean (the food's fantastic, in case you were wondering).

In the midst of my digging for my phone to call AAA (okay, I screamed "shit" for about a minute first), the driver of the car behind me started to lean on the horn - despite the fact that my emergency flashers were on and I'd had my arm out the window, waving motorists around. For good measure, I'd gotten out and put the hood up - the universal symbol for "Don't honk at me, jackass, my car's stalled."

For those of you not familiar with Beverly Hills, there's a certain type of woman there - bleached blonde hair, botoxed yet somehow pinched faces, overly yoga'd bodies, nose jobs, cheek, chin and breast implants, liposuction, bleached teeth, Hermes bag, blank stare. They all look exactly alike - they've gone to the same surgeon, I guess, but the first time you see it it kind of freaks you out. Once you're used to them it just seems kind of sad.

The one behind me had decided that somehow leaning on the horn of her luxury coupe was going to make AAA get to me faster. If only it were true.

Finally, I walked back to her car to see if I could get her to understand that all she had to do was pull around and she'd be back on her way to, well, wherever.

"You're blocking traffic and some of us are in a hurry!" she yelled as I drew even with the driver's window.

"Well, as you can see my vehicle is currently disabled, so why don't you just pull around?"

"I shouldn't have to! Why don't you get a decent car? One that isn't... polluting the planet!"

As soon as she said it, I looked down at her car and saw the shiny little metal plaque - V12.

No, no, no. You may not sweat me for driving an SUV (a V6, btw) when you're tooling around town in a car with a 12 cylinder engine.

What I desperately (oh, so desperately) wanted to say was "Well, if you could just manage to suck a few extra cocks this month, you could buy me a Prius and save the world!", but I bit my tongue. After all, you never know who's somebody (or married to a somebody) in this town.

What I actually said was "You do know that my truck gets better gas mileage than your car, right?"

At that very moment, the AAA guy pulled up with a gallon of gas and friendly directions to the nearest overpriced 76 station.

I started up my offensive, planet-destroying truck and continued on my way, and Botox Barbie zoomed off to, well, wherever.

Couch of the Day:


Saturday, September 09, 2006

I was only kidding, mostly.

It's been a busy couple of days, and what I've really learned is that when I ask for things, I need to be more specific.

On Thursday, the shit hit the fan (so to speak) and we actually did get fired - because of something that happened in another department (ye gods, how I love the film industry).

Here's how it went down:

We did as much of the rig as we could on Wednesday, because of the party. First unit's call time in the morning was 10 am, with the balloon tech* and set lighting on a one hour pre-call.

Rigging's call was 6 am, so we got there, found our driver, moved the carts over from the stage to the theater and then started to complete the rig (normally, you'd flip that - complete the rig first, and then move the carts, but we were going to lose the drivers because they had to move the trailers which is something they should have been able to do the night before, but there was that party) - until the guys who'd come in with the projection screens (they had a big banquet scene with giant screens all around the set) discovered that whomever had set up their stuff the night before had put the screens in the wrong place and they couldn't get a sharp focus, so the screens had to move because the projectors couldn't. Which meant the stage had to move, which meant the tables (all of which had a lamp on them which had to be powered) had to move - again.

Unexpected obstacles are the nature of the business, but we had so much to do that we would just barely have had enough time to get everything done even if nothing had gone wrong (we'd asked to come in at 4:30 or 5 am, but the production office said no). So, when the stage and tables moved (the first time - they ended up moving twice. Each time, set dressing had to strip off the place settings and then reset them, and we had to move all our lights from around the stage and re-wire the tables) we knew we weren't going to be ready.

Rigging crews have nightmares about still being on set working when first unit walks on. A great deal of the appeal of working on a rigging crew is that one avoids the chaos, panic and gratuitous random blaming ("we were fine until those bozos got in our way") that shooting crews sometimes fall into - when one is rigging, the goal is not only to never be seen, but never have the higher ups even notice your work**.

Then, the balloon tech came in half an hour late - the victim of a traffic jam caused by a horrible accident on the freeway - also stuck in the same traffic snarl were the director and our main actor.

So there was no way in hell they were going to start on time, but the Director of Photography, standing on set surveying the chaos at 10 am, chose to blame the rigging crew for the delay.

The first unit best boy pulled our boss aside around 11 am and said "Hey, DP thinks you guys caused the delay, and I'm hearing he wants you all fired. I'm going to sit him down at lunch and try to explain to him what happened."

Yeah, good luck with that. There are some "shooters" out there who have a really solid understanding of what it takes to get all that stuff set up and the potential for delay, but trust me, this guy's not one of them.

At our lunch break (which was the first time all day we'd been able to sit down), our boss said it best: "It doesn't matter what anyone says. If the DP wants us gone, then nothing can save us."

