Saturday, August 29, 2009


Free stuff is supposed to be one of the best parts of working in this industry. It doesn't take that many page flips of a gossip magazine to find some starlet showing off the latest "gift" given from a fashion house trying to promote their newest line, nor does it take more than walking a couple of blocks in Santa Monica to spot an agent enjoying an al fresco lunch on the company card. But what a lot of people don't know is that below-the-liners get our own version of these perks as well.

There's free snacks to munch on at crafty, and depending on the show, we can get up to three catered meals a day (breakfast, lunch, 2nd meal). And occasionally, we get some swag tossed our way too. We don't get anything nearly as nice as what the latest "It Girl" does or anything, that's for sure. But over the years, I've gotten some great CDs from working on a music video or two, posters, DVDs, books, watches... Decent wrap gifts include a few multi-tools as well as a couple bottles of very nice wine.

However, most of the time, the swag comes in the form of a short sleeved t-shirt. From TV shows to movies, from student films to webisodes, most productions, at one point or another, will have some kind of souvenir crew shirt made and distributed among the departments. The same goes for rental houses, lighting and grip companies, dolly manufacturers, and any other industry related business. They'll all hand you a shirt with their name on it if you ask nice enough. In fact, if you pay any attention to the clothing worn on set, probably at least half of the grip and electric departments are dressed in a shirt they got for free. Which in a way, makes sense: If you're going to get dirty on a job (and you probably will), you might as well wreck a shirt you didn't have to pay for, right?

Unfortunately, I don't really have that luxury. Why? Because a film crew is comprised mostly of males so more often than not, those shirts only come in guy sizes, and well, I'm not a guy. And not only that, but for some reason, everyone only seems to order Large, X-Large and XX-Large sizes. Medium sizes are rare, and even rarer are the Smalls (X-Small? Don't even bother looking), which are usually still a bit too big on my girlish frame. So unless I want get snagged on every knob, hook and lever I walk by from wearing a shirt that's too baggy, I'm out of luck.

How unfair is that?? Women on set, especially in g/e, have to work ten times harder just to prove themselves to their male co-workers, and we can't even get a fucking t-shirt that fits. I only know of two companies who are considerate enough to have girl shirts (in sizes as well as cuts) but unfortunately they're only offered in white, which sucks because a) on a set, they get dirty fast, and b) they tend to be a bit... uh... see-thru.

Every now and again, I'll work on a show low budget enough that we get a few guys on crew that are on the inexperienced side, yet high value enough that vendors may send some swag our way. It's always fun to watch the newbies hold their new shirts up, checking out the size with a smile on their face. They always wear them the next day, and if you didn't know any better, you could almost swear the shirt has magical powers. The same guys who were full of self-doubt and running around set lost yesterday are now walking around with a sense of belonging. As if wearing a shirt given by a vendor was like a badge of honor, signifying that they're a real grip or juicer. Since you can't really get one of these cotton garments of coolness unless you had some kind of access to the company that's handing them out, getting that first shirt gives you a much needed sense of acceptance in an industry that you've been busting your ass for. Whenever I see these looks of accomplishment on the new kids' faces, I like to think back fondly to the first time I wore a film shirt to set....

Oh wait, never mind. Such a memory doesn't exist.

So guys, the next time you get a free shirt, whether it be from a company or a show, consider it a privilege that you can wear it to work the next day.

Some of us aren't so lucky.


John said...

I find the best swag is expendable's that have been bought by production but are partially used and cannot be returned for a refund. I have a tape roll that has about twenty rolls from Black 4" gaffer to an nice fresh roll of Jay-Lar.

I've also found it hard to get shirts being 6'5" and 185 to 190 lbs. Either I'm swimming in it or I'm showing of my navel. I feel your pain.

A.J. said...

John - Left over expendables are great. Especially if you re-sell them to the next production you're on that "forgets" to buy any.

And while it does suck for the both of us, I'm kinda glad to hear that there's a guy who shares my shirt discrimination pain.

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