Monday, October 20, 2008


Another early start with an early finish. So early in fact after rigging today's location, a number of small locations in the woods. We went back to the stage to chill for 3 hours before scooting home in time for lunch. Why not just go home you ask? The chill mode at the stage served 3 purposes. One, we needed to hang in the oft, oft chance there was some sort of emergency on set and we needed to get back there to help. After a couple hours, however, the shooters are on their own. No blame attached to us. Two, by chilling at the stage we gave the Monday morning rush hour traffic a chance to subside. Making for a very breezy ride home. More on that later. The third reason was for the guys with families. I don't think any of those guys wanted to get home before their kids got to school thereby plunking them right smack dab in the middle of the morning chores.
The ride home was awesome. The sun was shining, the roads were clear and my Ipod shuffle was the perfect sound forever. Every tune was a winner. The one after the perfect complement. It was uncanny. There was a point were I was speeding up I-95 singing (in full throat, of course) Jaheim's "Happiness" followed by Sophie Ellis Bextor's "Murder on the dance floor". Man, for this old huntin' dog, it don't git any better than that.
This got me to thinking about carpooling. And how I try to avoid it like the plague.
This country is in trouble on many fronts. There's a recession on and gas prices are ridiculous. The carbon footprint is enormous. We drive so much in this business, you would think people would be clamoring to carpool. I actually share a place with a guy I work with. Not really. I'm sure everyone has their reasons. For me the reason is simple. I like my space and I need to sing in the car. It makes me feel whole. After a bummer of a day, nothing gets me back to one like some hardcore (don't call it gangsta) rap. After days like that, I turn up the Mobb Deep and jet back to to the cultural warmth of the hood. Smooth Tha Hustla lets me know that its all about the dough and I remember that all this craziness is just business. Nas and Jay-Z are reassuring. I'm reminded that they can't touch me and that there is a deluxe apartment in the sky. Redman is like carpooling with the spirit of Redd Foxx. These raw displays of blackness would likely make my carpool mates a little uneasy. NPR is great for the drive in, but after work its go time. Then there are days like today when I just want to celebrate my freedom and make a joyful noise for the lord. Honestly, I can't sing a lick and nobody should be subjected to that, so everybody wins.
I consider myself a pretty green black guy. I recycle, I conserve. I read labels. I've been involved in organic farming in the hood and I try to ride my bike whenever possible. But there are some things a man can't budge on. I tend to luxuriate in the shower as well. Otherwise, I'm a pretty green black guy.

On the serious side however. Film sets can sometimes be ecological nightmares. Trucks idling all day long. Half filled plastic water bottles are strewn everywhere. And tons of materials wasted and then discarded. Even I, conscious of the situation find it hard to reign in my wasteful tendencies. It does takes extra effort. You tend to be really focused on whatever your doing and then on the move quickly. There are people paid to clean up after us so its really easy to lose the common sense about these things that at home most of us are more than willing to take care of. We all want to do the right thing, so when there is any kind of effort. We are more than willing to help out. I believe it was Carmen Diaz who bought a shitload of travel mugs for a production so that people wouldn't waste so many coffee cups.The production I'm on currently gave little out little flasks and then banned plastic water bottles from craft service. Commendable efforts both. I know there are probably many efforts across the country. The one that does a lot of good around here is called FaERI. It is headed up by the lovely and tireless Jodi Baldwin. The girl needs help. Its a massive effort. Look her up and help her out if you are so inclined. Better yet, start your own. It's a good thing and trust me, helping out does wonders to help ease the guilt of singing at the top of your lungs in an empty car.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Surrogates in Pictures Part 1

This was a pretty fun, yet grueling gig. A little over 3 weeks of work. I'm sure that the DMZ with all its containers stacked high into the sky will be a big waterslide attraction at Disney by this time next year.

The Surrogates in Pictures Part 2

More pics.

Sunday kind of worry

Friday was a breeze. I was on the highway home before a lot of people have breakfast. Nice.

This job is coming to an end. With that also will probably be the end of core crew employment for the rest of the year for yours truly. There are a couple of things starting in November, but I doubt that I will do anything other day play on those. Probably for the best. One thing I could definitely use is more time. The other thing I could really use is cash. I'm not really good at campaigning for jobs. This is the ritual of finding out who the best boy on the job is, calling him up, and throwing your hat in the ring. But I definitely will. There's probably at least another 3 weeks of work here, probably more with the dismantling of the stage. Still I worry. This is the life of the freelancer.