We all sat for a moment and looked at each other before simultaneously pulling out our phones and dialing - just as our boss got the official word. Note to production: never, ever fire a crew at lunch. We all could have just as easily walked away and told you to go rig your own fucking set - but we didn't, because that would have been a) unprofessional, and b) would have made the gaffer look bad.

After I'd made a few calls, I ran into our Paramount lot best boy***, and told him the story. "Can you help a sister out?" I asked.

"Lemme see who's picking up for tomorrow."

In 10 minutes he had me on the phone with the best boy of another show. "Sure, I've got a second unit slot for tomorrow. You want it?" he asked.

Does a bear shit in the woods? Of course I wanted it. My thanks to all of you from the bottom of my black little heart for another day's employment.

A few minutes after that I got another call (Paramount's a small lot - word travels fast) "Hey, heard you guys got fired. Sorry to hear it, but I've got some days next week for you. Call me Monday."


The fact of the matter is that with below the line crew, firings are completely meaningless. We had all gotten work (and on better-paying shows, I might add) by the end of the day, and to be brutally honest I'm more than a little bit glad to be walking away from that cluster fuck. The only thing I'm going to miss are the crew, who are all terrific folks and with whom I've had a lot of fun.

Oh, well. Color me itinerant. I'll see 'em all on another show and we'll have a good laugh.

I'd wanted some overtime, and boy did I get it.

Call time Friday was 6:30 am, wrap time was 10:30 pm. As my feet started to hurt and my reaction times got longer and longer with fatigue, I just kept chanting "double time baby, double time".

Mama needs a new car soon.

Which brings us to Friday (hey, it was taken on Friday, but after a 16 hour day I'm not coming home and sitting in front of the computer) Photo:

Can you spot the paparazzo?


More importantly, since I've never seen the show, is there anyone on Nip/Tuck who warrants being followed to the bowels of North Hollywood by a stalker photographer?

Just for the record, the guy seemed okay. He stayed hidden, and when a co-worker and I finally spotted him (I have no idea how long he was there) and waved, he waved back. When one of the ADs politely asked him to pack up and move on, he did so graciously.

*Note - the link to Airstar is intended for illustrative purposes only.

**Yeah, yeah. I know that just seems wrong, but it's true. If a producer or an executive notices me, then I've somehow fucked up.

***When you work on a studio lot, your show has two best boys. One best boy for the show, who handles manpower, scheduling and the like, and the lot best boy, who deals with equipment.

Couch of the Day:

From Frances Danger, who also just got fired, but who will also soon have a much better job (I'm sure of it):

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

If he can fire Tom Cruise, he can fire us too.

Tomorrow, we're shooting in the Paramount theater, and we rigged it today, but we could only do part of the work because tonight, Sumner Redstone himself will be at a cocktail party and screening in said theater, so we had to make doubly sure everything that we could put in got taped down really well - since Sumner taking a header because we didn't secure our equipment is a hilarious mental picture ("So then I said to Cruise that he should take a long walk off a ... woah!"), but would immediately result in all of us on the bread line.

Of course, this is a warm fuzzy fantasy for our little rigging crew - if we get fired, we can go and work another job without burning a bridge, so the running joke of the day was that we were going to "accidentally" clothesline Mr. Redstone and inhale the sweet air of freedom.

Last night was also the second night in a row that I've not been able to sleep at all - I get tired, but as soon as I go to bed I'm wide awake and stare at the ceiling all night. By today, the sleep deprivation made everything sort of furry. I've been laughing at jokes I know suck, and the whole 'trip up Sumner' running joke made me giggle so hard my purloined iced tea (when the craft service guy's back was turned) came out my nose.

After we spent 2 hours taping down all the cables under the tables (since we had to power the table lamps), the set designer waltzed in and announced that all of the tables would be moved back 10 feet first thing in the morning.

We're coming in at 6, and the shooting crew are coming in at nine. In the space of three hours we have to: move ALL the table power, finish the rig (because we have to tear some more stuff out of the set they were using today), and move all of first units carts from the stage to the theater.

Fun stuff. I'm going to give in and take a sleeping pill, otherwise I'll probably hallucinate tomorrow.

Couch of the Day:


Monday, September 04, 2006

Meet the new camera

My poor little Fuji Finepix. It took a hell of a beating for just over a year, but this morning when I whipped it out to take a couch photo, the zoom motor made a horrible noise and then died.

So I bought a Nikon Coolpix L3, on the recommendation of the very nice salesman who told me the Nikons are a bit more durable than Fuji cameras.

As of right now, I'm not completely in love with the interface, but since it's a Best Buy purchase I have 14 days to return it. I was veerrry tempted by the top-of-the line credit card sized Olympus that can be dropped from 5 feet and dunked in water without any damage (and has a correspondingly eye-popping price tag). Hey, Olympus? If you send me one for free I'll promo the hell out of it for you.

