Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020.

 

I'm still here. I haven't abandoned this blog. I just haven't updated it in a while because I don't know what to say.

I don't have any funny anecdotes to share, or any new insights to wax poetic about. And while I want this space to reflect my life in this business, I certainly don't want to turn it into a Pandemic Blog™.

So I've just been chugging along these last couple of months. I've been working, but honestly, it's been a weird and confusing vibe. I'd share it, but I just don't know what to make of it just yet. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, that while this space may be silent, I'm okay. I'm surviving through all the testing, false positive scares, misinformation and shut downs, both at work and outside of it. And I hope you are, too.

I hope everyone is staying informed with this rapidly changing and often confusing time we're in. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. And I hope everyone is keeping each other safe as well. 

I hope that this Thanksgiving, we won't look at what we're missing out on, but instead be thankful for what we do have. Our (hopefully) health. Food on the table. Loved ones that we not only miss, but miss us as well. And the will and good judgement to stay home this holiday, no matter how hard it may seem. 

Because believe me when I say, this virus doesn't care if it's "just one dinner" or "just a few people" or even "we all tested negative the other day..."

On second thought, I guess I do have a crazy anecdote to share! But until I can put it into words, stay safe and follow the recommended guidelines. No one is above the rules on this one.

And definitely treat yourself to an extra slice of pie on Thursday. Because it's 2020.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Sunday, September 20, 2020

"You're Lucky You're Working." Part II.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I've got some news: I have returned to work.

I happened suddenly, and a while ago, and boy oh boy, did everyone have an opinion on it.

There were a few, "It's too soon!" and "That's great!" but the main one I heard was "You're lucky."

"You're lucky to be working right now."
"You're lucky to be working right now when no one else is."
"You're lucky."
"You're lucky."
"You're lucky."

But am I lucky?

Almost a decade ago, it was pilot season and to say the town was busy is a massive understatement. I was pulling in 5-6 days of work a week, all with good rates and good people, bouncing around from various show to various show. I finally had a day off with nothing booked and was just about to settle onto my couch for a glorious evening of couch potato-ing when a text came in from a phone number I didn't recognize. 

"Are you available tonight? Crew call is 6pm and we'll shoot until sunrise."
"Who is this?"
"This is [name of guy I didn't know]. I'm the Best Boy for [Gaffer I didn't know]. I got your number from [someone I met on another job]."

I sat there, looking at the screen with a groan, deciding what to do. 

Did I need the work? Hell no. I was in the middle of a really good run and I could really use the day off. I was totally looking forward to having a night of Netflixing and chilling, and the last thing I wanted to do was put on work clothes and be all the way across town in an hour. Plus, factor in that it's a night shoot, a one day call at that, and anyone in their right mind would have said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

But this was with people I didn't know, and in the freelance world, that meant this could be a potential new contact for future jobs.

Still, I was on the verge of being overworked and had started my day early enough that I knew I'd be up for almost 24 hours by the time wrap would be called on this new gig. Plus, I never heard of these guys before and I only vaguely remembered the guy who passed him my number. Given that cold-calling acquaintances of friends is usually the last resorts of last resorts, the chances of me getting called back once their hiring pool wasn't dry anymore was pretty slim.

I looked at my phone and sighed. Random night shoots with strangers when I'm already tired is not my idea of a good time. Then I typed in the words, "Yes, I'm available," and hit send. 

Was it a stupid choice? Probably. Would most people have turned it down? Yup. Was I thoroughly exhausted and too messed up afterwards for me to have a decent weekend? Absolutely. 

But was that job with the same Gaffer that not only managed to find work in the middle of a global shutdown but also brought me along for the ride?

Also yes. 

So I guess the question now is: Is it fair to say that I'm lucky? To equate my employment to just a game of chance? Or did I get here because I saw and opportunity took it, even if it was the hard road?

"You're lucky."
"You're lucky."
"You're lucky."
"I'm glad all your hard work over the years is paying off right now," said no one, to me.



Previously.


Friday, July 17, 2020

I'm Not Here.


It's been a little over four months now since The Big Industry Shutdown™ caused by the pandemic.

It's also been a little over four months since anyone in this industry has seen me, in video, photos or otherwise, which is kind of an amusing thought. I'm not a big social media user and though I've attended the occasional Zoom gathering, my camera is generally off to help with the shitty bandwith situation in my apartment. They know I'm around. They know I exist. I stay in touch with everyone via texts and emails and what have you. I've spoken to them on the phone or during the aforementioned Zoom calls. We all check in with each other regularly, making sure we're all okay, checking if anyone needs anything. But no one from work has actually seen me. I'm like a ghost. They know I'm around, but my actual presence is something intangible.

