Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Is there a heaven for a grip?

I could get used to this.

The first day as a rigging electric on the big budget romantic comedy with the A-list starlet. We showed up at the stage, waited an hour for a truck to show up. Then we went to breakfast. Came back to the stage. No truck. We wait another hour, build some shelves and then went to lunch. Its probably become apparent that food is important to me, so I like the direction we're going in. After lunch, Mark and I, having been left to wait for a truck were not sure really exist are told it will not arrive until the end of the day. We decided to go to the mall. Its a little known fact that a lot of technicians are shop-aholics, and Mark and I are no exception. I purchased a spiffy new pair of hikers. If your going to do this job, your going to spend a lot of time on your feet. The shoes are important. Mark went off the deep end and bought the new macbook pro he's had his eye on for a while. Nice. The truck finally arrived at 5pm. we put in 2 solid hours of work and called it a day. Electrics work at a different pace than grips and we try to avoid carrying heavy stuff. I'm much more philosophically aligned with this way of doing things. I'm not totally trying to avoid hard work. But I'm not trying to kill myself either. I'm really looking forward to being an everyday electric for the next 9 weeks as well as going forward. I'm not totally ready to declare myself retired from gripping like Mark is. You never know what the future holds. But this is they way I see my career going, and I hope it continues.

I do forsee a "grip problem". The rigging grips on the shows are my boys. Guys I've worked with a lot. They are all awesome guys, but they are going to ride me hard. To them I am the greatest disappointment. A legitimate grip turned "maggot" (popular grip term for electrics, because they cluster to cable like a ...). Seriously, theres a lot of love between me and those guys. But practical jokes are very popular on a film set and I'd be wise to watch my back at all times.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Week In Review

Last day on the Mega-Movie. Starting the new job on Tuesday. Wish I had at least one day off in-between jobs, but that's the way it goes in the freelance world. 3 days off in a row certainly will help ease the pain. I am a little bit torn about leaving the big show, for a somewhat less big show. But its important for me to remember the days when working on movies that people actually saw in theaters seemed so far away. Its also important to remember why I'm taking the other job. Hopefully it will serve as the foundation for spending the rest(bulk) of my career as an electric. I love my grip brothers, and I have total respect for the many facets that make up the grip world. But in my heart of hearts, I know this is the way to go. Sometimes when I'm working as an electric, I feel like a rock star. Sometimes when I'm working as a grip, I feel like a punching bag.

I fear jinxing myself before the last day on the mega-movie. But its probably the best time to look at the things I'll miss and won't miss.


The big adventure - I got into this business to work on the biggest movies with the directors and DPs that inspired me. This is that. Maybe because I have already worked on a feature for this director(one of the direct reasons that I love movies and that I am here), it makes the decision a little bit easier. I hate to admit this, but I'll also miss the big death-defying stuff we pull off(most of the time) on this movie. I'm not sure I'll miss doing it, but I think I'll miss surviving it. Maybe there is a little cowboy in me.

The core crew - The core, permanent crew here is awesome. Scott, Andrew, Tom and Billy are true pros of the big show. Every day so far on this show they face adversity with a smile and class. They are great guys and I'll miss being on the team. I can only imagine what I'd learn from them over the run of the show. Hopefully Tobias will slide into the spot I'm leaving and it will continue to be all good. Fight on Brothers!

The Money - Brotha was gettin' paid on the big show. All the overtime, the forced calls and the meal penalties really paid off. This past week I took home more money in the film business than ever before. Next week should be even better. The next job should pay like a normal rigging job. Good, but not like this.

The food - The food on this movie is off the hook. The meals(when allowed) are fantastic, restaurant quality and served by the nicest people. The craft service is a delight too. Great snacks and Kashi Bars! I personally believe for the crew experience, these things are vitally important. it can really help you get through the day. The catering and craft service on this movie are 4 star, top of the line. The standard has been set.

The cute PAs - Look, I have a girlfriend, I'm very happy and I'd like to keep it that way. But DAMN. Like craft service, it can really make your day a little better.

The mole - I never did catch that spy. I couldn't get anyone to take me seriously either. I'll catch you yet.


