Thursday, July 3, 2014

On The Road Again...




I know I've said this a few times before, but I've been pretty busy these past few months. And by that, I mean since end of summer last year. Hence the lack of quality posts (or any posts for that matter) lately. Every time I think I'll have a breather to put in some serious writing time, a job will come up and exhaust me to the point where I'm not even sure how I made it home, let alone string together coherent sentences.

I know I shouldn't be bitching about getting all this work when I know there are so many out there who's got nothin' right now, but seriously, Mama needs a vacay. But we all know I won't take one as long as the calls keep coming in because we all have that fear that ZOMG This call might be the last one I EVER get because who the fuck knows when or where the next call will come from??, amirite?

Right.

And on top of the usual craziness that is life on set, a couple of these jobs have been out of town. I've been lucky so far that none of these jobs were due to runaway production, but rather good ol' fashioned location work. Who knew such a thing even existed any more?

Anyway, I've been stuck in Hollywoodville for so long that it's kind of fun (and even more exhausting that normal) to work out of town. It's always nice look at something that isn't traffic and smog for a change. To see how other people live. To experience other cultures, other food and a new address. To live out of a hotel for a while and come back at the end of the day to a magically made bed (because Lord knows I never make my own bed at home) and all the cable TV you could possibly watch. If I'm feeling particularly lazy, I'll even order room service* and eat dinner in my pajamas.**

And the thing about being on the road is that you spend a lot of time looking out windows. Whether it's checking out the view from yet another hotel room or looking out the window of a taxi/plane/bus/pass van, you end up seeing a lot of landscapes. You'll see every thing from suburbia to deserts to mountains to rivers to old ass buildings to homeless camps to RV camps to miles of corn to skyscrapers so high you crane your neck just to see the sky.

You'll also freeze your ass off, melt your face off, watch the sunrise a few dozen times and watch it set a few dozen more. And sometimes, you'll find that you're the only person in the room that speaks English.

My point is, that my time on the road and away from my L.A. bubble reminds me of how huge and diverse this country is. It's a pretty fuckin' fantastic place. And sometimes, I find myself in a place that's so different than the one I'm from that I find it odd that I didn't need a passport to get here***. And then I remind myself that I wouldn't need one because I just crossed a state line (sometimes, even just a county one), not a country border. And then I'm in awe again of how diverse this country is.

Anyway, just think about that on Friday. 

Have a happy 4th of July and safe travels, my friends.


Ps.
But when all is said and done, if the best part of your trip isn't walking through your door at the end of it, it might be time to re-evaluate some things. Just sayin'.


* Tip: Don't just assume it's all overpriced crap. At the last couple places I stayed at (which were pretty fancy places where they have people open doors for you and all that jazz), the prices were surprisingly reasonable; especially for something that's made to order and delivered right to you in less than 25 minutes. I even cheaped out one time and ordered off the kids menu (because really, who are they to know you're not ordering for your kid sister or something?) since I just wanted something to tide me over for a few hours and ended up with a pretty sizable plate of food. But as usual, YMMV on this.

** That's probably as close to a vacation as I'm going to get for a while. (I know, I know, "It's location. Not vacation!")

*** I'm talking about traveling domestically, of course. Traveling internationally for work is a whole other post, although some of the concepts mentioned here are the same.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Quote Of The Day.


"I try to hold it in until I get to work. There's nothing like taking a dump on company time."
                                                          - Oddly Proud Colleague.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Beggars Can't Be Choosers.


Every once in a while, the town explodes with work and suddenly the Best Boy has gone through his entire contact list without finding anyone available. That's when he'll turn to the rest of his crew and say something like, "I'm having a hard time finding people for tomorrow. Do you guys know anyone who's available? Any one will do at this point, as long as they're available."

And this is where my colleagues all bust out their phones* and start making texts and calls, eager to A) please the Best Boy by solving his dilemma and B) throw work their buddy's way who will in turn, owe them a favor; hopefully in form of a call for work in the future. A win-win situation for the guy who comes up with an available body first.

Meanwhile, short of throwing out a name or two that I know the Best Boy knows but may have overlooked, I'll sit there and not even bother despite my track record of always being able to find someone available when others have failed. Being a perpetual day-player for the better part of the last decade means I've built up quite a database of contacts to pull from.

Why don't I jump at the chance of helping out the Best Boy, throwing a friend work, all while ensuring that our department won't be short-handed the next day? Because 1) I'm usually a day player and I don't exactly want to be that guy: the new guy who suddenly invites his own people to the party. I'm technically a guest on these guys' set, so I feel like they should be the ones to have first pick on who to invite into their home. 2) I'm also taking a risk when I recommend someone. If they're not liked or fuck up, it reflects poorly on me and any suggestions I make in the future might be ignored, despite me saving the day by finding someone available in the first place.

And 3), more often than not, the conversation between me and the Best Boy on the subject usually goes something like this:

Best Boy Electric: I need someone for tomorrow. Anyone. I don't care who they are. I just need an able body. Do you know anyone?

Me: Yup. I know a guy who's available tomorrow. Do you want me to bring him in?

BBE: Eh... I don't know. Are they any good?

Me: (Rolls my eyes and/or stares at him blankly.)


ARE YOU FOR REALS?? You're practically begging to find someone who's available, specifically saying that skill level doesn't matter, and when that person's found, you suddenly change your tune?

Okay, I get that they don't want someone on crew who's just going to be more of a hinder than a help, but here's what I find frustrating:
A) If it's so busy out there that everyone you know is already booked, chances are that you're not going to find someone who's the best in the biz. Those people usually get snapped up first because, duh, they're the best. What you're likely to end up with at this point is someone decent. At the very least, you'll get someone who can stack cable and push carts around for a day and you'll never have to hire them again after that.
B) Do they really think I want to bring in someone who's just going to be a burden? There are some people who I'll never hire myself and chances are VERY good that I won't want to work with them either and bring them on a show I'm on.
C) YOU. ARE. DESPERATE. TO. FIND. SOMEONE.  ANYONE. And guess what? I did. But apparently you're not that desperate because you're having second thoughts and don't want me to call him in. But oh wait, you are that desperate. But you still don't want me to book him. But you're still asking if I know anyone. And still don't want me to book him. Meanwhile, time's ticking away and all your other resources are tapped and you really need to find someone. Anyone. "Hey, A.J., do you know anyone who can come in?" "Yup." "I don't know... Are they any good?" And round and round we go.

See? Frustrating.





* Who am I kidding? They're out already.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

How To Sit On A Milk Crate.




Yes. There is a wrong way and a correct way to sit on a milk crate.

I understand that we're on set for long periods of time and chairs, unless you're one of the special few with a designated seat at video village, can be hard to find. So what do you do when you have a strong urge to get off your feet? You sit on anything that seems stable enough.

For grips, that often means an apple box or an unused dolly. For everyone else, it's whatever they find, which often happens to be a milk crate. They're usually lying around set, probably by a distro box, containing stingers or miscellaneous gak*. And when stood up on its side, can be a suitable place to rest your butt for a bit.

While I usually don't have a problem with people treating our storage containers as lounge furniture (provided, of course, they get the hell out of my way when I need something), I take issue when they use the wrong milk crate.

Yup. You read that right. You can't just sit on any ol' milk crate.

For the love of gummy bears and unicorn farts, PICK A MILK CRATE WITH A STEEL BAND.

They look like this:



And like this:

 


And like these:



Note the steel band wrapped around the top of the crate. THOSE ARE THE ONES YOU SHOULD SIT ON.

The ones without the steel band, like this one?:




Yeah, they may look a lot like the ones with the band, and a milk crate's a milk crate so what's the big diff, amirite??

WRONG.

The steel band, as simple and inconspicuous as it may seem, is there to strengthen the crate and help keep it's shape. If you sit on a "regular", all plastic one, your fat (or skinny, it makes no difference) ass will distort the crate, causing the sides to bulge out and the top to cave down. Which may not be a big deal to most people, but when your distro cart's packed down to the millimeter and you depend on the crates stacking neatly on top of each other for easy transport only to realize you can't because some asshole decided to sit on your gear and you're now trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, you bet your last cookie it's a big deal!

Now, I'm not saying that a steel banded crate will never bend. When it comes to a well seasoned Teamster, anything can happen. But while a steel banded crate will sometimes bend, an unbanded one will always bend, no matter who you are.**

And if, and only if, there are no banded crates available and you're just dying for a seat and the only option left is a regular, plastic, easily distorted crate? Please at least have the common sense to sit on the back side (as opposed to the open side) where your weight will have a less of a chance of fucking it up.

Thank you.



* The accessories that usually accompany a distro box: splitters, gang boxes, lunch boxes, etc.
** Unless you're a small, child actor. In which case, you should be either on set or in the schoolroom; not sitting on a milk crate next to a 1200 amp distro box.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Calling "Hollywood".


