Tuesday, July 2, 2013

MacGyver Finds His Magliner

By Doug Vehle, The Daily Bosco

For a mad moment, think of all the many things I'm sure you've had stolen: Imagine you are about to recover one, many years later. And it's that one that had a special reason it grated on you so that they stole it. I'd been without it for some time, it looked like it had suffered more than I did in its' absence. But somehow I felt sure I'd discovered my old magliner, here was my chance to have it back.

A magliner, for those of you who have no idea how film and television works, is the SUV of the movie set. As though it was designed by MacGyver himself, it is instantly adaptable to a myriad of uses. They cost far more than even the most complex furniture dolly at the hardware store, and they're well worth it. Once you know the add on kits you need it's like a real live Transformer, more than meets the eye. I just don't understand why anyone working in television would be without his own. . . .

 . . . .And said as much back when. I consider it a symptom of the darkside of the industry, there being so many people who whine about what's not handed to them. A company will have someone spend all their equipment budget on a camera, tripod, etc., the most expensive things they an afford, without saving anything for the right support equipment. Then when the occasional serious professional as myself shows up with his own magliner, everyone starts trying to take it from him.

You want one? It won't cost you THAT much to buy your own. Oh no, they must have it given to them. So there's always some jackass trying to get mine away from me. Thinking they're just going to say "I HAVE to use it. . . ."

Of course my response is "Then I guess you know what creek you're up." Sometimes their insistence they are taking it goes so far I'd be saying "I'll just call the police and you'll be arrested. Is that what you're after?" I'm amazed at the shock in some of the faces. Why in the world don't they get their own, just like the REAL professionals do?

Yeah, it might sound like it's more trouble than it's worth, but there's a lot of equipment to be handled in the TV world. You should only know how many times I've had to carry it all myself. I only stick with those jobs when the money is good. When you have as many as a dozen different employers you're juggling at a time as a freelancer, it's tough trying to get any one of them to obtain the right equipment, getting the right transport is about impossible. But I had my own magliner, so I didn't need to fight that battle. I just had to fight the battle of bosses telling themselves they could tell me to just leave at work for awhile. Not quite, tomorrow I'll be working over there for those guys, WITH my magliner. The reality of who he is NOT would dawn on yet another boss.

The City of LA and their Cityview 35 had their own, just not one as good as mine. So they'd be trying to trade me for the day, acting like their need was more important. "Not my problem." And it didn't come out of my car while I was at Occidental Studios picking up City cameras, too dangerous.

When I attended UCLA I was already a working professional, I even went to work for the extension office where I often greeted guest speakers I'd already worked with. One day there was a huge truck unloading, they asked to borrow any dollies they could from Audio Visual. Some dummy let them take the magliners, which were never seen again.

I could write a whole separate article on television equipment being stolen. Literally while I was being interviewed at the Strasberg Theatre Institute for a job in their euphemistically named 'Film Room,' the boyfriend of an employee was taking her out to lunch and discovered that the new cameras had been left in plain view in the office. At least that was the assumption, they didn't actually catch him in the act of taking them, there simply wasn't anyone else there. And he was this self professed genius filmmaker who had already told them he expected free use of the new cameras when they came. They had a new set by my first day there.

But I feel as though even people who wouldn't normally steal become a risk when things like a magliner is at stake. Some production assistant wouldn't think twice about stuffing my smaller cables in his pocket on my set even when I was the one who hired him and was paying him. He just thinks it's too important to him to pass up. When I was recovering from an accident someone actually stole my walking stick when I turned my back on it in a store, people won't hesitate to take the darndest things. So even moreso than my more expensive cameras, I came to understand I had to keep an eye on that magliner, probably the priciest thing that just anyone was likely to grab.

And one day, someone did. I've got people wrapping up equipment, coming and going taking things here and there, the magliner was right there in the middle of it all. Then suddenly it wasn't. Of course, NOBODY saw anything.

This was during a downhill phase of my income and career in general. The idea of just popping another $1,000 for a similarly equipped dolly wasn't going to be in the budget just then. Even as I found myself moving away from working with my own equipment and taking lower paying but more convenient and available jobs where they provided it all, that magliner would still be useful, but it was gone. Here when others would ask why I had my own, I'd say it was because I was the serious professional that knew how to do his job right, or something similar. And that was how I felt, these goofballs who make $4 grand a year occasionally doing what I do then otherwise working at Subway would always get the answer to there question of how they get to make a living at it as I do as being "You need the right attitude." Having that magliner, the right way to transport and handle equipment, was just another example of how my attitude was better than so many. And the timing of it made it seem like they took a piece of my career with it.

Several times I would see my likely suspect for taking it out working somewhere. I'd be dashing to wherever they were staging for a look at what was there, but I never saw my magliner, which I was expecting to even still have my name on it as he was using it. But his little speech a few weeks after it disappeared at the shock of the WAY it disappeared from the center of things might actually have been on the level. I guess I'll never know.

But imagine my shock over the weekend when I thought I was looking at it. I had put my name in two places on it, I guess the two most likely place anyone would put their name on one. Both places were scratched off. It's been quite some time since I've seen it, but you know how you just recognize that something is right. Only they sold a lot of them just like mine. The accessories weren't with it, it was just the magliner itself. And it was in horrible shape.

I remember the motorcycles and mopeds two of my brothers wrecked for me, as well as the bicycles I had stolen. The still camera one of them sold for drug money. Oh I could go on about the things that disappeared around my family. Then there's the TV equipment when I'm working. The helmets, jackets, anything I might turn my back on in public and never see again. So many things I can never have back, but now it seems I just have to buy my old magliner at this garage sale. Even if it doesn't look like it's useable.

What could it be doing here in Fullerton? I was many miles away when it was stolen. My likely suspect lived in either La Mirada of Santa Fe Springs, not such a distance for it to migrate. But this potential amnesty alien that's selling it might not have been in the country yet when it was stolen, why would he turn up with it? I suppose they use magliners outside the TV/Film world. Here I saw a teacher with a small one on Monday.

It's just such an odd feeling to me, that if I still had that magliner there'd still be things I could do with it. I still have old umatic 3/4" tape machines that are of no use to me, if I went to work at one of the ramshackle cities that still use that stuff I'd probably give it to them. That magliner would be like the floor hoist in my garage that I bought as a teenager and will probably still be using 50 years later. If I had it I'm sure I'd be doing the same with that magliner.

So I was sorely tempted to just buy that thing that I felt might already be mine. Just seemed like maybe it would give me a feelilng of setting things right. Maybe even if it wasn't really the same one. When that old fool told me what he thought he could get for it I felt like another fool for bothering to care. It's probably not the same one anyway.

But if I was sure it was the same one, I wonder if I'd have bought it. I wonder if I really would have had that piece of my career back, too.

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