Saturday, February 07, 2009

Layout Board

I hate it. We spent the last three days shooting inside and out of a really big house in Arcadia, Ca. needless to say, I had the prerequisite talk with the site rep about the dolly wheels. I was told that I didn't need to have layout under the dolly as long as I used pneumatics. I tried to explain that the medium softs would do no more harm than the air tires but to no avail. Since we had gotten rid of the pneumatics for the peewee (in a bid to save money I was asked to send any dolly stuff I didn't need back to Chapman), I was compelled to roll it on layout board wherever it went.. So I switched the Hustler to all pneumatics but had to wait for what seemed like an eternity for the layout board guy to finish whatever he was doing and get around to laying a trail to get the camera to wherever it needed to be when I was on the Peewee. This added at least an hour to the day all told. And it was all because someone at some point in the past had told this lady (who was very nice) that all dolly tires but pneumatics would hurt her floor. I've rolled on everything from NBA courts to the bowling alley in the bottom of a Beverly Hills mansion and never left so much as a smudge. The misguided belief that the tires will hurt the floors drives me nuts, adds needless time to the day, and costs infinitely more money than whatever parts I can send back to Chapman to get off rental. My camera operator likes to say that layout board is the biggest scam in Hollywood. I don't know about that, it's probably good to protect floors from stands, muddy boots, etc. But all it does for the dolly is cost time.


Anonymous said...

You know, D, this really brings up an issue that I had a talk about on set not long ago – really, about locations.

I remember a time when the locations dept and production manager worked for the production. Nowadays, it seems like locations are working for the locations, and not for us. They seem to be more concerned with saving their ass and telling the crew what they can and can’t do (their chance to be all high and mighty) than with what will actually get the day done quicker and more efficiently. Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot more of “no, you can’t do that because the homeowner/location won’t let us” rather than “yeah, let me just double check with the location and try to make that happen.” Maybe it’s laziness, maybe it’s the aforementioned need to feel like they are in charge of something, I don’t know. But it’s been pissing me off the last few years that locations have seemed to be more on the side of the location rather than the production.

Also, perhaps to a lesser extent, and it really depends on the individual (some UPMs are great), is the case with production managers and coordinators. Depending on who you work with, everything seems like a hassle, especially on lower-budget stuff. Getting gear, returning, buying expendables, when to get what and how. I’ve come across more than once where the PM, for one reason or another, made a whole day (or a whole shoot) a lot more difficult because he was afraid of pissing off the rental house (or, god forbid, spending an extra buck) rather than making the job get done faster, and easier for us crew.

OK, I'll stop ranting now. Sorry.


Nathan said...


As a Location Manager, I'll acknowledge that you're probably experiencing "the pendulum swinging a little too far". While there is an appropriate time for a location manager to say "no", there is never an appropriate time for that to be his only response. He should always be trying to accommodate both the production and the property owner. And he should know enough about the rest of the crew's jobs to have the balls to suggest alternatives, (which will admittedly, sometimes, be stupid, but that's no excuse not to try).

A few years ago, we were shooting in a place that had drop-ceilings and about a dozen 4-bulb fluorescent fixtures. The production designer wanted all the fixtures unwired and removed so the ceiling would only show un-interrupted white panels. This was going to add a ridiculous amount of time and money in electrician costs and the location wasn't wild about the whole idea either. (Note: The D.P. wasn't 100% sure, but he doubted he'd ever pick up any ceiling in the frame, but the conversation went on for 20 minutes anyway.) Eventually, I asked, since the fixtures were just sitting on the ceiling's framing, if we couldn't just shove them to the side and fill in the gaps with ceiling panels. A sort of "Duh" moment made its round of the Tech Scout and that was what we ended up doing.

(I think one of my favorite jobs ever was in a mansion scheduled for demolition. When one of the grips asked if he could nail a pigeon to the wall, I suggested he use a 10 lb. sledge.)

Re: the layout board.

