Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Sunday, December 16, 2012
It's a small world out there, which makes this industry even smaller in comparison. It's only a matter of time before you run into someone you've worked with before and I'm sure I don't have to tell you that people like to talk. So when I ran into a juicer I met on a show a few years ago, we got to chatting.
We talked about what we've been working on recently; what we've worked on since we last saw each other; who we both know and have worked with and what they've been up to, etc. Basically, getting a feel for what our professional lives have been up to since we last spoke. In other words, trying to get info on who's been working with who on what and when, and hopefully snaging some new work in the process. After all, Hollywood's all about who you know.
Inevitably, we landed on the topic of the Best Boy Electric of the show where we first met.
"So, I hear you still work with [BBE] from time to time," I casually mentioned, seeing if he could tell me what show he's on and whether or not they're looking for more juicers.
"Yeah, when it's busy and he can't find anyone else," he chuckled. "What about you? Have you heard from him?"
"No," I answered, head shaking. "The last time we spoke was on that show we met on. He hasn't called me since that wrapped."
"Yeah..." My colleague took a pause, as if he was debating whether to tell me this next part or not. "Well, you know why he doesn't call you for work anymore, right?"
I just looked at him and shrugged my shoulders. In all honesty, the question has crossed my mind, but I try not to dwell on what the answer may be. I've been not re-hired in the past by various Best Boys for various reasons. I'm too young, they think I can't be "one of the guys", I don't lift 4/0 by myself, they're sexist and don't think I belong in their department, I don't have enough seniority, their buddy needs the paycheck more, etc... Whatever. I've learned long ago to just accept the brushoffs, no matter how good a job I think I've done for them, lest I drive myself crazy wondering why.
You can't win them all, and you can't win any if you keep dwelling on the loses.
Anyway, I braced myself for my friend's reply. I figured it was because the BBE's brother, who he hires all the time, didn't like me. Or I couldn't keep up with some of the other guys when it came to swinging cable around. Or because I had to get my ID badge replaced because I had lost it.
"He doesn't call you because the other guys are distracted by you."
Um... what? I was distracting the other guys? I had tried to so hard to be on my best behavior when I was working with BBE since he does some pretty big shows and I was trying to impress him into hiring me again. I racked my mind and couldn't think of a time on the job where I was chatting when I was supposed to be working.
He must've noticed the confusion on my face because he continued on to elaborate.
"Just to be clear, I don't mean you were distracting them. They were distracted by you. If you didn't notice, the other guys would stare at you all the time and BBE wasn't getting enough work out of them when you were around. That's why he doesn't call you anymore. Which kinda sucks. It should be those knuckleheads that don't get called back. Not you."
Wow... I've been not re-hired for unfair reasons before, but this was definitely a new one for me.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
My co-worker's standing on the 2nd to last step of a twelve foot ladder, and to top it off, he's leaned so far over to the side that one of his feet is hanging in the air. And did I mention that he was in such a hurry to adjust the light that he failed to make sure all four legs of the ladder was touching the ground?
As I watched in fear of my co-worker precariously dangling off the unsafe step of a wobbly ladder, I decided to at least make this dangerous situation somewhat safer and stood on the bottom rung; my craft service burdened weight steadying my co-worker's perch.
Finally, he was done and without even looking, started to climb back down at a speed that was only 2nd to falling off the damn thing. It's a good thing I was paying attention or else I would've experienced a swift kick to the head.
As I dodged his Nikes and hurriedly hopped off the ladder to get the hell out of his way, he must've noticed my wide-eyed look as I stood back up because he said, rather sternly as if he was scolding a child, "Don't ever stand behind someone who's on a ladder."
And with that, he scurried away somewhere. Probably a dark corner where he can sit and stare at his cell phone all day until summoned.
Um... Hey oblivious asshole. I think the words you meant to say were, "Thank you."
*Yes, I'm aware that the ladder has another side I could've stood on to steady it. However, it wasn't accessible due to a poorly paced wall and various pieces of set dressing.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
I'm visiting the folks a few days early for Thanksgiving when my dad and I are watching something on television. Whatever we settled on watching ended up being somewhat boring, so when a big night exterior scene came up, I decided to provide some commentary.
