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)

Sunday, October 28, 2012


An October Surprise
                       Now that's what I call a skeleton crew...

Given the shoot-now/air-later nature of television, the Halloween episode of any show must be shot well before the end of October.  Editing takes time, and if pickup shots, re-shoots, or ADR are needed, the producers will have to make room in an already-crowded schedule.*  The more lead-time before the air date, the better, and since most broadcast network shows don't start their season's filming until late July, that  means shooting the Halloween episode in August or September, during the suffocating heat of Southern California's infamous fire season.  I've sweated my way through many a long, sweltering autumnal afternoon rigging cable and lights around tombstones, caskets, and spider-web encrusted crypts carefully laid out by the art department.  Although the end result always looked great once the set was lit after dark, getting there was no fun at all.

Then again, they don't pay us to have fun, do they?

Cable television marches to its own drummer, which is why the very first episode of my current show this season (shot way back in early June) was the Halloween show.  Fortunately, our show is filmed on an air-conditioned sound stage, safe from the brutal SoCal sun. I've done enough 14 hour day-exteriors over the course of my career, thankyouverymuch, and am quite happy to work on the climate-controlled confines of a sound stage.**  

Still, it felt a bit odd once that big haunted house set was lit.  With all the Halloween decorations and moody lighting, it really did feel like the onset of the holiday season, but when I headed off stage at lunch, I was back in the middle of another sunny spring day in LA. Working in such constantly shifting states of unreality is the nature of life in the make-believe world of film and television.

It's what we do. 

So it's back to work tomorrow, where the producers of my show have a Halloween treat in store for us -- an "October Surprise" in the form of yet another four day work week.  Yes, once again we'll cram five days of labor into four, ratcheting up the pressure on the entire crew while shaving one entire pay-day off the weekly budget.  Good for the producers, bad for the crew, and what else is new?  I don't know their excuse this time, but don't much care.  Their rationale doesn't really matter.  The way things are these days, they can do pretty much anything they want and we just have to take it.  They have the money, and money is power. The Disney Corporation is among the One Percent, those cigar-smoking plutocrats with their white-tasseled, platinum-spiked golf shoes planted firmly on the jugulars of those of us who do the sweating, get the bruises, and perform the heavy lifting essential to harvesting their record profits.

If there's any justice in this world -- or beyond -- then Walt Disney's ghost will be one very unhappy spirit haunting a particularly dank and dismal graveyard come Halloween night.  But truth be told, I'm not sure I believe such justice can happen anymore.

Still, a guy can dream...

* Additional Dialog Recording, otherwise known as "looping," wherein an actor watches a previously filmed scene on a monitor, then re-records his or her lines -- in effect, lip-syncing -- until the producers are satisfied.

** A couple of months later we shot Christmas episode in the midst of a suffocating heat wave.  The "when" isn't really a factor -- Christmas in July is just like any other work week here in the bowels of the television sausage factory.


LOCAL 16 said...

I guess on the bright side, the Giants have a 3-0 World Series lead.

Michael Taylor said...

And here's hoping they make it four straight tonight...

jpog said...

Bitch bitch bitch, juicin's the toughest job in film, 'cept for maybe set dresser.

Michael Taylor said...

jpog --

No doubt about it, the set dressers earn every nickle of their paychecks...

BoskoLives said...

Regarding life on the Disney (and perhaps I'm exaggerating by a little) nickel, when you wrote "those cigar-smoking plutocrats ....", were you aware of what a great euphemism you've created?
Just asking,