Sunday, June 17, 2018

I DO NOT PLUG IN YOUR EQUIPMENT.


Found this photo while searching the Internet for a picture to go along with this post and I couldn't not include it.
While it's technically off subject, the title is "Do not plug space heaters into power strips."


One of the things set electricians HATE to do is run power for Production, namely for things like heaters. They're usually about half a dozen or more of them scattered about, you can't cube two of them together because they each need their own dedicated circuit, they're placed in the most inconvenient places where the closest distro box is 100ft away, they need them plugged in "right now!" (never mind you're in the middle of a lighting set up), and the P.A.s usually move them around at least twice (and you've powered them at least twice) before they finally settle on a place for it and you never reap the benefits from them, namely because they're dedicated for people who do nothing but sit around for most of the day.

It's bad enough that we have to* run power to them, but the other day an AD was getting on my last nerve about it.

The poor actors were getting cold on our warehouse stage (aka: not a real stage) so in came the heaters. Seeing them land, I ran the appropriate stingers to them before being asked to. Five minutes later, the room hadn't gotten any warmer and the AD turned to me.

"Didn't you run power to these, A.J.?"
"Yup."

He kneels down to fiddle with one of the knobs before noticing it wasn't plugged in.

"Really? You didn't plug it in?"
"Nope, I just run the power. I don't plug things in for other departments."
"Oh, come on, A.J. We're on the same team here," he scowled at me before plugging in the heater and walking away.

I let it drop because, like I said, you have to pick your battles. But let me reiterate:
I DO NOT PLUG IN OTHER PEOPLE'S EQUIPMENT.

"Come on, A.J.," you or the AD might ask, "What's so hard about plugging in a heater?"

Well, for starters, I don't know this heater (nor do I care to). If I plug it in, will it turn on automatically? If the switch was left in the "on" position, and I walk away and someone knocks it over and it burns a hole in the rug or catches something on fire,** I guarantee all eyes (and fingers) are going to be pointed at me. And if it doesn't turn on automatically, am I supposed to turn it on, too? What if the switch is broken or doesn't work? How much time am I supposed to spend troubleshooting it?

I have no problem running power to a Ritter fan for Special Effects, but I won't plug it in for them. I may be running 5-wire banded to it, but does their fan run on 120V? 220V? Again, does it automatically turn on once it's powered up if the switch isn't off? Are the markings on the switch even correct? (Because, you know, SPFX, or any other department for that matter, never takes something apart./s)

Is the toaster oven the food stylist is using set to "broil"? Will it just turn on if I plug it in when she's not around? Oops, did I just burn the hero food she was keeping in there?

Is the reservoir in the coffee maker at Crafty empty? If I plug it in while the switch is "on" and there's no carafe in place, who's supposed to clean up the scalding hot water that is now spilling everywhere?

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Sure, it may only take a minute or two to figure some of this out, but 1) that's not the point, 2) it's not my job, 3) it's someone else's job, 4) it's not my responsibility, and, most importantly, 5) I don't want it to be my responsibility.

Simply put: Just because we're the "electric" department doesn't mean we're responsible for operating anything with a cord coming out of it.

We also never give a mouse a cookie.




*We technically don't have to. Our job description and title clearly state that we're Set Lighting. Read: we light the set. But it's also easier and saffer for us to do it than anyone else. We pick our battles.

**Yes, I know newer space heaters have a safety switch on the bottom that shuts it off if it's tilted. I've also worked with a few where the switch was bypassed. And no, I'm not going to take the time to figure out if it even has a switch, let alone if it's working properly.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Overachiever.




Day exterior scenes are usually a lamp operator's dream.* Since the (California) sun is typically bright enough to light up the whole set, a set electrician's main job becomes to make sure that video village and the coffee maker at crafty have power. Then it's mostly finding a shady place to hide while the grips swelter in the sun.

Sometimes, on a slow day like that, the Best Boy will take advantage of the time and have us do some housekeeping, like cutting gels, re-organizing the carts, inventory, etc. 

It was one of such days when a colleague and I were assigned to tackle the small pile of B.O.** equipment that had been collecting on the truck. I was putting a new Hubbell on a stinger while he re-globed a light. 

"Hey, do you have an alcohol wipe?" I asked him, as he was finishing up.
"Naw, there's some in the set cart but that's all the way on set. I'll wipe down the globe later," he said while he started closing up the housing.
"No need. Here." I usually keep an alcohol wipe in my tool pouch and so I handed it to him.
"Oh, look at you. Overachiever," he said as he took the wipe from me. "Thanks, Overachiever!" He emphasized that last part rather loudly so our whole department heard.

