Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Confessional.


I take my seat in the cramped, dark space and face forward, sliding the door shut behind me. I know he's there, but I can't see him clearly. But that's okay. I kind of like that I can't see his face. I can't see the judgement or amusement that might cross his features. I can speak freely here; unreserved. He's just mostly here to listen. In this space, words seem to pour out of me, lifting some of my burdens and cleansing a part of my soul.

This pass van was my own personal confessional booth and it was an intricate part of my existence.

I'm not sure how it happened. How it started. But I got to know one of the drivers on my show. I'd somehow always end up in his van on the drive from crew parking to set, or from one location to the next, and sometimes, I'd be the only passenger. Just me in the back. On these trips, when it was just the two of us, we'd start talking. Small talk at first. About where we're from, what part of town we live in now, if we have any siblings, etc.

Soon enough, we'd start talking about our day, and soon after that, we'd talk about the... "idiosyncrasies" of our respective departments.

On this particular show, I wasn't getting along with a few people in my department and it upset me because these were people who I got along with so well before. They were like family at some point, but now, for whatever reason, they were ganging up on me so much that even other departments would ask me why they hated me so much. I'd smile and give a polite shrug, staying politically neutral. I still have to work with these people, after all, and feeding the gossip mill is feeding the fire. So I took the high road and kept my opinions to myself.

Unless I was in the van. With just the two of us, I felt safe. I'd seen him before around other crew members, and he was always quiet, even with the boys in his own department. He was one of the few who didn't partake in gossip. He never egged anyone on to spill any and he definitely didn't spread it. I knew he wouldn't tell my secrets. He was more of a listener than a talker, and so, when I slid in to the empty backseat of his pass van, I would talk.

I'd tell him everything. Why my co-workers were turning on me. Which one started it and why the others followed. What they'd do to make my day miserable. I'd tell them about how I was blamed for equipment not being ordered when it even wasn't my responsibility to order equipment. How I'd cover for my co-workers when they made a mistake on set, yet they'd still talk shit about me to anyone who would listen. I told him the only reason why I was staying was because this job came with a promise of better things down the line. And hell, I wasn't going to leave. I busted my ass to be here. I had earned my spot and I wasn't going to leave it because of some assholes.

I told him everything, and he'd sit there in the driver's seat and just listen, not really saying much. But that was fine with me. I didn't need advice. I wasn't looking for sympathy.

I just needed to unload. And I needed someone to listen. And I needed to feel heard, even if it was just for a few moments to an audience of one.

And sometimes, he'd talk to me. Never turning around to look at me, he'd stay in his seat, still facing forward, and just talk. He'd tell me about the bad decisions he made in his life. Why he almost got fired from his last job. How he planned on making ends meet. And I would sit there and listen to him like he would for me. I wouldn't tell anyone his secrets either. They were safe with me.

Looking back, I guess it seemed a little odd, us having one-way conversations and not even look at each other. But in some ways, I feel like that's what made things easier. In some ways, it's easier to spill your guts to someone you can't see. Kind of like talking into the darkness. You can't see their reaction. You can't be judged. Not that I'd judge him. The van had became a safe space.

I was never raised with any particular religion, so I never went to confession. But for a few minutes each day, I understood why they say that confession is good for the soul. I didn't have any sins to confess, but just telling someone my problems, even it if was met with mostly silence, was enough to get me through the show. I almost went crazy from dealing with all the drama my colleagues were causing me. And I may have almost quit. But this small act was enough to keep me going.

The show, as all shows do, eventually ended and the driver disappeared to wherever co-workers go until the next time I see them.

But now, whenever I slide into the back seat of a van, and it's just me and the driver, I smile a little as I remember my own private confessional booth, and how it made all the difference in the world.





Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Scraping Off The Rust.







The first day back at work after some time (whether it was a self-imposed absence or not) is always a weird one for me.

Our job uses so much knowledge, skill and movements that don't really translate to every day life that I always have the fear that I won't know how to do anything anymore. What if I've forgotten how to tell the difference between a Baby and a Baby Jr.? Can I even lift an M40 on a stand on my own anymore or am I just going to embarrass myself? How early do I have to set my alarm clock again? And, the one that always always trips me up in the morning my first day back at work, what the hell goes on my tool belt??