I love working in Providence. Its a beautiful, energetic city. They have been so welcoming to the film business over the last couple of years and both parties have benefited. Providence has a lot of wonderful things to offer. A lot of technicians have bought homes in the surrounding area and have been very happy. It has a ton of good restaurants and a ridiculous number of excellent coffee shops. We'll be talking more about those later. One of today's pics is from Olga's. A most wonderful coffee house.
Unfortunately, Providence may be a sign of things to come. The state and the city are broke, with some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. They've all but repealed their tax incentive. What they've actually done is put a cap on it limiting the number of productions that can take advantage of the benefits. This has cut down the number of films shot here dramatically.
It has also added to the number of people out of work in this state. Movies can help out in a lot of ways besides technicians. Security, Hotels, restaurants, transportation etc. We have a different incentive plan in MA. But these are tough times for America financially. They say that the film business is recession proof. But never before has it been so intertwined with state tax money and as a result state politics. It should be a very interesting year or so.

By the way. I was just kidding about working out.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Its not you. Its definitely me

Ok. I'm back.

I think.

The last few months have been weird and busy. After the romantic comedy, I worked as a grip on the second unit of a big budget science fiction flick. All stunts, car crashes and flying futuristic cops. Cool. Right after that I started the gig I'm on now. Rigging Electric on a tough guy television series. I think there was a commercial or two in there as well. I've had very little time off since this past winter. I've been very busy. In the last few months I've acquired A very cool, very raw loft space that needs a lot of fixer-upping. I've tried to put more effort into spending what little quality time with my lady and my family. I've started shooting a personal, short film, cut my dreads and grown a mustache. There's a lot going on. But something else has started to occur. I'm really burned out by work and have often started to wonder if its perhaps time to move on and do something else in my life. Its a very tough call as I've wanted to be involved with motion pictures since I was very young. What else would I do? I dunno. Teach maybe? Indulge my long buried passion to go back to school in order to bring urban ecology to my hood and hoods like it across the country. Maybe I'm just looking a gift horse in the mouth. Either way, I will try to keep in touch. Its also a matter of organization, As opposed to a few months ago, I have much more of a life. Unfortunately, I have even less time to blog. But I'm going to get on one of those schedules. Hell. I might even start working out

I've been working on a couple of longer "pieces". I'll be posting those in the near future. And pictures, lots of pictures.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Feeling yourself disintergrate

"Suddenly everything has changed"
The Flaming Lips

I guess I was in a bad place.
Its been hard to write. Hell, its been hard doing anything, everything. Fixing up my fixxer upper. Moving into said fixxer upper. Shooting my short film, reading or maintaining any sort of real balance. For the last 8 months or so I've been on a schedule, if you want to call it that of waking up wicked early. Driving a long way, working, driving a long way home eating and then falling asleep.
With a life like that, I guess I sort of shut down.
Looking back, its easy to see how this was the culmination of about of about 2 years and change of unchecked emotion. I know every one's life is full of challenges and catastrophe. I guess the ones in my life had started to get the best of me.

Lets take a trip down memory lane...

A couple of years ago I was feeling like things were going my way. I was living in an up and coming neighborhood in Brooklyn. A place I truly truly love. I was working as an set lighting technician on all the big movies. I had great friends I saw regularly. I was even playing music again. Life wasn't perfect, but I really couldn't imagine a better setup. As a kid I always felt that NYC was the place to be. I think whether they admit it or not, a lot of native Bostonians feel that way. Then over the course of 3 months, things became completely unraveled. Completely. First off, I had a accident. Working on a The Devil Wears Prada, I slipped on a plank, fell out of a catwalk and crashed on the stage below. I fell about 15 feet. Although I was truly the luckiest man ever to fall 15 feet, I managed to escape with relatively minor injuries. It did have a detrimental effect on my working life. I meant I had to be out of the work loop for a little while which was bad for a couple of reasons. Obviously, No dough. But also I was trying to get into the union there and it was essential to stay in the loop in order to have the support necessary to have people to vote for you. A month later I was being kicked out of my apartment. The building was sold to a young rich couple who did what was popular in NYC at the time. Find a brownstone in an just about to be up and coming neighborhood and turn it into a brownstone mansion. I started spending more time in Boston because I was getting calls and it was worth it to me to spend 15 bucks and 10 hours total travel to get a union days pay. Then the unthinkable happened. Someone I cared about very much became very ill due to a severe bi-polar spell. She then took her own life in a horrible fashion. I'm pretty sure I was the last person she talked to.