The feeling that I might die or be seriously hurt - I just couldn't escape it. The rigging grip department on this movie is into some big dangerous stuff. And I did every single thing that was asked of me. The condors, the death sails, which we have not seen the last of, and the death cube. You can definitely get hurt messing with this stuff. I might miss the challenge of doing things not everyone would do, but I definitely won't miss the risk or the consequence. I've already survived one nasty accident doing this stuff. I just don't think I'm that lucky.

The long hours and the missed meals - A new grip came on the job the other day and asked another grip who had been on the job a couple of weeks for the skinny on the gig. When the grip described the crazy hours, the forced calls and the meal penalties. The new grip, a veteran in the local, was in disbelief. " In rigging?" he said while picking his jaw up off the ground. The reason you want to rig after doing this for a while is the stability. You usually work a fixed amount of hours, rarely miss meals, and can usually tell your loved ones with reasonable certainty when you'll be home. You make a little less money, and your not the hero like the guys on the shooting crew. But if quality of life is important to you than rigging is your best shot. This film has been very different in that way.

The "off-market rigger" problem - As mentioned in previous posts, the crew got a lot bigger after a week or so. For the most part this has been a good thing. We have added some veteran film people, a couple of young, hungry ones, as well as some longtime rock and roll stagehand guys whose experience with rigging truss, especially up in the air has proven invaluable. But there is one disturbing side effect to the recent boom in big budget feature film making, the "off-market dudes". These are guys with zero experience who get hired simply because there are more jobs right now than trained locals to fill them. This to me seems like an excellent opportunity to get into a largely respectable field that pays pretty well, without the pain of paying your dues on the $100 a day circuit for the same kind of backbreaking work and even more soulcrushing hours. What do these clowns do. Nothing. Literally. They don't get it, won't get it, and probably still wouldn't get it if it fell on them like a death sail that failed because of one of their bullshit knots. There 4 of these clowns on the crew.
THE TOOL-LESS WONDER: ok, so get a chance to work on a movie and its something you seem to want to do and the first day or two you get your ass kicked by all the things you have to learn to make it in this business. Happens to everyone. What do you do? You watch what the pros do, go home and tool up. The gear matters and if you buy a couple of basic tools and try make up for what you don't know in hustle and awareness, you'll likely be alright. Not this fool. He's on for a week, no tools. Gets fired. comes back a week later, because its so busy out there and STILL HAS NO TOOLS! What? The sad part is, I like the kid. But GET SOME DAMN TOOLS!
MR. NO-KNOTS: This coconut also has a tool issue as well but his problem is considerably more dangerous. He seemingly refuses to or is truly incapable of learning the 3 or 4 basic knots that are essential for safe gripping. There is a lot of nepotism in this thing and he's here because he rents a place from someone who knows someone. Whatever. But for the love of god man take the time to learn the knots that may save you or some other grip a lot of pain. I wont miss the snarling, hopelessly tangled clumps of rope that passed for knots from this numbnuts. I can only imagine this will continue until someone teaches him the noose. Seriously, its a safety issue.
JOEY PENGUIN: I've mentioned the penguin before when he wasn't there for me when the death sail was about to drag me into the drink. And thats what he specializes in. Not being there for you. The other day I was pushing a very heavy cart up a hill on a gravel road when the penguin walked right by me.
"hey brother, can you give me a hand"
"waaah, I gotta go to da head, waaaah"(I think thats what he said)
So much for that whole fraternal order thing. It turned out someone from another department saw I was in trouble and helped me out. It was embarrassing. The penguin also has a horrible bawston accent and tells stories about getting blow jobs from hookers. Gross!
The tool thief - This dude is the lowest. Yeah, he went home and tooled up. WITH YOUR STUFF. This punk stole my $25 dollar gloves and the kept trying to steal them after I checked him on it. Unbelievable. When I finally pried them out of his thievin little mitts, I discovered they were all ripped up. Not even an apology. No Class!
I love this job and it is a time honored craft. It rubs me the wrong way when people come into this thing without paying dues and don't appreciate and respect the hard work of others before us and don't respect the great fortune of doing a job that can entertain and enlighten millions. Were lucky to do it. Respect it and protect it.

Ear infections - Riggers rarely wear walkies. they are usually unnecessary and unwanted. To wear an earpiece takes an act of congress. Of course, because of "Marty time", you have to rock both 24/7. I can't seem to keep mine clean enough and I always get ear infections. Yuch!