I always get a little nervous when I go back to work because as weird as this sounds, I don't remember the feeling of work. And if I don't remember something, how am I supposed to do it?? I remember that cable is heavy, but I don't remember, in my mind, how to maneuver it so it sits on my shoulder just right. I know that stingers must be wrapped clock-wise, but I don't remember the feeling of it sliding through my fingers, or how many degrees I need to subtly twist it so it lands in a perfect loop. I remember all the steps to rig a light (safety cable, cotter/hitch pin, power it up, focus it), but will it come to me as effortlessly as it did before I left?

These are the kinds of irrational (or rational?) thoughts and feelings that run through my head before my first day back, sending the proverbial butterflies to my stomach. I understand that they're all things that are difficult to explain to anyone how to do. That a lot of it relies on muscle memory, instinct and just plain experience. Stuff that can't really be taught. And sometimes, you just have to be somewhere looking at something to understand how to do it. I mean, you can't explain to someone how to globe up an 18K unless you're looking at one, just like you can't really explain to someone how to drive a car unless you're both sitting in one. But just like driving a car, how rusty will you be if you haven't been behind the wheel in a while? And that goes double for a car you've never driven before!

But then I get to set (after setting my alarm clock ridiculously early) and I see friendly faces and familiar set ups and things seem like home again. The job starts flowing, my joints loosen up, the cobwebs clear from my head and my body is on auto-pilot once more. Instinct starts to kick in, and it's like I never took any time off. I have never once failed to get back in to the groove of things.

But lo and behold, after the next hiatus (self-imposed of not) come and goes and it's time to get back to work, those butterflies return once again...



Sunday, December 23, 2018

2018.


Oh man... What to say about this year.

I've had my ups and downs this year. I've had a couple of health issues and scares. I've had family members with their own health issues and scares.

I've had days where I'm just overwhelmed with everything. Some days, things would just pile on one after another with nothing getting resolved.

I miss friends who aren't here anymore. I miss the friends I've sadly lost touch with. I miss the friends I'm too busy to see and who are too busy to see me.

I turned down jobs on shows I love and I turned down jobs with people I love even more.

I fell behind on posts for this blog.

I've been rejected, poked at, bad mouthed, lied to, mocked and disregarded.

But some good things happened this year, too.

I met some really cool people on my shows. I learned that not all actors segregate themselves from the crew. Some co-workers became friends. Some became more than friends. Some became... I dunno what.

I learned that I can survive things. That if I just focus on the task at hand and not on what the outcome may be, things seem a little more manageable and a little less scary. I've learned to take things one step at a time.

I've learned that some friendships can transcend distance. Things may not be the same between you and them anymore, but true friendships can hold strong. And it'll make those times when you do see them so much better. And it'll make you miss them that much more when they leave again.

But missing them is a good thing. As is heartache. And frustration. And pain. It's what makes you part of the living, instead of mindlessly going through the motions. It's what makes you understand art and music and poetry and writing. It's what makes you understand why Ariana Grande is more than just a pop star* with a short-lived engagement.

I've taken jobs I didn't want to take, and have grown so much from them. I stepped down from a high position to take a lower one, and in turn, I was given the opportunity to step up to an even higher one. And damn it, I rocked it. I learned that I'm good at what I do. Like, really good. (And if I'm not, I at least can put up a pretty convincing illusion!)

I also discovered I can hold my own. When it comes down to things that matter, I'm slowly learning how to stand up for myself. As I get older, I find myself less willing to put up with bullshit. So fuck off, Alphas. I'm not going to be pushed around anymore.

I feel like I'm usually pretty open to trying new things, but this year might've been more about self discovery. I've climbed mountains on my own. I went to shows on my own. I've had some pretty fantastic meals on my own. I learned that I can be on my own and be just fine. I like myself. I mean, I'm a pretty fucking fantastic person.

I also learned that just because I like being on my own doesn't mean I'm rejecting the idea of finding someone. It means that I haven't found the right person. And that's okay.

2018 has felt both long and short at the same time. I can't wait to see what 2019 has in store for me, but part of me doesn't want to let 2018 go just yet either. Or maybe that's another lesson here: I need to learn when to let something go.


Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and here's to a Fucking Fantastic 2019!



*Seriously. Watch it.


Thursday, December 13, 2018

Seen At A Rental House Restroom.




Yeah, something tells me they don't get a whole lot of women in here.*




*Nor, apparently, do they expect any anytime soon.

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."
"What?"
"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

Time.


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.)
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