Friday, July 1, 2011

Far Out There.

Something tells me we're not in L.A. anymore...

It was a nice day to go for a long drive.

The latest top 40 Summer anthem was flowing from my radio as I cruised along the nearly empty road, admiring the scenery. Jeweled green hills; hidden dirt roads off shooting from the highway; roadside fruit stands; fields of sun ripened produce, just ready to be picked. It was a beautiful day.

Too bad I was on my way to work.

It's kind of a shame really. The only time I drive out of the city to places where your nearest neighbor is a mile away, it's because some production had picked a location all the way out there and I'm spending the day lugging around cable and lights rather than enjoying the peace and fresh air.

So why don't I visit those places when I'm not working? Because it's far. Call me cheap and lazy, but I like to enjoy my time off and avoid driving to places that's going to cost me a half a tank of gas.

Which is part of the reason why I groaned when got the call sheet the night before. I've worked with this company before and they have a habit of picking waaaay out there locations. Cheap and secluded spots where screwing the crew over on their gas and potential turnaround* just happens to be a bonus. So it didn't really come as a surprise to me when I learned that my commute would be a long one.

It's times like these where the thought of breakfast comes into play. If I want a meal, I'd usually go in about half an hour early before my call time and order something hot and filling off the catering truck. But with that long of a drive, leaving early enough to get there in time for breakfast would require less sleep. Precious, precious sleep. In those cases, sleep usually wins. In which case, I'd sleep in a little longer and grab something to munch on in the car (it's a long drive after all) or make do on an empty stomach until the first shot's all set up and I can grab a doughnut or muffin from crafty.

This morning, I opted for the latter option but found myself arriving at the location a little earlier than I thought I would (I keep forgetting there's no traffic in the middle of nowhere). Taking advantage of my new found time, skipped the long line at the catering truck and I grabbed myself some fruit salad and a bowl of oatmeal from the breakfast table and sat down with my fellow colleagues who were enjoying their coffee and eggs.

With a few minutes until we were in for the day, our whole department was there and accounted for, minus one person. Hm... That's interesting. This missing member was the same guy who was late the day before. This was day two of shooting at this location, and surely he wouldn't make the same mistake and be late two days in a row, would he?

I turned to the Best Boy. "Where's [Juicer]?"

"Beats me," my boss replied, checking his phone. "He better get here soon though."

Three minutes until our call turned into two, then one, and then we were in. My colleagues and I cleared our table and headed to work, down a man. Not a great way to start the day.

About a few pieces of cable into the new run we were putting in, a familiar voice came over our walkie channel. "Walkie check?"**

"Yeah, good check. Look who's finally here!" said the Best Boy, checking the time. The new voice over our radio waves was that of the missing Juicer, who was now late two days in a row. "We're running cable on the south side of the house. Why don't you come join us?"

"Yeah, I will. I'm just going to grab some breakfast from catering first."

Um.... What?

I shot my Best Boy my WTF face and he just shrugged and got back to work. He and the late Juicer had been working together for years, and whether they agree with each others work ethics or not, they've developed a symbiotic relationship and depend on each other for work. In other words, there wasn't much the Best Boy could do to discipline the guy.

A little while later, I headed back to the truck for more supplies and saw the Juicer sitting on the tail gate, finishing up his breakfast burrito. Following the Best Boy's lead, I should have let the whole ordeal go, but I just couldn't hold my tongue on this one, considering how me and my fellow brothers were already working up a sweat while this guy saunters in late and eats a leisurely breakfast in the shade.

"So," I started off, being as polite as I could, "did you run into some traffic or something?"


"Oh... Then how'd you end up late two days in a row?"

"Because," he said, getting up to stretch, "I'm not going to leave my house more than an hour before call time."

I stood there, looking at him while he began to dig around his bag for the day's tools. "Huh? What do you mean?"

And the answer that flowed from his mouth turned out to be the most ridiculous example of protective rationalization I've heard in a good long while.