Warm hugs and firm sincere handshakes to peanut 80, joke, ncgirl, lighthouse and ladylipstick. Knowing that people are actually interested in this side of it is really having a positive affect on the way I view my job. Thanks.

The Joggers are the best rock band in America, really.

NCAA Tournament
East regional results:

Mount St. Mary's-74


Charlotte is not one of my favorite cities, but that could definitely change next weekend.

Have a great week.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Thats how I escaped my certain fate!


East Boston/Ipswich

Somebody got hurt today.

It was "Pop", one of 12 guys who came on the crew last week. I wasn't there. I was still in Eastie dismantling the death sail family in the rain sleet and snow on the dock. Even while being destroyed, the death sail family inflicted pain and misery upon everyone who came near it.
Apparently, Pop slipped on a large, slippery in the rain, piece of plastic called visqueen. It was installed by the special effects department for a rain gag that was to take place inside the tent we were building. He collided with the rails of the tent and went down hard. He broke his ankle in two places and will be out of work here or anywhere for at least 6 weeks. That is a bad deal for a freelancer. By the time we got to Ipswich, he had already been taken to the hospital. It was a freak accident, could have happen to anyone. I know. Two years ago, I was the luckiest man to ever fall 15 feet out of a catwalk. I was back working, in pain, 2 weeks later. I was really lucky. It does painfully underscore the fact that perhaps a movie, directed by a man who didn't even bother to thank the crew in any way during an Oscar winning acceptance speech is not worth risking your life.

Having mastered the Death Ship. We now have bigger fish to fry...


The Death cube is a VERY large tent built on one side of this mansion. Its purpose is to once again control lighting, but it also serves to contain a rain gag to make it look like its raining outside of a window. Its huge! 24x40x30. When the East Boston crew arrived in Ipswich, the Death cube was a skeleton made out of scaffolding. The final pieces, which were 30ft pieces of truss were being air lifted by crane and placed with the help of grip power on top of the cube. Working on that thing was hairy as hell. On the sides there were very slippery 2x12s to walk on. Yes, that's one foot wide travel area 24 feet up in the air in the pouring rain. I hated every moment of it. The vibe of Pop's unrelated accident was everywhere and every misstep or slightly too far reach gave my heart a slight stir. Maybe I worry too much but when darkness fell, I was worried. The talk amongst the crew, because we still do not get any reliable information before hand, was that we were going to work until 11pm. Holy Shit! We worked 7 hours in Eastie, getting our asses handed to us by the death sails, drive an hour and a half to Ipswich, where the guys there had been getting their asses kicked all day by the death cube, and now we have to work until 11? In the dark? In the rain? What The Fuck! Not content with one guy in the emergency room. These cowboys won't stop until they fill up the hospital. All the sudden, at 8:30 the word came to come down and get ready to call it a day. Thank god.

Because some of the crew lived within the bullshit 60 mile "as the crow flies" zone. The production refused to offer those of us housing. A courtesy that can easily be extended by a production of this size. As a result some of us would be forced to share rooms, an unacceptable option for union work and a playa such as myself. Luckily, Todd, a fellow grip, offered Mark and I the chance to use his family discount at slightly upscale hotel in nearby Peabody. We happily accepted and got to chill in a couple of very sweet suites, have a nice dinner and drinks at the hotel bar and sleep in super comfortable beds for minimal cost. And no one had to share rooms at the other place. I recommended Todd for the union recently and already its paying dividends. Seriously, with the exception of the failure to get online(shame on the hotel that doesn't offer wireless), it was a civilized end to a brutal day. Thanks brother.

