My Norwescon 41 schedule

Posted by Office-Bob on 18 Mar 2018 | Tagged as: General Craziness

This will be the first year as a Norwescon attending pro that I am not doing the movie-making workshop (because they’re not doing one this year) and while I’m on more panels than I was in the past, my overall schedule is actually lighter than previous years…if you are a) crazy enough to read my blog, b) attending Norwescon, and c) would like to meet up, here are the places and times where you can track me down:

Thursday:

NOW Can We Have Flying Cars?
9:00pm - 10:00pm @ Evergreen 1 & 2
Dr. Dana Andrews (M), Brian D. Oberquell, Bill Gruner

Friday:

Fandom In Daily Life
2:00pm - 3:00pm @ Cascade 7 & 8
Brenna Clarke Gray (M), Liz Courts, Berlynn Wohl, Shubzilla, Brian D. Oberquell

SF/F Battle Royale
3:00pm - 4:00pm @ Cascade 9
Erik Scott de Bie (M), Dawn Vogel, Brian D. Oberquell

Con Crud - What is the Reality?
5:00pm - 6:00pm @ Cascade 12
Jake McKinzie (M), Brian D. Oberquell, Dr. Ricky

Saturday:

Liar’s Panel
2:00pm - 3:00pm @ Evergreen 1 & 2
Caren GS (M), Lilith Dawn, Brian D. Oberquell, K. C. Alexander, Lee Moyer

Popularity: 2% [?]

When you’re odd, what are the odds?

Posted by Office-Bob on 15 Mar 2018 | Tagged as: General Craziness, FX

Over the years, I’ve been told that I looked like certain people.

When I was younger and thinner, people told me that I looked like Monty Python’s Graham Chapman; when I got older/fatter/grayer, people told me that I looked like George Lucas (I still get that one a lot, usually the first time I show up on set to work on a new show).

One day, when I was working on LUCIFER, the VFX guy stopped me and said that I looked like a colleague of his in Los Angeles, and asked if he could take my picture to send to the man in question. I said I was okay with that, as long as I got a picture of him in return.

I’m not going to post the pictures for comparison because I don’t have the other guy’s permission, but damned if we don’t look pretty similar – and those to whom I’ve shown the picture tend to agree.

It gets even weirder, because he and I both share the same first name.

Who knows? Perhaps some day I’ll be visiting L.A. for whatever reason, and I walk down the street someone will call out my name - then, as I turn around, they realize I’m not the person they thought I was, at which point I will tell them this story and we’ll have a laugh.

Of course, if it turns out they thought I was someone else entirely and that there’s another doppelganger of me out there, I’m gonna wonder if maybe there’s some “Boys from Brazil” shit going on.

Popularity: 2% [?]

NDAs – not just for high tech jobs anymore

Posted by Office-Bob on 14 Mar 2018 | Tagged as: General Craziness, FX

On your first day of work on a film or TV production you’re presented with what’s known as a “Start Pack,” which contains all of the paperwork you need to complete to be hired on to the production. Most of it is stuff that anyone who’s worked anywhere will recognize – things like tax deduction claims, personal information, and such – and there will also be things like the official policy on harassment (they’re against it), workplace safety (they’re for it) and proof of residency for tax credit purposes (they want it).

One thing that has become part of the experience (or should I say “ordeal,” considering the amount of paperwork the typical start pack contains) in recent years is a non-disclosure agreement.

I’m used to seeing and filling out NDAs from my years working in software development, and their purpose here is no different; you’re expected to not publicly discuss or take/display pictures of anything you hear or see while working on the production, although those restrictions are usually relaxed once the show has aired or the movie has been released. They’re not kidding around, either – I worked on a show (no, I’m not gonna name it) where tales were told of one semi-regular background actor who was fired because he posted some set pictures onto his Facebook page, and the general consensus was that he’s probably going to have trouble getting work in the future because he violated his NDA.

That’s not to say that pictures don’t get taken – after all, it’s human nature to want to document things that you had a hand in creating – but those who do so are usually pretty discreet in how and when they take pictures, and they keep them to themselves or else only share them with a very close, trusted circle of friends.

