Saturday, April 14, 2018


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.


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.
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