Sunday, October 9, 2016

"Sexual Harassment in the TV Industry (When You're a Nobody.)"

Before you read the rest of this post, please read this piece written by a female rigger out in Portland, Oregon. (Thanks to Michael Taylor who tipped me off to it.)

Okay, first off, let's set a few things straight since I know some readers will focus on minor details instead of the bigger picture.
 - "Juicer" doesn't necessarily mean "rigging electrician."
 - In California/Hollywood, she didn't have to join a union. You can keep working union jobs if you're not a union member, but it's a weird, complicated thing.
 - The sexual harassment meeting isn't "her fault." Based on what I know is shot in Portland, paired with what I know about the size of her show, I can make a fairly accurate guess about which show it was. And in turn, who the production company is. That production company is known for sticking to the book and legally covering their asses in every which way, and that includes mandatory sexual harassment meetings, often more than once in a season, and often a general one PLUS one for department heads. Believe me, it's not something they only whip out just because a woman is on the payroll.
 - Her "feminine emergency" taking too long is bullshit. For those of you guys out there who think us taking slightly longer than usual bathroom breaks is cutting into precious work time and unfair to those who don't have a bleeding vagina to use as an excuse to duck out of work, just think back to all those times you and/or your colleagues had to 10-2. I've waited on more guys to finish taking a shit far more times than they've had to wait for me when I'm menstruating. Not to mention all the countless smoke breaks. At least ours is only for a few days each month.

Okay, now back to the meat of the article. What happened to her sucks, and sexual harassment and sexism is unfortunately not uncommon. What is uncommon is that she reported it. Because, and this is the sad, harsh and unfair reality of it, what did she expect the outcome to be? That "The Boss," who technically is free to hire whoever he wants*, will bring her back after she filed a claim on him? That even if production made him hire her, a day player, back, that he'd do so with open arms? As much of an asshole The Boss was, one thing he did get right was when he said "it can never be the way it was." Even if, best case scenario, The Boss is fired and she gets back to work, I feel like her colleagues would be so full of resentment anyway that they'd get rid of her the first chance they get. Plus, it'll always be the elephant in the room, making the 10+ hour workday seem even longer.

That's not to say she shouldn't have filed a complaint against the scumbag. I'm just pointing out the lose-lose situation. And while her complaint doesn't get her job back (and it sounds like it was lost before she filed anything), it does shed a light on how unfair this business is in practice. So, yay for that.

Now, let's get this straight: IN NO WAY AM I BLAMING THE VICTIM HERE. It is not her fault her boss is a total douche. There's no way for her to know that a system disguised to protect her (such as the sexual harassment meeting, the Bureau of Labor and Industry) is really a way for companies to cover their own asses. And she's new to a world where she, in my own total outside-of-the-situation opinion, was too nieve to handle.** Which, in a perfect world, her inexperience with the industry shouldn't matter, but we are far from a perfect world here.

That said, if I could turn back time and travel to Portland and find this girl (or really, any other woman in this situation), I'd tell her:
1) If you want longevity, diversify. Either in your capabilities (on set juicer, board op, etc) or, more importantly, your crews. Don't stick with just one if you can help it so when shit hits the fan, you a) have another crew to fall back on and b) possibly have a character witness on your behalf when you need it, whether it be on an official level or just as a job reference to a Best Boy.

2) Think about who else you can list as a witness to your boss' assholery other than co-workers. If his "special job on the truck" comment was on an open radio, was anyone else, other than the grip, around to hear it? Any P.A.s, Crafty, Background, etc, around any of the times he made inappropriate comments? Has he made sleezy comments to anyone else? In my experience, someone who creeps you out has probably creeped someone else out, too.

And documenting every time, place and comment made probably wouldn't hurt either. Even if there's no witnesses, showing the higher ups a detailed list of offenses holds more weight than "sometime last week, he said _________." And on that note...