I let that comment go and returned to my own work, but his words left a bad taste in my mouth. From anyone else on that crew, I might've taken the comment as gentle ribbing, but from him, plus the tone of his voice, it was clear he was annoyed with my preparedness. This was the same guy who repeatedly showed up late for work, sat at staging all day playing games on his phone, and never stayed on set for longer than a few minutes. 

So it's a wonder that to him, me having the bare minimum required to do the task at hand, was considered "overachieving." Or maybe it was the fact that I saved him a trip to the set cart that he had a problem with? 

Or maybe it was the fact that compared to him, the bosses that be saw me as a more valuable addition to the crew and he knows it. I'm no model electrician, but at least I show up on time every day (granted, I may have cut it preeeeetty close a few times) and hang out on set until they get a take going before sneaking back to staging. I also re-stock the set cart when supplies are running low, make sure the head carts have the proper counts when we load them back up, and wrap loose stingers and cable that for whatever reason ends up laying around the middle of the floor, causing unnecessary trip hazards. 

...All while he plays games on his phone at staging.

None of those tasks were assigned to me. I just do them. Why? Because, again, it's the bare minimum of work required for my job. I don't know who he's used to working for, but making sure we have expendables nearby and wrapping stingers are pretty par for the course on every crew I've ever been on. 

And yet, I'm an "overachiever."

Okay. So if doing what's required of me at work makes me an "overachiever," what does that make him? Also, let it be noted that instead of getting his own alcohol wipe (which were in the set cart no more than sixty feet away), he took mine and then gave me a thinly veiled insult.

Really, man? Maybe the problem isn't that I'm an overachiever. Maybe you should just try harder.




Not counting the sundown-"OhShitWe'reLosingLight!!"-mad-scramble at the end of the day.
** "Burned Out," aka: broken.

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Lesson In GFCIs.




Anyone who knows me on set knows I'm a bit of a stickler for workplace safety. Not sure how it happened, but it just got ingrained in me early on in my career. I guess I just have this inexplicable desire for me (and I guess my colleagues) to go home in one piece at the end of each day.

Weird, right?

Most of it is common sense. Run out stingers and cords in a way that isn't a trip hazard. Put sandbags on light stands so they don't fall over. Attach a safety cable to anything that's rigged in case it comes loose. Don't mix electricity with water.

That last one... You'd think it's a no-brainer, but in a disturbing string of events over the past several years, I'm finding that not everyone is aware of this fact. Or simply, they just don't give a shit.

So to prevent everyone from getting fried whenever water is around,* there's these things called Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (aka: GFCI or GFIs, for short). They're pretty idiot proof when in use. If you're working in a wet location, plug one into the system, then plug whatever you want in to that. Easy peasy.

The gist of it is that if something goes wrong, the GFI will trip, it'll cut power and lives are saved. Think of it as a very sensitive breaker switch.

[Side bar: How do they work? The short version is that electricity works in a "loop." It goes out on the hot leg and back on the neutral. The GFI measures the outgoing/incoming and if there's a difference of 5 milliamps (on a Class A rated GFI), it knows there's a leak somewhere in the system and it'll shut itself off, potentially saving a life. Why 5mA? That's how much it takes for the average male to lose muscle control/not be able to "let go" (it takes even less for women and children. Damn the patriarchy.) That's 5 thousandths of an amp. Your phone charger draws way more than that, btw.]

What I don't understand is why people treat them like such a nuisance. Case in point, my co-worker the other night.

Me: Hey, wasn't there a GFI on this lunch box earlier?
Him: Yeah, but it kept tripping so I pulled it out of line.

Um... WHAT??!

It was tripping because there's an electricity leak somewhere. It tripped because it was doing its job.

So instead of finding the source of the problem, you just got rid of the safety feature??**

It's like saying the smoke alarm kept going off every time there was smoke in the apartment, so you uninstalled it.

Stupid.

Eventually, I plugged the GFI back inline, and by plugging things back in one by one, I found out which piece of equipment was faulty, replaced it, and we all managed to survive another day at work.

You're welcome, clueless co-worker.



*And by water, I mean any type of wet environment, be it rain (natural or man made), a swimming pool, the ocean, fog, Nickelodeon Slime (seriously), etc. [Edit: The only time you shouldn't plug something into a GFCI even though it's a wet environment is if it would create more of a safety hazard. ie: emergency lights and probably anything related to stunts should probably not be plugged in a GFI.]

** Another excuse for not using a GFI that I love/HATE: "There wasn't any time." I'm sorry this stupid-ass show that some kid's going to watch on his phone while he sits in class is more important to you than your co-workers' safety.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

In Defense of Taylor Swift, "The Nazi Princess."


"There will be no further explanation. Just reputation."