I can't always get what I want. Oh, well.

So, I tested Mr. Nikon out at Broad Beach (in super-scenic Mel-ibu), which is where I spent my Labor Day:

Broad Beach

And here's one more of Malibu (this was taken a bit further south):


Aaaand one of the cat, who's very angry with me about my interrupting her cricket hunt (they're hiding in the recycling basket), and is giving me the stink-eye:

Angry kitty

I may not like the interface that much, but for a sub-two hundred dollar camera, this thing's got a kickass lens.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Color me crabby

In case you haven't noticed, I've not been in the best mood lately.

The stench of absolutely mind-numbing stupidity is hanging over this show, and just like the vomit, we can't seem to pinpoint the exact cause. It's not us, it's not any of the other below the line departments, and the few producers I've met seem pretty sharp, so it can't be them. It's coming from somewhere up high though - and since shit does like to roll downhill we're catching the tail end of it.

Today, we had to rig a new stage but were forbidden by the production office from renting any new equipment. That meant we had to go into a standing set*, tear out the things we needed, make copious notes about what we'd taken and from where (because we have to put it all back next week), haul the stuff to the other stage and rig it. Then my boss got called upstairs (into the production office) for a talking-to about us not working fast enough ("Do you understand how valuable this company's time is worth? Do you?").


Stupidity and frustration are bedfellows - when people start having to work twice as hard because of a series of bad decisions by the folks wearing $800 suits, it starts to wear on the nerves.

Everyone on the show is cranky as hell - people are snapping at each other, constantly threatening to quit and today the first unit best boy yelled at my boss over, well, nothing (the first unit best boy's normally a really great guy - he's just closer to the stupid than we are, and it's turning him into Mr. Cranky Pants).

But it's not just production. There's something else going on, and I can't put my finger on it (of course, I'm on the bottom rung of the ladder so there's a lot that I don't hear about).

Maybe our stage is haunted. Maybe the layout of the furniture in the sets forms some satanic mandala that's making our footsteps churn out a constant cloud of acrimony.

You know what? I'm going with that theory. I blame set dressing - I bet they think it's funny. I can just picture them, driving away at night, snickering: "Hee hee... this one's going to give them all cold sores! Haw haw haw!!" (Please note that I really like our set dressers, even though I can totally picture them doing something like this).

They laid off the rigging crew on Tuesday (we're off on Monday anyway due to the holiday), so I took a call on another show for that day.

It'll be a nice break. I might even crack a smile.

* A standing set is one which is used very often, so it's never stripped out when we leave. It just, well, stands there when we're not using it.

Couch of the Day:


Thursday, August 31, 2006

With friends like this...

Well, okay, not friends.

Our higher-ups have been gracious enough to do us a favor by giving us a 5 am call time tomorrow so we'll do our ten hours and be done by 4 pm - you know, in case we wanted to have a Friday night.

Of course, today we worked until 8 pm.

I should be disgruntled about a nine hour turnaround (on a rigging crew), but it doesn't really matter - I haven't been sleeping for shit lately.

I'm off to bed.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dude, what's that smell?

One of the things that's really affected us is the industry ban on zip line. Zip line (lamp cord to you, buddy) is what we used to use when we had a bunch of practical lamps in the center of a room - zip line's damn near flat and it's easy to tape down so the actors won't trip on it. Because it's flat and easy to tape down it's very easy to hide from the camera even when it's running across the middle of the floor.

Now, we have to use standard heavy-duty extension cords ("stingers"), which are safer, but harder to hide from the camera and much more of a trip hazard (even when taped down). Some studios will let you run zip line for a few feet, and some won't allow it's use at all, but we can't run hundreds of feet of it anymore no matter where we are.

Most of our work today was wiring the small table lamps in the center of the club, aiming the lamps that we hung yesterday, making sure that the stingers were well-hidden and taped down, and making sure that we got power to all the last-minute lamp additions.

Yesterday, one of our guys had to leave early because of the paint fumes. He came down from the perms, told us that he felt like shit and went to see the nurse.

What he didn't tell us is that he threw up somewhere in the upper levels of the facade where he was running cable.

Now, I certainly can't blame the poor guy - there are some bodily functions that just won't wait, and sometimes you feel like crap and just forget to tell people things (had I been vomiting I don't know that I would have remembered to inform my supervisor about it - "Hey, I just hurled upstairs somewhere! Have a great day!"). No biggie, except for the smell.

It smells like, well, puke. It wasn't so bad first thing in the morning, but as soon as we turned the lights on and it got hot up there - icky, icky poo (or icky, icky puke as the case may be).

We're not exactly sure where he puked, although we can make an educated guess from where the smell's strongest (none of us were really all that eager to find a puddle of vomit, anyway).

