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. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018


Found this photo while searching the Internet for a picture to go along with this post and I couldn't not include it.
While it's technically off subject, the title is "Do not plug space heaters into power strips."

One of the things set electricians HATE to do is run power for Production, namely for things like heaters. They're usually about half a dozen or more of them scattered about, you can't cube two of them together because they each need their own dedicated circuit, they're placed in the most inconvenient places where the closest distro box is 100ft away, they need them plugged in "right now!" (never mind you're in the middle of a lighting set up), and the P.A.s usually move them around at least twice (and you've powered them at least twice) before they finally settle on a place for it and you never reap the benefits from them, namely because they're dedicated for people who do nothing but sit around for most of the day.

It's bad enough that we have to* run power to them, but the other day an AD was getting on my last nerve about it.

The poor actors were getting cold on our warehouse stage (aka: not a real stage) so in came the heaters. Seeing them land, I ran the appropriate stingers to them before being asked to. Five minutes later, the room hadn't gotten any warmer and the AD turned to me.

"Didn't you run power to these, A.J.?"

He kneels down to fiddle with one of the knobs before noticing it wasn't plugged in.

"Really? You didn't plug it in?"
"Nope, I just run the power. I don't plug things in for other departments."
"Oh, come on, A.J. We're on the same team here," he scowled at me before plugging in the heater and walking away.

I let it drop because, like I said, you have to pick your battles. But let me reiterate:

"Come on, A.J.," you or the AD might ask, "What's so hard about plugging in a heater?"

Well, for starters, I don't know this heater (nor do I care to). If I plug it in, will it turn on automatically? If the switch was left in the "on" position, and I walk away and someone knocks it over and it burns a hole in the rug or catches something on fire,** I guarantee all eyes (and fingers) are going to be pointed at me. And if it doesn't turn on automatically, am I supposed to turn it on, too? What if the switch is broken or doesn't work? How much time am I supposed to spend troubleshooting it?

I have no problem running power to a Ritter fan for Special Effects, but I won't plug it in for them. I may be running 5-wire banded to it, but does their fan run on 120V? 220V? Again, does it automatically turn on once it's powered up if the switch isn't off? Are the markings on the switch even correct? (Because, you know, SPFX, or any other department for that matter, never takes something apart./s)

Is the toaster oven the food stylist is using set to "broil"? Will it just turn on if I plug it in when she's not around? Oops, did I just burn the hero food she was keeping in there?

Is the reservoir in the coffee maker at Crafty empty? If I plug it in while the switch is "on" and there's no carafe in place, who's supposed to clean up the scalding hot water that is now spilling everywhere?

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Sure, it may only take a minute or two to figure some of this out, but 1) that's not the point, 2) it's not my job, 3) it's someone else's job, 4) it's not my responsibility, and, most importantly, 5) I don't want it to be my responsibility.

Simply put: Just because we're the "electric" department doesn't mean we're responsible for operating anything with a cord coming out of it.

We also never give a mouse a cookie.

*We technically don't have to. Our job description and title clearly state that we're Set Lighting. Read: we light the set. But it's also easier and saffer for us to do it than anyone else. We pick our battles.

**Yes, I know newer space heaters have a safety switch on the bottom that shuts it off if it's tilted. I've also worked with a few where the switch was bypassed. And no, I'm not going to take the time to figure out if it even has a switch, let alone if it's working properly.

Saturday, April 14, 2018


Day exterior scenes are usually a lamp operator's dream.* Since the (California) sun is typically bright enough to light up the whole set, a set electrician's main job becomes to make sure that video village and the coffee maker at crafty have power. Then it's mostly finding a shady place to hide while the grips swelter in the sun.

Sometimes, on a slow day like that, the Best Boy will take advantage of the time and have us do some housekeeping, like cutting gels, re-organizing the carts, inventory, etc. 

It was one of such days when a colleague and I were assigned to tackle the small pile of B.O.** equipment that had been collecting on the truck. I was putting a new Hubbell on a stinger while he re-globed a light. 

"Hey, do you have an alcohol wipe?" I asked him, as he was finishing up.
"Naw, there's some in the set cart but that's all the way on set. I'll wipe down the globe later," he said while he started closing up the housing.
"No need. Here." I usually keep an alcohol wipe in my tool pouch and so I handed it to him.
"Oh, look at you. Overachiever," he said as he took the wipe from me. "Thanks, Overachiever!" He emphasized that last part rather loudly so our whole department heard.

I let that comment go and returned to my own work, but his words left a bad taste in my mouth. From anyone else on that crew, I might've taken the comment as gentle ribbing, but from him, plus the tone of his voice, it was clear he was annoyed with my preparedness. This was the same guy who repeatedly showed up late for work, sat at staging all day playing games on his phone, and never stayed on set for longer than a few minutes. 

So it's a wonder that to him, me having the bare minimum required to do the task at hand, was considered "overachieving." Or maybe it was the fact that I saved him a trip to the set cart that he had a problem with? 

Or maybe it was the fact that compared to him, the bosses that be saw me as a more valuable addition to the crew and he knows it. I'm no model electrician, but at least I show up on time every day (granted, I may have cut it preeeeetty close a few times) and hang out on set until they get a take going before sneaking back to staging. I also re-stock the set cart when supplies are running low, make sure the head carts have the proper counts when we load them back up, and wrap loose stingers and cable that for whatever reason ends up laying around the middle of the floor, causing unnecessary trip hazards. 

...All while he plays games on his phone at staging.

None of those tasks were assigned to me. I just do them. Why? Because, again, it's the bare minimum of work required for my job. I don't know who he's used to working for, but making sure we have expendables nearby and wrapping stingers are pretty par for the course on every crew I've ever been on. 

And yet, I'm an "overachiever."

Okay. So if doing what's required of me at work makes me an "overachiever," what does that make him? Also, let it be noted that instead of getting his own alcohol wipe (which were in the set cart no more than sixty feet away), he took mine and then gave me a thinly veiled insult.

Really, man? Maybe the problem isn't that I'm an overachiever. Maybe you should just try harder.

Not counting the sundown-"OhShitWe'reLosingLight!!"-mad-scramble at the end of the day.
** "Burned Out," aka: broken.
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