For various reasons, Taylor Swift has gotten a lot of hate these past few years; mostly because she's a "serial dater" (uhh... She's in her 20s. That's what people in their 20s do.) and then writes songs about her exes (uhh... She's a songwriter. That's what songwriters do!).

But the other day, I saw a ridiculous comment on an article from one woman about how she can't respect Taylor Swift being on the cover of Time Magazine because "She's a Nazi Princess." When another commenter asked how Taylor's a Nazi Princess, the original poster replied that Swift had been hailed as a "Nazi Princess on a Pro-Nazi website and she hasn't publicly denounced Nazism. Therefore, she's a Nazi."

Uhh... Okay...

Let's forget the fact that the initial claim of Nazism came from a website that had little to back its claim other than Taylor herself is white. Or that Taylor has featured people of color in her music videos before, and her current ensemble of back up singers aren't exactly white. Or that out of all the hate on Taylor I've heard over the years, not once has it been centered around her saying anything racist.

Let's instead focus on what happens when ridiculous rumors start flying around about you and why I think Taylor is actually smart for not denouncing those baseless claims made about her.

For those of you that don't know, I'm a bit of an anomaly in this business. I'm a woman in a department where the working pool to pull from is >97% male. Of the <3% in set lighting that make up my gender, most of them are bigger and/or physically stronger than me, making me stand out like a sore thumb. Therefore, I'm constantly watched, talked about, and speculated on.

And whenever that happens, so do the rumors. Some of the more outlandish ones I've heard about myself involve me breaking up relationships and hooking up with married men. Which is quite an impressive feat since apparently, according to some people in this business, I'm a lesbian.*

All these rumors lead me to have a policy on not commenting about my personal life at work. Not only because there are so many rumors that commenting on every single one of them would be exhausting, but because before I put this policy into place, this is how one of those conversations would go:

Them: Crafty thinks you're a lesbian.
Me: Ha. No. I'm straight.
Them: That's what we thought. But we hadn't heard you mention a boyfriend before.
Me: That's because I don't have one.
Them: Yeah? When was the last time you did?
Me: Um... It's been a while.
Them: Like months? Years?
Me: 
Them: So do you, like, just go to bars or something?
Me: What?
Them: What do you do when you're looking for a hook-up?
Me: I don't really do one-night stands.
Them: So you haven't had a boyfriend in a while and you don't do hook-ups... Oh... Are you asexual?


I SWEAR I WISH I WAS MAKING THIS UP!!! (And yes, this is based on real conversations I've had.)

...And that's how easy it is for a simple denouncing of my lesbianism turns into a conversation about my sexuality and personal life for all our colleagues around us to hear.

If at any point I were to stop the conversation, it'd be assumed that my silence on the matter answers their questions one way or another:

Them: Like months? Years?
Me: I'm not going to answer that.
Them: Oh... So like several years.


Sometimes they'll even get angry because apparently, answering one question about my personal life means it's okay to ask me all the questions about my personal life. And apparently me answering me one question means they're entitled to all the answers. Then suddenly, I'm a stuck up bitch and not a team player if I don't comply.

Them: Like months? Years?
Me: I don't want to talk about this anymore.
Them: Geeze, no need to get defensive. I'm just trying to get to know you better. I can't ask you a simple question?


So basically, the only way for me to ensure the original rumor isn't built upon and for me to have a semi-sane workplace is to take a page from Publicity 101: neither confirm nor deny. Just let it ride.

Them: Crafty thinks you're a lesbian.
Me: Ha.

[End of conversation.]


The same method could be applied to Taylor and her Nazi rumor:

Them: Taylor's a Nazi.
Tay-Tay: 
Them: ...

[End of conversation.]


By not joining into a conversation based on ridiculous claims, we side-step all the other ridiculous mess that would surely come after it.

"But how can denying being a Nazi be a bad thing?" you might ask?:

Them: You're a Nazi.
Her: No, I'm not.
Them: Prove it.
Her: I marched with the counter protesters. 
Them: You marched with the counter protesters but you didn't do the Women's March?? You must hate women's rights!!!
Her: No, I don't hate women or their rights.
Them: Prove it.
Her: (Sigh...)


See? Ridiculous.

Again, acknowledging one claim sets the precedence that you must acknowledge them all, and answering one question makes them feel entitled to know all the answers to their questions. The headache that usually follows makes rebutting rumors totally not worth it.

And often times, those who spread nasty rumors about someone (famous or not) are just looking for any reason to hate someone anyway.

