Monday, February 19, 2018

A Lesson In GFCIs.

Anyone who knows me on set knows I'm a bit of a stickler for workplace safety. Not sure how it happened, but it just got ingrained in me early on in my career. I guess I just have this inexplicable desire for me (and I guess my colleagues) to go home in one piece at the end of each day.

Weird, right?

Most of it is common sense. Run out stingers and cords in a way that isn't a trip hazard. Put sandbags on light stands so they don't fall over. Attach a safety cable to anything that's rigged in case it comes loose. Don't mix electricity with water.

That last one... You'd think it's a no-brainer, but in a disturbing string of events over the past several years, I'm finding that not everyone is aware of this fact. Or simply, they just don't give a shit.

So to prevent everyone from getting fried whenever water is around,* there's these things called Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (aka: GFCI or GFIs, for short). They're pretty idiot proof when in use. If you're working in a wet location, plug one into the system, then plug whatever you want in to that. Easy peasy.

The gist of it is that if something goes wrong, the GFI will trip, it'll cut power and lives are saved. Think of it as a very sensitive breaker switch.

[Side bar: How do they work? The short version is that electricity works in a "loop." It goes out on the hot leg and back on the neutral. The GFI measures the outgoing/incoming and if there's a difference of 5 milliamps (on a Class A rated GFI), it knows there's a leak somewhere in the system and it'll shut itself off, potentially saving a life. Why 5mA? That's how much it takes for the average male to lose muscle control/not be able to "let go" (it takes even less for women and children. Damn the patriarchy.) That's 5 thousandths of an amp. Your phone charger draws way more than that, btw.]

What I don't understand is why people treat them like such a nuisance. Case in point, my co-worker the other night.

Me: Hey, wasn't there a GFI on this lunch box earlier?
Him: Yeah, but it kept tripping so I pulled it out of line.

Um... WHAT??!

It was tripping because there's an electricity leak somewhere. It tripped because it was doing its job.

So instead of finding the source of the problem, you just got rid of the safety feature??**

It's like saying the smoke alarm kept going off every time there was smoke in the apartment, so you uninstalled it.


Eventually, I plugged the GFI back inline, and by plugging things back in one by one, I found out which piece of equipment was faulty, replaced it, and we all managed to survive another day at work.

You're welcome, clueless co-worker.

*And by water, I mean any type of wet environment, be it rain (natural or man made), a swimming pool, the ocean, fog, Nickelodeon Slime (seriously), etc.

** Another excuse for not using a GFI that I love/HATE: "There wasn't any time." I'm sorry this stupid-ass show that some kid's going to watch on his phone while he sits in class is more important to you than your co-workers' safety.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

In Defense of Taylor Swift, "The Nazi Princess."

"There will be no further explanation. Just reputation."

For various reasons, Taylor Swift has gotten a lot of hate these past few years; mostly because she's a "serial dater" (uhh... She's in her 20s. That's what people in their 20s do.) and then writes songs about her exes (uhh... She's a songwriter. That's what songwriters do!).

But the other day, I saw a ridiculous comment on an article from one woman about how she can't respect Taylor Swift being on the cover of Time Magazine because "She's a Nazi Princess." When another commenter asked how Taylor's a Nazi Princess, the original poster replied that Swift had been hailed as a "Nazi Princess on a Pro-Nazi website and she hasn't publicly denounced Nazism. Therefore, she's a Nazi."

Uhh... Okay...

Let's forget the fact that the initial claim of Nazism came from a website that had little to back its claim other than Taylor herself is white. Or that Taylor has featured people of color in her music videos before, and her current ensemble of back up singers aren't exactly white. Or that out of all the hate on Taylor I've heard over the years, not once has it been centered around her saying anything racist.

Let's instead focus on what happens when ridiculous rumors start flying around about you and why I think Taylor is actually smart for not denouncing those baseless claims made about her.

For those of you that don't know, I'm a bit of an anomaly in this business. I'm a woman in a department where the working pool to pull from is >97% male. Of the <3% in set lighting that make up my gender, most of them are bigger and/or physically stronger than me, making me stand out like a sore thumb. Therefore, I'm constantly watched, talked about, and speculated on.

