Sunday, December 23, 2018


Oh man... What to say about this year.

I've had my ups and downs this year. I've had a couple of health issues and scares. I've had family members with their own health issues and scares.

I've had days where I'm just overwhelmed with everything. Some days, things would just pile on one after another with nothing getting resolved.

I miss friends who aren't here anymore. I miss the friends I've sadly lost touch with. I miss the friends I'm too busy to see and who are too busy to see me.

I turned down jobs on shows I love and I turned down jobs with people I love even more.

I fell behind on posts for this blog.

I've been rejected, poked at, bad mouthed, lied to, mocked and disregarded.

But some good things happened this year, too.

I met some really cool people on my shows. I learned that not all actors segregate themselves from the crew. Some co-workers became friends. Some became more than friends. Some became... I dunno what.

I learned that I can survive things. That if I just focus on the task at hand and not on what the outcome may be, things seem a little more manageable and a little less scary. I've learned to take things one step at a time.

I've learned that some friendships can transcend distance. Things may not be the same between you and them anymore, but true friendships can hold strong. And it'll make those times when you do see them so much better. And it'll make you miss them that much more when they leave again.

But missing them is a good thing. As is heartache. And frustration. And pain. It's what makes you part of the living, instead of mindlessly going through the motions. It's what makes you understand art and music and poetry and writing. It's what makes you understand why Ariana Grande is more than just a pop star* with a short-lived engagement.

I've taken jobs I didn't want to take, and have grown so much from them. I stepped down from a high position to take a lower one, and in turn, I was given the opportunity to step up to an even higher one. And damn it, I rocked it. I learned that I'm good at what I do. Like, really good. (And if I'm not, I at least can put up a pretty convincing illusion!)

I also discovered I can hold my own. When it comes down to things that matter, I'm slowly learning how to stand up for myself. As I get older, I find myself less willing to put up with bullshit. So fuck off, Alphas. I'm not going to be pushed around anymore.

I feel like I'm usually pretty open to trying new things, but this year might've been more about self discovery. I've climbed mountains on my own. I went to shows on my own. I've had some pretty fantastic meals on my own. I learned that I can be on my own and be just fine. I like myself. I mean, I'm a pretty fucking fantastic person.

I also learned that just because I like being on my own doesn't mean I'm rejecting the idea of finding someone. It means that I haven't found the right person. And that's okay.

2018 has felt both long and short at the same time. I can't wait to see what 2019 has in store for me, but part of me doesn't want to let 2018 go just yet either. Or maybe that's another lesson here: I need to learn when to let something go.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and here's to a Fucking Fantastic 2019!

*Seriously. Watch it.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Seen At A Rental House Restroom.

Yeah, something tells me they don't get a whole lot of women in here.*

*Nor, apparently, do they expect any anytime soon.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Just. Fucking. Help.

I'm struggling to get a cart on the gate. Meanwhile, my colleague is just standing there, watching.
"Hey, can you give me a hand with this?" I ask, unable to get this behemoth of an HMi cart up on to the gate of our truck (which is parked on the wrong side of the hill, by the way).

"No. I've worked with a lot of proud women and they always refuse help."
"They always want to do it on their own. They get offended if I help them."
"Okaaaay... but I'm asking for your help on this one."

He rolls his eyes and helps me push the cart on to the truck.

Flash forward to another show.

I'm having trouble pushing a cart up a hill. A guy stands on the sidewalk, watching me with a cup of coffee in his hand.
"I'd help you out," he shouts at me, "but I believe in equal opportunity!"

Um... WHAT?

Can someone please explain to me how watching me struggle when you'd gladly help a male colleague in my situation is considered "equal opportunity,"?? It's like slamming the door in a woman's face after you go through it because they might get insulted if you hold the door open for them.

I hold the door open for whoever is behind me. I help whoever needs help. It's called being a human being. It doesn't matter if the're male or female. It doesn't matter if they can inch that entire cart up the hill. It's easier with help. It's better with help. Fuck you if you consciously choose not to help someone who is struggling and is ASKING for help.

Every day I see guys asking other guys for help lifting, carrying and pushing things. Not once have I heard them be refused. But somehow, helping me is sexist. "Equal opportunity" my ass.

Sunday, October 28, 2018


Milestones are often kept by years. 16 years passed before I got my license. 18 when I graduated high school. College when I was 22. First drink at 21*. First crush at 5. First love at 17.

