Saturday, March 18, 2017
If you have a few minutes, read this article about the working hours of America compared to other countries. I found it to be interesting and informative without being thrown too many numbers and percentages in my face. And I couldn't help but compare what the author was saying about the work culture in our country to our industry, and boy, did it raise some scary questions for me.
But if you don't have the time (and according to the article, you probably don't), you can read my Cliffnotes version of it!
- It's illegal in France to send work emails after working hours. (WE NEED THAT LAW HERE!!!)
- My warzone of an apartment was probably considered fine 55 years ago. Apparently technology just creates a higher standard of things, thus creating more work and stress. ...Kind of like how this "digital" thing was supposed to make everything easier and/or cheaper, but kind of doesn't and just creates a different kind of work.
- We're missing out on 12 paid vacation days a year. And apparently, 12 is considered too little.
- Long hours leads to being less productive, which leads to long hours... which leads to being less productive... and the cycle continues. So if the study was based on the average American work week of 33.6 hours, then what the hell does it mean for our industry when 65 hours a week is the norm? Can we be more productive with less hours?
- And if all this stress is making the average person sick, how much worse is it for us?
- I'm moving to Luxembourg... Or Denmark. Or at the very least, France.
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
It's a pretty common practice* that if you're late to work, you buy coffee (either Starbucks or equivalent) for your department. Since that usually includes a drink of choice for the DP as well as the driver who takes you on the coffee run AND their Captain that gave the okay for a van to go M.I.A. for a half hour, the tab for the 9+ drinks adds up fast and is usually sufficient punishment enough for being a few minutes late. The same price is usually paid whenever someone comes back late from lunch from running an errand, or leaving early because of a doctors appointment, etc. Basically, any time your colleagues are covering your ass, you owe them a beverage.
Which is baffling when a colleague of mine was complaining about how much money he had spent on coffee this month.
"You're making me do a coffee run again, A.J.? This is my third time in two weeks!"
"Um... Then don't show up late, ask to come back to lunch late or leave for lunch early because you scheduled a doctor AND a dentist appointment during work hours?"
* On decent paying shows, anyway.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
It was just a wink. That was all it took to calm me down.
He was wrapping a pile of stingers while overhearing the myriad of instructions I was given by my boss on top of the already growing laundry list of things I had to do before the day ended. We only had so much time to get everything rigged and that time was rapidly coming to an end. We would barely finish in time as it was and these new notes were about to push me over the edge.
To say I was stressed would be an understatement. Add "panicked" and "on the verge of a meltdown" and you'd be closer to what I was feeling. I even contemplated throwing in the towel and just going home to a nice hot bath and an episode of Project Runway.
I glanced over to him after my boss walked away and he looked up from the stinger he was tying and gave me a wink.
It was such a simple, almost imperceptible gesture, but that blink of a single eye let me know that I could do it. That I've got this. That it'd all work out in the end. That he's on my side. That quarter of a second move made me stop, breathe, and collect myself before addressing my crew about the latest change in plans.
And in the end, we did the near impossible and got everything done in time with literally not a minute left to spare. But it was done. Mission accomplished. And I couldn't have done it without him
He had calmed me down when I needed it the most, did his job with efficiency, sensed the seriousness of the situation and reacted in kind, yet he'd make a small joke to get me to smile when appropriate. And usually when I needed it the most. He kept the rest of the guys on track when I wasn't around and didn't complain one damn bit though he had every right to.
And when this job ended and another one landed in my lap shortly after, I knew immediately who I wanted beside me to weather the next few months: him. As I learned more and more about what the upcoming job entailed, the more apparent that, once again, I'd be challenged and pushed to my limits, and I couldn't think of anyone else I'd rather have by my side. He'd be my support. My silent cheerleader. A physical reminder that there is someone who believes in me and will be there to help me if I needed it. With this daunting new show ahead of me, I wanted him with me. Badly.
But he turned me down in favor of an offer from his old crew. He said they needed him. Understandable, sure. But didn't he know I needed him, too?
That's when I stopped myself. Did I really need him? I enjoy the comfort and support he brings, sure. But do I need it?