As for me, I will happily discuss something I’ve worked on once it’s escaped into the wild but until then, the most you’ll get out of me is admission that I worked on PROJECT NAME and, maybe, a comment to the effect that I think people will like it when it comes out…if you want the REALLY juicy stories, you’ll need to buy me a drink or three after it’s gone public.

Popularity: 2% [?]

Sometimes the easiest way to get something out of your head is to write it down

Posted by Office-Bob on 22 Aug 2017 | Tagged as: General Craziness, Rants

I try to avoid being overtly political when it comes to social media, but lately it’s been getting more and more difficult to do so - gee, I wonder why?

Anyway, I had a few bits of a song parody floating through (what passes for) my mind and decided that I should knuckle down and finish the damned thing or it would never vacate the premises - what follows is the result.

FYI, the Guam reference was more timely when I started writing this down.

A Day In The Life

(with apologies to The Beatles)
Continue Reading »

Popularity: 6% [?]

I’ll take “How To Miss Your JEOPARDY Audition” for $500, Alex…

Posted by Office-Bob on 08 Apr 2017 | Tagged as: General Craziness, Rants

Last year (July 2016) I received news that I’d been selected to audition for JEOPARDY; I was given a list of available dates and cities and I decided on July 15 in Las Vegas because:

1) It was one of the few dates which fit my current work schedule;
2) It was close to my wedding anniversary and while I’ve been to Vegas before, my wife has never been so I thought it would be a great way to spend the weekend considering that our actual anniversary day was going to be spent working on the 2016 Celebration of Light fireworks competition. We’d have been going out to dinner that weekend anyway, so why not make it more memorable by doing it in Vegas?

I called my wife and asked her if she was cool with flying to Vegas for the weekend and with her enthusiastic approval in hand, I arranged the flight and hotel. Because we were wrapping production on the TV series I was currently working on the day before the audition, I booked an early morning flight which gave us lots of time to check into our hotel and then for me to get to the afternoon audition…unless things went south in a big way.

You can probably guess where this is going but for now, as the late Stuart MacLean used to say, “Let’s stay in the moment.”

We arrived at YVR in lots of time to get through security (I have NEXUS, my wife doesn’t, so our timetable took that into account) and after clearing the lines we sat down and waited…then we received the first notice that things might not go as smoothly as hoped when Air Canada announced there’d be a 30 minute delay due to a mechanical issue. No problem, we literally have hours between arrival in Vegas and the audition so there’s nothing to worry about.

Then another delay was announced.

Then yet another delay was announced.

Then my travel-planning app sent me a text to warn me that the flight had been cancelled.

Since the status board at the gate hadn’t been updated to reflect any cancellation I walked up and asked the gate agent what was going on; she informed me that while the flight had technically been cancelled because the original plane wasn’t going to be fixed in a reasonable amount of time, they were bringing in another plane and would transfer everyone’s reservations over to the “new flight.”

By this time the announcements were coming over the PA system and everyone was finding out the good news; the gate agents handed out meal vouchers so people could go get breakfast while we waited to find out exactly when we’d be taking to the air.

The delay dragged on and on, and my travel plans went from “We’ll have plenty of time” to “Okay, the wife will stay at the airport and grab our luggage while I take a cab straight to the audition” to “Better get used to the fact that you’re just not going to make the audition.” We ended up arriving in Vegas about 30 minutes after the audition started (and we were warned that it would start on time and not to be late, so when you factor in the time it would take to get to the host hotel from the airport it wasn’t even worth trying to get there) so the next step was to check in to our hotel and make the best of a bad situation.

When I’d booked the hotel I’d paid extra for early check-in – something that wasn’t needed by this point because of the delays – so when we got to the hotel I figured there was no harm in asking to be credited back the early check-in fee. Not only did they refund the fee but when I told them why we had come to Vegas and what had happened, they gave us an extra food and drink credit which we used to celebrate our anniversary in a more elaborate way than we’d originally planned.

The weekend went well enough and we had a good time despite my disappointment at missing my “big chance,” but there was one more thing I need to do upon my return home – request a refund from Air Canada for my outbound seat assignments because I had paid for exit row seats for our trip and when the metal was replaced on the flight to Vegas, the same seat number assignments on a different model of aircraft meant that what we had weren’t exit row seats. Upon our return home I went onto seatguru.com and printed off floor plans for both the original plane and the plane we ended up on, noted the difference in seating and requested a refund for the seat fees as what we received were not what we paid for…Air Canada agreed and refunded the fees for the outbound leg of the trip.