And whenever that happens, so do the rumors. Some of the more outlandish ones I've heard about myself involve me breaking up relationships and hooking up with married men. Which is quite an impressive feat since apparently, according to some people in this business, I'm a lesbian.*

All these rumors lead me to have a policy on not commenting about my personal life at work. Not only because there are so many rumors that commenting on every single one of them would be exhausting, but because before I put this policy into place, this is how one of those conversations would go:

Them: Crafty thinks you're a lesbian.
Me: Ha. No. I'm straight.
Them: That's what we thought. But we hadn't heard you mention a boyfriend before.
Me: That's because I don't have one.
Them: Yeah? When was the last time you did?
Me: Um... It's been a while.
Them: Like months? Years?
Them: So do you, like, just go to bars or something?
Me: What?
Them: What do you do when you're looking for a hook-up?
Me: I don't really do one-night stands.
Them: So you haven't had a boyfriend in a while and you don't do hook-ups... Oh... Are you asexual?

I SWEAR I WISH I WAS MAKING THIS UP!!! (And yes, this is based on real conversations I've had.)

...And that's how easy it is for a simple denouncing of my lesbianism turns into a conversation about my sexuality and personal life for all our colleagues around us to hear.

If at any point I were to stop the conversation, it'd be assumed that my silence on the matter answers their questions one way or another:

Them: Like months? Years?
Me: I'm not going to answer that.
Them: Oh... So like several years.

Sometimes they'll even get angry because apparently, answering one question about my personal life means it's okay to ask me all the questions about my personal life. And apparently me answering me one question means they're entitled to all the answers. Then suddenly, I'm a stuck up bitch and not a team player if I don't comply.

Them: Like months? Years?
Me: I don't want to talk about this anymore.
Them: Geeze, no need to get defensive. I'm just trying to get to know you better. I can't ask you a simple question?

So basically, the only way for me to ensure the original rumor isn't built upon and for me to have a semi-sane workplace is to take a page from Publicity 101: neither confirm nor deny. Just let it ride.

Them: Crafty thinks you're a lesbian.
Me: Ha.

[End of conversation.]

The same method could be applied to Taylor and her Nazi rumor:

Them: Taylor's a Nazi.
Them: ...

[End of conversation.]

By not joining into a conversation based on ridiculous claims, we side-step all the other ridiculous mess that would surely come after it.

"But how can denying being a Nazi be a bad thing?" you might ask?:

Them: You're a Nazi.
Her: No, I'm not.
Them: Prove it.
Her: I marched with the counter protesters. 
Them: You marched with the counter protesters but you didn't do the Women's March?? You must hate women's rights!!!
Her: No, I don't hate women or their rights.
Them: Prove it.
Her: (Sigh...)

See? Ridiculous.

Again, acknowledging one claim sets the precedence that you must acknowledge them all, and answering one question makes them feel entitled to know all the answers to their questions. The headache that usually follows makes rebutting rumors totally not worth it.

And often times, those who spread nasty rumors about someone (famous or not) are just looking for any reason to hate someone anyway.

When Kesha was going through her legal battles with her producer, Dr. Luke, Taylor was hated on for not Tweeting in support for her fellow female artist like many other pop stars were. I repeat: She was hated. For. Not. Tweeting. **

Then it came out that while everyone was accusing her of not supporting Kesha, Taylor had donated a quarter of a million dollars to Kesha's legal fees (!!!). And she was still hated; this time for just "doing it for the publicity" and because it's just a small percentage of her net worth and she could've done more.

In other words, there's no winning. Haters gonna hate. You're basically damned if you do, but you're only slightly less damned it you don't say anything at all.***

* Main reason for the rumor: apparently the only reason why a girl like me would be interested in a job like this. Also, people are stupid.
** She's still hated for not Tweeting now, this time for not jumping on #MeToo, despite her having a very public sexual harassment trial this year where she sued for a symbolic $1.... AND WON. If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and read about her badass testimony. And by "badass," I mean, seriously, it's the most times "ass" has been said in Colorado federal court.
*** Please note, I'm specifically talking about addressing ridiculous rumors. If an injustice is happening, MOST DEFINITELY SPEAK OUT.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Harassment, Pt. 2.