Me: "You know that moonlight that's hitting those buildings right now? That's fake. There's a guy in a boom lift* about eighty feet in the air with some big lights mounted in the basket."
Dad: "Really? That's interesting."
Me: "Yup. And see those houses in the back? The light you're seeing in the window isn't from a table lamp or anything. It's from a light the crew set up in each of those windows."
My dad seems to be studying the screen now, so I continue.
"Also, there's probably a light on the ground in front of a few of those houses so you can see them and it doesn't look too dark in the background. Plus see how tree in that yard is backlit? That's another one of our lights. Not to mention the pools of light you see on the street. Some of those aren't from street lights. Instead, we'll set up lights to mimic them. And then we wet down the streets and sidewalks to make everything look more interesting."
My dad sits silent for a second, still studying the scene. Then he speaks with some surprise in his voice.
Dad: "Wow. That sounds like a lot of work."
Me: (sits there in silence because the only thing I can think of is, "Uh... YEAH. What did you think I did all day at work??")
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!
* We call them "condors" but most civilians do not. Same thing goes for "ratchet straps." Store employees will stare at you blankly if you ask for them. Instead, you have to ask for "ratchet tie-downs."
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
I took a call to play with a rigging crew and we're taking down a swing-set that First Unit was now done with. That meant cleaning up some cable and taking down whatever lights were rigged. Basically, clearing out all the crap from our department so construction can come in, tear this set down and build a new one in is place, only for us to come in and wire it all up again.
It's an endless cycle.
But this particular set was a little different than most of the ones we encounter the rest of the year. Seeing as how it was mid October, it was prime shooting time for all things Christmas, which means there were Christmas lights... EVERYWHERE.
And they were all powered up with zip cord.* A good few spools worth. And of course, the Rigging Gaffer wanted every single piece of it back.
The regular guys on this crew knew this, and they, being the muscle-man gorilla type of juicers who can't stand to do anything remotely delicate or tedious, immediately volunteered to do the heavy lifting. In other words, they were more than happy to wrap and toss heavy cable into a cart all day than to deal with the rats nest of zip cord.
That left me and the other day player to deal with the mess. So he started on one end of a room and I started on the other, and a few minutes later, I look over and see him struggling to pull out one strand of zip stinger from a big ball of them. How he got into such a big mess in such a small amount of time is beyond me, but all I know is that he ended up throwing the whole thing across the set in a bout of frustration.
He sighs, looks at me and says, "Dude, I can't do this," and he walks out, presumably to "help" the other guys toss cable around.**
And essentially, leaving me alone with the daunting task of collecting, de-tangling, wrapping and sorting several hundred feet of zip stingers.
I'm not even exaggerating when I say that shit was everywhere. Hidden above doorways, behind large pieces of furniture, underneath rugs, shoved into Christmas trees, etc, there was not one piece of set dressing that somehow didn't involve a zip stinger.
Sure, it was a daunting task, and not a very fun one to say the least, but whatever. I don't really mind the tedium and I'm not easily defeated by a thin piece of copper, but it did suck to have to wrap it all up on my own. Halfway through the task, I had to resist the urge to bang my head on the wall and three-quarters of the way through, I felt like shooting myself. But a few hours later, I was done. Whew. Freedom at last.
Luckily, it was also lunch and the whole rigging crew went to the diner around the corner. It was nice to get off the stage and unwind for a bit, especially after the mind-numbing morning I just had. And as we waited for our food to arrive, one of the guys commented about how he was already tired. The other guys nodded in agreement, and so did I when one of the guys chirped up.
"Why are you so tired, AJ?" he sneered, "Are your arms sore from lifting all that zip cord?"
The other guys busted up laughing and all I could do is sit there and be embarrassed. On paper, it sounded like I was being a wuss. Zip cord on its own isn't nearly as heavy picking up a piece of 4/0 or banded. But at the same time, that doesn't mean handling it isn't real work. Because of it's frustrating and tedious nature, none of the other guys wanted to touch the stuff, and those who tried immediately gave up. Yet it had to be done, leaving me the only one who stepped up to the plate and deal with the shitty, shitty mess. I was the only one willing and able to do a job that other men would rather cut their own arm off to avoid and here I was, being ridiculed for it.
