Monday, April 27, 2015

"We Mourn, We Remember, And We Will Never Stop Fighting."

April 28th is Worker's Memorial Day here in the U.S. (and Canada's Day of Mourning).

The IATSE is trying to organize a moment of silence at 1pm (EST)/ 10am (PST).

You don't have to be a union member to participate. Or be in the industry. Or even have a job. Workplace safety is something that affects everyone no matter who/where they are and I think it's something we often take for granted.

To read more about it, go here. And here. And here.

I know it's kind of late notice, but please participate if you can.

Bonus points: Google this Bad-Ass Mother!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Producer Logic.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, "Producer Logic" is often the answer to why some things seem totally stupid and ass backwards.

Some examples...

- Production denies your request for more manpower for the day because they don't want to spend the money. So instead, the set ups take even longer because you're shorthanded, and therefore, cost production even more.

- Production doesn't want to pay for a rigging and wrap crew, so they have to pay the entire shooting crew to do it along with giving everyone meal penalties for their pre-call and late wrap... While in double time. Oh, and a forced call penalty if they don't finish before their turnaround time.

- Production cuts down your equipment list due to budget, but then spends more on manpower and time as your crew leap-frogs lights around from set to set.

- Production doesn't want to pay the extra money for leveling blocks for the condor, rendering the condor they paid for useless since we now can't use it because (surprise!) it's not level.

- Production spends its money paying for big name actors and DPs, but doesn't have any money left over for crew and amenities to support those people.

- Production wants to use a location because it's "free," but has to deal with time restrictions, sound issues, it takes transpo over an hour to move the trailers over, etc and has to fix a bunch of shit in post and/or do re-shoots.

- Production skimps on the caterer in the beginning but then has to splurge on a really good caterer when everyone complains about the food... Including their bosses. (Hint: If you had just gotten a decent caterer to begin with, you wouldn't have had to splurge on the really good one later.)

- Production doesn't want to buy a $400 putt-putt because it's "too expensive." Instead, you add it to the equipment rental where they're paying $85/week for it... for six weeks.

- Production wants zero L&D but then only gives you one day to load a truck by yourself, undercuts your man power for the whole show, rushes you through wrap to avoid paying overtime, and then wonder why things get lost and broken... All while paying you a little more than minimum wage.



Thursday, March 26, 2015

And It All Comes Down...

Recently, Michael Taylor, big brother to Hollywood blogs everywhere, had a show end. It's no surprise. We've all been there. If you're working in this industry and have never been on a show that ended, then congratulations on what must be your first day/show in the business.

But while getting laid off is inevitable in our line of work (the camera assistant on the very first set I was ever on told me, "I get laid off every day.") that doesn't mean some endings aren't harder than others. And this seemed to be one of those times for Michael. He knew he'd never work with this exact group of people again. And he knew the chances of finding magic like that on another show were slim.

But what he didn't know was that I was watching. I had figured out which show he was on long before he announced the title on his blog (after all, how many shows end a season with a bathtub crash?) and some time after (a long time after, actually) I found myself on the same lot, stationed ridiculously close to the stage with "Melissa & Joey" emblazoned on the elephant doors.

The next few months had me drifting in and out of there as is the life of a perpetual day player, but my eyes would always linger a little longer than necessary whenever I passed by those open doors on the way to or from my own stage. A long time reader of his blog, I wanted to catch glimpses of the lights he'd precariously/carefully hung and then wrote about, despite it looking just like every other sitcom rig I've ever seen.

Then news came of the show's inevitable end and I watched as it all came down. Day by day, every time I passed by those elephant doors, which were now perpetually open to facilitate the process of wrap, the stage looked emptier and emptier. Set walls were gone, lights came down, and soon, even the scissor lifts and carts that were the only constant during the whole demolition process were gone, leaving only piles of miscellaneous items on the stage floor.

At that point, as years of work was dismantled in just a matter of days, I was on the lot almost daily and wondered how odd the stage I had stalked from afar would look once it was completely empty and hollow.

Only that day never came.