I had kind of an emotional meltdown.
I think on the surface, I hid it pretty well. I settled back in Boston. I kept working. Inside was a different story. I let myself die too. I guess I was in shock. Looking back now, it seems as if I just stop living inside. If I wasn't working, I just wanted to be alone, even when I was in a group. I lost contact with a lot of dear friends. Then I think I entered into a death wish phase. I took an unusual(for my age) interested in extreme sports. I started mountain biking like a man possessed. I started rock climbing, especially the particularly hazardous bouldering, which is basically rock climbing without safety equipment. Often, I would combine the two for these full days of terror in the woods. I used to get myself in some real scary spots. Riding off cliffs without clearly establishing a landing pad and that sort of thing. I really enjoyed jumping off of stuff in my neighborhood, which would freak out my neighbors I've had a unusually high number of brushes with death in my life. Some due to where I grew up, some due to really bad choices and like the fall, a couple at work. I've had this sneaking suspicion that I can't be killed. I'm not saying this in a cocky way. I'm saying this in a this probably means that I have a few more horrendous brushes with death ahead of me kind of way. My experiences on my bike both on rocks and cliffs as well as hostile Boston city traffic, oft times without helmet, confirmed this grim fact for me. I also started to become the kind of film technician that would lose his shit at the drop of a hat. I considered myself unlucky in love.
Slowly but surely the light started to come on inside. I had energy again. I went back to being a nice person at work. But I definitely felt a change. I clearly wasn't going to be the same person going forward that I had been. My priorities seemed to change. My crazy,loving family became more important to me than ever before. I became a best pal to my very young nephew who doesn't have a dad around.
I started volunteering for stuff. This has become a very important part of my life. Teaching film lighting to kids, organic urban farming and bike riding for good causes have become my favorite activities. I became far less interested in clawing my way up the ladder at work. I met a woman who cared enough about me to make me promise to stop with the death wish activities and to always wear a helmet.
The next thing you know I'm working full time, all the time. I got this huge loft space that requires a lot of time and money. My nephew is five now. I've got a girl fiend who wants and deserves a lot of attention. She has a job that literally makes mine seem like child's play. There simply not enough hours in the day to do all the things I want and need to do in my life. Organization is key now. I Think about Valerie Burgher every day. But its time to move on. At the time of her death, Valerie was a producer on a very interesting documentary about aids research in the South Bronx. It has since been released. Its called "All of Us". It made by the great filmmakers at Pureland Pictures. I encourage everyone who reads this to find a way to see it. Its dedicated to Valerie and its a lasting testament to the kind of things she cared about deeply. She certainly made me want to live my life differently. I think I'm still figuring out exactly how that's going to work.

I'm glad I got that off my chest.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I just threw my gloves down in disgust.

A rigger on the movies has two general responsibilities. Pre- rig the next location in advance of the shooters, and "baby- sit" or "wipe their prima-donna asses" depending on who you talk to. Today was an unfortunate yet classic example of the latter.
When we left work yesterday, we were told our call the next day would be 7am at the stage in Beverly, about a half hour ride from my house at that hour. Later that evening I got a call alerting me that the call had been changed to a 6:30am PRE-CALL on set in Manchester by the sea. About an hour and a half drive at that hour. Bollocks! This kind of abrupt change usually means there was trouble the evening before and there'll be trouble in the morn. We had the crew van driver stop at set instead of the customary catering, because a pre-call means you hit the ground running and get breakfast later. We get to set and start working on the things that obviously need to be done. Nothing crazy, just stuff shooters usually do to start the day. We notice that there are no actual shooters here lighting with us, save Geoff D. Whose first day it is. As the lighting starts to shape up, the shooters casually roll in, some still eating the catered breakfast. Wait a minute! Wasn't this a pre-call? Didn't I get up at 4am? We thought it was a pre-call. The shooting best boy was there. Apparently the rest of the shooting crew didn't get the invite. The Nerve! We interrupt our work schedule, get up early and drive an extra hour to help these clowns out and they stop by after nosh. The icing on the cake. We ate a full 2 hours after pre-call. If I was a shooter on this show I might have fainted from the malnourishment. LAME, lame,lame.

For an Electrician, the throwing down of the gloves is done in response to only the most egregious of indignities. Jokingly, I throw my gloves down 2 or 3 times a week. Today's the first time I ever meant it.

The pictures are of some fool trying to get to know the movie hawks just before feeding time. An unfortunate choice.