So of course, that's where we put our dimmer board operator's table*. We even made sure it was safely secured to the deck by bolting it down.

Wasn't that nice of us?

* We all love our dimmer board operator - he's a great guy, and we've all known him for years and had some great times with him on various shows. Don't feel bad for him. It's really easy to re-locate a dimmer board, so he won't be in the smell for long, but that five minutes or so are just going to be priceless. My only regret is that we won't be there to see it.

Couch of the Day:


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Trash can insides and a contact high.

Today, we were rigging on New York Street - there's a little nightclub set that's being dressed to look like a cross between CBGB and The Limelight.

Whatever the painters were using to make the fake stained glass windows made me see purple puppies and rainbows - I ended up having to run home at our coffee break and get my respirator (that I got on the last show where they were spraying something toxic). I took it home with me tonight as I'm afraid that if I leave it in our gold room (where we store small things like lightbulbs, color-correction gels, etc.), by morning one of our pranksters will have removed the filters and soaked them in something disgusting before replacing them.

Right after they did the stained glass effect, they started spray painting the graffiti on the walls, so it was a paint fume smorgasbord - it was so bad even the painters were commenting on it.

After lunch, when I finished my coffee, and went to throw the cup away - only to stop when the trashcan I was about to use seemed suspiciously clean.

Turns out, it was a prop trash can (which, of course must be returned to the rental house free of garbage) - another show was shooting a few yards away and had put out trash cans in order to make New York Street look, well, urban.

So I wandered along the 'street', peering into the trash cans, looking for the one that was actually full of garbage - one of the other show's PAs came up to me and wanted to know what the hell I was doing.

"I'm looking for a real trash can", I answered, wagging my empty cup at her for emphasis.

"Just throw it in the one that's actually got trash in it".

If only it were that easy- they look alike from the outside, and if I throw trash into a prop trash can and let it sit in the 90 degree heat all day, I'm going to have the other show's set dressers coming after me with thumb screws.

We're back in the club rigging again tomorrow - hopefully all the painting will have been done so I don't have to spend another day with that creepy rubber fetish thing on my face.

Couch of the Day:


Monday, August 28, 2006

Toy store, here I come!

Well, I failed in my mission, but the Pink Princess has learned a hard lesson about negotiation.

Some background:

Back when we all had Shawn Cassidy posters on our walls, one of my Roosevelt-era (or so) great aunts decided that toys cost too goddamn much nowadays and she wasn't going to take the bait.

In a fit of pique about those bastards charging $5 for something that was just going to get fucked up anyways, she broke out her ancient Singer and made me two dolls - an Eeyore and a standard early 20th century-looking girl doll (sans creepiness, of course. Her face is hand-embroidered so no evil little eyes). Both were made solely from materials in her rag-bag.

Eeyore was made from brown tweed (which is probably closer to the color of an actual donkey after all), and had white corduroy tummy. The best part was that his tail actually came on and off with the button. The worst part was that I immediately lost the tail, and spent the next 20 years telling people that Eeyore was sad because his tail was probably rotting somewhere in a landfill in Sunland.

The girl doll (whom I never bothered to name - despite my father's attempt to beat some girliness into me, I was never much for dolls, frills or pink things) lost her pantaloons immediately (I pulled them off to see if she was anatomically correct. Hey, cut me some slack - I was 7), although for some reason she still has all her petticoats under her gingham dress.

I lost Eeyore in my late 20's. My ex, The Devil (no, really, he is the devil), took Eeyore when we split up - not because he wanted Eeyore, but because he knew that was the one thing he could take that would really hurt me (I got him back, though. I burned his baseball cards in his driveway while he watched, horrified, from his deck. I even roasted a marshmallow over the little bonfire while I laughed. Don't even start with me about it. Looking back, I'm deeply ashamed of the way I behaved, but hell hath no fury, I guess).

So the only memento I have from an aunt that I adored (who died early in the Reagan administration, and who was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise completely miserable childhood) is that doll.

The Pink Princess wants the doll bad, and that was what she demanded in exchange for the basket.

I counter-offered with my entire collection of Bugs Bunny DVDs but she wouldn't budge.

"Sorry", I said. "You can't have her. She and I have history."

"But I want her!"

"Well, I want world peace and perky tits without having to have surgery, but that's not going to happen either."

"Then you can't have my basket."

"Fine. I'll go buy one."

I could tell from the look on her face that The Pink Princess hadn't thought of that one.

"Well, that's what you get for being inflexible" is what her mom said as I said my goodbyes after dinner and kicked at the tumbleweeds on the side of the road as I marched towards my car, empty-handed, wondering about the location of the nearest "Toys R Us".

Hey, sparkle glue and handlebar baskets are still cheap and plentiful, aren't they? 'Cause I haven't got a sewing machine.

Couch of the Day: