Sunday, December 7, 2014

You Know You've Been Working Too Hard When...

... you're sweeping out the truck when you suddenly realize you haven't done this for your own floors at home for a while.

Why is that?

Oh yeah. Because you spend way more time at work than you do at home.  :/

Previously 1.
Previously 2.
Previously 3.
Previously 4.
Previously 5.
Previously 6.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Best Crew Ever!"

It's the day after a big name star made a cameo on our humble little show and while wating for his omlette in the breakfast line, our series creator/Executive Producer was filling in his colleagues on the happenings of the night before.

"...And as his car pulled up, he shook my hand and said this was the best crew he's ever worked with. Can you believe that?? [Big Name Star]! He's been around forever and he thinks we're the best! How awesome is that??!"

He's fairly new to the business, so his excitement is understandable. But my co-worker and I, both witness to his enthusiasm, just rolled our eyes.

Because, despite the fact that we really might be a damn good crew, hearing someone delare your crew as "The Best Crew Ever!" is pretty common for someone who drifts around as much as I do.

I first heard it during wrap several years ago on a freebie job as I was trying to get a foot in Hollywood's door. The Director/Writer/Producer stood on a chair in the middle of the room, thanked us all for our time and hard work on his "passion project," and declared us "the best crew he's ever worked with."


I was happily surprised. I'm just starting out and I'm already working with one of the best crews out there?? Wow!

But it wasn't too long before another Director/Writer/Producer touted us as "The Best Crew Ever!" as soon as the A.D. called wrap. And it wasn't too long after that for the third one.

Eventually, I'd hear it about as much as I'd hear that pizza was coming for second meal.

And as I got on bigger shows, that proclaimation would often be accompanied with a champagne toast. Actors doing guest appearances over the course of the week would wrap up their episode with a coffee truck and a sign dangling under the ordering window reading, "To the best crew ever! Thank you!" At the end of a long show, the lead actors might pass out a bottle of wine to everyone on the crew with a card that reads, "To the best crew I've ever worked with!" Production will give out t-shirts to crew members with a sheet of printer paper pinned to it with the words, "Thanks for a good show! You're the best crew ever!"





Now, I'm not saying I'm ungrateful for the words and gestures of appreciation, because I really do appreciate it when the higher ups aknowledge our existance.

But at this point, it's the Hollywood equivalent of getting an "I'll call you" after a date. You may have believed it the first time you heard it, but after a few times, you wise up. You know he's not going to call, but at least he tried to be polite about it and you got a free meal.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What Happens When Your Dreams Don't Come True?

If you're shooting a scene in an office/cubical farm, it's not uncommon to see doodles on every available writing surface as you walk around the set. Not only do the Set Dressers scatter used notebooks and Post-Its around to make the place more lived in and believable, but the "background artists" (aka: "extras" if you want to be a little more un-PC about it) may scribble on a notepad or two to make it look like they're doing very important background-y things during the scene and/or between takes when they're bored.

As you wander around set, you'll usually see things like doodles of kitty cats or random patterns. But every once in a while, you'll stumble on a gem like this one:

I guess as the saying goes, "Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't act, become background."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Juicer Math, Pt. 2 (or Why We Can't Just "Add More Cable" To A Run).

We all know (or at least we should) that Wattage = Volts x Amps. (Also known as Ohm's Law if you wanna get technical about it.) If you don't know what that means or why it's important, I suggest you look it up.

But how many of us know about line loss and voltage drop? And I mean, really know it?

Basically, your voltage is tied to the length and size of your cable and the amperage you draw. So the longer your cable run and/or the more amps you need, the lower your voltage will dip.

There are various problems associated with low voltage, such as equipment not running properly (HMIs won't run if voltage is too low and tungsten will dip in color temperature) and some safety issues as well. In fact, for our movie making purposes, the National Electric Code only allows us to a maximum drop of 3%. Math time: 3% of 120v* is 3.6v. Which means the lowest we could go voltage wise is (120 - 3.6 = ) 116.4v.

Now how do we calculate whether or now we're within those limits? By using the Voltage Drop Formula!


Where...   √3 = 1.73 (Duh)
                  K = Resistance of the conductor being used
                  I = Amperage
                  L = Length or Distance in feet
                  ACM = Area of Circular Mills (aka: a really scientific way of saying how thick the cable is. This number is based on the gauge of the cable being used)

Since the "K" we're usually dealing with is copper, and the resistance of copper is 10.8, we'll simplify the formula a bit. √3·10.8 = 17.82, so the new formula becomes...


There. Isn't that better??

Okay. So what does that mean? It means that if you're running 400ft of banded cable (aka: #2 gauge wire; aka: ACM of 66360) and pulling 100amps/leg, your voltage drop is...

(17.82·100·400) / 66360 = 10.74 volts

Guess what? That's way more than the 3.6 volts we've already determined you're allowed to drop and the fire marshall can totally shut you down.

But what if you switched to using 4/0 (which has an ACM of 211600)?

(17.8·100·400) / 211600 = 3.37 volts

Congratulations! You're still within code and you get to run 400 feet of 4/0!

But let's say your show sucks in the sense that it doesn't have the money for a rigging crew, the 4/0, or the money to pay you for a pre-call to lay out all that cable if you just happened to have the 4/0 anyway. Basically, you're stuck with whatever banded you have on the truck. And by doing some basic algebra...

(17.82·100·L) / 66360 = 3.6
[yadda, yadda, yadda...]
L = (3.6·66360) / 1782
L = 134'

... you know you can go 134 feet before being out of code.*** You lay in 150' of cable anyway because 1) you only carry 50' lengths on the truck and 2) when all is said and done, you've been averaging 90 amps/leg anyway which puts you right on the edge (at 90 amps/leg with 3% voltage drop, it comes down to be 148.9' if you want to be exact about it). So you're good! Yay!

So why am I giving you this mind-numbing lecture in mathematics (especially when there's surely an app for all this)? Because I'm trying to show there's a reason why we run the cable the way that we do. That the choices we make in placing the generator isn't based on our own personal whims, but is dictated by what's in or not in the shot, what production can afford, the amount of manpower we have, and what can be done safely. It's not that we don't give a shit about the sound department, but more often than not, this is as far as I can get the generator away from set based on the above criteria. We do the best with what we have, which is why it irks me to no end when conversations like this happen...

Locations/Sound Guy/Etc.: "We need to move the generator."
Me: "That's a little easier said than done..."
Them: "Why not? It's just another 50 feet."
Me: "Well, it's not just 50 feet. I have to go around that wall/building/can't just cut across that yard where the owner's sitting on his porch holding a shot gun. It may even only be 75 feet, but all my cable is in 50 feet lengths, so really, it's be at least 100 feet of cable."
Them: "Well, don't you have two more pieces of banded? I saw some on your truck when I passed by a minute ago."
Me: "Yeah, but-"
Them: "So what's the problem?"
Me: "The problem is that with banded and the amperage we're using on set, I can only go 134 feet before I'm breaking code and I'm already at 150 feet, so-"
Them: "Oh no no no no. Don't pull that number mumbo-jumbo shit on me. Just run the cable. Is that so hard?"


Don't people think there's a reason why we sometimes need 2/0 or 4/0? For Pete's sake, if it was always as simple as just slapping on another piece of cable regardless of the gauge, I'd just be running stingers with a cube tap on the end straight out of the generator to run the entire set!

Stupid mutherfuckers. (Can you tell I've been through this a few times?)

Another stupid request? "Can't you just bump up the voltage on the generator?" I can, but not as much as you think. 1) Going too high with the voltage on the generator can mess up the generator, which is never good; 2) Voltage goes up when amperage goes down, so when we start turning lights on and off, someone with some very expensive and sensitive equipment plugged into our system may get a nasty surprise along with a repair bill; and 3) Upping the voltage at the generator is not an appropriate way to make up for the fact that you're running the wrong sized cable to begin with. You should do it right the first time. And again, if cranking up the voltage regulator was an option, don't you think we'd say fuck it to 2/0 and 4/0 every time and just run a damn stinger to run the whole set and just "bump up the voltage"??

So no, it's not that hard to physically lay out another two pieces of banded. But electricity is a bit more complicated than just laying out pieces of cable, asshole.

Juicer Math, Pt. 1

* 120v being the standard here in the good ol' U.S. of A.
** This is a formula for a 3-Phase system only. Hence, the √3. The Single-Phase formula is 2KIL/ACM. If you don't know the difference between a 3-Phase system vs a Single-Phase system, you probably shouldn't be the one planning all this out...
*** And that's just on a good day. Heat causes resistance, so if it's particularly hot out and/or the cable is laying on some sun-baked asphalt, the voltage drop can be higher.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Filmmaker's Test.

The following is a simple test to see if you really are a filmmaker. Proceed with caution.

Raise your hand if you've ever...

...watched an action movie and wished you could kick ass like the hero.

...watched a scene unfold on screen and dissect how the camera was set up and where the lights were placed.

...felt bad for the crew when you watch a show that takes place mostly at night. Or in the rain. Or both.

...been so excited the night before your first day on a shoot that you can't sleep.

...known when Crafty would bring out new snacks and hover around the table in anticipation.

...hoarded the kind of soda or fizzy water you like from the coolers.

...skipped over the veggies at catering.

...played with props when the Propmaster wasn't looking.

...cleaned your sunglasses with supplies found on the camera cart.

...sat down on set and flipped through a "magazine" or book used for set dressing.

...sprawled across a bed on a bedroom set.

...gone through the breakfast line more than once.

...raided the set cart for batteries for your T.V. remote at home.

...taken a nap on company time.

...snuck a picture of a celebrity on set.

...sat in a pass van just for the air conditioning.

...gone "grocery shopping" at the craft service table.

...borrowed a belt or jacket from wardrobe because you forgot yours at home.

...had to explain to your mom a few dozen times what it is you do at work.

...had to explain to your dad what you do at work in hopes that maybe he can explain it to her (note: this never works).

...splurged on a phone or a tablet with the thought of, "It'll come in handy at work!"

...shown up for work an hour early because you looked on the wrong line of the callsheet.

...shopped for a present for someone while at work (thanks, cellphone!).

...stopped what you were doing, looked around and thought, I have a pretty cool job.

...put off a doctor or dentist appointment because of work.

...rolled from one shoot right on to another.

...never met your neighbors because you never see them.

...forgot your friend's birthday because you were so busy, you lost track of the days.

...lost a girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other because you never got to see them.

...missed out on a family event because you're booked on a job.

...gave up a pet because you're never home to take care of it.

...ever wondered how you'd be able to balance a career and a family with a job like this.

...had a day so good, you knew this is what you wanted to spend the rest of your life doing.

...had a day so kick-you-ass-brutal, you wonder if it's all worth it.

...been told that Hollywood's a hard town and you won't make it.

...left behind family, friends, and all you've ever known to move to a place you've never been to because you wanted to make movies.

...purposely forged ahead without the safety net of a stable bank account or back-up career because you want that fear to push you to succeed.

...come to a halting realization that this is harder than you ever thought.

...reached a stagnant point in your career and start to wonder what else you could do for money.

...wondered what'll happen if the calls for work stop coming in.

...have this nagging fear that maybe they were right and you'll never survive in this industry.

...ever wonder if you're good enough to rise out of the low paying gigs.

...been scared that this is as good as it gets and you've peaked in your field.

...feared that you'll have to return home to your parents' house because you couldn't make it and it's time to "grow up." 

...feared that you sacrificed it all for nothing.

...kept on forging on anyway because you have faith in yourself that it will all work out in the end because despite all the uncertainties, the pain, and the fear, you're passionate about what you do.

If your hand is still raised, congratulations. You are a filmmaker.

Bonus test.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Haters Gonna Hate.

A colleague who I work with on occasion called me up the other night, his voice nvervous and laced with concern.

"Do you have a minute to talk?"

"Sure..." I cautiously say. I know he's not calling me for work and therefore, not sure what kind of news he's about to drop on me.

"Well, first off," he starts before he takes a deep breath, as if he's trying to calm himself down, "I think you're awesome."

"Oookay...." I'm still not getting what he's going for, but I'm starting to get nervous, too. Whatever it is he's trying to say, it must be pretty bad.

"But..." he continues, pausing a bit to gather up some courage to soldier on, "I heard some stuff about you that I thought you should know."

More silence.

I'm getting anxious and frustrated at this point. If it's bad news about me, I wanted to know and I wanted to know now. There's no need to sugar coat it for me. I like my band-aids ripped off fast.

"For Pete's sake, stop worrying me and just spit it out."

"Okay," he said, taking one last breath. "Some guys I worked with today were talking about you. They were saying stuff like you don't know what you're doing on set, you flirt with everyone, and you're lazy, and you don't pull your weight and stuff..."

More silence.

"Is that all?" I calmly ask.

