Saturday, June 11, 2011

Another Post About Cell Phones.

No matter how professional the crew, every once in a while, a cell phone will go off during a take. It's just inevitable. (Ironically, it's usually the Director's phone or the Sound Guy's, but that's another story.)

ADs commonly try to squash the problem by saying something along the lines of "If your cell phone goes off during a take, you owe us $10." Where the money goes to exactly, I'm not sure. Sometimes they'll specify that it's beer money for the crew or something, but $10 doesn't exactly buy enough to go around. And if the pot actually does grow enough for everyone to share, then isn't that kind of like rewarding the problem? (Again, that's another story.)

Which brings us to a set I was on not too long ago. It was only a one day shoot but the AD seemed to be taking his job very seriously. Before we started rolling, he made a loud announcement to the entire crew, "Turn your cell phones off! If it goes off during a take, you owe us $20!"

I rolled my eyes. I hate hearing "announcements" that threaten to punish you for something that's obviously an accident to begin with. I mean, out of all the assholes that I've run into over the years on this job, no one purposefully leaves their cell phone on a loud ringtone and hopes for a call during a take. Usually, when one does go off during a take, the embarrassment of everyone looking at you is punishment enough. They all know you did something bad, you know you did something bad, everyone learns a lesson, double checks their phone and moves on.

"Yeah, that's right. $20! And I'm serious too!" continued the all important AD.

My Best Boy and I shared a look. "Sure," I muttered under my breath, "He can take it out of my pay."

My boss choked back a laugh.

Because you see, we were working on their shoot for free as a favor for a friend on a student film.

So not only did the AD threaten to fine people if their cell phone accidentally went off, he made the threat to a bunch of people who were donating their time and skill to a project, of most of which were students who don't have a lot of cash to begin with anyway.

Saddly, this isn't the first time I've heard this threat on a freebie show. I know that sometimes, it's the AD's job to be an asshole. But I also think that sometimes, they need to take a look at the situation and realize that not all of their usual tactics will apply here. And when you have people who gave up their day off to work on this project pro bono, I think it's also important to not be a dick to them.


Anonymous said...

In Australia a mobile phone going off during a take comes with the penalty of a 'slabbing'. Where the offender must purchase a carton(aka. a slab) of beer to be iced and ready for distribution and consumption amongst the crew on wrap, no later than the Friday following the incident. No-one is excempt. I've seen directors, producers, UPMs and even members of cast(lately the worst offenders) have to pay up a slab.

Michael Taylor said...

Being threatened with a fine on a freebie is ridiculous, but I'm all for it on a paying gig. The offenders don't leave their phones on intentionally, and certainly don't intend to ruin a take, but it can be very hard to get some people's attention. Threaten them with a fine, and suddenly they remember to turn their phones off.

Still, this kind of officious, self-important, "don't you know who I think I AM?" AD drives me nuts. The best ADs I've worked with are focused, competent pros who rarely raise their voice while maintaining complete control of the set. The worst are like the clown you describe, insecure fools who huff and puff ever louder as the day grinds on, all the while wondering why nobody on the crew is listening anymore.

I just wish you'd made your dead-on comment loud enough for everyone to hear -- at which point the whole crew would have laughed in his face...

A.J. said...

Anonymous - I've often wondered about rules like that. I understand how they work on a small shoot, but what about a bigger show where the number of cast and crew can reach the triple digits? Does the person have to buy enough booze for everyone? And what if the offender is the lowly office PA that barely makes above minimum wage whose cell phone just happened to ring during the thirty seconds he was on set? I understand why such penalties are put into place, but I'm curious, are there exceptions to the rules?

Michael - While I still don't like it, I do find the fine to be more tolerable on a paying gig. That is, if the fine is appropriate to the rate. If my day rate amounts to nothing more than gas money, good luck prying that $20 out of my hands...

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