out: 8pm

It's essentially my last day on this picture(at the 11th hour I was offered and took work on Monday which allows me to take full advantage of the holiday pay rules) and one thing I am definitely not trying to do today is mess with the death cube. Yet an hour into the day there I was, on top of the death cube in the rain putting the final touches on it. Again it sucked. Add to that, confusion, frustration and anger was apparent both on the ground and up in the air. Everybody was pissy. While up in the air, trying to avoid having anther accident, I started to wonder if I was an experienced enough technician for all the crazy shit we do. When it finally finished the day would get a lot easier except for the fact that I got got caught on the top of the death cube during "Marty Time"
"Marty Time" is anytime the director is on set. No matter what is happening, there is to be complete silence and all work is to stop. I was stranded up there for a half hour. At that point, I decided that I had to go for it. quietly negotiating my way down the death cube was a nightmare. The original path up the cube was now covered in waterproof cloth material and the Pop-killer visqueen. I had to make it up as I went along. I slowly, carefully had to navigate my decent down by moving all over the side of the cube. It was the climbing wall from hell. It was still raining outside the cube. I sometimes had to open sealed parts of the cube to make my way down, and then attempt to reseal them after I was through. It was now raining inside the cube, even harder. It took about 25 minutes to finally escape the death cube to disapproving and angry looks from the young production assistants whose jobs it is to keep everyone quiet during "Marty Time".
The rest of the day was considerably less stressful, albeit long. There were a few more trips up the death cube required. but it was OK. Although we missed the catered breakfast, lunch was fantastic. Chateau Briand and Alaskan king crab. The conversation was priceless.

"Alaskan king crab fishing. Isn't that the worlds most dangerous job?" - Bill, the rigging key
"Uh, I think this job is." - Scott, who happens to come from Alaska

"Gone with The Wind might have been the greatest grip achievement ever" Tom, the best boy
"what were you Tom, the best boy on that?" - Bill, the rigging key

The day ended nicely because we were informed that would indeed have the next day off because of the holiday. There was a collective huge sigh of relief.
My girlfriend was able to come out and spend the night at the swank suite, which we had reserved for another night again at minimal cost.

One more day(for now) on the mega-movie. I'm not volunteering for anything on Monday. The next movie is big too. but not this big. It should be considerably less dangerous.

The hands in the picture belong to Tobias. A fellow grip and all around sweet guy. They perfectly illustrated the physical demands of the job. In the afternoon, we suggested to the rest of the crew that we all participate in the traditional end of week dollar day drawing. Its 5 dollars to play and 3 plays for 11 dollars. We would put Pop's name on every dollar and hopefully we would win and kick the money over to Pop to help out in the recovery. It wasn't my idea but I thought it was really good one and wanted to help out. Tobias said I was "Humanitarian grip of the year".
In this business, its the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

The title of this post is also the title of a song by the great Mission of Burma. If you don't know, you better ask somebody.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Death From Above 2: Death Takes A Holiday

East Boston

"We'll make it safe next time"
-The rigging key grip

The headache ball started dropping from the crane at about 5:45am.

The first death sail of the day was in place by 6:30am.
then we went to breakfast. Breakfast, what's that?
Down about a block from where we are shooting is one of the most breathtaking views of the skyline that this city has to offer. It was an outstanding breakfast.

The entire Death sail family flew without incident. The death ship(70x40), the two death sail jr's(30x40 each) and the two baby death sails(20x30 each) all went up, flew and moved several times without a hitch. We flew 5400 square feet of death sail. Its amazing, when things go right, we actually look like we know what were doing. I must also add to yesterdays casualties was a walkie, currently residing in the bottom of the harbor. With the death sails seemingly working fine. I've turned my attention to a new issue.

We have a spy in our midst.

Thanks to peanut80, I was able to get an early look at an item in The Boston Herald about the death sail incident. In the piece they mentioned they have a spy on set. Someone's trying to steal my thunder. I will not rest until they are smoked out. Seems a little like an oscar winning movie I know.
I'm totally exhausted and can't go any further tonight. I promise better blogging tomorrow. And a picture. I'm just too wiped out.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Death From Above

East Boston

Today I completely lost enthusiasm for this project. Today was unlike any day I've ever had in this business. The stories from today will definitely have legs.

The day started at 4am. Which sucked. Then all efforts are put towards getting the 70ftx40ft frame ready to fly for crew call at 6. Even though breakfast was ready at 5:00. We were not allowed to sneak away for a quick bite to start the day. Its what every person in this business is entitled to, yet when Andrew realized there was a 20 minute gap between when the 70x40 was ready to fly and when the crane could get to it, he asked if there was a way to sneak people away for a quick bite in shifts on the walkie, he was met with management silence. Followed by a call for all hands to do something inconsequential. Anyway, the 70x40 starts to go up on a crane...

If you take a kite to a dock on the harbor, its going to fly, no matter what.
The wind was 17-20mph on the ground. In the air, it might have been 25.