"Look, it's not my fault that production chose a location so far out here. They're screwing us over by having us trek out this far all the time. So you know what? I'm refuse to leave my house more than an hour before call. If I get here late, it's their problem. I guess this is my way of saying 'fuck you' to the Producers on this thing."

Granted, the guy kinda had a point. If we had brought up the issue with the Producers before hand and then we all decided to show up late whenever the location was outside of the TMZ, that might send a meaningful message to the powers that be, but this wasn't the case. The guy was taking matters in his own hands without discussing it with anyone first and all it does is end up making our department and himself look bad.

"Okay..." I said, as I tried to process what he just said, "But you know you don't really screw over the Producers when you do that, right? Because all we've established so far is that you've been late two days in a row and we start work whether you're here yet or not. So I guess what you're really doing is screwing your own department over because we've been a person short since we started."

He looks at me, with a thoughtful look on his face, "Yeah..."

"Besides, you've worked with this company before. You know where they like to shoot. You had to have known how far you'd be driving when you took the job. Them screwing us over like this is nothing new, yet you agreed to work for them anyway."

"Yeah..." I could tell from the look on his face that I wasn't telling him anything he didn't already know. He knew showing up late like he did was a bad thing, but he was just lazy enough that he couldn't find it in himself to get to work on time. So he created a reason in his mind for being late that made sense to him.

Like I said, the guy kinda had a point. It was a bitch to drive out that far every morning and then make the same long drive back at the end of a hard day. And we all know I wouldn't mind sleeping in a little longer. But at the same time, I took the job knowing the (bad) habits of this company and so did he. And while I probably should've let the Best Boy (not) handle the situation, I just didn't feel right about letting it slide without saying something to the guy after the rest of his team made an effort to be there on time, all while knowing that we either get there early for breakfast, or we don't eat until we can hit up crafty at an appropriate time.

Purposely showing up late, then heading to catering for a hot meal while the rest of us do your work all while feeling okay about it? That's some kind of reasoning you've got going on in your head there...

*Turnaround times don't include the commute.
**Generally responded to by a "good check" from a colleague on your channel. It's basically what you do when you turn on the walkie to ensure it's working properly.


Michael Taylor said...

He's an asshole. Everybody else got up early enough to make the call -- and once you accept that call, you play by the rules.

Two days in a row? Check that -- he's a complete FUCKING asshole. Unless this clown is very well connected (which I doubt, or he wouldn't be working Fringe-Co jobs like this in the first place), he's going nowhere fast unless -- and until -- he wises up in a big way.

Ed (sloweddi) said...

We had a name for people like that, FIRED at the end of the day.

Have a very Happy 4th

Niall said...

I can't see why the gaffer hasn't fired this guy. He's late, hostile towards production for an over sight he signed on for, and actively tries to sabotage the shoot. Bad sport I say, bad sport.

Nathan said...

If I could sympathize with his unilateral protest that gets him to work late (which I can't), I'd still think he's an asswipe for thinking he should, then, be entitled to sit and have a relaxed breakfast.

And I suppose it's neither here or there, but I've been on a number of jobs where the crew and production agreed to a middle ground regarding travel. They'd arbitrarily agree that the crew wouldn't be on the clock for the full length of time needed to drive to/from location, but they'd get paid for the time driving beyond the zone. This usually amounted to an extra 15 minutes at the beginning and end of the day. Not enough for anybody to retire on, but enough that it showed that Production weren't just being abusive pricks.

A little respect goes a long way.

A.J. said...

Michael - I agree, it's a very asshole-ish thing to do, especially when everyone else made the effort to make it there on time.

Ed and Niall - I wish it was that simple! But as previously stated, they guy had immunity. :(
Hope you had a great 4th!

Nathan - Yes, I think the part that bugged me most about the whole thing was how he'd arrive late and still felt entitled to a relaxed breakfast.

And you're right, a little respect does go a long way. On a previous show I've worked on in that area, Production offered us about $5 each for gas. Does it come close to covering what we spend on fuel for a round trip? Hell no. But it's the thought that counts.

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