I've been in this business alone for about a decade now, and I think I've done pretty well for myself so far. Sure, I've had moral supporters and a helping hand or two over the years, but no one that really stuck by me through the thick and the thin. No one to hold my hand when things got difficult. No one to help me make the tough decisions. I may have turned to people once or twice for advice, but at the very heart of it, it's just been me the whole time.
I've never had to depend on anybody. And I wasn't about to start now.
I stand alone. And I guess I will continue to stand alone.
I may want him, but I certainly do not need him.
I've got this.
I can do this.
And sometimes, as depressing as it may sound, sometimes it's good to have a reminder that I don't need anyone to hold my hand or give me a reassuring wink.
I may want the support. And things may be easier with someone on my team. But I am strong enough to stand on my own regardless.
I. Am. Enough.
Monday, January 16, 2017
As I've touched on before in a previous post, while every effort is usually made to be on set and ready to work at your call time, you technically aren't "in" (read: "on the clock") yet if crew parking is a van ride away. Instead, your call time is what time you're supposed to be at crew parking. So if the callsheet says your call time is 10:30am and crew parking is a twelve minute drive away from set, you technically shouldn't be working until 10:42am, even if you're already at the truck because you got there early (usually because of the lure of breakfast).
Best Boys and Gaffers who understand and actually enforce that rule are few and far between, so when I find a department head that insists on it, I want to give them a big ol' hug.
But what I don't get are colleagues that start working despite our Gaffer telling us not to.
One guy on our crew in particular was adamant starting work "at call" no matter what, and when one guy starts working and everyone else is just standing around, it doesn't make our department look good, even if that one person is going rogue. So one day, as Mr. Company Man started to unload carts from the truck before our official working time, I reminded him that we still had a few minutes until we were "in."
Since this wasn't a new discussion on this show, he sighed before turning to me, and said, "That's a stupid rule."
I stared at him blankly in return. "Do you want to work for free?"
"What? Hell no," was his immediate response.
"Then stop working before call."
It's as simple as that, people. If you're working before you're paid to work, you're working for free. It's not a hard concept to grasp.
Friday, December 30, 2016
My parents were watching the local news when they featured a guy and his very ambitious Christmas light display. After hearing the house was just an eight minute drive away, they planned to take me when I did my annual holiday visit.
After spending a half hour in front of a stranger's yard with about thirty other strangers watching a plethora of Christmas lights rather impressively synced to music, we finally decided to head home so we can warm up and feel our toes again.
My Dad was still marvelling about the display long after we got home.
"You know, the news said it took him about four months to put that all together."
I, being the trouble maker of the family, of course, decided to play devil's advocate.
"Um, I'm pretty sure he didn't really spend that long on it. He may have started four months ago, but I heard he has a job at some tech company so really, he probably only worked on it maybe a couple hours a day or something like that when he got home from work. Or just on the weekends when he had time. That definitely didn't take a full four months."
"Really? How would you know how long something like that takes?"
"I... do this stuff for a living?"
"You can make lights move and flash like that?"
"But you can't program them to a piece of music like that."
"Uh... Yeah, I can."
At this point, I am more aware than ever that my father not only has no idea what I do for a living, but he also doesn't have faith that I'm very good at it.
"No. You can't. You're making that up."
"How do you think we control lights at work?"
"Okay then. Prove it. Next year, make my house like his and program lights to music."
"Okay. The going Union rate for a lighting programmer is $42 an hour. It'll take one person about three days, or twenty four working hours, to make a similar set up to what you saw. You pay me my rate and you have a deal. Oh, and that price is just for labor. Lights and equipment not included."
"Really? You'd charge your own father that?"
"Really? My own father wants me to work during my one solid break from work a year? ...And for free?"
He stays silent for a second so I continue.
"You want skilled labor? You'll have to pay for it."
"You can really make lights flash like that?"
He still seems skeptical but doesn't want to pony up the money to call my "bluff", so he lets the matter drop.
By the way, in highschool, my first job was running (and programming) the lighting console for a local theatre company. So not only does my Dad have no clue what we do at work, he apparently has no idea that I could've been programming his Christmas lights since I was sixteen and my going rate was minimum wage.
Hope your holidays have been more enjoyable than mine! Have a happy New Year's and I'll see you all in 2017!!!!