When Kesha was going through her legal battles with her producer, Dr. Luke, Taylor was hated on for not Tweeting in support for her fellow female artist like many other pop stars were. I repeat: She was hated. For. Not. Tweeting. **

Then it came out that while everyone was accusing her of not supporting Kesha, Taylor had donated a quarter of a million dollars to Kesha's legal fees (!!!). And she was still hated; this time for just "doing it for the publicity" and because it's just a small percentage of her net worth and she could've done more.

In other words, there's no winning. Haters gonna hate. You're basically damned if you do, but you're only slightly less damned it you don't say anything at all.***


* Main reason for the rumor: apparently the only reason why a girl like me would be interested in a job like this. Also, people are stupid.
** She's still hated for not Tweeting now, this time for not jumping on #MeToo, despite her having a very public sexual harassment trial this year where she sued for a symbolic $1.... AND WON. If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and read about her badass testimony. And by "badass," I mean, seriously, it's the most times "ass" has been said in Colorado federal court.
*** Please note, I'm specifically talking about addressing ridiculous rumors. If an injustice is happening, MOST DEFINITELY SPEAK OUT.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Harassment, Pt. 2.


Unless you've been hiding under a literal rock lately, I'm sure you've at least heard about all the sexual harassment scandals rocking Hollywood right now. And no, I'm not only speaking to those of you based in this town, or even this country. I mean the whole world. Seriously. I've had friends from other countries tell me it's all over their newspapers.

With one scandal after another, Hollywood (or at least on the executive level) is burning (haha. See what I did there?).

But one co-worker in general seems to be obsessed with all the news. Every minute of down time he gets, he's looking at his phone for the next guy to be exposed as a creep. And when the Weinstein scandal first broke out, it was nearly impossible to have a conversation with him without it being brought up.

"Did you hear about this Weinstein shit?"
"Decades! They're saying DECADES. What the fuck?"
"His wife just left him!"
"Gwyneth Paltrow! Rose McGowan! Mira Sorvino! Angelina Jolie!!"
"Did you hear this thing about what he did in front of a reporter to a plant??"

He was following the scandal closer than the grips were following their fantasy football picks (which is saying a lot).

One day, in between set-ups, he was waving around his phone again with the latest Weinstein update when I asked him, "Why are you so obsessed with this?"

"It's just so crazy! Can you believe this shit happened??"

I just stared at him and nodded. Because I was speechless.

I was speechless because I suddenly realized why he was so fixated on the scandal. It was new to him. He's never heard of such a thing before. Never witnessed it. Never experienced it.

Never was made uncomfortable on set. Never had someone in power make a pass at them. Never been inappropriately grabbed. Never been "accidentally" brushed up against. Never felt unsafe at work.*

Never been catcalled on the street. Never had to make sure you parked under a streetlight because you knew it was going to be dark by the time you left. Never had to walk to said car with your fist around the key ring, keys between your knuckles like mini Wolverine claws. Never got inappropriate calls or texts in the middle of the night. Never got sent an unsolicited dick pic. Never had to make sure no one touched your drink when you weren't looking. Never had to "watch what you wear".

I realized he was fascinated with the harassment scandal because he didn't know such things happened with such regularity.

I, on the other hand, wasn't surprised at all the accusations.

So yes, Weinstein Obsessed Colleague, I can believe this shit happened.

What I am surprised about is that not only is it all coming out, but it seems like people are actually taking notice this time (yes, I said "this time"). It gives me hope that maybe now women's voices will be taken seriously and finally hear what we've been trying to say for years. It gives me hope that maybe one day soon, sexual harassment, no matter what sexual orientation or gender one might be, will be gone from film sets.

I love this industry dearly and can't see myself doing anything else, but I'm also growing tired of this "boy's club" and "boys will be boys" mentality.

I'm hoping something good will emerge from these ashes this time, and no longer swept under the rug like so many scandals before it. And I don't mean more useless "sexual harassment training" that everyone just complains about having to attend despite never hearing a word that's being said anyway because they're too busy fucking around on their phones. No one (no department heads that I've ever met anyway) takes those seminars seriously. Those are good for nothing more than pleasing the lawyers. They do jack shit in preventing actual harassment.

I'm hoping that we as an industry will band together. I'm hoping that people will realize the phrase "I was just joking" will not negate the fact that your comment about my body or sex life is inappropriate. I'm hoping that when we see someone being made uncomfortable, we'll stand up for them. That when someone says something disgusting, we'll call them out on it. That when we witness inappropriate behavior, not only will we report it, but that our reports will be taken seriously, no matter who the accused is, and that we can do so without fear of retaliation in our current jobs and future ones.

Then, and only then, can our industry change.



Previously. And previously.


*And I don't mean, "Gee, that FX guy sure doesn't seem like he has enough fire extinguishers for our big explosion" kind of unsafe. I mean the "I don't trust this guy enough to be alone in a room with him" kind.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

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