3) If you don't trust your union rep, e-mail them your situation and have them write back in the e-mail what they think you should do. You're essentially preparing for a legal battle here. Cover your ass and get as much of it in writing as possible. Show the BOLI that you followed all the appropriate steps and don't let them make it a game of "he said/she said."

4) If you're still in the union, put yourself of the availability list. You said yourself, when it gets busy, people have to hire union members before they can hire anyone else. It may not me the ideal situation, but it may be your best if all your want to do is get back to work.

I do hope that, while she may never be given the chance to work as a rigging election again, her speaking up will put a target on her former boss. That people will be more aware of what is and isn't acceptable behavior in the workplace. That perhaps her speaking up about what happened to her will shed light on how sexist this business can be and hopefully change something for the good. You may think if she was in L.A., she could avoid this stuff / it'd be easier for her to find work. I believe that is false. A bigger work pool just means there are more assholes here, and also more gossiping going on. Portland is just a microcosm of us. If I was in her shoes, would I have filed a formal complaint? Hard to say. But I will say, that her coworkers who were unwilling to testify?
They're no better than her asshole boss.

* Technically speaking, he's actually hiring on behalf of the Producer, but it's not like they usually give a shit who's actually hired for such a low-on-the-totem poll position.
** The Boss saying "Girls don't do this kind of stuff" when they first met is what sent a whole bunch of alarms ringing in my head. From my experience, guys who say sexist shit like that right off the bat are the ones not worth working for. And if you do have to work for them, proceed with extreme caution.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Happy Labor Day!

In a post written years ago about how Production was trying to scam their crew out of paying meal penalties and how one person/department standing up for themselves resulted in benefits for all their colleagues, Anonymous recently left a comment that seemed to totally miss the point of the post:

Wait, you're telling me you make like $600 a day and you get fed breakfast AND lunch and there is craft service table with food on it all day long, and sometimes someone will come around and give you a smoothie. What a great job.

 Okay... There are so many things wrong with this comment.

1) I didn't say I make "like $600 a day."
2) I don't make "like $600 a day."
3) We don't always get lunch. (On the show I'm working on now, walk-aways are the norm.)
4) There is craft service, but you know what we don't get?
    - Actual breaks (other than lunch).
    - "Normal" working hours...
    - ... And on that note, what most people would consider a reasonable turnaround time.
    - Health insurance, pension, etc.*
    - Paid holiday leave.*
    - Paid sick leave.*
    - A guaranteed paycheck.
    - Someone coming around and giving me a smoothie.**
5) And the benefits we DO get? We get because, long history short, our industry (and labor in general) is so fucked up that we were getting screwed left and right so certain rules and laws had to be put in place. Either by state law or union rules that have become the industry standard even if we're not on a union show. So thank you, unions!

I'm not sure if Anonymous is trying to be snarky since I was "bitching" about a job were I "get fed breakfast AND lunch" and/or they just don't understand the complexities of the job we do, but either way, I just wanted to set things straight. While yes, I'll admit, the job does come with some cool perks, those perks also come with a price. After all, nothing is free.


*Non-union work.
** Unless someone feels like doing a Jamba Juice run.

Friday, August 5, 2016

I Don't Want Him Here.

I have tried to get in with this crew for years. I like the Gaffer. I like the projects they choose to do. I like the way they run their ship. And I patiently waited my turn as just a day player* while they went through a revolving door of lamp ops, show after show, always wondering why I wasn't offered a spot on the team over bringing someone on that they didn't know.

Eventually, and finally, that day came and I found myself not only a full time member of their crew, but an invaluable one at that. I fit in better than I thought I would. Long story short, after years of day playing, I finally felt like I had found my people. I had found a home. I belonged.

Not only that, but when the days were busy, I got to bring on people I knew to come and day play with us. Bringing some of my old contacts onto my new job for a day here and there was a great way to keep my friends working and see the occasional familiar face, which brought me comfort. It was kind of like when you move off to college and a friend from back home comes to visit. You're in a new place with new people, so it's super good and revitalizing to see an old friend from your past who knows you so well. But at the same time, you don't want them hanging around too long because you know you really need (and want) to explore this new life on your own. It was a pretty sweet situation I had going on.