And that's how I kept time for the first twenty-something years of my life. Time, and my life's moments, were marked by the number of rotations the Earth made around the Sun.

But lately, I find myself keeping time not to years, but to my jobs.

I can tell you when I had the long, lengthy locks I've had most of my life chopped off. It was right before that God-awful movie of the week that was shot in Long Beach. I remember the short strands blowing around my face as I walked through the parking lot into the rental house.

I can tell you when I totaled my car. It was when I was working on a T.V. show out in Burbank. The one that barely aired, but the crew was cool. They'd let me sneak out whenever I needed to call my insurance company.

My first yoga class was during pilot season. My phone had half a dozen missed calls about work when I got out.

I was on a pilot when I discovered I had to see a specialist for an underlying medical condition. I skipped the last day of shooting because that was the only appointment I could get for months.

I was on that show in the Valley when my Dad found an organ donor. The guys covered for me when I went to go see him.

There was a show I worked on that took place in Malibu. They'd park our trucks right by the ocean and I was staring out at the gorgeous view of the sand and water when I my friend called me to tell me he has cancer.

I was carpooling with the Gaffer on another show when I found out he had passed. (And I still miss him every day.)

I can tell you exactly how long ago these moments in my life happened, not by dates, but by shows. I don't keep track of years, but seasons. Season 5 is when I became the best boy of a show that actually aired on T.V. Season 2 of another one is when I quit working for a toxic Gaffer. And Season 4 of another is when I tried my own hand at gaffing.

During my first pilot season, I worked for legendary gaffer that had done some of my childhood favorites.

My third pilot season is when I met the gaffer I still work with to this day.

Time for most people is marked by days, months and years. Mine is marked by crews, shows, and the way my life changes with them.

*That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Fuck You, Friend.

I'm lazily scrolling through my phone when I get a text from a friend of mine. We met on a pilot a few years ago and work together often. Only now he was Rigging Gaffer on a show while I'm browsing the Internet on my couch on a Wednesday.

"Hey, A.J.!," he texts, "Do you wanna come in and work with us tomorrow and Friday? It's location rigging, but don't worry. I'll put you on fixture duty and have the guys do the heavy cable."

I stare at it for a good long while. Could I use the work? Sure. If he had left out the last two sentences, I wouldn't even be hesitating. But he did and I am.

Do I love rigging? Not particularly. My threshold for wrangling cable is about a week before my (still relatively young) back hurts. Hanging lights isn't fun for me either because you're usually either doing acrobatics on the top step of a ladder to get the light where you want or you're stuck in a tiny lift with about a dozen lights on stirrups hanging off of it and I'm a terrible driver.

But rigging is a good work out and I actually don't mind it every once in a while, especially if the crew is full of good people.

Fixture work is also part of rigging and usually involves sitting in a chair for while, wiring things up and putting things together before you crawl around the set, hooking things up. Despite the crawling on the ground, it's easier on your body than laying down a cable run.

And while I appreciated the thought of giving me an easier assignment, I also felt insulted by it. Having "the guys" do the heavy cable implies that I can't handle it. And further more, it implies to them that I can't. If I took the call, I know I'd get stares from the other guys who'd wonder why the new day player got the easy job while they're breaking their backs with the cable. They'd see favoritism and that, my friends, is how the rumors start continue.

I also can't tell him to put me on cable duty because I'm not going to volunteer to do it just to prove a point. I'd be different if he was going to put me on the heavy stuff to begin with. I'd totally be down with that. But even guys who could bench press my weight with one hand would get out of running cable if they could and I'm not about to insist that I'll carry cable that weighs almost as much as I do.

So I turn decline my friend's offer with a simple lie of saying I'm unavailable that day. It's the first time I've had to turn down work based on principle. It wouldn't be fair to me or the other guys if I showed up to take the easy day.

(And not gonna lie, his text had me reevaluating our friendship.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Who's Got The Dirtier Mouth?

"Hey Honey, want to work this week? It's for [Movie that I've actually heard of for a not too bad rate.]"

I rolled my eyes at the text on my phone. Did I want to work this week? Yes. Do I want to keep up the contact and say I've worked on a show that people might actually see? Yes. Do I particularly want to work for someone who calls me "Honey"? Not particularly, but it's two out of three and being a woman in this business means you have to pick your battles, so I reply, "Sure!"

