Friday, November 9, 2018

Just. Fucking. Help.

I'm struggling to get a cart on the gate. Meanwhile, my colleague is just standing there, watching.
"Hey, can you give me a hand with this?" I ask, unable to get this behemoth of an HMi cart up on to the gate of our truck (which is parked on the wrong side of the hill, by the way).

"No. I've worked with a lot of proud women and they always refuse help."
"They always want to do it on their own. They get offended if I help them."
"Okaaaay... but I'm asking for your help on this one."

He rolls his eyes and helps me push the cart on to the truck.

Flash forward to another show.

I'm having trouble pushing a cart up a hill. A guy stands on the sidewalk, watching me with a cup of coffee in his hand.
"I'd help you out," he shouts at me, "but I believe in equal opportunity!"

Um... WHAT?

Can someone please explain to me how watching me struggle when you'd gladly help a male colleague in my situation is considered "equal opportunity,"?? It's like slamming the door in a woman's face after you go through it because they might get insulted if you hold the door open for them.

I hold the door open for whoever is behind me. I help whoever needs help. It's called being a human being. It doesn't matter if the're male or female. It doesn't matter if they can inch that entire cart up the hill. It's easier with help. It's better with help. Fuck you if you consciously choose not to help someone who is struggling and is ASKING for help.

Every day I see guys asking other guys for help lifting, carrying and pushing things. Not once have I heard them be refused. But somehow, helping me is sexist. "Equal opportunity" my ass.

Sunday, October 28, 2018


Milestones are often kept by years. 16 years passed before I got my license. 18 when I graduated high school. College when I was 22. First drink at 21*. First crush at 5. First love at 17.

And that's how I kept time for the first twenty-something years of my life. Time, and my life's moments, were marked by the number of rotations the Earth made around the Sun.

But lately, I find myself keeping time not to years, but to my jobs.

I can tell you when I had the long, lengthy locks I've had most of my life chopped off. It was right before that God-awful movie of the week that was shot in Long Beach. I remember the short strands blowing around my face as I walked through the parking lot into the rental house.

I can tell you when I totaled my car. It was when I was working on a T.V. show out in Burbank. The one that barely aired, but the crew was cool. They'd let me sneak out whenever I needed to call my insurance company.

My first yoga class was during pilot season. My phone had half a dozen missed calls about work when I got out.

I was on a pilot when I discovered I had to see a specialist for an underlying medical condition. I skipped the last day of shooting because that was the only appointment I could get for months.

I was on that show in the Valley when my Dad found an organ donor. The guys covered for me when I went to go see him.

There was a show I worked on that took place in Malibu. They'd park our trucks right by the ocean and I was staring out at the gorgeous view of the sand and water when I my friend called me to tell me he has cancer.

I was carpooling with the Gaffer on another show when I found out he had passed. (And I still miss him every day.)

I can tell you exactly how long ago these moments in my life happened, not by dates, but by shows. I don't keep track of years, but seasons. Season 5 is when I became the best boy of a show that actually aired on T.V. Season 2 of another one is when I quit working for a toxic Gaffer. And Season 4 of another is when I tried my own hand at gaffing.

During my first pilot season, I worked for legendary gaffer that had done some of my childhood favorites.

My third pilot season is when I met the gaffer I still work with to this day.

Time for most people is marked by days, months and years. Mine is marked by crews, shows, and the way my life changes with them.

*That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Fuck You, Friend.

I'm lazily scrolling through my phone when I get a text from a friend of mine. We met on a pilot a few years ago and work together often. Only now he was Rigging Gaffer on a show while I'm browsing the Internet on my couch on a Wednesday.

"Hey, A.J.!," he texts, "Do you wanna come in and work with us tomorrow and Friday? It's location rigging, but don't worry. I'll put you on fixture duty and have the guys do the heavy cable."

I stare at it for a good long while. Could I use the work? Sure. If he had left out the last two sentences, I wouldn't even be hesitating. But he did and I am.

Do I love rigging? Not particularly. My threshold for wrangling cable is about a week before my (still relatively young) back hurts. Hanging lights isn't fun for me either because you're usually either doing acrobatics on the top step of a ladder to get the light where you want or you're stuck in a tiny lift with about a dozen lights on stirrups hanging off of it and I'm a terrible driver.

But rigging is a good work out and I actually don't mind it every once in a while, especially if the crew is full of good people.

Fixture work is also part of rigging and usually involves sitting in a chair for while, wiring things up and putting things together before you crawl around the set, hooking things up. Despite the crawling on the ground, it's easier on your body than laying down a cable run.

And while I appreciated the thought of giving me an easier assignment, I also felt insulted by it. Having "the guys" do the heavy cable implies that I can't handle it. And further more, it implies to them that I can't. If I took the call, I know I'd get stares from the other guys who'd wonder why the new day player got the easy job while they're breaking their backs with the cable. They'd see favoritism and that, my friends, is how the rumors start continue.

I also can't tell him to put me on cable duty because I'm not going to volunteer to do it just to prove a point. I'd be different if he was going to put me on the heavy stuff to begin with. I'd totally be down with that. But even guys who could bench press my weight with one hand would get out of running cable if they could and I'm not about to insist that I'll carry cable that weighs almost as much as I do.

