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, April 7, 2013

Necessity: the Mother of Invention

                 Sometimes you've just gotta do what you've gotta do...

While dropping in at  Overcranked the other day – and any of you young wannabe PA/griptricians out there can learn a few things from “Jessie M’s” odyssey as he claws his way towards a professional film career – I came across a link to a site called “Shitty Rigs.”

As the name suggests, Shitty Rigs displays photos of some very creative rigs -- and looking at those pictures reminded me what a blast it is to come up with an impromptu solution to a technical problem on set.  Solving problems under less than ideal circumstances, using what you’ve got rather than what you wish you had, is extremely gratifying.  Although the results aren't always pretty, and maybe a bit dicey, when your "ghetto rig" works without incurring any collateral damage -- thus allowing the DP and director to get the shot and move on -- it's a great feeling.

The image above from Shitty Rigs captured my full attention, a couple of Number Three grip clips taped up with electrical cables and the caption “At a rental house in Brazil, this was presented as our tie-in kit.”

Wow.  Having tied-in more times than I care to admit, this photo gives me the willies.

While working as a gaffer on a ten day AT&T commercial in Mexico City in the early 90’s, I watched our local crew use similarly crude power distribution equipment, and while nobody got hurt, that home-made gear made me very nervous.  Still, when in Rome -- and when working with Romans -- you sometimes have to work as the Romans do, and if nothing else, the experience gave me a renewed appreciation for the built-in safety features of our lighting equipment here in Hollywood.

Once again, a little perspective is a good thing.

Low budget film-making is often a chaotic process in which you can't always follow the straight and narrow path, or every last little Industry safety rule.  When you're up against it, you do what you've gotta do.  

Just don't do anything really stupid -- and make damned sure you don't hurt anybody in the process.


Anonymous said...

These rigs are incredibly inspiring, because even done wonkily, you can see that the person who rigged understands the function of what they lack. Safety aside, I work in a lighting shop that does mostly big shows in LA, and too many times I see juicers who, put into a situation where they can't use a specific tool, are at a loss. They've done the same thing for 35 years and never had to think about it. They utter "what do you mean we can't have...?" Then again, some of the most memorable shots or moments (my opinion, of course) have been done by inventive people..Chivo (aka Lubezki)'s work, the revolving rig for Inception, Prieto's rig for "Biutiful", Deakins' for Skyfall, among others...oh..that beautiful long shot in Soy Cuba. Some of the most valuable riggers in LA have this very mentality..they understand the concept of what they are trying to do and can attain results with limited's a JOY listening to them talk and troubleshoot..that's where the magic is, IMO.

Michael Taylor said...

Anonymous --

Great comment. Although I'm woefully behind on my movie-watching (haven't yet seen the three big movies you mentioned), I did see the astonishing down-the-building-and-into-the-pool shot in "Soy Cuba" many years ago -- and still can't figure out how they pulled it off.

Getting the shot, especially when that's hard to do, is where the real satisfaction - and yes, the magic -- lives in this business.

Thanks for tuning in...