The last time any of my colleagues saw my actual, physical being was the day before everything went down. I had the rare (ha!) day off in the middle of the week and woke up to a text from a crew I day played with. They were loading out their show at one of the rental houses not too far from me and invited me to have lunch with them. I met up with them that afternoon and we enjoyed a nice "end of the season" meal together. Little did we know, it would be the last meal we shared in more ways than one. The news was playing in the background, a continuous loop of the NHL cancelling their season and the Governor banning gatherings, but other than a brief acknowledgment, the announcements became little more than background noise. Instead, we reminisced over the highlights of the last few months on the show, talked about what jobs we had coming up, and then gave each other a round of hugs in the parking lot before we all parted ways.

That was the last time I touched anyone I loved.

After that, I went down to another show to pick up a check the Best Boy had for me. The stage was pretty much empty when I got there, the company having moved to wherever else they were supposed to be that day. So I sat there with the Best Boy for a few minutes, shooting the shit. We talked about how crazy things got yesterday, how news of one thing after another kinda hit all within the same span of time (Tom Hanks! NBA! Borders shut down!). But how naive we must have been, neither of us even thinking about how we could be effected by it, let alone so suddenly. There wasn't even a whisper of a rumor or anything circling around his show about it. He even laid out which days he could use me for next week and I told him I was available and to book me.

As I was about to walk through the cracked open elephant door on my way out of the stage, I heard my name being called out. I turned around and smiled. It was my favorite Craft Service guy on this job. Always down for a good chat, he loves nothing in this life more than his wife, his kids, and a good cup of espresso.

"Where are you going?" he asked. "You can't be done today already!"

I laughed. "I'm not really here today. But I'll see you next week though."

"Okay. I'll see you then. Can you believe all this craziness that's happening right now?"

"Yeah, it's crazy for sure." And I'm not sure why, but I added, "Hey, be careful out there, okay? Take care of yourself. Be safe."

He nodded. "I will. You too, my friend."

And with that, we both turned and went our separate ways. Him into the dark stage. Me, into the daylight.

The next day, all the shows shut down, suddenly and swiftly.

And just like that, he became a ghost. Vanished, just like I have.


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Changes Are Coming.


I've mentioned in my previous post that I'm doing just fine and dandy during this whole "no-work-stuck-at-home" quarantine thing. I don't miss the crack-of-dawn early call times, the end-of-a-fourteen-hour-day location wraps, the sitting in traffic, the perpetual state of exhaustion. I don't miss the judgey assholes who I have to keep proving myself to. And I sure as hell don't miss shit, mold, dust and rat infested locations that for some reason the location department thinks is are great places to shoot.

And while I'm still enjoying what I suppose was a much needed break from the grind, there are a few things that I do miss.

I miss working with a great crew.

I miss the all encompassing hugs from colleagues I haven't seen in a while.

I miss seeing the resident cranky guy crack a smile when I happen to say something witty or funny.

I miss the creative 2nd meals crafty sometimes comes up with.

I miss whispered gossip with the hair and make-up team about the latest drama in their trailer.

I miss being introduced to new locations and places in this town that I haven't been to or seen before (Shit Alley excluded).

I miss digging through a cooler full of ice, looking for the one can of the one flavor of La Croix that I like. Having to work for it made it taste better somehow.

I miss checking off the scenes we've done on the callsheet, like a scoreboard that tells us how many more innings we have left in our day. It was always so satisfying to physically cross something off.

I miss fiddling with the knick-kacks on set (sorry, set decorators! But rest assured, I always put things back where I found them).

I even miss riding around in pass vans with my favorite driver.

And while it may still be a little while before we get the all clear to return to work* I'm getting glimpses of what life would be like while working during a pandemic.

No more hugs from old friends that make me feel loved. No more just hanging out with your fellow crew members at staging between set ups. No more huddling around phones or tablets or anything else with a screen and an Internet connection whenever a game is on. No more self-serve meals.** No more whispering of secrets in my ear about the latest work-place scandal. No more cool locations to explore (even possibly no locations at all). No more callsheets to check the day off on. No more driving around, crammed into a van like a family on a road trip during Summer vacation. No more sneaking away from set to do a coffee (and the occasional milkshake) run. And worse of all, the discussions about possibly having a "studio system" of sorts for day players mean I may no longer get to choose who I will (awesome, milkshake loving people) and will not (assholes) work for.