By now, some of you might be wondering why I didn’t ask for some sort of compensation for the flight delay itself? Well, despite the long delay in getting me to Las Vegas, Air Canada did in fact get me there so they held up their end of the bargain…it’s not their fault that I didn’t build an extra day’s buffer into my schedule, so as far as I’m concerned I can’t justify asking for more than a refund on that part of the flight which they failed to deliver, namely specific seat assignments.

As for the audition, while waiting at YVR I did email the JEOPARDY producers at the only email address I had to inform them I’d be missing the audition, and a few weeks later they got in touch to say that they’d let me audition again in the near future. I don’t know what then might happen but you can be sure that if/when it does, I’m going to be flying in at least one day early.

Popularity: 8% [?]

Yeah, I know, it’s been a while…

Posted by Office-Bob on 02 Mar 2016 | Tagged as: The Church of Pyro, FX

Sorry for the looooooooong time between entries…it’s not because I don’t love you (okay, some of you I like but don’t love, and others I perhaps love too much) but things have just been cruising at a relatively normal pace so I haven’t had much to say until now.

Here’s a catchup post for those of you in the cheap seats:

  • I worked on a number of projects including FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, ONCE UPON A TIME, STAR TREK BEYOND and DC’s LEGENDS OF TOMORROW;
  • I did my usual summer fireworks shows (Canada Day, Celebration of Light) as well as other events like Motley Crüe and New Year’s Eve (the first NYE fireworks in Vancouver in ten years!);
  • I made my annual February pilgrimage to Lake Havasu City, AZ for Western Winter Blast and ended the trip with a few days in Las Vegas (I heartily recommend the Happy Half Hour at the High Roller; 30 minutes of open bar while getting an aerial view of the Strip).
  • I’m now in the process of prepping to teach a Special Effects Pyrotechnics course on March 17th and then, during the Easter long weekend, I will be attending Norwescon 39 and taking part of the Hellbender Filmmaking Workshop along with the usual suspects and a couple of new partners in crime.If you’re at the con please track me down and say hello and I’ll give you a special badge ribbon (limited quantity)!

    That’s all for now; I will try to write more often but don’t hold your breath (unless you’re into that sort of thing - but remember to auto-asphyxiate responsibly).

    Popularity: 15% [?]

    Warping minds, one explosion at a time

    Posted by Office-Bob on 12 Jun 2015 | Tagged as: The Church of Pyro

    You’ve probably heard of the saying, “Those who can’t do, teach?” Well, you’d better hope that isn’t the case because as of this year I am now certified by the Explosives Regulatory Division (ERD) of Natural Resources Canada (NRC) to teach the Display Fireworks and Special Effects Pyrotechnics courses as part of the national licensing program.

    There have been a number of changes to the licensing program over the years, so I should explain what the program used to be and what it is now…

    When I first took the Display Supervisor course the process went as follows: you spent the first half of the day in the classroom learning the theory (including things like safety distances and such) and then you’d go out into the field for a practical demonstration where students would be shown how to load display shells into mortars (the tubes from which fireworks are launched) and would get to light the fuse and send a shell into the sky. Assuming you did everything right and passed the class, you were issued a Level 1* Display Supervisor license and were automatically allowed to purchase certain product and fire Level 1 shows. Once you’d had a certain number of shows under your belt and were able to provide letters of reference showing you’d gained additional experience, you were able to apply to upgrade your license to Level 2.

    The ERD overhauled the licensing system a while ago and decided that instead of allowing a complete newbie to run their own show, which might not be the best idea, they’d change the licensing program to something more graduated - so instead of being able to run a show as soon as you received your license, they changed to a graduated system where you first work as a Display Assistant for a number of shows - then, once you’ve gained experience (and letters of reference from show supervisors you’ve worked for), you can apply for your Display Supervisor license. This license is the same as the old Level 1 but under the new program they’ve broken down the additional operator capabilities into a set of endorsements as follows:
    Continue Reading »

    Popularity: 17% [?]