I remember one of the first days I ever set foot on a sound stage. We were sending things up to the perms with a rope and the guy next to me was explaining how it's done.

"...and when it's all tied up and ready to go, yell 'Hollywood' and the guys up high will hoist it up," he finished with a nod.

I don't know why "Hollywood" is the universal call to start pulling something up, but I do know I thought it was pretty weird. Couldn't I just holler out "okay!" when it was safe for the guys up high to start pulling?

I remember feeling timid and kind of awkward whenever I had to call out "Hollywood" that day, saying it so softly that I wasn't sure the guys up high could even hear me. I found the whole ritual so odd that I guess I didn't want to draw attention to myself in case I was doing it wrong and/or the whole process was just a joke.

But somewhere along the line, something changed. Now, whenever I'm ground support for a team up high and something's ready to be hoisted up, I yell out "Hollywood!" loud and clear, as if hollering out such a thing was the most natural thing ever. I'll say with enough confidence now that the whole stage can hear me clearly and I don't even blink an eye at it. Sometimes, if I'm in a good mood, I'll even add my own flare to it. "Holly-wooooooooood," anyone?

It's weird. How did an act I once found so odd turn into second nature for me?

I made this revelation the other day when I was working the lift gate on our truck. I was calling out when the gate was about to go up or down and I was doing it without even realizing it. When I finally did, a faint smile reached my lips. Like calling out "Hollywood," there was a time when I was new to this world and I was shy about calling out the movement of the gate. Now I yell them out so automatically that I don't even know I'm doing it.

Now I'm wondering what else I used to do with trepidation but now tackle with swagger.*




* Answer: Probably everything.  ;-)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sarah Jones: Update.


In typical media fashion, when there's no longer anything "new" to report, a story will fall to the wayside; losing steam and momentum before it disappears off the radar completely. It won't be long before the original story itself becomes just a shadow in our collective memories. With investigations still pending on what happened to Sarah Jones still going on, there's been nothing new to report for weeks, pushing her story to the back of our minds instead of being front and center; fooling our minds into going back to business as usual.

Which is why I'm grateful for Deadline Hollywood. I remember perusing the site when I was an intern at a production house. Anyone who worked in this industry in an office* knew of this site and many would include it in their daily ritual of skimming the trades**. Sometimes, I still click through the articles, if only to check in on a show I'm particularly interested in.

And since Deadline is primarily considered as a source of industry news comparable to Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, I was shocked to see their continuing coverage of Sarah Jones; even when there was nothing new to report.

They've been doing an ongoing series of articles focused on set safety, as well as doing some investigative reporting themselves on Jones' "incident"***. They're keeping her story alive on a platform that an important section of the industry will see instead of it brushing it aside like so many other outlets.

If you have the time, take a look at their piece that covers other accidents on set and why we tend to let them happen.

Or their timeline of notable deaths of camera crew on the job.

Or how helicopters claim the most lives on set. (Yes, I know helicopters aren't the same as trains, but any article that makes people realize how glamorous dangerous our jobs really are is a plus in my book.)

And more recently, Deadline is how I found out that Midnight Rider, the movie Sarah Jones lost her life on out in Georgia, is planning on continuing here in Los Angeles. And while I'll keep my opinions about working on that particular production to myself for now, there are others who are calling for a boycott. Even William Hurt himself has pulled out of the movie.

And lastly, for those of you who are Union members anyone in the industry out in L.A., if you haven't heard yet, Local 80 (Grips) and 728 (Set Lighting Technicians) are holding a seminar titled "Safety Rights of Workers & Your Rights Under OSHA". I'm not sure how "helpful" the meeting will be (who here hasn't taken a "safety class" / or participated in a "safety meeting" / "sexual harassment" seminar that didn't really hold real world solutions to real world problems?), it promises to address safety in the work place, what our rights are (and by rights, I mean for ALL workers; not just Union members) and how to address concerns at the work place. I'm sure all of us have questions regarding those topics, and if you're in the Los Angeles area, we'd be doing ourselves a disservice if we don't attend.

And finally, this coming Monday, April 28th is Worker's Memorial Day. Local 728 asks that we all participate in a moment of silent at 10am (1pm Eastern Time) in honor of all those who have died in the workplace, including Miss Sarah Elizabeth Jones.

This is one instance where I hope our silence will bring our safety back into the spotlight.



* And by that, I mean Agents, Managers, Producers, etc and their assistants.
** Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. Are these publications still even in print?
*** I don't want to say "accident" because it was negligence, and calling it a "tragedy" doesn't sound right either.
 
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