Ridiculous Names

A throwaway joke in yesterday’s post prompted a few questions. Thankfully, Michael the Hollywood Juicer had answers, as usual.

Someday, I hope Mike does a post on all the silly, strange, and just plain confusing nicknames we have for our equipment. In the meanwhile, here’s mine.

As Mike said, names of items differ from place to place, time to time, and even set to set. I’ve heard the heavy bags used to hold stands in place called, variously, “dirtbags,” “sandbags,” “beach,” and, in the case of one memorable Jewish DP, “Mel Gibsons,” due to his “Jews started all the wars” comment. (Why this incident alone, in the long history of crimes against the Jewish people, merited renaming “dirtbags,” I don’t know; I’m not sure he does, either.)

I’m told that, before my time, many terms used to be racist, sexist, or both. For instance, black fabric stretched over a 4′ by 4′ frame is now called either a “solid” or “negative fill.” (If there’s an extra piece of fabric that hangs down to 8′, it’s called a “floppy.”)

Apparently, these used to be called “blacks,” but the name changed for fear of offending someone. This seemed ludicrously PC to me, until I heard the following story.

An old (white) cinematographer was shooting a Spike Lee commercial. The room they were filming in was very white. Logically, the DP needed a lot of solids to control the light.

He said, “I need you guys to hang blacks along all the walls. I want to see blacks hanging all around me.”

You’ll be surprised to learn that Spike didn’t hire this DP again.

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6 Responses

  1. We were doing a movie years ago on location in a small town in Kentucky. We had a couple of stagehands that had basically been forced hires as grips (they didn’t last long after we fell way behind and I was leaving the dolly to put 12x12s together, Note for the IA and producers-Stagehands and grips are two entirely different animals)Anyway the Key Grip asked one of them to bring him a pancake. 20 minutes later she showed up with a paper plate from catering with-you guessed it- pancakes.

  2. And “to strike” means one thing for electrics (turn on the light) and something else for EVERYBODY ELSE (get rid of the thing).

    I can’t tell you the number of times I was working on a low-budget or student project and I had to clarify, “Do you want me to turn it on, or tear it down?”

  3. And then some things don’t sound so great, but we still hang on to them.

    “Hang a baby out the window and cut it with a meat-axe”!

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