So imagine my surprise when my very good friend that I had previously brought in to day play told me that he was offered a full time spot on my Gaffer's next show and he's going to take it.

Wait. Hold on. I need a minute here.

After day playing for five days on the last show, he got offered a full time spot while I had to wait FIVE YEARS for mine.

And not only that, but while my friend and I obviously know some of the same crews, this one was mine. It may sound weird and petty, but this was one crew I had worked for where he didn't know everyone. The stories that happened here were mine and didn't involve him. Sure, this may make us sound like an old married couple, and he's the friend I swap set stories with on a semi-weekly basis, but I liked the fact that despite me often venting to him, he didn't know everyone and everything that was going on. This little piece of Hollywood was mine.

His presence also puts my rank into question. Despite me taking half a decade to earn my spot, once I was in, I quickly excelled, earning myself the position of Gaffer's right hand man (so to speak). And as such, I was gaining some footing in the ladder of moving up in this business. I was now privy to decisions and conversations I otherwise wouldn't be allowed to listen to, and covering for the Best Boy, and even sometimes the Gaffer, in their absence. With my friend there, I could very easily be knocked off my pedestal. He's very good at his job and is often offered better positions before me. Who will my bosses now turn to for things when he's around?

And to top it all off, despite me considering him to be a good friend, I do need some time away from him. He's a great guy, but there are some things about him that make me roll my eyes or exhale in frustration. Our work past together mostly involves one of us either day playing and/or the other being in a Best Boy position, leaving a nice buffer between us for breathing room. We didn't see each other five days a week, or if we did, we weren't in the same room for over 12 hours a day. Being around each other for 60+ hours a week on set might put a strain on our friendship... and my sanity.

Do I realize how petty this all sounds? Yes.

Do I know whether or not he's on my new show isn't my decision to make? Yes.

Am I happy to have such a good friend with me everyday?


I am the kind of girl who likes to keep work and my personal life separate. I'd prefer it if I could embark on this new show, and wherever it would take me, on my own. But like a friend from back home, know that the support is there if I need it. Key word being "there" and not "here." He's a friend I share almost everything with, but I like to keep some things for myself. Something that's "mine" and not "ours".

And while some may see this as a plus, having such a good friend be a possible ally on a new show, I don't want an ally. I worked hard to get in with this crew. On my own. And I want to see how much further I can take it in this business, and with them, on my own. At the end of the day, and at the end of my career, I want to be able to stand there and be proud of how far I made it, on my own, and not have to think, "but thank goodness he was there to help me every step of the way."

But me not liking the fact that he'll be on my show is my own hang up. Not his. He really is good at his job and deserves every offer he gets. He doesn't need my permission to join a crew. I may not like it, but it's just something I'll have to figure out how to deal with when the time comes.

A "day player" is someone who isn't there every day but brought on as needed, whether it be because they need extra people that day, someone got sick, etc.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

I Need A Personal Cup Holder.

I might have to resort to getting one of these.

I have a legitimate question for everyone:

Let's say it's been a hectic day on set so far and you're really thirsty. You walk over to the coolers and grab that nice, icy soda you've been craving for the last half hour. You crack it open with a satisfying "pfssst" of the tab and take a refreshing swig.... And that's as far as you get before all hell breaks loose on the radio again and the Gaffer's calling out orders like a stoned frat boy at a drive thru.

What the fuck do you do with the opened can of soda?*

You don't want to chug it.
You can't put it on top of your set cart because you have OCD colleagues who'll toss it out.
You can't put it on a shelf of a lamp cart because that's where you pull lights from and spilling is a high possibility.
In fact, putting it on any cart is generally a bad idea.
Putting it on set furniture (tables, cabinets, etc) or any type of set dressing for that matter is a no-no.
So is putting it on the back of set walls.
As well as setting it on, or next to, a distro box.
Anywhere else (truck, gold room, etc) is too far away.

