Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Reddit Vox Populi...

                          ...delivers a resounding "meh." 

             Looking out the big doors of Stage 23 at Sony Studios

Every now and then the geiger-counter at Blogger detects an uptick in activity from a particular – and occasionally new – source. Although this space has been on the receiving end of flurries from in the past, there’s been nothing for a while... until this last week, when a Reddit member posted a few recommendations on the Industry blog-o-sphere for his fellow readers. He liked the infamous but talented Shane Hurlbut’s “Hurlblog, “Gaffers Unite!” and Evan Luzi’s “The Black and Blue” a lot, as well he should – although the last time I looked, Evan was working in the Southeast, not Los Angeles.

But maybe he’s since moved out here to Hollywood. People do it everyday.

“Surprisepinkmist” (no, I’m not kidding) is also a fan of “Dollygrippery” and “Totally Unauthorized,” for good reason. Both "D" and Peggy Archer -- the O.G. Queen of the industry blog scene -- tell it like it is with lean, punchy prose I've always admired.  Anyone interested in the nuts-and-bolts of movie making will learn a lot from all of those sites.

The Reddit poster was less impressed with this space, describing BS&T in rather tepid terms: “Has the occasional informative post, but a lot of the time it’s mostly just snippets of set life.”

That's an apt description, but I'd argue that it all depends on your definition of the word “informative."  If the technical details and how-to of filmmaking is what you seek, this blog will be of limited use -- after all, the sub-heading below the title is “Life in Hollywood, below-the-line,” not “How to shoot a feature with a cell phone ,” “How to light a night exterior in the rain,” or “How to best employ the latest in LED lighting technology on set.” Although I retain a professional interest in such subjects, they don’t motivate me to hit the keyboard. Besides, with a dozen ways to solve every lighting challenge (depending on the circumstances), it's not my place to stand atop a soapbox and tell the world how. Seekers of technical specifics will have more fun elsewhere, because other than an occasional bleat about lousy or dangerous equipment, I’m not particularly interested in writing about the mechanical/digital aspects of the industry. Now on the downhill slide of a career that will end (one way or another) within the next five years, it’s the human side of the story that interests me; the techno-wizardly, not so much. Thirty-five years ago I couldn’t take my eyes of those gleaming Panavision and Arriflex cameras on set, but nowadays a camera, digital or film, is just a piece of expensive gear in someone else’s department, and just as well.

Although I completely understand the fascination of younger people – film students and recent grads just starting their careers -- for the newest digital gizmos designed to put motion pictures on screen, the stories that interest me in Hollywood come from the people behind the scenes, not the technology. And if that makes me an official old fart, so be it. There are reasons why young and old see the world through very different eyes, but in sifting through the varying perspectives available on the web, you might eventually find something resembling a rough distillation of The Truth.  I can only write about what's important and meaningful to me, and if this space fails to intrigue, there are many great industry blogs packed with useful information out there for you.

So thanks for the link, Surprisepinkmist, and the subsequent uptick in hits.  For any disappointed Reddit readers searching for technical and problem-solving advice on running power and lighting on set... well, you won’t find much of that here. The meat-and-potatoes of this blog has always been the human experience of living and working in Hollywood below-the-line.  The rest is gravy.

That said, we never turn the lights out at Blood, Sweat, and Tedium, where you’re welcome to linger as long as you like. Be my guest and browse through the stacks... but if you can't find anything interesting here -- and instead harbor an unquenchable lust for the gleaming technology that enables modern cinematic image-making -- then you might find other sites more rewarding.

And in that case, Godspeed on your quest through cyberspace.  Take my best wishes with you.  


Anonymous said...

I have been reading this blog for a few years now. It is a truly invaluable, at times even therapuetic piece of reading. Its informative, entertaining, but for me, most importantly you are telling my stories, and the stories of below the line technicians the word over.

It is rare to see stories from our perspective. Actually working day in, day out, in this industry isn't all about technology and technique. For many of us, that is just part of our respective craft. What working in this industry truly means is a lifestyle choice that sees your working long, hard days, and making sacrifices along the way to do what we love. To have a blog as relatable as yours is brilliant.

You manage to tell our stories time after time. Thankyou.

rcpro8 said...

Honestly compared to the others mentioned,I enjoy your writing the most! Keep it up, I will be reading :)

Unknown said...

Hey Mike -- I'll echo the other comments here: we love your stories.

The reason I like reading Hollywood Juicer is because it's about what it means to work below the line, not just a collection of gear reviews and lighting tutorials.

Every story you tell -- even if it only ever mentions something obliquely technical -- is informative in regards to the lifestyle of below the line crew.

Keep it up and don't worry about Reddit. They've roasted me a few times and I've learned many on there are gear junkies. The pros and the ones who care about the craft of filmmaking are mostly lurkers and I know they appreciate your site.

- Evan

P.S. I haven't yet taken the plunge into Hollywoodland. You're right in saying that I'm still in the southeast. Maybe someday soon that will change!

Michael Taylor said...

Anonymous, rcpro8, Evan --

I appreciate your kind words. It's always gratifying to hear that somebody out there is reading -- and resonating with -- the posts at BS&T.

Thanks to all of you for tuning in.

Anonymous said...

Much prefer reading about on-set experiences than about gear. I enjoy the blog.

Anonymous said...

I'm just a random non-industry(at least currently) reader. What I enjoy most is the narrative and wonderful stories you have to tell. I've even encouraged some friends and family who have no interest in film to read your blog because of the quality of the writing.

Keep writing and I"ll keep reading!

CJ said...

I have been spotty at best with reading this blog, between work and finally being able to scrape some time together for family, I don't usually have the time. But, I will say this blog is pitch perfect when it comes to how it feels to be in the grind. Day in and day out, throwing the same gear, rigging the same perms, gear becomes nothing compared to the relationships you build. Once you've been around the block a few times, you realize there are easier ways to make a living, but none of them hold a candle to what we do.

surprisepinkmist said...

BS&T, I meant no disrespect at all with what I posted on Reddit! The original post was asking about educational resources online. Being a frequent reader of your blog, as well as Evan's, I thought it would be good to drop a link. The only reason I worded it the way I did was to keep the original poster aware that this would not be a how to situation but s/he would get a chance to see a more accurate depiction of life on set. I'm not "meh" about your blog, I'm a fan. I don't read blogs for the latest information, I do it because it keeps me connected to set life when I'm not on set.


Michael Taylor said...

Anonymous, Anonymous, and CJ --


Surprisepinkmist --

No worries. I wasn't offended, but simply wanted to make sure that any Reddit members who followed your link would get a better idea what this blog is all about -- and I do appreciate the link.

I have to ask, though... what is the genesis of your e-moniker "Surprisepinkmist?" To me, that evokes the image of someone walking into a spinning airplane propeller...

surprisepinkmist said...

I used to play Call of Duty in film school, the rule was that your username had to be some way related to a piece of gear. I combined the idea of surprise pink gel and the pink mist that snipers are so fond of. Pretty lame considering I've never actually heard of anybody using that gel, but it had a ring to it.
Propeller blade accidents are rough though!