Johnny Depp is coming to town.

As a crew member for numerous movies and TV shows I’ve seen it hundreds of times. Our happy little factory of dreams invades a normally quiet neighborhood. For a few days, and nights we transform it into a superheroes secret lair, or a serial killers house of horrors.  A movie crew is a small community of about a hundred people all working to create a little escapism for your entertainment. We transform a quiet suburban street into a small working village with hundreds of moving parts ranging from cosmetic sponges to semi-trailer trucks. The hustle and bustle can make it all so exciting for the local residents. They will spend hours standing around watching the movie crew accomplish so very little with so many people, while expending unimaginable sums of money. The question many of you might have is how does this happen? Will it happen on my street? Do I want it to happen on my street? I’ll let you come to your own conclusions about that, but here is an abbreviated account of how Hollywood invades your home if it becomes a filming location.
The dark comedy begins when location scouts start knocking on doors in your neighborhood. The scouts if allowed will walk through your house taking photos to show the director. The scout will go from room to room with his camera at the ready to get a general impression of the house, and in rare cases photograph a resident that is not completely dressed. Unintentional porn is the Holy Grail for location scouts. Of course before this can happen, you must agree to be a victim willing participant, you will be politely encouraged to leave your house, or sequester yourself to a back corner of your home. Once all the contracts are signed and your neighbors have been properly blackmailed paid, the fun can begin. your neighborhood is about to undergo a biblical transformation. A series of plagues will be visited upon your quiet little piece of Americana. The first plague will arrive at about 4:30 in the morning as a guy who appears as if he escaped from an underfunded rehab facility, uses a truck without a muffler to tow in a portable bathroom. This “port-a-potty” was just a few hours earlier being devastated at another location by the aftermath of poor hygiene practices of the catering crew. On his route to your street the driver was sure to hit every pothole and bump in the road so that his cauldron of fecal atrocity is properly stirred and agitated maximizing the subtle aroma that has the ability to make a skunk teary eyed.  At 6:00 am or Just about the time that the lovely bouquet of the “Poopy chariot” begins to dissipate, the second plague arrives. Rumbling around the corner in a 6 wheeled leviathan of horror comes the crap sucker truck (also known as the honey dipper), driven by some poor bastard whose career involves attaching hoses to the back of the port-a-potty to remove last nights colon clearing free-for-all, thereby re-agitating the smell that moments before caused you to reevaluate your faith in God. The fun doesn’t end there for our friend the driver, now he must enter each of the individual stalls to clean out what can only be described as a scene that would cause Hannibal Lechter to dry heave. For reasons unknown, some people are unable to drop their trousers while backing up to a toilet and accurately launch a sea-pickle in the bowl, This in spite of the fact that they are firing at point-blank range. Unfortunately somebody has to clean up these accidents. There just isn’t enough gold in them thar hills to properly compensate the people who do this job.
The next act of this play begins at 7am sharp with the arrival of about 3 or 4 large trucks driven by a lovable group of Neanderthals that we call Teamsters. The teamsters are very much like like Hooch the dog. They tend to look rather fierce, grumbling incoherently and slobbering uncontrollably. If you feed them a donut, they will become your loyal friends for life. The teamsters are responsible for all motorized vehicles on location. They also are responsible for transporting all personnel, and materials. The first trucks they drive in are for the set dressers, rigging grips, electrical riggers and the construction crew (prop makers). The riggers are a unique offshoot of the human race. Have you ever seen the familiar picture of the earliest primates in a single file gradually evolving in steps to become the modern human being. The rigging electrician is best described as the 3rd primate from the left. Very strong and muscular but unable to walk upright, and distinguished by the prominent brow line. The rigging grip is usually the 4th primate from the left, still not fully upright but his knuckles have cleared the ground and he’s figured out advanced tools such as spears and early cell phones. All riggers share one thing in common, they have a tough, dirty job so they don’t dress to impress. They will arrive in torn shirts, torn shorts, and a crew hat. Most of the time they are also wearing what appear to be size 18 work boots.  The large boots maximize the riggers ability to trample every square inch of your freshly planted flower beds ,and stomp the dirt until it resembles concrete. They usually top off their ensemble with a $200 pair of sunglasses. As poorly as they dress there is one department which dresses even worse, but I’ll get to that later.
Usually at about the same time as the riggers are at your house the construction crew will appear. The construction crew works at the whims of the production designer and the art director. They will install a false wall in your living room because it must be reduced from 300 square feet to 290 square feet. The carpenters will then remove all the doors in your home because they look too much like doors. They will be replaced with doors that don’t look like doors. If the director wants a house with beige walls, the scout will show him the photos of your beige walls. This permits the director to insist on your walls getting a fresh coat of burgundy paint. Of course that makes no sense to you, but in the directors mind burgundy is the new beige. Once the house has been repainted, and more photos are taken, the director will then wonder what the hell happened to the beige walls. He will then demand that house be painted beige. The production designer, in full agreement with the director, will then order the house to be painted pea soup-vomit green. This particularly offensive color makes it’s way into every set of every movie, and TV show ever made. Again, that color choice will make no sense to you, but please don’t ask questions.