Where can you safely set down an open beverage on set? The same question goes for when you just got a plate of food/snack from crafty.

* Dolly grips, I don't want to hear you bragging about your own personal cup holders on the dolly.  :)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Lunch Times.

When the company breaks us for a one hour lunch...
"Ugh. Why is it one hour? I want to get out of here faster! Just give us a half hour lunch so we can wrap a half hour earlier and I can get home that much sooner."

But when the company breaks us for a half hour lunch...
"Ugh. Thirty minutes? I've been running around all morning! A half hour isn't long enough to for us to get our food and run an errand and/or take a real break."


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I'm A Bossy Ass Bitch.

"Hey, I'm going to set up my station here. Is this a good spot for you to run me a lunch box for power?"

I didn't think much of the wardrobe girl's request, actually appreciating the thoughtful nature of her question. After all, how many times have we cursed other departments for setting up exactly where we don't have easy access to a distro box?

My colleagues, however, had other opinions.

"Sure, we'll run you something right now," replied Juicer 1. Then to us, he says, "Why doesn't she just say she needs a lunch box there? Why did she ask us if it's okay? If she wants one there, she should just tell us."

"Yeah. It's like that article I showed you the other day," Juicer 2 chimes in. "About how women don't ask for what they want?" He then turns to me. "We read this article the other day about how this one company paid their male employees more than their females. When confronted about it, the guy said that after all his years running the company, not one woman ever came in to his office and asked for a raise. But the men would, and that's why they'd get paid more. Women have a tendency to not ask for what they want in the work place. I think they need to be more assertive. Don't you agree, A.J.?"

I stood there for a moment, grateful for colleagues who read articles on inequalities in the workplace and trying to create a dialogue about it instead of hiding under a rock, and at the same time, shocked at how naive and over simplified their solution was.

"Yes, I think overall, there is an issue with women not asking for what they want at work," I started, "but I think if Ms. Wardrobe had just said, 'I need a lunch box here,' you would've probably thought she was a bitch."

Juicer 1 slowly nodded his head in contemplative thought. "Yeah. That's a good point. I hate to admit it, but I that's probably what I'd do." Juicer 2 didn't say anything.

Moments like that echo in my head a lot these days. Over the past several months, I've had a few opportunities to step up in my department. In other words, I've been given the chance to lead instead of follow. And let me tell you, it's been fun. I love being able to run things my way and I absolutely enjoy the perks of being the boss, even if it's only for a short while.

However, as those opportunities arise, I've noticed more and more that critics of my work tend to fall in to two camps: those that think I'm a great leader, and those who think I'm bossy.

Let me preface this by saying that my superiors (and often their bosses as well) think I do a fabulous job. Everyone I've stepped up for wouldn't hesitate to hire me again. I'm proud of the work I do and the results I get, and in the end, that's all that should really matter and fuck the rest, right?*

So why does this bother me so much?

Because there shouldn't be such a distinction between the two ways I'm described. I approach every job the same way and treat my crews the same. So realistically, I should be considered either bossy or a good leader. And yes, while one could argue that the two terms aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, in this case they are since "bossy" is always used in a negative way while "good leader" is always meant as a compliment.

This leads me to wonder if I'm seen as bossy because I'm actually bossy (in every negative sense of the word) or if I'm "bossy" because that's how they describe assertive women? If it's the former, how did I go from being bossy to a good leader (and vise-versa) when I'm doing the same thing on every job and if it's the latter, well shit, where do I go from here?

I've run into issues like this before and when brought up, most men see it as making it a feminist issue when it isn't one and "sometimes a bossy bitch is just a bossy bitch." So how do we address a problem when those who perpetuate it don't realize they're perpetuating it?

Am I a bitch? Am I a good leader? Am I bossy? Or am I just an assertive woman?

Do the latter two mean the same thing?

*In theory. I'm not even going to get in to the fact how rumors circulating around about me being a bossy bitch will affect my future job prospects.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

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