There are 12 grips on the ground trying to control this thing but its tough. The 70x40 full of sea breeze is almost impossible to control. But we manage to get it into place and tie it off. As should be expected, the DP wanted to see the flag in a slightly different position. While moving it, an enormous gust of wind takes the 70x40 and snaps several of the tie lines, leaving one.
Mine. The rigging key, focussed only on positioning the death sail, does not see the disaster ensuing and only notices that my line is getting a lot of tension. He says to me into the walkie, "Ok, the tension is coming your way, so your doing most of the work now". At this point, the rope starts to pull me across the dock, quickly. For some reason, I realize, perhaps foolishly, that there is still plenty of rope on my line and if someone can tie it off quickly, maybe I and the 70x40 can be saved. I scream to the grip(holding a completely limp line) next to me to grab the line and tie it off. Instead of quickly acting, which I like to think I and many would have done. He starts to waddle around in a circle, sort of like a drunk penguin. For the second time on this show, I think I'm going to die. Then Christine, an actual quick thinking grip, grabs my line. But its too late, the line is dragging both of us into the drink. We let go in the nick of time and the death sail takes off. Spinning out of control from about 60 feet in the air it first slams into the crane. Then crashes into the boat full of crew members, now scrambling. Then punctures a huge storage container before nosediving into the Boston Harbor. The sounds this thing made upon impacting everything were unbelievable. The sight of hundreds trying to escape the death sail will stay with me for a while. Once in the water, The DP and key grip decide that they are not going to try and use the 70x40 today. The crane operator says he wont touch the death sail until we remove the flag. I was hoping it would sink to the bottom. The death sail rescue mission is pictured above.
The injuries are relatively minor, cuts, bruises, one black eye and the trauma of a grip who was standing 5 feet from where the death sail punctured the storage container. As we were regrouping, I happened to walk by the rigging key, who kinda looks like Randy"Macho Man" Savage from pro wrestling and Slim Jim commercials fame. He was completely high on some twisted adrenaline rush, practically beating his chest screaming "Yeah, now those fuckers see how dangerous our shit is, yeah!"
I am terrified of the rigging key.
Don't get me wrong, I signed on for this kind of adventure with both eyes open. I'll jump into the fire every time. In a way I love to do it. But I have a BIG PROBLEM with coming to work at 4 am on a very cold day to chase death if you don't even care that I have a little breakfast and some coffee to keep me warm and awake while I chase death. We were scheduled(6 hours after call, its in the contract!) to eat lunch at 10am. We got food at about 2pm, and that was after they tried to make us work while EVERYONE ELSE ate lunch. This is untenable. What do we do after lunch? Fly our other two big death sails in the same crazy manner.

we were told at the end of the day, that they were going to try the 70x40 again first thing tomorrow.
If we keep this shit up, someone's going to get seriously hurt.

My mama didn't raise no cowboys, no siree Bob!

Oh yeah,
ACC Tourney Final
UNC 86
Clemson 81

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Week In Review

3 weeks in the books. about 45 to go. This one is probably my last on the picture.

My girlfriend assured me that she is not going to dump me. This is a very difficult situation. I completely understand how she feels. I would probably feel the same way or worse. The work situation is going to get better after next week. But its not going to get that much better. She is a very sweet, understanding person. Unfortunately, this business asks a lot of us and even more of our loved ones. I wish I was working on a romantic comedy with lots of flowers that I could bring home every day.

We are finally done shooting Dachau and believe it or not, I kind of miss it. It was an amazing set and I doubt there will be better 4-wheelin for the rest of the shoot. I definitely won't miss the bodies.

I'm feeling a little regret about the corpse cock picture this past week. Maybe it was a little much

Further evidence that the film business is cold. Real cold. I believe someone got fired this week for screwing up a sandwich order. Damn!

I've become quite tired of the Best Boy yelling at me when he's mad at the rest of the crew. I played sports, I get the "yell at the best player to get the attention of the rest of the team" thing, But its bullshit because I'm not the best player by a long shot. I guess I'm the best player you can yell at.

Go Heels.
Don't get it twisted, I'm a Tarheel. Some of the best years of my life were spent in Chapel Hill, NC. The team is great this year and I have high hopes for the big dance. Today, we start by claiming another ACC tournament.