As the stage became emptier and emptier each time I passed by, I had walked by expecting this glance to by my last as I was sure it had to have been totally cleared out by now, only to find that the piles I saw on my previous pass had grown instead of diminished. And they grew again when I passed by once more a little later. And before I knew it, a whole new set had done up.

I couldn't believe it. Melissa & Joey hadn't even been out of the building a full day before another show came and took its place.


I wasn't naive enough to think that nothing would inhabit that stage ever again. After all, a piece of property like that sitting around unused looses money for the studio, but it was a little odd to witness another show moving in before the last owner even got a chance to shut the door behind them.

It's just another reminder that Hollywood doesn't care. Stage 14 was a place 120+ people had called home for the past five years, but as the saying goes, "the show(s) must go on." No time for mourning. No moment of silence for what once was. No adjustment period. Just an unending stream of disassembling and re-assembling. Of acquiring and releasing. A constant cycle of out with the old and in with the new.

That, is the core of Hollywood.

It doesn't give a shit. It don't got time for that. It doesn't care that you spent five or ten or twenty, or even fifty years here. It has no loyalties to you or anyone else. It's an unstoppable force that churns out hits and flops, one right after another. And it'll continue on whether you and I are here to help it or not.

Eventually, the show I was on called it quits for the season, only I didn't feel the same melancholia as Michael did when his show ended. I wasn't around this season long enough to form an attachment to any department other than my own, and I knew I'd see those guys around the corner. This was one of the times I wasn't too sad to see a show end.

But as we were in the middle of wrapping out our stage, we had to suddenly stop what we were doing and move everything we had on the ground to the other side of the stage. We had a few more days of wrap left, but the new show scheduled to come in after us was moving in today and they needed some room.

Just like Michael's show, Hollywood couldn't wait to get us out of here so it could get a new one in. Our cable wasn't even cold yet.

Hollywood can be such a bitch.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

You Know You're On The Right Track When...

... You're going through your annual pile of W-2s when you realize the total on one of them is more than what you made the whole year not too long ago.

Monday, February 16, 2015

SNL 40.

I grew up watching Saturday Night Live. I don't remember how old I was when I saw my first episode, but I know I was probably younger than I should've been. My earliest memories of TV include Saturday morning cartoons, shows on PBS and staying up late for SNL; and one of those things is definitely not like the others. Looking back, I suppose it's a bit odd that my parents let me stay up that late, let alone watch something that's not exactly kid friendly.

More often than not, I'd devote my Saturday nights to watching the show, if not, at least a few skits. Even when I was old enough to spend my Saturday nights out with friends, I'd still watch it whenever I could. This weekend ritual lasted up until I left for college, where finding a TV in a dorm room was kind of scarce and spending your Saturday night in front of one was a sign that you're wasting your youth.

Although I haven't really paid attention to the show in recent years, I decided to tune in on Sunday night to watch their 40th anniversary special. I may not know all the cast members or mainstay characters anymore ("The Californians?" Really?), but I figured I should at least pay tribute to a show that's been on for FORTY YEARS and entertained me from childhood to adulthood.

The show was lengthy, but star-studded. And while I caught myself looking at the clock more than once during the three and a half hour broadcast, it was fun to reminisce and re-visit some of the skits and characters I had all but forgotten about. After a while, it seemed to me that this show was more about poking fun at themselves and basically having a big-ass reunion party than putting on a longer version of their weekly show and it was fine by me. It was a show for those who made the show, and after forty years, they absolutely deserved a little bit of celebrating fun.

And if you needed more proof that the whole shindig as something just for them, look no further than the "In Memoriam" part of the ceremony. Not only did they include those who graced the silver screen (John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chris Farley, etc) but those who we never saw as well. I was surprised to see they paid tribute to crew members who have passed, from prop makers to wardrobe to camera operators, and even more surprising was that the applause and "awws" from the audience filled with SNL alum during those moments rivaled those of the long gone cast members. Unlike the Oscars where there'd be silence when a set designer or writer was remembered, those in the SNL family gave as much respect and remembrance to those behind the camera as those in front of it. The general public may not have cared who those people were, but the people in the audience did, giving as many cheers to a camera operator and cue card holder as they did to Andy Kaufman and John Belushi.