In NY, for some reason, the materials come out of the Locations Dept. budget, but the labor comes from Set Dec. (per I.A. rules). Unfortunately, a lot of the newer set dressers show up out of the non-union world and don't know the rules. At the beginning of every movie these days, I have to get the leadman to explain to the swing gang that, yes, it is their job. (On my last show, I was really impressed by the A.D. who scheduled the big dolly shot for first up so the dressers could get the layout board put down on their prep day instead of holding up the shoot.) And, here too, a Location Manager should know enough and have big enough balls to tell a location, "Those wheels won't cause any damage. We'll refinish it if it does." It doesn't cost a thing to promise things you know you won't need to deliver.

Azurgrip said...

rant on:

In my town, it seems that it's location costs come first, "Look" come second, and ease of use come third.

I spent this week in a house in a upscale neighborhood (read: can't get the trucks close enough) that could no more than four people, never mind the forty this "little low budget" shoot had. "Don't scratch the walls!!" was heard at every turn as we muscled a Pee Wee up and down stairwells that most football players would have issues.

What we saw of this house was a bathroom - no windows (2nd floor) and a bed with a wall behind it (basement). That's it for two days.

We spent more time moving furniture around rooms just to give us space to put vidiot village. Did I mention that this show it too cheap to rental a honeywagon or star rooms, so Hair/Make Up needed a cleared out room, and so did Wardrobe. Thank god the one toilet didn't back up.

This house should NOT have been offered up as an option. The location manager only did so because - he got a deal... If there's any damages, insurance will cover it and it won't come out of his budget.

Greenboard / layout board has gone the way of the doddo here in Toronto, it's been replaced by runners / matts and corogated paper for walls (4' rolls). And it's all "prepped" by a seperate company (installed and removed), so all that's required on the day is a location PA to shuffle matts out of shot and replace them when done. Oh, also, everything they use on stairs is dangerous, so that product has to be removed to carry dollies up and down stairs.

Why? I keep asking... in 25 years and the various generations of Locations people can't seem to get it through their heads nor come up with an answer for me... Ofcourse there are exceptions, but most of these LMs are just rushing to get to PM jobs so they can say "NO" to more people and look like an even bigger headed star to the producers.

Oh, yeah, don't forget to be nice to them as they bone you, as in the next year or so they'll be the ones signing your deal memo.

rant off

Unknown said...

Thanks Nathan for a LM's perspective. I sometimes wonder,DW, who's side they're on also.
Azurgrip, great points as usual.
Next to layout board, I should have put big thick rugs you'll barely see as a pet peeve. But the production designers love em. My favorite story was a couple of years ago we were scouting a set that had ben built for a movie we were about to start. In it, the art dept had put down a HUGE springy rug, maybe 20x20 and plopped a 500 lb desk on top. I consulted with my DP and Key about the fact that dance floor would be a nightmare in there. The set dressers weren't happy that they had to remove the rug and desk they spent all morning putting in.

Azurgrip said...

The rug with the two couches, huge glass coffee table and the planter with the six foot tree is always first to go.

On most series I've done, we invariably divide most carpets into thirds (or whatever works with the pattern) and carve it up to allow us to remove as little as possible.

Anonymous said...

azur 25 years
you must be maybe 40

when did you start gripping.when you were 15

Anonymous said...

Here's my favorite thing about layout board. The one and only thing that clean dolly wheels leave a mark BOARD!!! And no matter how much you tell the sight rep that that is the case, they panic when they see the black marks on the layout board and subsequently it becomes your arch-nemesis for the next 12-14 hours.

One of life's cruel injustices....

Anonymous said...

if you can it is always a good idea to do a discreet test of turning your wheels 360 to see if you leave that distinct donut shaped mark for the locations guys to deal with after you have long since gone.

bottom line don't be left holding the bag if there are any floor issues .keep everyone informed along the way.

Anonymous said...


If only you had a name. I was pulling cues on an ancient dimmer board for live shows when I was nine, was a summer apprentice (ten weeks, 50 hours a week) in a theatrical set shop when I was 14, and was working on no / low budget stuff when I was 18 while in college. If this business is in your blood, you start early.