Looking down the barrel of another tough, big week. A 4am call on Monday and we'll likely "babysit" the shooting crew while trying to go big like we usually do should be pretty soulcrushing.

Oh yeah, the paychecks were were pretty good this week. I take back what I said last week for now, but believe me, it does happen

Big shouts to peanut80 and Joke. Thanks for the kind thoughts. Made a tough week go down a little easier

Have a nice week.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Toll. Part 2


I am moments away from getting MORE than 8 hours of sleep since the movie started. Amazing. We beat the clock for the first time in a while, and its felt like months. Me and 4 other members of the rigging crew were "absorbed" into the shooting crew and our main task was babysitting this enormous tent made of truss to control the lighting for these 3 stained glass windows on the 2nd floor. It was 30ft x 60ft x 30ft. It was sick. Anyway, All we had to do was hang out up there. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Wow. I fell asleep mid-blog. That was Thursday. It is now Saturday night. Its 9pm. I got off work at 8pm. Came in at 8am. I worked 6 straight days this week. I think I'm well over 70 hours for said week. My girlfriend is running out of patience with the life and may dump me before the close of the weekend.

When I told her that half of our promised weekend would be screwed because I had to work on Saturday. She was upset.
When I told her that our Sunday would be compromised because I had be at work at 4am Monday. She was speechless.

After a couple of reasonable days, today was a return to the bullshit. We have been working the last 2 days on a dock in East Boston. Which I think is kinda wicked pissa (please excuse the local dialect). I primarily think this because of season 2 of The Wire. My favorite show, which coincidentally aired it's final episode this past weekend. There's really nothing I can add to all the talk about what a rich, provocative, well executed television program The Wire has been except that there has never been a program the has come even close to accurately portraying the African American Urban experience as well as David Simon's crown jewel of outstanding television programs. After The Corner, which is also David Simon, what do you compare it to? 227? Soul Food, Good Times?
Anyway yesterday on the dock was pretty cool. The weather was good. The view was nice and we were working in a fairly organized manner. Today was the exact opposite. rain, sleet AND snow. There was an absolute breakdown in project management and as a result we ended doing things, completely undoing them and then start something else only to undo it soon after. There was one point where work became this nightmarish version of one those stupid Real World/Road Rules challenges where we were building the huge mega-frame out of about 250ft of heavy metal truss of different sizes. In order to build the frame which ended up being 70ftx40ft we had to fit these various heavy metal pieces of truss together just so. Because the guys in charge didn't seem to have a really clear view of what they were trying to accomplish, we kept putting large pieces together, then undoing them then carrying the heavy metal(and might I add cold and wet because of the sleet and snow) truss to the other side of the frame. It was fucking miserable! Adding to the misery is the growing discontent that accompanies the growing belief the the bosses don't care about things like taking breaks and eating lunch on time. A vibe that goes down quite bitterly on a nasty New England day like today. Also the one guy in charge who does care about breaks and keeps work moving in an orderly, civilized manner got hurt and spent most of the morning at the hospital. Mix in news at the very end of the day about the 4am call time, and you got a real sucky, unglamorous day in the film business. Trust me kids, listen to your parents, don't do drugs, stay in school. Don't end up like me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Toll

Medfield/Dachau to Taunton/Dachau back to Medfield Dachau
out 9pm

"I sorta remember what you look like" - Nancy

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Its not just a job, its two jobs.

in: 6:30am
out: 9pm

No bodies today, thank god.
Just another 15 hour workday. We actually did rigging work away from the shooting crew, so today was not so bad. Just long as hell. The day was actually broken up by a very pleasant drive to the stage in Readville, and then back to Medfield. It was a nice day and I was struck by how odd it is to have calm, reflective time while on the clock. Of course the poor timing of the task caused me to miss lunch again. I returned to a couple of pieces of cold pizza. Yuch!
If I miss lunch tomorrow, I'm going to cry. Straight up!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Today, my buddy and I figured out why the Holocaust really went down. Or. Stackin' bodies yo!