And as the show winded down, they revisited a skit that I had loved as a child but haven't seen in over two decades: Wayne's World.

There they were, Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey sitting on the couch, looking like they hadn't aged a day (mostly).

If you didn't see it, here's their contribution the show:

This was probably my favorite moment in the hours long broadcast. Not only was it a tribute to the crew, but it was done in a way that meant something. It wasn't a cheesy, token, thirty second montage of crew photos and clips. It wasn't a brief speech at the end that no one could hear over the music as the credits rolled ("Thanks to the cast and crew for the last 40 years! Goodnight everybody!"). And they didn't bury it somewhere in the middle of the Top Ten List either (they could have easily put it somewhere below "Lorne Michaels"). Instead, they put the crew first and at the top (which is more than I can say for any show I've worked on), turning the skit done by a popular, iconic duo into something that truly honored those who made the show possible but are never seen, and gave them a moment in the spot light.

At the end of it, Meyers/Wayne and Carvey/Garth did their classic "We're not worthy" bit in respect to those who are on the crew, but in my opinion, nothing is more worthy than that.

Monday, February 2, 2015

I'm Surrounded By Work.

It's finally Saturday and my first chance to sleep in for what seemed like ages.

By the time I pull myself out of bed, I ponder the pros and cons of eating a late breakfast or if I should hold off a bit and eat an early lunch.

I decide to settle for the latter, but make myself a cup of coffee. As I'm setting my mug down and move a pile of duvetyne aside so I have a place to sit, I look around my messier than usual apartment. Not having a decent amount of time off in what seems like eons has led to things piling up in my humble abode and it hits me that I am now literally surrounded by work.

My entryway is littered with work boots, waterproof shoes, and other footwear I only wear on set. My kitchen sink is filled with coffee stained travel mugs that I sip from on my way to work while a substantial collection of snacks I "liberated" from the crafty table hogs the counter. The dining area is currently home to a slew of light bulbs, ratchet straps, gels and other expendables I've acquired from shows that have wrapped but haven't found a storage spot for yet. My coffee table houses an unofficial collection of Sharpies and Marks-A-Lots and C-47s that I forgot were in my pocket until I sat down on my couch after a long day. The couch itself has a pile of industry related newsletters and magazines on one of its cushions and next to my DVD player is a collection of projects I worked on by haven't had the time to check out.

And my bedroom is no better. I have a laundry basket full of clean clothes for work (honestly, I've been procrastinating on putting the clothes away since I know it'll be empty again in a few days as I pull things out of it every morning. I know, I know.) and my hamper is overflowing with dirty ones. My desk holds piles of accumulated business cards, pay stubs, and carbon copies of time cards. More forgotten C-47s pulled from pockets and a bottle of water from craft service sits on my nightstand. The jeans and shirt I wore to work last night (that I really should toss in the hamper) lies in a crumpled pile on my bathroom counter while an (oversized) crew jacket is draped over the back of my chair.

Even my car isn't immune to the take-over. My work bag and rain gear fill my back trunk while my passenger seat could be mistaken for a shrine to old callsheets, lot passes and production maps.

It seems like these days, I'm surrounded by work no matter where I go. Most of the time, I'm either at work or at home where it looks like a work bomb exploded. The rare occasion I have the time to venture out and see friends, it's usually spent hanging out with someone I met while working... And the topic of conversation inevitably leads back to work (not that I mind*).

The only time I can recall not being within reach of anything work related was when I was at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago. And now that I think about it, I bought a couple frozen meals during that trip for the rare occasion where I actually get home from set early enough to eat dinner.

I love what I do for a living so it's no surprise that so much of my life and space is taken over by it. But am I the only one that lives like this? Is there any other industry out there where it's so easy to be consumed by it?

* 1) I've been so busy lately anyway that if I couldn't talk about work, I'd kind of have nothing to to say. I basically have no personal life until the slow season starts. 2) These get togethers often turn into bitchfests about the current or previous shows we were on because we certainly can't vent to our current co-workers for obvious reasons. It's kind of like a support group. 3) They're often a great networking opportunity and you learn who's on what show, where and for how long. Not to mention your showbusiness friends will know if/when you're available should they hear of anything.
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