Thursday, August 6, 2009

Nice Guys Finish Last.

Once upon a time, there were two Key Grips. One was a jack ass. He'd make loud, inappropriate comments, hit on all the ladies on set, bad mouth the AC when her back is turned, steal your work gloves and hide them, and would probably spit in your coffee when you weren't looking as "joke".

Meanwhile, Key Grip #2 was a prince. He'd swap jokes and stories with you like an old buddy and made sure you stayed warm on night shoots. He'd thank you for your help and tell you you're awesome at the end of every day and whenever you brought a c-stand onto set, he'd act like you were doing him such a huge favor. An absolute peach to work with.

But if you plopped me down between the two and told me to pick one to work with, I'd pick Mr. Jack Ass. Every time.

Why? Because despite all the frustrations, embarrassments and headaches this guy causes, he's a better boss than Key #2. He may be an ultra douche bag, but he never directs his verbal abuses to his crew. He thinks two steps ahead and keeps everyone informed. And if someone drops the ball and makes our jobs harder (like a certain "AD" who doesn't know what the shots are and will just guess) he'll let him have it. The words "holding back" aren't in his vocabulary and he doesn't take shit from Production. More importantly, while we all enjoy what we do, he knows that at the end of the day, it's just a job. And at the end of the day, when production can't pay you a dime for OT, he'll go around and start taking stands and rigs apart, effectively ending the shoot and sending you home on time.

The second, more well behaved Key Grip was also a good boss, but he just didn't stick up for his crew like the other one. No money for overtime? Eh... He's so chummy with his crew that he knows no one would object too much to staying a just a little longer. What? We have to re-stage everything because the AD lied about what the shot was? He'll just shrug his shoulders and do it. Oh, you haven't gotten paid yet and it's been two months since wrap? Hm... Give it another couple of days.


In this non-union, low budget, indie world of film production, things are tough as it is. You're overworked, under paid and around every corner is another Producer trying to cut costs and sees crew and safety as expendables. You have to learn how to put your foot down and take care of yourself ("The only way you'll get that shot right now is if you agree to over-time pay." "No, I won't run the distro without a ground!"). But how do you do that when your own boss is willing to be walked all over?

You could say it's the motherly instinct in me that makes me want to protect those working below me, or maybe it's a female thing where I want to feel protected. But either way, being a good boss isn't about being nice to everyone and making sure people like you. It's about getting the job done the way it's supposed to be done. It's about making sure that everyone involved is holding up their end of the bargain. It's about standing up for the crew who's busting their asses for you, no matter who you may piss off.

In this world, nice guys finish last.

Choosing to work with Mr. Jack Ass over Mr. Prince Charming may not result in a happily ever after. In fact, he'll probably end up pissing me off most of the time and I might "accidentally" beam him with a piece of speed rail, but at least I know I'll get home on time, my check will clear, and more importantly, I'll make it through this shoot alive. In the end, that's all that really matters.


John said...

I liked your article on bosses. It is a frustrating thing to work under a person who you want to kill but makes sure your not getting abused. Though I have worked wit ha gaffer in Seattle recently who is a friendly guy to the crew but loathes production with a passion and treats them accordingly.

It's hard to imagine being a key until you have that heavy mantel in front of your position title. It's a steep learning curb. My first time out was pretty brutal but I learned a lot and am set to put my foot down more often next time out.

A.J. said...

John - I'm glad you liked my post! It is frustrating to work under someone you want to kill, but I think I'm better for it. It's because of watching him fight tooth and nail against production that made me begin to stand up for my own rights and of those below me if I'm besting or keying. Although, I hope I'm one of those "nice to the crew/stands up to production" people rather than an all-around ass.

The Grip Works said...

Hi AJ,
I think somewhere in between your 2 bosses is where you need to be. It never hurts to be friendly - todays PA is tomorrows Producer (often that quick) however as Mr. Nice Guy Key Grip, you will have a far rougher time. You cannot be pushed around on a film set. It is the beginning of the end. Your mouse analogy in your next post is truer than you may realise.

Sanjay Sami
Key Grip

A.J. said...

Sanjay - Thanks for your comment. I like to think that I'm the kind of boss who's friendly to everyone. But make no mistake, if anyone tries to take advantage of me or my crew... Let's just say that production only tries that once.

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