/Dachau and Medfield/Dachau
in: 6:30am
out: 7:30pm

First, a sincere disclaimer. Work is really starting to suck. There is nothing I can write about it lately that's positive. The grind of 12 and 13 hour days is really starting to set in. The frantic, putting out fires all day nature of our workday is really sucking the lifeforce out of me and the rest of the core crew. Stress was palpable in every conversation on the walkie this morning. The key and best seem to have different ideas for pretty much every task. We never eat lunch on time if at all. We seem to be so behind schedule that we keep getting all these new guys every day. Most aren't really film guys, and they're new, so the department is looking a little ragged. Its just not much fun these days. On top of that we've been working in the bleakest place ever, filming rather depressing things. And then there's the bodies. 30 to 40 times a day we walk by these trains with corpses falling out the doors. Its a bummer, and as the shoot has gone on here, the set decs have made the bodies increasingly frozen, more gross, and more depressing. Given the long hours and the sometimes terrible stuff you have to film, its easy to see why a lot of folk in this business have a highly developed taste for gallows humor. With that in mind the next rift is meant to play as pure tasteless comedy. It intends to offend no one with the possible exceptions of the jerks that keep me from having lunch on time every day.

So my buddy and I were making our umpteenth trip past the bodies when we started to notice something...
"Yo, I'm not gay or nuthin, but that corpse is pretty well endowed."
"well, you are gay and that's not the only one."
It was true. Unless the Nazis only rounded up Jewish porn stars, the chosen people were nice like that! Now, both my buddy and I have had the occasion to view German porn and lets keep it real, The Germans are, shall we say, klien. So we figured out that the reason behind one the greatest atrocities in history is as old as time itself. Playa Hatin. All these big dicked Jewish guys runnin around, some with afros, and those Jewish women(seriously, some of the most beautiful on the planet) and you could see that Hitler superior race thing startin to blow up right up in his face. Something had to be done...
I am really sick of seeing the damn bodies.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The week in review

Friday was the kind of day that sometimes gives me great distaste for this business. As Rigging Grips on this movie our world revolves around using these 4 humongous frames made of truss used to block out the sun, so the Director of Photography can always shoot in the right light, which is bleak gray. We have a 60ft x 40ft, a 40x30 and 2 20x30's, one made out of aluminum that I have come to have very negative feelings about(see previous post). We were told that all of the frames were going to work all day so get ready. And we did. we arrived 4 hours before the shooters to "skin" all the frames and place the 30x40 over the trains for the first scene by use of huge crane. Everything huge on this picture. The process of moving these frames is amazing. 4 guys on one roof. 4 guys on the opposite roof. All holding rope guiding this thing while its being hoisted by this crane. Must be what wrangling a huge float in the Macy's day parade is like. We are all set to go when the DP and the Director show up. We can see from the roof there is a serious conversation going on and lots of Production Assistants are scurrying all over. Never a good sign. All of a sudden we are being told to move the frame as quickly as possible. Apparently the Director and DP have decided to shoot a completely different scene. Interior. What? The next thing you know are being told the frames will not work today and we have to dismantle everything and get out of the sight of the Director and DP, because they hate seeing riggers. Pronto. It doesn't matter in the slightest the man hours and materials and coordination required to have the first thing ready, never mind completely changing on the fly. All to suit the whims of the folks we call " above the line". Meanwhile, we have an additional rigging crew who were supposed to leave at the start the day to the next location to start the rigging work there. They've been waiting here because we had a supposed all hands on deck situation. Now most of our 10 hour day has been shot. Mark and I are the first ones at the new location at 4:30. We don't see anyone until the truck and Scott arrive an hour later. Because its Friday and I have a date, I have a vested interest in stepping up, being proactive, taking a leadership role and spearheading things until the best boy and key grip arrive. The problem is that the info from the key and the best is confusing and contradictory. The other problem is we haven't officially broken for lunch, meaning we are all still on the clock for meal penalties. The problem here is that Production would rather sacrifice a limb than pay overtime or meal penalties to riggers. So what they do is make a deal with the key to not bill for either, instead padding an extra hour on the time card. The key then often tells the crew that we won't cry about the O.T. and M.P.s and instead we'll "stick it to 'em" by padding on extra hours, which turns out to be one. Some days that little move can add 10 tho 15 taxable dollars. Yipee. The reason production wants to make this deal and keys are rewarded for bringing this home to the crew are days like today. The hour of overtime was worth $45. The meal penalties were worth $150 dollars. There were 8 crew members so you see how this works. Long story short. Both trucks and all crew members(minus the key who never showed) finally arrived at 8:30pm. And we still have to unload the truck. About an hour that can totally be done the next day when we actually start rigging. Long story shorter. We got nothing done all day and I could barely stay awake through midnight dinner with my girlfriend. yipee.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"After what I've been through, this gator means nothing to me!"

