I turn around to see who's calling my name. It's the writer/director/producer of the low budget feature I'm on.
"Can I speak to you for minute?"
We head over to the side of the garage as the rest of the crew shuttles lights and cables through the house for the first shot of the day.
"So..." he starts off with kind of a sigh. I can already tell this is going to be a good one. "So we don't have a boom op today, so I was wondering if you wouldn't mind doing it."
I'm Best Boy Grip on this show, and he's asking me to swing into sound. (Don't ask me where the mixer was. It was one of those shows.) I like (most) sound guys, but I have no interest in their job.
"Uh... Actually, yeah, I do mind," I reply.
He's taken aback. Shocked. That's when I realized that he wasn't really asking me to do him a favor. He was expecting me to say yes because it's his money, his show. Apparently, my answer threw him off because he was at a loss for words for a second.
"Really? You can't boom op? Why not? There's really no one else to do it..."
"Well, because I really don't want to and it's not what I was hired to do. Can't you ask someone else?" I looked around set. Along with a few of his friends that were there to "help out" (read: eat up crafty and get in the way), there was a PA or two floating about.
"Well, I guess I can... But I figured I'd ask you since, well, a lot of people here are generous enough to be volunteering their time, and you're one of the few who are getting paid, so..."
Now it was my turn to be stunned into silence. It was true that I was getting paid, but it was so below my normal rate that it was laughable. Not to mention that his production manager had called me for this job twice: once when they wanted me to work for free, which I promptly turned down and the second when they finally offered me money. That second call meant that they couldn't find anyone else who'd take the job as a freebie, forcing them to finally dig up some cash.
But apparently, to this guy, that money didn't mean that they were paying someone to do the job that they're hired to do. He saw it as a reason for me to do his bidding.
That makes absolutely no sense to me. If you're paying good money for a plumber, you don't ask him to hook up your cable. You make damn sure he's fixing your clogged drain. You don't hire a babysitter to do your taxes. And you don't scrape up money that's barely there to begin with to hire a grip and then make her hold a boom all day.
Eventually, words found their way out of my mouth again. "I don't know what else to tell you other than I'm not doing it."
And with that, I walked back to the truck to do the job I was hired for.
Although I didn't look back while I walked away, I could still feel his eyes on me. He was in disbelief that I had said no to him not once, but twice. Sure, I could have tried to explain to him that he's only paying me to grip and if "helping out" with sound was part of the original deal, there's no way I would've taken this job. But all that would've done is waste time and energy, and he'd still be annoyed that I said no to him. In his mind, it didn't matter to him that I was being paid to grip. What mattered to him was that I was getting paid, and therefore, I should do whatever he asked. By my refusal to boom op, he saw me as someone who wasn't doing their job and wasn't a team player. If that's the case, then fuck him and his team.
A friend of mine ended up Besting on the next show the director was on. He called me up to to see if I could fill in for a few days while he was at his cousin's wedding, only to call back a little while later.
"Sorry, but the deal's off. I just happened to mention your name to the director and he said no way. He really doesn't like you. What did you do to him?"
"Oh, he asked me to boom op and I said no."
Now it was my friend's turn to be stunned into silence. The phone was quiet for a bit before he said, "Wait.... What??"
I told him the story.
"That's ridiculous," he said when I was done. "Luckily, he's been pretty good on this one about not asking us to do stuff that's not our job. He'll ask a PA or something for stuff like that."
Huh. Go figure.