Friday, June 4, 2010

I Still Don't Know How To React To This One...

Like so many low budget indie shoots in LA, we're shooting at night in a bar. And like most of the low budget indie shoots in LA that shoot at night in a bar, it's a working bar. Meaning Production either couldn't afford to or didn't bother to or for some other reason, couldn't shut down the bar for the night and get the place to ourselves. So imagine trying to carry expensive, heavy and awkward gear around in a dark, cramped space with a lot of (drunk and tipsy) people in it. Not very fun. This is another scenario where I'm glad I'm not a sound guy.

Anyway, so we're in this crowded bar, almost ready to shoot the first shot, when the Gaffer calls for a last minute light. One guy flies it in while I try to find him power (a generator is definitely out of the question in a working bar, so we're going solely off of house power). I plug a stinger into a wall outlet, run it neatly across the floor (the "floor" being a path between the tables only three feet wide) and plug the lamp in.

"No, no, NO!" screams the Gaffer, "You're putting the cable in the middle of the path to the bathroom. That's a high traffic area! Find some other place to plug it in!"

I look around, noticing that the only other available outlet that didn't require me crawling between the legs of patrons was even further and would still need to run across the path to the bathroom. "Um... I think we're going to have to cross it either way."

The Gaffer, suddenly filled with rage, points his finger in my face, looks me in the eye and goes, "You better watch your mouth there."

Um... WHAT??

And while I stood there, not quite sure how to react to that, he looked around, unplugged the light from the wall, scooped up the stinger, and RAN IT INTO THE KITCHEN, not even bothering to tidy up the cable along the way.

So now we had a tangled, kinked up stinger running into the KITCHEN of a Bar & Grill in the middle of the place instead of neatly run in the back of the building by the bathrooms where I could have easily taped it down and made it safe.

Yeah. That's much better.


Ed "sloweddi" said...

Dump question of the day: So a stinger is a 12/3 extension cable of some length. When I looked up the price it was about twice what i pay for the same cable, 12/3 at Home Depot. Is your industry like mine (computer repair/electronics) where you can slap the "film" label on a piece of equipment and charge double?

In answer to your post: Not knowing the dynamics of the situation, I would have talked to him after hours and explained that he was out of line.

Niall said...

As a head of a department he should have known better. NO finger pointing, no yelling, and don't run in a huff trailing a path of destruction behind you. Granted i can get heated and yell, I typically either apologize or provide a ton of beer the next day to apologize.

You could have found a cheap rubber mate from the bar to cover the stinger and tapped it down. That was just plain lame on his part. In a crowded bar no matter where you place a line it'll be in the way. Running into a kitchen to run it seems dumb and dangerous to the staff going in and out with trays of hot food.

weak sauce.

A.J. said...

Ed - According to a listing for a 12/3, 25ft extension cord on, the weight of one of those things is around 3 pounds. According to Filmtools, a proper "stinger" of the same length weighs 5 pounds. I'm assuming it's because a stinger is more heavy duty than your average extension cord, with more insulation and can better withstand rough conditions (weather, terrain, the sound guy rolling his cart over it...). If you pick up a proper stinger in one hand and cheap extension cord in the other, you can most definitely see and feel the difference in quality. At least, I think that's why they cost more...

Sometimes, yes, talking it out after the situation is a good thing. But sometimes, the guy doing the yelling is a legend in his field and it's best to just let him rant. This was one of those times.

Niall - I agree with you, 100%. Weak sauce and all. :)

Nathan said...

I've started to comment a couple of times, but I question soooo many things in this scenario that I'm not sure where to start.

1. If you're forced to shoot in an open bar due to budget, why, on Earth, are you shooting during their busiest time? Whose brilliant idea was that?

2. Is the budget so low that they couldn't afford one or two guys to do a pre-rig? I don't mean anything extensive here -- just someone flying the stingers in advance so there'd be a number of pre-positioned "drops" available in strategic positions? And if that was possible, why not pre-rig some real cable so you could use a generator -- unless, of course, that's against one of those L.A. fire laws I'm not familiar with? And lastly, on the same topic, if the production could have afforded some version of a pre-rig, why didn't that scumbag, asshole, screamer of a gaffer think of it and request it on the Tech Scout (or, at least, during some moment of pre-production when, presumably, he was informed there'd be a day of work in an open, operating bar)?

I wouldn't lose a lot of sleep worrying about whether or not you impressed this guy. He sounds like an accident looking for a place to happen.

Nathan said...

Oh, and on the subject of the 12/3, not only is the insulation more rugged on the "rental" stuff, but so are the connectors. They're also made to be replaceable when one of them fries instead of hard-wired like the Home-Depot stuff. And the "rental" stuff is black wire that hides easy as opposed to Home Depots bright orange wire.

I'm presuming Ed was talking about "purchase" price for each variety. If that's the case, the "rental" stuff, as mentioned, is heavier duty, so it's more expensive for a reason.

If he's talking purchase vs. rental price, that can be deceiving. When I worked at a rental house, most equipment was priced to pay for itself after 30 days "on rental". Stuff going out for commercials and other short jobs are "on rental" every day it's out of the shop. Stuff going out on a Feature may only be charged 1.5 - 2.5 days of "rental" per week, depending on how long the job is.

(And after my weak defense of rental prices, I'll add that we always joked that if we could open a rental house at a luxury ski resort, we could charge $350/day for a C-stand. "Oh, did you want an arm with that? That's an extra $175.")

A.J. said...

Nathan - Those are all valid questions. I'd imagine we were there because it was a night scene, and therefore had to be shot at night since being there in the day meant we had to block out all the windows. Blocking out all the windows probably meant we had to rent the place out for the day, which was probably even more money. Plus, it could've been a myriad of other things including scheduling conflicts and a Director/Producer who insisted on having that bar as a location. And yes, the budget was so low they couldn't (or didn't want to) afford a pre-rig. Or it could very well be that they didn't think it was necessary. Shooting in any working place of business means that we have to be pretty low key, so it's very possible that everyone was told to keep things simple.

Thanks for chiming in on the stinger debate. I had forgotten about the Hubbells! And I don't know about New York, but out here, generally speaking, rentals from Friday through Monday count as one day, so it's not uncommon for a long show to be getting charged for a three or four day week on top of whatever discount they're getting for renting long term. Either way, I'm pretty sure Ed was referring to the purchase price rather than rental. I think a rental on a stinger is only a buck or two.

Come to think of it, I wonder if anyone's ever walked into a rental house and asked to rent one stinger, or one c-stand...

Michael Taylor said...

Sounds like your gaffer is a legend in his own mind -- and something of a jerk. Barking at the crew is one thing, but a finger in the face and "watch your mouth?"

Uh, no.

That must have been one long day...

A.J. said...

Michael - Oddly enough, all this happened before we even got the first shot up. Lord only knows what, if anything, pissed this guy off before call time.

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