Thursday, March 17, 2011

Double Dipping.

When I first started in this business, oh so many years ago (okay, more like a handful), I would work my little ass off as much as I could.

Eighteen hour days? No problem.

Jump between day shoots and night shoots? Where do I sign up?

In fact, the more of a stupid idea it sounded and the more exhausting it’d be, the more I reveled in it. It was kind of like a test of endurance. A badge of honor you wore that could invoke future bragging rights. “Oh yeah? Well one time, I worked an 14 hour shift… in the rain… with no rain gear!” “I don’t want to hear about how you only got four hours of sleep last night. I was in Vegas yesterday and I drove from there straight to set!”

One of the more common, yet stupid things you could do is “Double Dip.” Double dipping basically means that you’re more or less double booked and will be working two jobs in one day, usually back to back. For example, you may have a 5am call for a feature and later on in the day, have a 6pm call for a music video. As long as the first job wraps in twelve hours or less and you don’t get stuck in traffic, that kind of schedule is pretty feasible.

Not all double dips result in a 24+ hour marathon of work though. If you’re lucky, one of those gigs (or both if you’re really lucky) may be a simple load in or wrap out that requires you to be there for no more than a few hours. But generally speaking, if you double dip, you should clear out your schedule for the following day because you’ll be a walking zombie by the end of it all.

My longest work session was a triple header; working three different jobs back to back. It happened not too long after I moved out here and it evolved out of a perfect storm of early wraps, last minute calls and unexpected overtime. I wasn’t exactly prepared for working a day and a half straight, but I do remember looking back at it and going, “eh, that wasn’t too horrible. I even have enough energy to make myself some breakfast before I hit the hay.” And the rebound time wasn’t as bad as I was expecting either. I was ready for more action after about six hours of sleep.

But that was then. Due to another perfect storm of an early wrap and a last minute call, the opportunity for me to double dip came up recently. “Eh, what the hey,” I thought to myself, “It shouldn’t be too bad.”

Brother, let me tell you, it definitely wasn’t as good as I remembered it. I was dying by hour 18. I wanted nothing more than to crawl into a hole and take a nap, this job be damned.* I had no interest in wrapping up cable or adjusting any lights. I just wanted to take a nice, hot shower. I wanted to crawl into my warm bed. I just wanted to be done with the day and go home. I couldn’t sit still for more than a few minutes, otherwise I’d drift off to sleep and I’d never snap out of it. Which meant I had to constantly keep moving just to keep awake, which ended up tiring me out even more. Other than a slightly larger take in pay for that week, I was basically in a lose-lose situation.

That day made me realize that despite still being fairly young, I’m still not as young as I used to be. I’m not sure if it’s the added years to my age, the added years of work, or both, but my body can’t seem to take that kind of a beating anymore. Two, even three jobs, back to back never used to be a problem for me, and now I can’t even make it through one and a half without regretting my decision to try to do it all. Sure, maybe it wouldn’t have been as bad if I had some warning and could have planned for it a little better. Perhaps sneak in some extra sleep the night before. Maybe throw an energy drink or two in my work bag. But in all honesty, I hope I remember how utterly miserable I felt this time around so that next time the opportunity to double dip comes up, I’ll think twice about it before I take the job.

*It should be noted that one of the reasons double dipping is frowned upon, is the fact that you won’t be starting job #2 fresh. Instead, you’ll start the “day” off stale and burned and for the most part, won’t be as good as you should be for the 2nd crew, which is pretty bad form and unfair to your colleagues. However, in this particular case, I made it very clear to the Best Boy what my situation was and he told me to come in anyway.


Niall said...

Yeah I've done it couple of times, and I have to agree that it just blows with a side of suck sauce. When your 18 to 22 you can get away with it but mid to late twenties is when it takes a mighty toll on you mind and body. It's not worth the money in the long run.

If I'm besting and find out some one double dipped with out warning me, I'll just send them home for the day when I have an alternate on their way. If your going to do it tell me. Because I'll warn you that I don't approve; and would rather get a day player to cover than have a brain dead zombie work with heavy gear and electricity.

It's a safety issue for them and the rest of the cast and crew. When your coming off even an 8 hour job your a little rough around the edges and not going to be sharp enough to roll with punches by 1st meal.

One job is enough for one day. Especially since I have bone chilling rain to deal with 6-8 months out of the year up in the pacific northwest. Sucks the very life from your bones when it's colder that 55 outside.

The Grip Works said...

The exhaustion is one part of it, but the toll it takes on your career is another part. The best boy and gaffer are not going to be happy having a crew member who can barely keep themselves awake. Besides I honestly think someone that tired is as much of a hazard as a drunk on set.

A.J. said...

Niall - It amazed me what a difference a few years makes. The mid-twenties me could barely handle what the early-twenties me did easily.

I've personally only hired a double-dipper once. He told me right off the bat that he was just coming off another job but I told him to come in anyway because 1) It was a last minute call and he was the only one "available" and 2) He told me that he was good to go another round and I know him well enough to trust his judgment.

The Grip Works - Agreed. But in this case, both the Gaffer and the Best Boy were aware of the situation and told me to come in anyway out of desperation. Towards the end of the night, however, I did notice that the tasks I was assigned were the easy ones that more or less kept me away from the rest of the cast and crew... Perhaps so I was more of a hazard to my self than anyone else. :)

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