Another fun loving group that will arrive early in the morning is the set dressing crew. Their job is to remove all of your colonial American style furniture and replace it with colonial American style furniture. Nobody likes to move furniture, it’s a heavy, unpleasant task. Somehow they manage to haul furniture everyday without going on a disgruntled worker shooting spree. I think they accomplish this by secretly destroying any house that they work in by slamming furniture into walls and knocking over crystal vases, and the urn with grandpas ashes. If you own a chair that has been a family heirloom for over 150 years and is extremely fragile, then you can count on the set dressers to end that chairs heirloom status. The set dressers attack their daily task like worker ants furiously moving from room to room, moving things until they quietly disappear for their 3 1/2 lunch break. They will eventually return in time to be told by the art director to move absolutely everything on set 4 inches to the left, then 3 inches to the right, thus validating the need for an art director. Once your home has been sufficiently constructed, painted, rigged, and dressed for shooting, you will have one last night of peace.
Early next morning the 1st unit crew will arrive. They are the dozens of crew members that do everything from operating cameras to making sure the director of photography gets chamomile tea from Sri Lanka. Because the day starts early, everybody is grumpy and in desperate need of coffee, and a bagel. Providing beverages and snacks is the jurisdiction of craft services. Craft services is the unique occupation that requires somebody to sweep up horse droppings on set then prepare sandwiches mere moments later. The the most frequently heard statement from crew members is “it’s not my job”. When nobody can agree on whose job it is, the task is generally passed onto the lads in craft services. This is the reason that the guys and gals in craft services generally hate all other crew members.
Remember when I said there is one group of people that dresses worse than the riggers, ironically the worst dressers on the crew are the wardrobe people. These are the people who find inventive ways to dress inappropriately regardless of location or weather. If the show is being filmed in death valley in August you will find the wardrobe crew dressed head to toe in black leather and long wool scarves. If filming in the mountains in January they will be wearing short shorts, tank tops, platform shoes and as always a long wool scarf. The fine folks in wardrobe mock other crew members for their lack of fashion sense, completely unaware that they themselves generally look like they spent a weekend working as rodeo clowns that were unable to outrun the bulls.
Most of the people in the camera department are good folks, but there a few that are convinced they have been placed on this earth by divine intervention. They believe that other crew members should bow before them. They can usually be found 2 hours before the day starts in a slowly shifting pack that shuffles around the back of the camera truck scarfing down egg white breakfast burritos with feta cheese, and parsley flakes. To order anything else for breakfast is a violation of their union regulations. The official uniform of the camera department is shorts or capris pants, Vans shoes. The look is topped off with $120 V-neck t-shirts that are 2 sizes too small, to show off their carefully sculpted man boobs.
The sound department is easily identified as they walk around with phallic instruments covered with fur. No department has a greater effect on the nature of shooting a show than sound does. Making movies is fun when the sound guys aren’t around, when they are present, the job sucks. It’s nothing personal against the sound guys, that’s just the way it is. Due to recent technical advances the most important function that the sound department currently performs is to recharge everybody’s cell phones on set.
The hair and makeup people are the designated gossip hounds, and drama queens on set. They never pass on an opportunity to complain about something. They can usually be found huddled in a group of camping chairs strategically placed to impede the work of any other cast members that are required to lift, or move heavy objects. Hair and makeup are also the crew members most likely to complain about the lack of gluten free-kosher-organic-sustainably farmed, twinkies at the craft services table. The inability of the hair/make-up people to do their job without talking to the actors usually adds about 3 hours to the work day for everybody else.
Stumbling around the house like blind bulls in a china shop are the first unit grips and electricians. I can assure you that one way or another the grips will find your most fragile, prized, personal possession with the end of a light stand or a sand bag. Meanwhile the electricians will place an 18k light less than a foot away from your wall. That light will melt the $67,000 Picasso, that your dear Aunt Martha gave you before the men in white coats dragged her off to Trembling Hills “emotional care” facility.
The hoarders of the crew are the props people. The props crew looks like a group of people who are overly enthusiastic about going to garage sales. Their hands are always full of unidentified items. If the props department sees something they like they will steal it, and load it onto their truck. This includes your prized personal possessions, road signs, small children, leftovers from lunch, bicycles, and roadkill. If it ain’t bolted down or moving quickly, props will lay claim to it.
The special effects crew are the guys who cause all explosions, and fires that are not related to catering or the Port-a-Pottys. I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep these guys away from Uncle Franks secret stash of Bacardi 151, and the family cat. It’s probably in your best interest not to leave them unsupervised around grandmas wheelchair either. Failure to heed this warning will likely lead to a hairless cat with second degree burns, piloting a propane fueled rocket chair capable of doing the quarter mile in 3 seconds. That may sound like fun but remember, your street is much shorter than a quarter mile long.