Unless you've been hiding under a literal rock lately, I'm sure you've at least heard about all the sexual harassment scandals rocking Hollywood right now. And no, I'm not only speaking to those of you based in this town, or even this country. I mean the whole world. Seriously. I've had friends from other countries tell me it's all over their newspapers.

With one scandal after another, Hollywood (or at least on the executive level) is burning (haha. See what I did there?).

But one co-worker in general seems to be obsessed with all the news. Every minute of down time he gets, he's looking at his phone for the next guy to be exposed as a creep. And when the Weinstein scandal first broke out, it was nearly impossible to have a conversation with him without it being brought up.

"Did you hear about this Weinstein shit?"
"Decades! They're saying DECADES. What the fuck?"
"His wife just left him!"
"Gwyneth Paltrow! Rose McGowan! Mira Sorvino! Angelina Jolie!!"
"Did you hear this thing about what he did in front of a reporter to a plant??"

He was following the scandal closer than the grips were following their fantasy football picks (which is saying a lot).

One day, in between set-ups, he was waving around his phone again with the latest Weinstein update when I asked him, "Why are you so obsessed with this?"

"It's just so crazy! Can you believe this shit happened??"

I just stared at him and nodded. Because I was speechless.

I was speechless because I suddenly realized why he was so fixated on the scandal. It was new to him. He's never heard of such a thing before. Never witnessed it. Never experienced it.

Never was made uncomfortable on set. Never had someone in power make a pass at them. Never been inappropriately grabbed. Never been "accidentally" brushed up against. Never felt unsafe at work.*

Never been catcalled on the street. Never had to make sure you parked under a streetlight because you knew it was going to be dark by the time you left. Never had to walk to said car with your fist around the key ring, keys between your knuckles like mini Wolverine claws. Never got inappropriate calls or texts in the middle of the night. Never got sent an unsolicited dick pic. Never had to make sure no one touched your drink when you weren't looking. Never had to "watch what you wear".

I realized he was fascinated with the harassment scandal because he didn't know such things happened with such regularity.

I, on the other hand, wasn't surprised at all the accusations.

So yes, Weinstein Obsessed Colleague, I can believe this shit happened.

What I am surprised about is that not only is it all coming out, but it seems like people are actually taking notice this time (yes, I said "this time"). It gives me hope that maybe now women's voices will be taken seriously and finally hear what we've been trying to say for years. It gives me hope that maybe one day soon, sexual harassment, no matter what sexual orientation or gender one might be, will be gone from film sets.

I love this industry dearly and can't see myself doing anything else, but I'm also growing tired of this "boy's club" and "boys will be boys" mentality.

I'm hoping something good will emerge from these ashes this time, and no longer swept under the rug like so many scandals before it. And I don't mean more useless "sexual harassment training" that everyone just complains about having to attend despite never hearing a word that's being said anyway because they're too busy fucking around on their phones. No one (no department heads that I've ever met anyway) takes those seminars seriously. Those are good for nothing more than pleasing the lawyers. They do jack shit in preventing actual harassment.

I'm hoping that we as an industry will band together. I'm hoping that people will realize the phrase "I was just joking" will not negate the fact that your comment about my body or sex life is inappropriate. I'm hoping that when we see someone being made uncomfortable, we'll stand up for them. That when someone says something disgusting, we'll call them out on it. That when we witness inappropriate behavior, not only will we report it, but that our reports will be taken seriously, no matter who the accused is, and that we can do so without fear of retaliation in our current jobs and future ones.

Then, and only then, can our industry change.

Previously. And previously.

*And I don't mean, "Gee, that FX guy sure doesn't seem like he has enough fire extinguishers for our big explosion" kind of unsafe. I mean the "I don't trust this guy enough to be alone in a room with him" kind.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday, September 24, 2017

I'll Pick A Table Over 4/0 Any Day.

"Hey A.J. Can I get a hand moving this table?"