"That's the gist of it. I just wanted to let you know what's being said about you because I don't agree with them at all, but maybe you can be more aware of how you behave on set, you know? Like, watch who you hang around with and make sure you point out to the guys what work you're doing. Stuff like that."

"Um.... Okay...."

"I'm just saying, don't give them any more fuel for their rumors. Like I said, I think you're good and I don't want what they're saying to get around and sully your reputation."

I respond to his thoughts with a chuckle. "Thanks for the call and I appreciate the concern, but I'm not too worried about it."


"Yeah. Really."

And I mean it, too. The way he started the conversation had me thinking the worst while this was really just almost... pedestrian. 

I didn't even badger him to tell me who he was working with that day. Partly because 1) I know he probably wouldn't spill but mostly because 2) there have always been rumors about me.

I've heard tales about how I'm lazy, clueless, and shamelessly flirt with everyone in sight, and about how I won't do this, won't do that, etc, and all while planting my butt at crafty. Some which may or may not be true. I don't know. I don't judge my own work; I simply do the job the best I can.

But I've also heard some pretty off the wall rumors. Apparently, I'm a lesbian; I'm asexual; I've been through a horrible divorce recently; I own a motorcycle; I've been hired on a job only to refuse, REFUSE, to do any work when I get there; etc.

Right. Sure. That sounds like me. NOT.

I understand why anyone would be freaked out about rumors like that circulating around about them. Hollywood is a lot smaller than it seems and word can travel fast. Whether true or not, a few unfavorable words uttered when your name comes up can lead to being unemployed for a while. Even if you've never met some of these people, your reputation can easily precede you. Unfair, yes, but that's reality.

But as concerned my colleague was for me and my reputation, I found the whole situation to be more amusing than anything else. Because despite whatever is being said about me, I'm still working.

And not only am I still working, but I've been working. I haven't had a week without work (Holidays excluded) since I last summer and that was only because I chose not to work. Not only have calls for work increased for me every year since I started in this business, but the jobs have been getting better as well with no signs of stopping any time soon. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but as I'm writing this, things are falling into place that would have me working for the next several months before I get another chance at some R&R.

So I think I must be doing something right.

My colleague also expressed concern that he didn't want those rumors to squash my chances of advancing to bigger and better things in this business (isn't he sweet!), but I told him I doubt it would. Because the funny/interesting thing is, as I've been getting bigger and better jobs over the past few years, the rumors I've heard about myself have also escalated. The more work I get, the more ridiculous the rumors and/or the more rampant they've become. And yet, I'm still progressing in my field with each job being a step above the last, so go figure. I don't know if it's because the woman transcends the myths or if it's because I've been floating from one crew to the next at such a rate that the rumors haven't caught up to me, but whatever it is, it hasn't closed any doors for me yet (that I'm aware of, anyway).

And sure, I guess I could try to limit what's being said about me by not visiting crafty or not "flirting" with the prop guys, but if I've learned anything about human nature over the past few years, it's that with some people, if it's not one thing, it's another. They'll complain about how cheap the caterer is on one show, and then complain about how production is spending too much money on food and not enough in other areas on the next show. I may be "hanging around crafty too much" now, but I can also be seen as "having an eating disorder" if I visit the snack table less than often. Now, I'm "flirting with every department," but if I change my ways, I can be seen as "anti-social and doesn't get along with everyone."

Some people will just bitch and moan to anyone about anything. In fact, guys on set have been some of the gossipiest bitches I've seen since the girls' bathroom in Jr. High.

And even if I do "watch myself" on set to try to limit what's being said about me, what am I supposed to do about all the other stuff that comes out of left field? Okay, hearing that I have a motorcycle made me sound kind of bad-ass, but never once have I shown up for a job only to refuse to do it. Or been divorced. Or even married, for that matter. Or even bring up my personal life on set.

It just goes to show that they'll probably always be rumors about me, no matter what I do. That's one of the (many) downsides of being a woman in a male dominated business. It puts an invisible target on your back. Everyone will put you under a microscope and people will talk about you.

If it's not one thing, it's another. And if it's not me they're talking about, it'll be someone else.

Hollywood likes to talk, which can be scary since a lot can ride on your reputation in this town. But you can't stop people from talking and I can't/won't/don't want to change who I am just to try to please them. And I can tell you right now, there is no pleasing them.

As the saying goes, haters gonna hate. And the only thing I can do about it is take a cue from my girl Taylor...

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