Shooting day 3
in: 7:30am

I was screaming these words to young Jeremy while racing through base camp in the gator delivering sandbags to various places after wrap. Young Jeremy was holding on for dear life and looking pretty miserable. I love our gator. It is truly bitchin' four wheeling around the concentration camp. However, this evening I probably wasn't using the best judgement. Driving a heavily armed golf cart at dangerous speeds though a high pedestrian/vehicle traffic area at night. Did I mention that because of the very smartly designed carrying cage/roll bar that we had built to carry big stuff, we have a pair of 2X4s placed directly in front of the headlights? Nice. After we delivered the bags, I asked young Jeremy if he wanted to go for a little four wheel around Dachau before we put the gator away. "Definitely not!". Young Jeremy clearly hates having to get in the gator with me.
Why, you ask, would a reasonable man and a responsible professional be doing such reckless and irresponsible things?

...A few hours earlier.


I am harnessed to an aerial lift platform, about 60 feet in the air. Attached to the bottom of my basket, by way of 20 foot truss and rope, is a aluminum frame, 20ft by 30ft. Spread across this frame is a black cloth material. After this I found out that there had been severe wind warnings. So,hopefully you're starting to get the picture, I am way up in the air in a little cage on a ferociously windy day with A FUCKING SAIL blowing in the breeze and causing me to see my life flash before my eyes. Even though the frame was tied off as best it could be and there was plenty of ground support. It was insane up there! the sail was pulling the entire condor and I was being thrown all over the basket. I was terrified. Who wouldn't be. When you're in the lift you generally have direct communication with the key. its important to use decorum in these interactions. Usually not a problem for me. At one point, Chris the key grip asked me how it was going. I screamed into the walkie "Its fuckin windy up here" . I was never so happy to see the muddy ground of Dachau as much as I did upon landing after 3 hours up there.
The upside is that I was the big hero. The downside is that my back is killing me after being thown from pillar to post for 3 hours.

Question: how come in every picture I take of concentration camp extras, they look like they're rockin' the latest freshest gear? Weird. I guess a lot of them did come from the ghetto.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The latest in holocaust chic.

location: Taunton/Dachau
in: 6:30
out: 5:30

Its only the second week and already I feel rode hard and put up wet. We go big every day. My knee and back hurt and I feel like I could sleep for the next 300 hours. Unfortunately I have to be back in 8 and a half. I'm sure we'll go big again. The concentration camp vibe is both creepy and fascinating. It was creepy to see the hundreds of corpses piling out of the boxcar that drives into Dachau. It was fascinating to hit on holocaust victims.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The week in Review

The first week of gainful employment in a while(couple of months). Despite the excessive amount of angst-ridden hand ringing over long term vocation(grip or electric or does it matter as long as your getting paid?), I'd have to say it was a good week indeed. There are definitely some crew logistic and rhythm issues to work out. But it seems like a good job with a good crew on a major motion picture. I ain't mad at that. Working in a re-creation of Dachau is creepy and fascinating. We're going to be doing some incredibly big, American Cinematographer worthy rigs. It should be really a fun adventure. I will of course only feel completely clean when I officially turn down the other two jobs I kinda accepted. Which will happen by tomorrow night. I just want one more day to think about it. My good friend Geoff (the outbreak monkey) says that if I take this job I shouldn't "cry" (a little strong, I thought) about wanting to be an electric. According to Geoff, " If you make more than $30,000 a year as a grip, than you're grip." That kind of stuff matters to the outbreak monkey.

Got back together with my girlfriend. I'm very happy about that. I'm trying to keep the really personal stuff out, but suffice it to say we recovered from a really bad week.

My complete desperation for clean clothes is a code red situation. I'm trying to get federal disaster relief for my bedroom. After that, I may go to Washington to lobby on behalf of my wardrobe.
I'm pretty much recovered from near death illness, thank you very much.

I have included pictures from the week. The picture of the gentleman I like to call Tom Doran and the modern age.
Still struggling with format issues. Please be patient.

Labor will set you free!
Have a nice week!