I always thought being the On-Set Dresser* sucked since you're essentially moving around furniture all day and then restoring everything back down to the smallest detail, all while navigating around 50+ crew members who do nothing but set lights, stands and dollys in your way and fuck around with your set dressing when you're not looking. So when our On-Set Dresser made a simple request, I was happy to oblige. After all, he's been pretty cool with all of us sitting on the furniture all the time and the least I can do is help move it once in a while.

So on the count of three, I helped him move the dining room table to the other side of the room and out of everyone's way. Then I thought nothing of it.

...Until the next day.

"How's your back doing?" he asked me.


"How's your back doing? From lifting the table the other day?"

"...It's fine. Thanks. Why do you ask?"

"Well, because it's a pretty heavy table. Afterwards, I regretted asking you to help me. That thing's so heavy and awkward. I should've asked someone else."

"It was awkward, yes. There's no good place to grab on that thing. But heavy, no. The weight was fine. But thanks for checking up on me."

"So, it wasn't too heavy for you?"

"Friend, let me tell you about this thing we have called 4/0..."

*For those of you who don't know, Set Dressers usually come in shortly after a set is built and before we come in to shoot it, and "dress the set" (move in the furniture, put curtains on the windows, drop in floor/table/desk/hanging lamps, pictures on the walls, stuff on the desk, thing in the cabinets, etc). The On-Set Dresser is the one that stays with the shooting crew to move that all around as needed (ie: "Move the desk out so we can put a camera in that corner," or, "Do we have moving boxes or something to hide that cable in the corner?") and then has to painstakingly restore it all to keep continuity. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

You Can Never Go Home Again.

I was so excited to see him.

I was counting in stingers to load in a new show when I look up and who should I see? A juicer I used to work with pretty much all the time when I was first starting out. We were like two peas in a pod on set back then, finishing each others sentences, coming up with the same stupid jokes, and we were so in sync that setting up lights on set was almost like a choreographed dance.

Show after shitty show we did together until one day, I had the opportunity to ascend to bigger and better things and I left our merry band of ultra low budget-ers in favor of jobs that paid more than just "copy, credit and meals".

We'd run into each other in passing over the years every now and then, but the sightings were few and far between. While we were both now out of the super shitty low budget world, we no longer ran in the same circles.

So when I learned we were going to both be full time on the same show for the next couple of months or so, I was ecstatic. Despite all our years apart, I had never found anyone I had as much fun working with as him. The nostalgic part of me yearned for the easy going work relationship we had all those years ago and I couldn't wait to work the set with him.

But, I guess the old saying is true: You can never go home again. While we were both still kick-ass electricians, we never really found our groove and clicked like we used to. We no longer finish each others thoughts or play silly set games anymore.

The years spent apart, we had spent growing as people. Him, with his side businesses, new house and soon-to-be-wife. And me... well, I don't know. I don't have any of those things, but I definitely don't feel like I'm the same person I was when I met him.

Whatever bond we had before that put us on the same wavelength didn't feel broken. Just gone.

Things weren't totally awkward though. We had a great time catching up with each other and reminiscing about the stupid things we used to do. Hardly a day went by where one of us didn't go, "Hey, remember when..." or "Whatever happened to...?" and then laugh at whatever story that came up after it. And every so often, you'd see the glimpses on set of the dynamic we once shared. But nothing that really stuck like old times.

And as much as I still enjoy working with him, the sad truth is that when they call "wrap" on our show for the final time and we both go our separate ways again, I'll look back at our time together fondly, but I won't itch to work with him again like I had in the past years. I won't miss him like I used to.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed that we've seemed to have lost that je ne sais quoi we had going on, but in a way, I guess it's a good thing. It's a wake up call that I can't live in the past, no matter how good it was. That I should keep moving forward because everyone else seems to have. And while the guy from several years ago will ALWAYS be one of my favorites, this new man before me isn't him. I spent all these years hoping to recapture the magic we had, but now I know it can't be recreated. And in an odd way, knowing that doesn't give me a sense of sadness. Instead, it gives me a sense of knowing peace.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Adventures In Excessive Shushing, pt. 3.

Real thing that happened on set today:

P.A.: "Rolling!"
Other P.A.: "SHHHH!"

Yup. A P.A. shushed another P.A. for calling out "Rolling."


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