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Who is in charge of electricity for "practical lights"?


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#1 Karl Eklund

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 02:43 AM

I just worked on a shoot as a gaffer, were I obviously had to deal with making sure we had enough cables and safety boxes, etc. for the lights. I've always more or less been under the assumption that the Art Department/Production Designer take care of their own practical lights, getting cables and wiring them up. Of course it is good for the head of departments to communicate and make sure PD doesn't steal all the juice and likewise for lighting crew not to take all the power.

When I worked in Sweden on a 4 million dollar mini-series as a gaffer, the electrical/light department didn't not like to share and deal with the Art Department, it was pretty much hands off for anybody that wasn't a gaffer unless there were no other options for Art Department. I don't know if that is the standard way in Sweden since I've only worked on one production there...

Anyways, then on that shoot, the art department had their own cables, that would blend well with whatever we were shooting, like and office or a home. However, on this recent shoot, low budget, they had nothing and ended up using our cables that were too long and most of them orange colored.

Now, personally I have no problem whatsoever to help the Art Department and lending them gear and stuff, but I wasn't prepared for it, so we had to rent more leads and safety boxes.

So, to sum up this long post, who is responsible for what, and is there a difference in the USA and Australia (where I am now)?

Edited by Karl Eklund, 09 December 2010 - 02:44 AM.

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#2 Stephen Floyd

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Posted 12 December 2010 - 01:46 AM

It’s always been my impression that the Gaffer is in charge of everything electrical. Everything. If another department needs lights or wants to string their own, they have to go through the Gaffer or Best Boy. This ensures safety, keeps the inventory square and keeps hands moving on set.

But budgets and styles vary, so this would be a good issue to bring up in a production meeting, while there is still a chance to reserve additional equipment.
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#3 timHealy

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Posted 12 December 2010 - 01:48 PM

The art department in general always drives grips and electrics crazy.

In NY the electrical department is responsible for everything electrical. Up to a point.

With Local 52 we have what's called a shop electrician or house electrician position. That person actually can have a really tough job as they supply electrical needs to carpenters, scenics, props, set dressers, and handles projects that need to be built for the shoot electricians. Many times a shop electrician gets hired before the gaffer does, but a gaffer could come in and give the job to one of their guys. Or leave the guy in place. But that person works with the whole art department checking anything electrical before it makes the way to the set.

However, if practicals are on the set. Practicals are the choice of the art department. But they must have bulbs or actually sockets that the shoot crew electricians and the DP can work with. If a practical or electrical equipment on the set that is photographed and has cable that is photographed, then the set dressers are responsible for running and dressing the cable off the set. Then the construction or rigging electrics will hook it up to power where needed.

Also in addition to construction, Local 52 electrical department handles the set, rigging for the set, generators, powering heaters, work lights, truck power and base camp genny and power.

In LA those roles are split up into three different unions. 728 is responsible for set lighting and rigging. The teamsters run the generators. And then the Local 40 guys do some of what I would call shop work. I think the 728 guys have what they call a fixture rate where a guy does what one of our shop electrician would do rewiring and checking lamps. But this is where an LA 728 guy should fill in the details on how this stuff is handled in California.

Best

Tim

Edited by timHealy, 12 December 2010 - 01:50 PM.

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#4 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 12 December 2010 - 03:00 PM

A long time ago, I was on a set where the Art Department had rigged it's own power for some practical lamps. At some point in the morning, the very thin (and obviously inappropriate wiring) wire lit up.... it was very much like a movie where you could actually see the flame moving up the cord, much like a fuse that was lit. The toxic fumes forced everyone off the set until it could be aired out and the lighting fixed properly.

While it's a pain a in the butt for the Electrical Department, because of that instance, I think it's important that Electrics provide power to anyone on set who needs it. That includes providing the power and running distribution and cabling it properly to the final destination. Just getting light is one thing, but doing it safely is another.

I get it. I get the frustration of Electrics being expected to deal with things other than big "movie lighting." Doing what I do, traveling with a VERY small lighting package, it irritates the living SH** out of me when I get a whiny Makeup person showing up (late) and asking me for a light so they can do their work. It's not like I show up with a forty foot truck and eight guys. I barely have enough lighting to do what I'M supposed to do, muchless cater to someone who KNOWS she needs light but fails to pack what she needs. The Makeup people in my world just show up with their little kit and expect ME to light up their world just as some Sound Mixers just expect me to provide them a C-stand and hardware to mount their boom. I show up with the things I need, so why doesn't anyone else ever seem to?

But, on a BIG feature with distinct departments, all who have many people and a budget, it's likely better to have Electrics deal with anything and everything electric for safety concerns if nothing else.
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#5 timHealy

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Posted 12 December 2010 - 05:09 PM

A long time ago, I was on a set where the Art Department had rigged it's own power for some practical lamps. At some point in the morning, the very thin (and obviously inappropriate wiring) wire lit up.... it was very much like a movie where you could actually see the flame moving up the cord, much like a fuse that was lit. The toxic fumes forced everyone off the set until it could be aired out and the lighting fixed properly.


What you probably had there was either an over amped zip cord line or a dead short. Where somehow a breaker did not work or was bypassed. Or that was in the days of non breakered porcelain connections and pockets on stage boxes where 301 and a halfs were plugged in?
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#6 timHealy

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Posted 12 December 2010 - 05:13 PM

I get it. I get the frustration of Electrics being expected to deal with things other than big "movie lighting." Doing what I do, traveling with a VERY small lighting package, it irritates the living SH** out of me when I get a whiny Makeup person showing up (late) and asking me for a light so they can do their work. It's not like I show up with a forty foot truck and eight guys. I barely have enough lighting to do what I'M supposed to do, muchless cater to someone who KNOWS she needs light but fails to pack what she needs. The Makeup people in my world just show up with their little kit and expect ME to light up their world just as some Sound Mixers just expect me to provide them a C-stand and hardware to mount their boom. I show up with the things I need, so why doesn't anyone else ever seem to?



They do that crap on a large budget film too. Except the location department will tell the electricians the night before or the morning of that they will have a 100 extras at 4 am and they need ten makeup stations in holding a half mile away from the location and nowhere near any generators.
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#7 Karl Eklund

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Posted 12 December 2010 - 11:01 PM

Thank you so much for all the answers.

I've been through the whole helping the makeup with lights and sound with c-stands thing too, and that is fine as long as I know they will need my gear or they ask for the gear the day at the shoot, but I really dislike when they or others will take gear without asking and using, and I have to run around like a fool looking special cables, or c-stands that should be available are missing... I just don't understand why people take things without asking, do they think I and the other gaffers carry the stuff to location just for fun and that we don't plan to use it?

Well, next time I am in charge of all the gaffing/electricity I will speak to the Art Department and make sure I know what they need.
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#8 Stephen Floyd

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Posted 13 December 2010 - 12:43 AM

I just don't understand why people take things without asking, do they think I and the other gaffers carry the stuff to location just for fun and that we don't plan to use it?

Art directors bring all sorts of stuff they "might" use, so that may be exactly the case.
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