Somewhere in the immediate vicinity of the top actors are one or two guys who rarely speak in  multi-syllabic words. They tend to have short haircuts, relaxed fit jeans, dress shirts without a tie, the sleeves rolled half way up their forearms, exposing part of a tattoo that says “mother”, “USMC” or “if found, please return to Orange County animal shelter”. These combat boot wearing fashion plates are the celebrity body guards. The celebrity bodyguard is frequently a current or former law enforcement officer dedicated to the safety of their client. What sets these men apart from other law enforcement officers is they tend to have experienced at least once, sitting handcuffed in the back seat of a squad car while wearing lederhosen, or a pink power rangers outfit. It does absolutely no good to tell these guys something funny, they simply will not laugh. Its understandable when you realize that they are required to keep the likes of Britney Spears, Kanye West or Justin Bieber free from harm. That mode of thinking goes against human nature, and after a prolonged period actually deadens key parts the brain responsible for humor and good judgement.
The most conspicuous crew members on set are the production assistants or PA’s as they are commonly called. Even if none of the other aspects of film making dissuade you from ever renting your house to a movie again, the PA’s will most likely push you over the edge. The PA’s are essentially the clowns of the circus. They can usually be found standing next to your bedroom window. Once posted there, they will shout orders from the assistant director at the top of their lungs until 4:30 in the morning. Trust me, you’re gonna love that.
The assistant directors are folks who have resigned from the human race for the privilege of holding safety meetings , yelling “action” and “cut”, and staying at work 2 hours longer than everybody else to do paperwork. Stay away from them.
There is one other person on set that should you observe them at length you will be completely unable to determine their purpose on the crew. The set medic is a person whose sole purpose in life is to wait for a tragedy. They are extremely well equipped to respond to tragedies that rarely if ever occur. Most set medics have a Phd in constructively accomplishing nothing while attempting to look extremely important. They bring their own chairs, umbrellas, hot tubs, and book shelves to pass the long hours of stressful boredom. On a day to day basis the most important task of the medic is to keep on hand a collection of medicated powders that alleviate Monkey butt. Monkey butt is a debilitating condition that strikes grips and electricians on hot days. It’s basically a nuclear powered diaper rash, that can potentially shut down a production if the medic runs out of powder. The set medic should be approached with extreme caution as the endless years of boredom create an introverted personality disorder, which leads the set medic to go slowly insane. Everybody on the crew knows that you should never talk to, or make direct eye contact with a set medic. The medic may construe even the slightest friendly gesture as an invitation to converse endlessly about the battery charging procedure for an AED, or tell you how Martin Scorcese’s last film was based on their life. Simply stated, the set medics only role on set is to show up when an accident occurs, assess the situation, and regardless of what the injury is, calmly tell a PA to call 911. Anybody on set can figure out that if there has been an accident on set, that a trip to the ER is imminent. The set medic has simply mastered the saying “call 911” so thoroughly that it will calm the frayed nerves of other crew members. Once a patient with a traumatic hangnail has been loaded onto an ambulance and driven to the ER, the medic will feel like a hero and ask the most important question of the day “is anybody doing a Starbucks run?”
With so many skilled craftsmen working to make a show, the production should look like a well oiled machine. Unfortunately that well oiled machine is maintained by escaped mental patients known as actors, directors, and producers. Because of their finely honed skills, that well oiled machine grinds to a rusty halt every 5-10 minutes. There’s screaming, shouting, and finger pointing. Eventually somebody goes on a Starbucks run and the whole thing starts all over again.
Video village is easy to spot. It is located under an easy up tent. The village is protected by a 3 foot high perimeter of empty Starbucks cups, and a phalanx of camping chairs set up by the hair dressers, and makeup crew. Video village is occupied by the creative brain trust of the company. This is the domain of the director, actors, and writers. They are very talented artists but to be perfectly honest they are not the brightest bulbs on the Jumbo-tron. They can create, and film a story out of thin air but they don’t know where to sit unless you embroider their names on the back of a chair. Their creative process can be brought to a screeching halt by simply asking them what kind of hummus they should serve at crafty.
When the filming is complete the star trailers are towed away, the Cameras and sound gear are loaded. The riggers return one last time to pick up all the cables and lights, The carpenters replace some broken windows and paint over the glaring transgressions of the filming crew. It’s all over and as quickly as it started the dream has left town. You are left with a $10,000 landscaping repair bill, Broken antique furniture, a string of pearls on a potbellied pig with lipstick, a foil wrapped breakfast burrito lodged in your coffee maker, and your most cherished souvenir, a fresh black eye that the bodyguards applied to your mug when you waved and winked at Johnny Depp.


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