    Bright lights and late nights

    Posted by Office-Bob on 07 Jun 2015 | Tagged as: The Church of Pyro, FX

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s a safe bet that anyone who talks about “the glamour of the movie industry” has never actually worked in it.

    I recently worked two nights on an upcoming TV show which, because of an NDA that I had to sign, I won’t go into detail about because I’m not sure if my own personal blog falls within their definition of “social media.” Here’s how each day went:

    DAY 1 - call time 3:00 pm, wrap at 4:48 am the next morning.

    DAY 2 - call time 3:30 pm, wrap at 6:00 am the next morning.

    Considering that the money one makes on a union production is pretty damned good, especially when you factor in regular rate, overtime, double OT and meal penalties*, all things considered I’d still rather work on fireworks displays or do live theatre. Why, you ask? Well, because:
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    Popularity: 20% [?]

    Felines…nothing more than felines…

    Posted by Office-Bob on 09 Mar 2015 | Tagged as: General Craziness

    Have you ever regretted not having kids because you’re unable to enjoy being able to tell them to turn down their godawful music? Well, never fear, now there’s music for cats!

    Now you can yell at your cats to turn down their crap music; they’ll ignore you just like a REAL teenager, but with less sighing and screaming things like, “YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOM! I HATE YOU!”

    For less than the cost of a cup of coffee you can show your cat how much you regret making them listen to your Nina Simone CDs by giving them something that they’ll want to listen to! Take “crazy cat lady” to A HIGHER LEVEL!

    Operators are standing by…ORDER NOW!

    Popularity: 18% [?]

    Tomato Catch-Up

    Posted by Office-Bob on 03 Feb 2015 | Tagged as: Rants, The Church of Pyro, FX

    It has been a while since I’ve posted anything, for which I apologize. Life has been in a state of flux and thinking of witty things to say hasn’t exactly been high on my to-do list, but from now on I am going to try and be more regular than a well-fibered colon.

    I’m still not working on a full-time basis and while that’s allowed me to take on more pyro and FX work, this whole “not having a steady paycheque” thing is getting old and I’d be happy to get back to the daily grind of sitting at a desk slaving away for a regular wage….oh my dog, did I just write that?

    I don’t know what’s worse - dealing with job applications where you don’t ever hear back or dealing with recruiters who tell you they’ve got the perfect position for you but they never call you back after you start dealing with them; of the two I’d say the recruiters are the worst but of course that’s just my opinion.

    Okay, that’s enough of a pity party for now.

    As I mentioned earlier I’ve been able to engage in more pyro and FX work these days, including three TV shows and a TV movie, as well as a number of fireworks displays which not only included the usual suspects of Canada Day and Celebration of Light, but the Port Moody Centennial and last year’s Port Moody Days…though that had the downside of having to set up my firing control panel next to the stage where an ABBA tribute band was playing. The group was great, it’s just that I’ve never really been an ABBA fan.

    I’ve also worked a few BC Lions home games and was part of the Grey Cup 2014 FX crew, and I got to be the “local license” for Motley Crue when they came to Vancouver. Other pyro gigs included a wedding, a city hall opening, a casino opening, a couple of “private” displays (so called because they’re not advertised, but as you can guess once the first shell goes off it’s difficult to keep them a secret) and a New Year’s Eve show for a client who was so secretive, the only person who knew who was paying for it was the guy in charge - and he had to sign an NDA and couldn’t even tell the rest of us. I also did some consulting work on a few plays and made some breakaway vases for another play.

    Next week I head to Lake Havasu City, AZ for Western Winter Blast. there are a few seminars that look interesting this year, especially one on gas mines, and I’m hoping to come away with some new knowledge that I can put to use soon.

    2015 should be interesting because I am now officially certified by the Explosives Regulatory Division as a pyrotechnics instructor and I will be teaching my first course in March. It’s being held in a town that’s about 4 hours away from here but I guess you have to start somewhere, and I’m hoping to have more courses set up soon in the Metro Vancouver area as there seems to me a lot of interest in becoming licensed. If by some chance you, Dear Reader(s), are in the Vancouver area and are interested in taking either the Display Supervisor or Special Effects Pyrotechnic courses - or both - leave your contact info in the comments and I’ll let you know who you need to contact to express interest.

    That’s all for now…Stay Green!

    Popularity: 25% [?]

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