By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
I’m currently working on a cable series. You generally start out on independent films and go on to TV, then Spielberg calls. TV is good work, but independent films are a little harder. On an independent film you’ve got a director and producer who have vision, and they don’t care if they don’t sleep, don’t get paid, and run up their credit cards. But for all the technicians this is a job, the way they make their living.
I work long hours, about 250 days a year. I worked 80 hours last week. I’m the first there and the last to leave. Sometimes it can be dangerous. Generally, when you hear of someone dying or getting injured on a film, at least half the time it’s a grip. That guy who was killed on The X-Fileswas a grip, and those guys on that Disney movie who got electrocuted. I’ve never seen a bad injury, but backs go out — it’s a pretty physical job. And I’ve heard that grips die within five years of retirement.
I’d like to be done by 50, and be into some other thing. Maybe designing rigs, or selling custom rigs. I never was much for movies, and I’m still not, really. I’m not a big movie guy. But I like what I do.
Kathie Kadziauskas & Buck Holiday > Crime-Scene Cleaners > AAA Crime Scene Steam and Clean
Photographed by Robert Yager
Six years ago, a friend of mine in Chicago had a friend who shot himself, and one of the things he had to deal with was how to clean up. I thought, this is something a family should never have to do, and when they asked me to come over and help, I did. When I got back to California in 1994, I checked around to see whether anyone else was doing it. I was astonished that no one was. I always had an entrepreneurial kind of bent, so I started a business.
Some of the jobs really get to us, especially the ones that involve children, or the ones that are particularly senseless. Most of our jobs involve suicides, and sometimes you’re standing there just like the family, saying, “My God. This person had everything. What would drive them to this?”
Sometimes the jobs are just really, really, really gross, like a lot of blood and body fluids. One time we had to go into this house that was a trash house. The guy was still alive in the house, but he hadn’t had plumbing for three years. All of the toilets were full; he was using the bathtub as a toilet and also defecating in the backyard in piles. That job took us two 10-hour days.
Every job we do is a biohazard, and the State of California considers what we clean up medical waste. There are a lot of physical dangers — Hepatitis B and C, meningitis, tuberculosis — so we go into a job wearing Tyvek® water-repellant suits. We’re protected head to toe, and everybody has their shots.
I worry more about the emotional effects of the job than the physical hazards. We always have a debriefing at the end of the day when we can all talk about what we saw and shake out the cobwebs. I have a crew, and I have crew chiefs, and when I start burning out on a job, I just send my crew chiefs out and take a break. And if it gets to them, I do the same thing. But there’s also a lot of satisfaction in this work. You have a really positive, immediate impact on someone’s horrible situation. When we’re on a job, there’s nobody in the world they want to see more than us, but once we’re done, they never want to see us again.Continued...
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