Thursday, March 18, 2010
The Kids Have It Easy.
I've worked really hard to get to where I am today.
I came into this town not knowing anyone. I didn't know a thing about mambo-combos, 10Ks, or HMIs. I didn't know how to use a walkie-talkie or work a lift gate.
I didn't have a fancy school teaching me these things either. Instead, I worked my way up from horrible, non-paying, run and gun guerilla style, low-budget shorts to official feature films, commercials and music videos.
I'm not ashamed to say that I worked for free a lot longer than I probably should have. And while I may not be rolling around in money right now, what I do get paid these days is miles away from what I was getting a year ago.
And I'd like to think that I earned every single penny of it.
Which is why it kind of frustrates me when all of a sudden, I'm working with a guy who stepped into this business a little over a month ago.
Still fresh and green, he doesn't know how to use a walkie. Doesn't know how to use the controls on a lift gate. Ask him the difference between a 1K and a 2K and he's at a loss for words. And you have to tell him twice in the same day that you should always wrap cable clock-wise.
I know that everyone has to start somewhere. That at one time, I was the one running around lost on a film set. But in all fairness, I was never the one who did less work and got paid the same, which is essentially what this guy was doing.
This guy happened to get onto this particular crew because he was a friend of one of the grips. When we needed an extra guy at the last minute, he was called in and kinda stuck around as a day-player. No problem. Happens all the time. The days were pretty slow on this shoot, so the extra pair of hands was nice, but not really necessary.
But then, as the days went by, we were getting peeled. The director kept changing his mind and would constantly add shots. The DP kept adding lights. The sun never lasted as long as we were hoping it would. Miles of cable would have to be run at a moments notice. Lights would be called off the second we got them running. And there would be more orders coming over the walkie than we had manpower.
This is where I got frustrated and annoyed with the newbie.
I understand the "trial-by-fire" way of learning. There's really no other way to learn this business than to be in it. You can sit in a classroom all you want. Have all the "simulated shoot days" you can at whatever school you're at. But nothing, and I mean nothing, comes close to being on a film set other than actually being on a film set.
Which makes it even more frustrating when you're mad at someone for being new, because now you feel guilty since you shouldn't be mad at the guy for learning things the only way things can be learned.
(Wait. Did that make sense?)
Anyway, so while my other cohorts and I were running around, pulling cable, bringing in lights, and rolling around 18Ks all day, this guy didn't really do much. I understand he's new and all and may not know to bring barn doors and scrims with every light, or how the locks work on a Road Runner, but when you're kind of shorthanded as it is, you can't help but wish for a co-worker who knew what he was doing. (Or at least knew enough to work while you chat with the cute girl from Props, especially when everyone else is working and/or waiting on him.) And while under normal circumstances, you'd probably take the time and teach the guy some of this stuff, but with the Gaffer shouting in your ear about "Where the fuck is that light??" it's often easier and faster to do it yourself than to just stand there, coach, and supervise the new guy.
Which then means you're doing more work. Now you're doing the work of two people and you're still getting the same pay. Which also means that the exact same rate you worked so hard for years to get is also being paid to the new guy you're covering for. Ugh.
Part of my frustration also lies with the Best Boy. He's a teacher in the sense that he loves imparting his knowledge to anyone even remotely curious. So while the rest of us are scrambling around the set during a re-light, the Gaffer's usually yelling at whoever is closest to him at the time, which was often me.
Gaffer: "Where's that damn Blonde??"
Me: "You just yelled at me about the Kino, so I'm doing that right now. I'll get to the Blonde in a minute."
Gaffer: "No, you won't. I just called for three lights. I have three juicers. You got the Kino, you're staying with the Kino. Now where's that damn Blonde?!"
Me: "How the fuck should I know? I'm working with the Kino."
Gaffer: "Who's getting the Blonde??"
Me: "I don't know."
Gaffer: (over the walkie) "Where's the Blonde??"
Other Juicer: (over walkie) "I dunno. But I'm working on the Tweenie you asked for outside."
Gaffer: (over walkie) "Somebody get me a damn Blonde to set, now."
Me: sigh. "Fuck this."
I leave my post by the Kino (with the Gaffer still yelling as I walk away) and head over to our staging area to grab a Blonde. And it's there that I find the new guy and the Best Boy. They were so engrossed in going over the different types of gel that we carry that the Best Boy was either oblivious to the fact that we needed all hands on deck, or simply figured the other juicer and I could handle it while he gave lessons on color correction.
Like I said, it's frustrating. And you can't be mad at the new kid. He's trying. And it's not his fault that his presence is an inconvenience. And you can't be too mad at the Best Boy. Sure, he keeps calling a newbie back to day-play on a shoot that requires a more experienced crew. That's definitely annoying. But you can't be mad at a guy who's going out of his way to teach someone about the equipment. It's something I would be thankful to have when I was crawling up that shiny new ladder.
But there comes a point, usually at the end of the night when you're wrapping 4/0 in the mud by yourself and the new kid's practicing wrapping a stinger, you can't help but feel some resentment. And that resentment will grow when you realize that your paychecks are the same.
I hope the kid knows how lucky he is.