When I lived in Los Angeles, I worked on the periphery of the Hollywood film industry.
Specifically, I was a site rep. Which is short for “Site Representation.” A production agency would need an office or church or classroom for their movie, tv show, or commercial. In order to fill that need, they had two options: build a set on a sound stage, or film in an actual live office/church/classroom/whatever.
If they chose to film in an actual working business, they’d contact the company I’d work for, scout locations, choose one, dole out some cash, and then I’d fart around on set making sure they didn’t break any house rules.
I liked the gig.
My wife is amused (but not impressed) by the speed with which I can identify a space I’m familiar with; it usually only takes me a split second. I’ll see an elevator bank, or a certain tile pattern, and shout out the name of a Los Angeles building.
“How did you know that so fast?” she’ll ask.
My response is usually that I spent too many hours of my life sleeping on its floors.
(To that end, I think my longest shift was around 36 hours. I showed up before the pre-production crew arrived to set things up, stuck around for the actual filming, and then remained as the strike crew showed up to remove all equipment. Point of note: double-time is a beautiful thing on your paycheck.)
When you spent so much time in any one location, you got to know the building’s engineers, their security, property management and so on, and you built relationships with these people. When you build relationships, you gain the leeway to have a little fun during work.
Case in point: I couldn’t tell you the exact year the event I’m about to describe occurred, but it was within the first couple seasons of HBO’s Entourage.
The show was using an empty floor of a downtown high rise to act as the offices for Ari Gold, the Jeremy Piven character. They bought it out for the entire season, meaning they set it up to look like a working office, and then just let it sit. When they needed an Ari Gold scene, they’d show up and film.
During one production day, when lunch was called and everyone went on break I moseyed down to the lobby. I was bored, and wanted to shoot the shit with some of my friends working building security. While there, I noticed a bit of a hullabaloo going on across the street. A protest was taking place, with people carrying signs marching around.
(My memory tells me it was janitors searching for better wages, but memory is fallible.)
The crowd looked harmless, so I asked my security buddies if they had the ability to turn their outer cameras on that crowd. Indeed they could, so I asked them to do so, and then to give me five (or so) minutes.
Confused, but curious, they did as I asked, and I exited the premises.
Five (or so) minutes later, everyone in the security office was laughing. I know they were laughing, because when I finally re-entered the building a few more minutes later, they were still laughing.
They were laughing because I had quickly found some supplies, cobbled together a sign of my own, stole away to my car, removed my pants, and joined the protest.
While every every sign carried by actual protesters called for justice for employees, I walked around with the phrase “More work, less pants!” on my placard.
Because that’s what you do when you’re an idiot, and I’m absolutely an idiot.
It’s been over a decade now, but I’d love it if that security footage somehow surfaced.
Anyhoo, along with offices/schools/churches/etc, the company I worked for represented rooftops; I spent too much time under the hot Los Angeles sun, and many a cold night under the stars.
On one such rooftop, I was present for what promised to be the most boring shift of my life. Two special effects techs were preparing for the film The Day After Tomorrow. They were going to visit various rooftops and take laser-scans of Los Angeles, which they could then turn into exceptionally detailed CGI for the destruction in that film.
It was actually kind of neat to learn that such preparation went into popcorn movies. They didn’t want to “fake” things; they wanted an accurate depiction of the Los Angeles skyline and all its buildings.
Unfortunately, it also meant I would be sitting on various rooftops while their machine scanned the city. No crew, no one to really chat with, just me and two guys going about their business.
On our second (or third) roof of the day—they had to scan the city from multiple angles—we received a neat little surprise.
I checked us in with building security, we made our way to the top of the 41-story building, and they set up shop while I looked for a shady corner in which to hide.
Ten minutes later, the rooftop door open and two men in suits came out. They walked casually, but one of them brushed back his jacket to expose the handgun strapped to his waist.
Apparently building management had forgotten to alert one of their very special tenants we were going to be on the roof.
The Los Angeles branch of the FBI.
When the special effects techs turned on their laser scanner, alarms aplenty went off in the FBI offices, because their defense systems thought they were being targeted. They soon figured out that wasn’t the case, but were still interested to know who was using such equipment on the roof of the building.
They chatted up the techs a little, probably enjoying any excuse possible to be out from behind their respective desks, and eventually decided the sun was a little too taxing and bid us adieu.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to Google “Nathan Timmel underpants” to see if maybe, just maybe, one of those security guards leaked that footage of me.
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