Basically, almost everything I love about my job will either be gone or altered in some way.

But at least on the flip side, gone too are the unsanitary locations, the ridiculously long days,*** and until the unemployment rate goes down, traffic will be lighter.

Ungodly call times and assholes aren't banned though, so at least some parts of this business will still be recognizable.




*Yes, I'm aware of this article, but as of the time of this writing, LA County hasn't give the okay yet, not to mention pre-production would have to start first, making shooting at its earliest, still at least a few weeks away.

**I know this one sounds trivial in the grand scheme of things, but you're talking to a gal who generally likes to try a little bit of everything, but can also be kinda picky or have to limit my consumption of certain types of food for health reasons.  Self service meals mean I can scoop whatever I want and it'll all get eaten. Pre-packaged or caterer-served, and you're looking at a LOT of uneaten food on my plate (and I hate food waste, as should you), and I'm gonna be cranky and hungry again in a little bit. Also, "bring your own lunch" isn't really an option unless a microwave and fridge are provided (per labor law. Plus, who wants to lug around a full tool bag AND a cooler to work every day, or eat a cold lunch all the time), in which case, that's another potentially contaminated/unsanitized shared space, not to mention, unless we're only working 8 hour days, Mama doesn't have time to work a full day AND make two nutritious meals that can be easily packed and may or may not need refrigeration every night. I don't care if you think I'm spoiled. Production is supposed to provide meals and I'm on the side of making them pay for as many things as possible since they're so reluctant to spend money of things like manpower, equipment, and various safety issues. And this ends my food rant for the day. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

***While the white paper does call for shorter work days, it declines to give an actual number for recommended hours worked. I've heard various guesstimations of what those days may look like, and while they do sound shorter than what we're used to, they're still longer than the 8 hour days our non-industry friends enjoy.


Monday, May 11, 2020

Isolation.


The world is in such a weird and unstable place right now, but I'm happy* to report that I'm doing pretty well, all things considered.

I don't have annoying roommates, my unemployment claim went through and even though I have an emergency fund, the additional payment from the CARES Act each week is enough for me to pay my bills for the time being, and I don't have kids to try to teach at home. I have enough crafts, classes I want to take online, and home projects to keep me entertained forever, not including the amount of stuff on the Internet and Netflix to help keep me occupied. I honestly haven't been bored once since this whole thing started.

The supermarkets may still be out of some of my usual staples, and I may have to get a little creative with some of my meals, but I'm still pretty well fed even without crafty and catering to supplement my diet. (Maybe even a little too well fed if the waistband of my yoga pants has any say about it.)

My closest friends don't live within a hundred miles of me, and my family even further than that, so my relationships with them haven't even changed much. If anything, we may even check in with each other more than we used to. And honestly, I'm pretty introverted anyway, so I don't even miss the crowded bars, clubs and parties where I have to make awkward small talk and think of an excuse to go home early (or better yet, not go in the first place). Everyone I love and care about are, to my knowledge, safe and okay.

All in all, despite me being situated in an area with more restrictions than most places, I'm doing okie dokie. Honestly, I had a hard time saying "no" to work for the last decade and as a result, I didn't take as many vacations as I should have. Plus, I looooved it when I had the rare weekend off with no plans and I got to stay in my apartment wearing sweats and doing nothing. So this has essentially been a long staycation for me.

And like all vacations, the thought of going back to work kinda makes me go "ugh." If work started back up again tomorrow and all the safety issues were magically resolved, I don't know if I'd be ready to go back. I'm enjoying my laid-back-at-home-lifestyle a little too much still.

My friend, however, does not share my same view. He, like many others I've talked to, can't wait to get back to work. "It's in our blood," he said to me the other day when we checked up on each other. "This industry. This business. It's what we do."

This echoes what I've been saying about us weird, movie-making folk from the beginning. A part of us has to at least enjoy some aspect of our jobs because we wouldn't be able to survive them if we didn't. It's not like regular jobs where you can hate what you do for eight hours and then go home to what you love. With us, you're at work more than you're at home, so you have to at least love part of what you do. And I loved loved loved my job. That's part of the reason why I have trouble saying "no" and taking a vacation. Who needs time off if you're happy with what you do for a living?

Not only that, but I owe a good chunk of my career to a Gaffer who essentially used the same words to describe me. "You have to hire her," he once told another Gaffer, "She's made for this business. This is what she does."

