Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hitting Pause.

I've been busy. Extremely busy.
I was just starting a four week long show during one of the busiest times of the year.
And then a family issue arose.
And shortly after that, a medical issue reared its ugly head.

All the while, I kept on truckin' on set, doing my job as best as I could. I couldn't take any time off work now. Not when the getting was so good. And not when I could use the distraction. I kept telling myself that I'd have plenty of time to deal with things later. That the issues that haunt me will still be there after show is over and the truck is wrapped. But right now, I needed the job, the work, that fed my wallet as well as my soul.

Now the show's over, and I must deal with the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head for the past few weeks. As well as the stuff that life's made of, like the never ending piles of dirty dishes and laundry and unpaid bills. And the occasional job. Needless to say, it can all get a little overwhelming.

So as I overcome these mental, professional, and household obstacles, there may be a slight pause in my posts here. I've tried to put together some decent pieces these past few weeks, but it's hard to be inspired when your mind is elsewhere.

I'll try my best to get back to making this blog worth reading again soon, but until then, please enjoy this video I found of a hedgehog getting a bath:

Also, my thoughts go out to those who are affected by what happened in Boston... Which, come to think of it, is all of us.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Blinded By The Light.

"Hey guys," the Gaffer's voice came over the radio. "We're getting some complaints from people about being blinded when we turn on the lights. Can we please try to remember to call it out when we're hitting the switch? Thank you."

His very pleasantly phrased criticism didn't surprise me. I was more than halfway through the day on this new-to-me crew and I noticed early on that the other lamp ops almost never called out "Striking!" or "Watch your eyes!" before they turned on a light they just set.* I guess we've just been so busy that none of the guys thought anything of it. Besides, anyone who's been on set for a while (and I mean, on set. Not watching from the safe confines of video village.) knows not to look directly at a light right after it's been put down and plugged in. Of course we're going to turn it on. It's not like we're putting them on set because we thought the lamps could use a change of scenery.

Anyway, we acknowledge the note and got back to business as usual. A few minutes later, I bring a blonde in and aim it at the set as instructed. I plug it in and right before I hit the switch, I belt out a hearty and courteous "Striking! Watch your eyes!"

To my surprise** almost everyone on the set looked over just as I snapped on the 2K light; blinding them all in what was essentially a pretty dark room.

Sigh. I shook my head. Announcing you're going to turn on a light is like walking into a room and telling people not to look. Of course everyone's going to look! And then half of them realize what a stupid mistake they just made as they blink furiously in an attempt to regain their vision, while the other half complains to the Gaffer that they keep getting blinded.

You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.


* We're supposed to call out a warning as a courtesy so people can look away instead of being blinded by the light.

** Not really. This happens way more than you'd think.

Okay, so there are a few ways around this:

1) You could give a slight pause between the warning and flipping the switch. People will still look over at you, but hopefully they'll realize what's about to happen and quickly look away.

2) If possible, turn on the light with the barn doors closed and open the leaves one by one so the light doesn't hit people all at once. (Note: Some Gaffers will hate this and some colleagues will think you're an idiot who forgets to check the barn doors before turning on a light.) Alternatively, if the light's small enough, you could put your own hand in front of it and remove it once it's on.

3) Specifically warn the person who's in your line of fire ("Hey Samantha. Close your eyes/look away because I'm about to turn on this light."). But that's a kind of time consuming and harder for a new dayplayer to do if he/she doesn't know everyone yet.

4) Some Gaffers will let you wait (or even prefer) until the Grips throw some diffusion in front of the light before you turn it on to soften the blinding. However, some Gaffers don't like having anything in front of the light at all before they get a chance to focus it in.

5) Just blind them. They'll eventually learn to look away before it's too late.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

You Don't Know Everything.

The show I'm on doesn't have a permanent home during shooting, so we mostly shoot on location with a few days here and there on borrowed stages. On this particular week, we're borrowing a few sets from another show that isn't using it for a few days. However, to keep us from totally destroying it and/or running around with our heads cut off not knowing where anything is, we have a guy from the other show "babysitting" us for the duration of our stay.

While under normal circumstances, he's probably a pretty friendly guy, he didn't seem too keen on having us around. For one thing, the average age of our crew was much younger than he is, and I have a feeling he stepped into this gig with a little prejudice; thinking that we didn't know what we were doing and would cause him headaches down the road. That said, it probably didn't help that our crew consisted of a few sloppy electricians who left uncoiled stingers everywhere and didn't bring lights back to staging when they were done.

Anyway, the Older Guy seemed to grow more and more disgruntled as the week wore on. I tried to tidy up and organize the gear the best that I could, but seeing as how I was the dimmer board op on this show, I couldn't stray too far away from my station. Plus, everyone else seemed to be okay with the lack of an organizational system, so I let it go. After all, they were working the floor; not me.

On the last day we were there, the Older Guy seemed to just about had it. He was tossing around scrims and muttering about how we were mixing them up and not keeping them with the proper lights, and was just basically bitching about how unprofessional we were. Which, granted, was true at this point. I was embarrassed to be associated with a crew who seemed to have no problems working in a pig sty.

But what left me flabbergasted about his rant was that he was making it while he was re-globing a light... With his bare hands. And he didn't even wipe it down afterwards! Instead, he put it back into the assortment of working lights at our staging.

One of the very first things I learned when I started in this business was that if you touch a globe with your bare hands, you need to clean it (usually with an alcohol wipe) before turning the sucker on. Reason being that the oils on your hands will leave a residue on the bulb, and when that light heats up, the oil will cause the bulb to bubble and break like so:

On the top two globes, you can clearly see how they were grabbed.

So it amused and horrified me very much that this man, who holds himself in much higher regard than the rest of us, and has probably been in this business longer than all the working years of my colleagues and I combined, bitched about us being so "unprofessional" while he was committing a cardinal sin of lamp opping himself.

And since he has so many more years under his belt than the rest of us, I wondered how many times he's globed up a light without cleaning it afterwards in the decades he's been a juicer.

I thought about bringing this up to him, but decided against it. We were a guest on his stage and leaving a bad taste in his mouth as it is. It probably wouldn't do much good to have a young whippersnapper like me best him on something so basic as putting a globe in a light.

As the saying goes, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Especially one as bitter as this guy.


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