Thank God I missed layout board. Budgets here have always been too small, and the liability laws cap damage awards anyway. The courts here see it this way: if you invite 40+ people into your home / office in exchange for money, there will be lot of damage, which you can then pay for. Did you HAVE to agree to let them shoot in your house?

D said...

Wick, that's the way it should be. People love to have shows shoot in their house and take the money that comes with it, but then bitch about all the equipment it takes to do it. I really have to bite my tongue when site reps start up with me about something.
PS- by the way, sometimes I forget to sign in and comments get left under my wife's account. "Rebecca" is me.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think we have it really good here in India. Locations would never dream of telling us we cant wheel a dolly into a location. Unless we were filming in an operating theatre, that would never fly.
If youve been paid, accept what comes with that high rental.

P.S. D, by now everyone knows you are rebecca sometimes :)

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Rubber mats are the way to go now on location. Very rarely use board nowadays. And remember the floors are not just protected against dolly wheels but from all other equipement brought into the location. Somebody mentioned about clean wheels are ok on an unprotected floor, let me ask you do you constantly check your wheels to see if they are clean?

D said...

uhhh, yeah because I'm a professional.

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Steve said...

Oh, is that so. The dolly grip said no layout board was needed on a marble floor. He said he never had a problem. A couple hours later some tool fell off the dolly leaving a nice big hole in the floor. I hope the grip offered to pay to repair the floor.
Another time another dolly grip said he didn't need layout board under the dolly. What happened? The dolly dropped a pool of oil on the expensive wood floor while the house rep watched. Nice going, know it all.
At another house the crew just destroyed the house. They needed to do a re-shoot in the house on this major film. The homeowner said, "Forget it."
At another house, the dolly driver said the dolly would not hurt the priceless soft wood floor. He had hard wheels on. You can see where the dolly went. The tracks are still in the 110-year-old floor.
I could go on and on about all the damages, but typing skill is kind of rusty.
Old Timer

D said...

Irst of all Steve, welcome. Your comments are appreciated. I have a couple of points though: Point number one- I can't help it if you work with Dumbasses. They are scattered through the business like leaves on a Fall day.
Point Two- I'm an old timer too. I've rolled dollies on any floor you can imagine after first assessing that I had the correct ones on and that they were clean. Never left a mark. not one. Ever. The only damage i ever did was when a sideboard slipped out of my hand and left a big dent in a floor, through the layout board. which brings me to point three- Things happen. If you want to shoot in a sensitive location, then at least be aware that sweaty guys carrying thousands of pounds of equipment are going to be in the house. Things are going to happen. It takes a lot of crap to make a movie and most of it is heavy, leaky, and often pointy.We don't show the locations, you do. If you don't understand the logistics and Murphy's Law then you're a moron. My last point- It's Dolly GRIP. Not Dolly DRIVER. If you haven't learned the terminology used for the last 80 years then I seriously doubt your set experience.
D. Another Old Timer.

Anonymous said...

I am a Location Manager with over 15 years experience in the business. Here are some horror stories: dolly leaks oil on custom carpet in an attorney's office: 25K to replace. Tool dropped down marble stairs, hitting/chipping every 4th one: 7K to repair. Light stands (w/ missing rubber feet - assured by the gaffer that all feet are in place): gouged brand new wood floor. Guess what? New floor. I've had to replace the lid of a grand piano, not cheap btw. Spreaders anchored against ornemental plaster: disaster. This stuff happens all the time, and is usually the result of crew members not exerting reasonable care, i.e. rushing - caused by pressure from their dept head. And it seems that nobody really cares because the LM/the company will have to deal with it. I don't have a problem with the cost of the repairs - we are contractually obligated to restore the property. I do have a problem about the attitude of some crew members who claim to be "professionals," but treat other people's property as a rental. It ruins the reputation of the industry, and that is the real danger long-term.

D said...

Thank you Anonymous for your comments. I agree with you about the way some people treat locations. Unfortunately we all get painted with the same brush when someone behaves badly. Your comments are appreciated.