"Great! I've never had a Show Pony* like you working for me before! It'll be fun bossing you around. LOL."

I roll my eyes at the obnoxiousness of his texts. It's just for a few days. It's a good show. It's good money. And as derogatory as his pet names for me might be, he's higher up in the food chain than I am and I need to be on his good side.

I meet him at the stage the next day to put in new rig for a prison set that was just built and had to endure comments like, "Too bad this isn't a working prison. It'd be fun to watch what happens with a girl like you walking the halls," and "You do know how to lay cable, right? I mean, you've been a Gaffer's toy for a while."

The only thing I could do in response was laugh at his comments and play it like it was a funny joke. Like I said, he landed good jobs and I need the contact. Or at least to stay on his good side since I know people turn to him all the time for recommendations on who to hire. So I grin and bear it until he says, "Hey Princess. It's time for a coffee break. Come sit with us while you file your nails."

I like the other guys he brought in today and haven't seen them in a little while, so instead of pretending to make a few phone calls to get away from him, I follow him to the cooler where everyone else is hanging out and shoot the shit and catch up.

The conversation soon turns to other women we know in this business and someone mentions a friend of mine.

"Ugh," grunts my boss at the sound of her name.
"What?" I ask.
"I'll never hire her."
"Why not?"
"She's got a mouth like a sailor. All the swearing and cussing she does? No thank you."

I stare at him in disbelief. Really?? Out of all the reasons not to hire someone (like being unsafe, unable to follow instructions, always late, always on the phone, just plain stupid, etc.) SWEARING is where he draws the line?? Has he met literally anyone else in this business? It'd be weird if a co-worker didn't drop an f-bomb every once in a while.

Besides, knowing my friend, she only really uses swear words when she's pissed off at something. It's not like every other word out of her mouth needs to be bleeped and I've never heard her say anything derogatory, racist, or hateful. Just the standard four letter words with the occasional "mother" in the beginning with an "er" at the end. Nothing I haven't heard before from pretty much everyone else we work with.

"Anyway, Sweetie. Break time's over. Get back to work!"

Yeah, it's her language that's offensive. Sure.

* Show Pony is what the rigging crew will sometimes refer to a First Unit lamp operator as. It's not exactly a compliment. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

"Lessons From A Vacuum Cleaner."

Way back when I was just starting out, I joined The Freelancer's Union. While it's not exactly geared towards our industry, they do offer things like health insurance, various discounts, a database of deadbeat companies who don't pay up and countless articles on taxes, networking, saving for retirement, how to get paid, etc. If you're not in a union but want the support of one, it's worth checking out (and it's free!).

Anyway, while I don't really take advantage of all the great things they offer, I do occasionally read the weekly newsletter/e-mail they send out, and this week's contained an article that I definitely think is worth reading.

While it's about a vacuum cleaner, this well written story spoke to me on many levels. If you read it and don't understand how it pertains to us in this industry, then maybe you just need a few more tools in your tool box. ;)

Read it here:
Lesson's From A Vacuum Cleaner.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Of Course...

On the Tech Scout*
Me: "There's a pool here. We should order GFCIs."
Everyone else: "No, they're expensive! And there's no scene where we're actually in the pool."

After the Scout, talking with the Gaffer - 
Me: "I know there's no scene in the pool, but are we setting lights near it? It is, after all, close to those big patio doors you want to light."
Him: "No. We won't have lights anywhere near the pool."

During the Production Meeting**
Director: "There's a pool at the house, but we'll just be by it. No one actually goes in it."
Writer: "There's no scene where anyone gets in the pool."
Locations: "We didn't get permission to use their pool."
Production: "No one goes in the pool."

When I'm putting together an equipment list:
Me: "Are you sure we shouldn't get any GFCIs?"
Gaffer: "No, we're good without them. We're not putting anything by the pool. There's no scene in the pool. No actors are in the water. No need for GFCIs."

After the budget is locked and equipment is loaded and we start shooting the next day:
Me: Sees new script is out. I take a look. New scene is added. Yup, actors are now in a pool. "Sigh..." 

* Tech Scout is where department heads and/or their assistants visit the locations with a Director, ADs and Production ahead of shooting to see what needs to be changed, what equipment to order, etc. Basically so we're not going in blind the day of.

** Meeting with department heads (and/or their reps) and Production after the scout so we can all talk about who needs what for what day from what department so we're all on the same page. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018


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.?"

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:

"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


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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