Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Thursday, July 18, 2019

This Is Why We're All Doomed.

Actual photo of our background from the other night.

It started out as a rather nice evening for our night exterior. The weather was warm enough that you didn't need a jacket, yet cool enough that you weren't sweating. The sun hadn't totally set yet when the company moved outdoors, giving us enough time to set up our staging area and a few lights before we really needed them.

Thankfully, we had a lighting balloon scheduled for the night, making out workload that much easier.

Balloon lights are magical things. They come in all shapes and sizes, they can light the middle of the set without having to hide a stand (just the occasional tie line that that keeps it from floating away), they come with their own operator/tech so other than running them power, you pretty much don't have to do anything with them, and since they're their own thing, we don't think twice about leaving them up at the end of the night as a giant, soft work light during wrap (okay, this part, I do feel a little bad about... But not bad enough to stop taking advantage of it. Sorry!).

An example of a helium filled balloon light at work.

Our balloon light was already set up and in position by the time we moved outside and our tech was tying down the last of the support lines to a pipe running along the side of a building. Everything seemed to going smoothly. But as the night wore on, the wind picked up...

So the thing about giant balloons, as you can imagine, is that they don't do particularly well in the wind. At some point, even a light breeze can turn even the smallest of these things into a sail, slamming it every which way, and it becomes unsafe to fly. And we were well past the light breeze.

"What do you think, Balloon Tech?," our Gaffer asked over the radio as he watched the balloon bob and sway in the wind, "Do you think keeping you up is a good idea, or should we bring it down?"

"Well, I wouldn't exactly call keeping this thing flying a good idea, but it's holding okay for now," replies our Tech. "We can keep going and see if the weather gets worse."

"10-4, sounds like a good plan." While he would've pulled the trigger without hesitation, our Gaffer is obviously relieved to get the okay to keep using the balloon. Plan B for our lighting set up would've involved more work on our end for not as good of a result, not to mention stopping production for several minutes to do so. Plus, it's always a painful conversation with the UPM about why they're paying a lot of money for a piece of equipment we can't even use.

So we continue on with the shoot, and other than the occasional jostle by the wind, our balloon keeps floating on with the Balloon Tech trying her best to steady it.

Another thing to note about balloon lights is the way they're tied down. There's usually three or more tie lines coming from them depending on their size, so they can be anchored. And obviously, it's best to spread the points out so the wind can't tug it too far in any particular direction. But while the tie lines are great for keeping the balloon from going left, right and up, unless you can position the lines to be perpendicular from the balloon (which in this case not gonna happen as it's 30+ feet up in the air), there's not a whole lot keeping the balloon from going down, other than the helium itself. So the system usually works... Unless it's windy. Which, in case you forgot, it was.

A few minutes later, I'm over at staging when I look over at the balloon just as a huge, down gust of wind hits it and pushes the thing right towards a herd of background that are standing directly underneath it! 

Just before it could do any damage though, our Balloon Tech weaves through the crowd and manages to keep the balloon from smacking down on anyone. A second later, the swell lets up and the Tech releases her hold on the balloon, sending it back up again and we resume shooting. I walk over to see if the Tech needs a hand.

"No, I got it. But thanks," the Tech says and she re-ties a line while shaking her head in disbelief.

"Is everything okay?" I ask. "That was a close one."

"Yeah, it's just..." she looks around and her voice lowers, "People can be so stupid. You saw what just happened, right?"

"Yup. The balloon was coming down and you saved it before any damage was done or anyone got hit by it."

"But I almost didn't get to it fast enough because everyone was in the way and not moving. I mean, a giant ball of light comes speeding at them from the sky and all they could do is STAND STILL. AND STARE AT IT." She shakes her head again. "I mean, seriously? Two dozen people and not one of them moves out of the way. They're all idiots!"

"Well," I quip, "isn't that how the dinosaurs became extinct?"

"Ha. Ha," she deadpans with a slight smirk on her face.

The winds died down towards the end of the night with thankfully, no more near incidents. But the event from earlier on in the evening stuck in my mind. A ball of light comes hurtling out of the sky and no one moves out of its path. Basic survival instinct doesn't seem to exist. If Darwinism came in to play, no one would have survived. The general population is stupider than I originally thought (and that's saying something).

We, as a civilization, are all doomed.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Sorry, I Can't Stay.

I loved it here.

After spending a grueling three months on a show, I was back on the day playing market and couldn't be happier.

The first on my call list was a crew I've known for several years now. No matter how long I've been apart from these guys, they always welcome me back with big smiles and family style hugs.

And since they usually worked with the same production company, the whole crew would welcome me back with open arms as well, from the camera guys to the stand-ins to crafty. Even the Producers would give me a smile and a nod whenever I returned.

It was always easy to fall into a good work rhythm with these guys. They had a system down and it was like clockwork; when it came time to light the set, everyone had their purpose, and they did it in the most efficient manner. And yet, despite them working like a finely tuned military operation, I always found a way to contribute. Even as just a day player, I was one of the team.

And everyone got along really well, which can be a rare find. There was never any drama between anyone and when outside forces came knockin', everyone had each other's backs, whether it be emotional support or a physical one.

These guys were great. My favorite team to work with. I love them and whenever I'm on another show, I can't wait to work with them again.

But 100% of the time, if given the opportunity to work on another crew, I'd leave them in a heartbeat.

To me, this crew represents comfort and family and stability. I can always predict the hours because of the way production likes to run things. I can predict which lights will be called for and how they will be used because that's their style of lighting. I know I won't have to touch anything more than a piece of 2/0 because 4/0 is just unheard of around here. It's a great place to just come in, do your work, and clock out. No muss. No fuss. No challenge.

Me? I need the challenge. I need the hardships. The long hours. I need the (occasional) idiot on the crew that makes it harder on everyone sometimes. I (very occasionally) need the workouts that only 4/0 can provide. I need the curve ball lighting challenge that forces me to solve a problem creatively. I need the parade of DPs and Gaffers that make me look at things in a new way and think outside of the box.

I need the challenges, being uncomfortable, and the unfamiliarity. I feel like I still have, and need, room to grow and while everything is always great with these guys, it feels like something is missing here. There's a whole lot for me to learn in this business still and while these guys are industry vets in their own right, this isn't the place for me to learn it.

Home is a great place to come back to. Home is where they welcome you with open arms, whether you've been gone for two weeks or two years. Home is where you go when you need a break from the world. It's where you leave to find yourself. It's where you leave to become yourself.

These people are my family. My home. I love them. But I can't stay here.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License .