Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Smarts Vs. Street Smarts.

I've known this guy for some time now. He was just short of brilliant when it came down to things related to lighting and power theory. I had never worked with him directly, but I'll run into him every once in a while since we know many of the same people. He was always able to provide reasonable theories to problems that have stumped us on set. Like why my meter was giving me a funky reading, or what kind of light was giving us that weird color. He'd stand around and talk as we would listen like Socrates in a forum. He was a plethora of electrical wisdom and always explained things with great detail and confidence. It wasn't all that uncommon for someone who just met him to go, "Damn. That dude really knows his stuff."

Then one day, I showed up for work and he was there too. "Awesome," I thought to myself, "It'd be cool to learn from him on the job."

Only, it wasn't that great. In fact, we had to carry his ass all day and he was just horrible to work with. The first thing he did when we started laying out cable was mess up the knot code system.* And not only that, even with the rest of the department in agreement with each other and pointing out to him that he was mistaken, he kept insisting that his way was the right way. It finally took someone digging up a tattered version of the SLT Handbook and showing him the picture before he conceded (and based on his grumbling afterward, I'm pretty sure he was still convinced he's right).

Once we finally got all the cable done and everything was up and running, he made a big stink about how we needed to bond the generator to the house power.** Now, while this is true in many cases, sometimes we don't do it because it isn't really necessary (but don't tell OHSA that!), and this was one of those times. We were shooting outside of a warehouse with the nearest house outlet being inside where it was impractical for anyone to use. But that didn't stop him from leading a ten minute "discussion" on why it was important for us to do it anyway.*** Finally, the AD, who was getting impatient as to why we couldn't shoot yet, came over, heard what was going on, and made an announcement that no one was to plug anything in without asking an electric first (as it should be anyway), which finally shut the guy up and got us working again.

The rest of the day was filled with little... "eccentricities" of his, such as not being able to tell "lamp left" from "lamp right" and taking it upon him self to color mix the tubes in the Kinos.

By the end of the day, most of my colleagues and I were over working with him. It didn't matter how much knowledge he had if he couldn't manage to translate that to the practicalities of working on a real set and his know-it-all attitude made for a horrible work day.

I've never worked with him again after that, but I'll still see him around every now and then. And each time, he'll solve some kind of electrical mystery or sprout out some kind of knowledge, and while I'll listen to him and take what I can from what he's saying, inside, I can't help but shake my head and think, "Dude, you talk a big game but you had trouble hanging a light right side up."

*We tie a specific knot on each cable to easily identify what they are.
**Long electrical mumbo jumbo short, it's common practice (or rather, it's supposed be) to connect two different sources of power to each other with a cable to eliminate any difference in potential, yadda yadda yadda...
***In situations like these, we'd just refer to the Best Boy and whatever he says goes, but in this particular case, the usual Best Boy was out for the day and his substitute (at least seemed to) lack the authority to put the guy in his place.

1 comment :

Nathan said...

GAWD, that sounds annoying. Because of the way crews are assembled, it isn't unusual at all to have two or more people on a job who could be the department head -- if someone else hadn't gotten the call first. But when you get called to be "not the boss", you accept that you'll have to take someone else's direction when you accept the job.

Seems to me, this guy hasn't gotten that most basic part of "how things work". Adding that to the fact that some of his know-it-all knowledge is actually wrong, only compounds the pain. I suspect he'll be pretty low on most peoples' call lists.

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