So I turn decline my friend's offer with a simple lie of saying I'm unavailable that day. It's the first time I've had to turn down work based on principle. It wouldn't be fair to me or the other guys if I showed up to take the easy day.

(And not gonna lie, his text had me reevaluating our friendship.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Who's Got The Dirtier Mouth?

"Hey Honey, want to work this week? It's for [Movie that I've actually heard of for a not too bad rate.]"

I rolled my eyes at the text on my phone. Did I want to work this week? Yes. Do I want to keep up the contact and say I've worked on a show that people might actually see? Yes. Do I particularly want to work for someone who calls me "Honey"? Not particularly, but it's two out of three and being a woman in this business means you have to pick your battles, so I reply, "Sure!"

"Great! I've never had a Show Pony* like you working for me before! It'll be fun bossing you around. LOL."

I roll my eyes at the obnoxiousness of his texts. It's just for a few days. It's a good show. It's good money. And as derogatory as his pet names for me might be, he's higher up in the food chain than I am and I need to be on his good side.

I meet him at the stage the next day to put in new rig for a prison set that was just built and had to endure comments like, "Too bad this isn't a working prison. It'd be fun to watch what happens with a girl like you walking the halls," and "You do know how to lay cable, right? I mean, you've been a Gaffer's toy for a while."

The only thing I could do in response was laugh at his comments and play it like it was a funny joke. Like I said, he landed good jobs and I need the contact. Or at least to stay on his good side since I know people turn to him all the time for recommendations on who to hire. So I grin and bear it until he says, "Hey Princess. It's time for a coffee break. Come sit with us while you file your nails."

I like the other guys he brought in today and haven't seen them in a little while, so instead of pretending to make a few phone calls to get away from him, I follow him to the cooler where everyone else is hanging out and shoot the shit and catch up.

The conversation soon turns to other women we know in this business and someone mentions a friend of mine.

"Ugh," grunts my boss at the sound of her name.
"What?" I ask.
"I'll never hire her."
"Why not?"
"She's got a mouth like a sailor. All the swearing and cussing she does? No thank you."

I stare at him in disbelief. Really?? Out of all the reasons not to hire someone (like being unsafe, unable to follow instructions, always late, always on the phone, just plain stupid, etc.) SWEARING is where he draws the line?? Has he met literally anyone else in this business? It'd be weird if a co-worker didn't drop an f-bomb every once in a while.

Besides, knowing my friend, she only really uses swear words when she's pissed off at something. It's not like every other word out of her mouth needs to be bleeped and I've never heard her say anything derogatory, racist, or hateful. Just the standard four letter words with the occasional "mother" in the beginning with an "er" at the end. Nothing I haven't heard before from pretty much everyone else we work with.

"Anyway, Sweetie. Break time's over. Get back to work!"

Yeah, it's her language that's offensive. Sure.

* Show Pony is what the rigging crew will sometimes refer to a First Unit lamp operator as. It's not exactly a compliment. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

"Lessons From A Vacuum Cleaner."

Way back when I was just starting out, I joined The Freelancer's Union. While it's not exactly geared towards our industry, they do offer things like health insurance, various discounts, a database of deadbeat companies who don't pay up and countless articles on taxes, networking, saving for retirement, how to get paid, etc. If you're not in a union but want the support of one, it's worth checking out (and it's free!).

Anyway, while I don't really take advantage of all the great things they offer, I do occasionally read the weekly newsletter/e-mail they send out, and this week's contained an article that I definitely think is worth reading.

While it's about a vacuum cleaner, this well written story spoke to me on many levels. If you read it and don't understand how it pertains to us in this industry, then maybe you just need a few more tools in your tool box. ;)

Read it here:
Lesson's From A Vacuum Cleaner.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Of Course...

On the Tech Scout*
Me: "There's a pool here. We should order GFCIs."
Everyone else: "No, they're expensive! And there's no scene where we're actually in the pool."

After the Scout, talking with the Gaffer - 
Me: "I know there's no scene in the pool, but are we setting lights near it? It is, after all, close to those big patio doors you want to light."
Him: "No. We won't have lights anywhere near the pool."

During the Production Meeting**
Director: "There's a pool at the house, but we'll just be by it. No one actually goes in it."
Writer: "There's no scene where anyone gets in the pool."
Locations: "We didn't get permission to use their pool."
Production: "No one goes in the pool."

When I'm putting together an equipment list:
Me: "Are you sure we shouldn't get any GFCIs?"
Gaffer: "No, we're good without them. We're not putting anything by the pool. There's no scene in the pool. No actors are in the water. No need for GFCIs."

After the budget is locked and equipment is loaded and we start shooting the next day:
Me: Sees new script is out. I take a look. New scene is added. Yup, actors are now in a pool. "Sigh..." 

* Tech Scout is where department heads and/or their assistants visit the locations with a Director, ADs and Production ahead of shooting to see what needs to be changed, what equipment to order, etc. Basically so we're not going in blind the day of.

** Meeting with department heads (and/or their reps) and Production after the scout so we can all talk about who needs what for what day from what department so we're all on the same page. 
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