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, August 25, 2013

Now We're Cookin'

                                      An impromptu on-location pizza oven...

Incandescent lamps are notoriously inefficient, converting less (in some cases, considerably less) than 10% of their electrical input to visible light, with the rest converted to heat.  Movie lamps are extremely bright, but the salient feature anyone who works with these lamps soon learns is how incredibly hot they get after only a few minutes -- and most veteran juicers have the faded scars as a testament to that learning experience.  In essence, a tungsten lamp is just an expensive toaster, utilizing a metal filament (albeit one housed within a vacuum or gas-filled container) that glows to emit light and heat when electricity flows through it.

When you consider the many long, tedious hours we've all spent manning lamps on set over the years -- especially during night shoots -- it's no surprise that juicers all over the world have come up with  creative uses for all that excess heat.  The photo above (from Shitty Rigs -- and if you haven't checked them out yet, you should) is a prime example, accompanied by the following caption:

"We were hungry after wrap, so we heated up the leftover pizzas with a mole-fay."* 

Hey, whatever works.  We've all choked down our share of stone-cold pizza at the end of a long night on set, and if re-heated pizza isn't quite like fresh-from-the-oven, it beats the hell out of a stiff slab of congealed grease and leathery cheese.

While on a location feature in North Carolina years ago, I used a 1000 watt nook light** (with barn doors suitably deployed) as a top-down broiler to make tuna melts in our cheap hotel room late one night after work, and even farther down the dusty tunnel of time, used to cook nachos on the grid of a 225 amp DC carbon arc lamp.  The grid was essentially a big resistor used to lower the incoming voltage from 120 volts down to 73, which was more to the arc's liking -- and in the process, that grid got hot enough to melt cheese over Fritos for a snack.

An arc grid could be a beast in the daytime heat of the LA summer, but was a godsend during chilly night shoots.  Each arc lamp required an operator to monitor and periodically adjust the flame inside and "trim the arc" -- install fresh positive and negative carbons as needed -- and that warm grid eased the misery of working all night.

There were other benefits as well, since each and every female extra working in the scene (some of whom were -- due to the nature of the scenes being filmed -- very scantily-clad) would make a beeline for the nearest arc as soon as the director yelled "cut."  Grateful for the heat, these lovely young women would huddle close around the warm grid  -- and the arc operator -- until the next take was up.  It was a win/win for everybody, and helped take some of the sting out of those endless night shoots.

But I suppose that's all a very different sort of cooking...

* Here's a selection of heads using mole fays.

** Like this, only with barn doors...


JulieGoestoHollywood said...

Love this post. You must expand it into an on-set cookbook, like the ones they do about creative ways to make prison food palatable.

JulieGoestoHollywood said...

Did you see this? Been going around Facebook, made me think of you.

Michael Taylor said...

Julie --

I'm afraid my on-set culinary repertoire is pretty much limited to those tuna melts and nachos -- although I did cook a big Thai dinner for the cast and crew on location once, a long time ago. But we used the catering truck's stove rather than set lighting equipment to do the cooking.

I hadn't seen that bit about the Hollywood sign -- thanks!

JulieGoestoHollywood said...

Ha! Still sounds delicious. I would be so fat if I were on a crew. Something about crafts services that just feels like they owe you some extra calories.

A.J. said...

In a similar fashion, I've heated up fried chicken sandwiches that were offered for 2nd meal. A few minutes on top of a 1200 made the bun toasty and the chicken crunchier than it could've ever been after sitting in the serving pan for a while.

And in a different, yet related way if we're talking about food hacks on set, if you're sick of catering food, their offerings usually still allow you to make a bitchin' sandwich (there's always some type of roll, chicken or beef, lettuce and other fixins at the salad bar, etc). And often times, you can get really creative at Crafty (marshmellows, cereal, butter + microwave = homemade rice krispy treats).