So what does it mean if the thought of going back to work right now doesn't appeal to me? Who am I if I don't really miss working? How is it that I'm okay without the lifestyle that I know?

Maybe this is me catching up on all the vacation time I didn't think I needed. Maybe I'm not coping with this social distanced quarantine period as well as I thought I am and I'm actually broken somewhere. Or maybe I'm not as in love with my role in this business as I believe I am. Maybe it's all of the above. Who knows.

But what I do know is that if/when I got back to work, it'll be for this industry. There's no doubt in my mind that this is the path for me. This isn't a career choice crisis that we're looking at here. But what kind of bothers me is how none of all this really bothers me.

If this business is what I do, if it's who I am, if it's in my blood, why am I not itching to go back to work as soon as possible?








*Okay, let me stop you right there. I know a lot of people are unhappy at the moment for various reasons. Believe me when I say that I am very aware of those people, and I'm also aware of the privileges I have. But this post isn't about that. You are welcome to read something else if you have an issue with it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Clipboard.




I had been in this business for a little while, mostly day playing, when I landed on this new show with new-to-me people. It's the first day for everyone, so shortly after call, everyone's huddled around the back of the truck as the Gaffer starts handing out start paperwork. After a few of us scrounge around for a pen, we kinda disperse with everyone looking for a flat surface to write on.

"Here," the Gaffer offers me a quarter apple. "You can use this if you want."

"No thanks," I reply. "I got something I can use." I open up my backpack and pull out a clip board.

The Gaffer just stares at me in shock.

"What?" I ask.

He says nothing for a second, then, he starts to smile. "Wow. That's some best boy shit right there," he finally says. Then walks away.

I complete my paperwork, start the day, and finish the job. Years later though, this short interaction still leaves me a little puzzled.

Before I landed on that gig, I've done several dozen different start packets and almost all of them were done by filling it out on the shelf of a cart, the floor of the truck, the rough diamond plating on the lift gate, a random set piece, or, of course, on a pancake, quarter, or half apple perched on my lap. And don't even get me started on all the times everyone in my department had to take turns because only one of those options were available.

So it only made logical sense to me to throw a clipboard in my backpack. I had a couple of them left over from my college days, so it's not like I specifically bought one just to do start work on, not that they're terribly expensive or hard to find to begin with. Plus, it wasn't heavy, nor did it take up a lot of room in my bag. It actually helped give it some structure and kept my tools from poking me in the back.

So why was it so odd that I carried around a clipboard to do paperwork on? I was a day player, who, like many of my other colleagues, started a new job every few days so I did new start work several times a month. If I had learned to bring my own pen instead of asking to borrow one, why was it so odd I did the same with a common writing surface?

Every now and then, this little memory will pop into my head. Honestly, I guess I could see where he was coming from since I don't think I've seen anyone else carry around a clip board, Best Boys excluded, but I've always wondered, why not? Why do my colleagues keep insisting on scrambling to find a semi-suitable writing surface that, more often than not, renders part of their start work illegible instead of investing in a $2, low profile, light weight solution?

While I don't lose any sleep over it, this is one of the questions in life that continues to baffle me.


Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID-19.


So... I'm guessing I don't need to update anyone with what's going on in the world right now. Our industry essentially shut down across the country a little over a week ago, and shortly after that, the state of California closed down all non-essential businesses and ordered everyone to stay home.

No one's happy, some people are freaked out, and there was a line running down the entire length of Target the other day, just minutes after they opened, of people trying to get a pack of toilet paper. It's madness out there.

There's also a lot of people who aren't taking this seriously. I'm one of those people who believe there's no reason to panic, but it's also not the time to behave as if things are normal.
THINGS ARE NOT NORMAL RIGHT NOW.

I could go into a rant about how self absorbed or selfish you are if you decide the rules of social distancing don't apply to you. Or about how this isn't about the government trying to "take away your freedom," but about the health and safety of your country, community, friends and neighbors.

But instead, I'm going to leave you with a couple videos. I've seen a lot of news reports, articles and explanations about the spread of this stupid virus over the last several days because I'm unemployed forever, stuck inside, and bored. These are the ones that I found the most calm, yet informative and explain things in ways that anyone can understand. Take a few minutes (and I know you have the time to spare) if you haven't watched them already, and pass them on to those in your life who just don't get it.








Stay healthy. Stay safe. And for the love of everyone, stay home. 



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