Later on, I was the only one not asked to come back the next day. Which was fine by me.
* For those of you who aren't familiar with the stuff, it's basically lamp cord. In our world, it comes off of a spool and with add-a-taps and add-a-plugs, we can essentially make our own lamp cord stingers (aka: "zip stingers") and in any length we want. It comes in handy when we're powering things up, like practicals, and need to hide the cord. However, it is "illegal" to use on some sets. Whether or not we follow the rules, is a totally different story.
** As with every task, there can only be so many people on it before you start wasting manpower. For example, it typically doesn't take four people to set a Tweenie, and sending two people to wrap one stinger doesn't do much good. In this case, those guys didn't really need another hand in dealing with the cable.
Monday, October 29, 2012
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
|This couldn't be more wrong...|
I'm at work. Typical day, blah blah blah, when one of the regular electricians on this show sits next to me and strikes up a conversation. I haven't worked with these guys in a while, so we do the usual industry small talk dance ("How've you been?" "Keeping busy out there?" "What other shows are you working on?" etc,). However, one of his questions did kind of stick out during our pleasantries.
"Do you fee like you've improved a lot in the past few months?"
"Well, between you and me, I was just talking to the Gaffer and the Best Boy and they both said they feel like you've gotten a lot better at the job than the last time they worked with you a couple of months ago."
I really didn't know what to say to that. Truth be told, I haven't noticed any major "epiphanies" when it came to doing my job recently, nor have I encountered any jobs bigger than the ones I have been doing that requires me to "step up my game" so to speak, but I kind of didn't want to tell him that. If they think I'm a better juicer than I was despite me being exactly the same, then I wasn't about to open my mouth and change their opinion.
"Well, I dunno," I replied, sidestepping the question, "Why don't you tell me? You worked with me a few months ago. Do you see any difference between me then and me now?"
He doesn't even have to give it any thought. "Yes," was his immediate reply, "Not that you sucked before, but I do have to admit, you seem better at the job than you did the last time I saw you."
"Hm... Interesting..." And I wasn't lying either. I did find it interesting. Because I was doing one thing differently: I stopped giving a crap.
While I enjoyed working with this particular crew, the amount of overturn was slightly unusual. As Michael has said time and time again, crews in this business are a tribal thing; you may tag along with one for years before they'll finally give you a spot as a full-time member. However, this group was a little different. I've day-played with them for a little while now, and barely anyone is left from the original group of guys I met the very first time I worked with them. But with that, came hope. Each time they crewed up for a new show, I'd cross my fingers that I'll be upgraded from a day-player to a regular. These guys knew me. They liked having me around. The choice would be a no-brainer. But for some reason or another, I never got the call. Instead, they'd go with an odd combination of guys from the previous shows mixed in with people they've never met before.
I still held on hope though... And during the last show, I busted my ass whenever I was lucky enough to get a call from them. I was attentive. I followed instructions to a tee. I stuck through the long, mind numbing days, as well as the long, grueling ones. And I never once complained about it. I was on my "A" game every day I was on that crew, knowing that a number of these guys wouldn't be here on the next job* and that the Gaffer and the Best Boy would be looking for people to fill in the void. I pretty much did everything I could to prove myself worthy besides jump up and down with a sign that said, "PICK ME! PICK ME! RIGHT HERE!" Even all the other guys were saying I was a shoe-in as a regular for the next show.
But as that show ended and the next one started, I wasn't on the list. I didn't make the cut. Instead, I was to resume my faithful position as a day-player. And not only that, but I was now even further down that list, learning that first calls were going to guys who's never worked with this crew before.
That's when I gave up. I didn't dwell on their choices. I didn't drive myself crazy wondering "Why not me?" I learned long ago that I may not always want to know the answer to that question. Instead, I just threw my hands up in the air and said, "Whatever." Sure, it hurt, but I took it as a sign to move on. I'll take their calls if/when they make it down to my part of the list, but in the meantime, I need to work on diversifying my list of Gaffers and stop hoping that this one will call me.
And when they did end up calling me to come in and day-play, I came in and did my job; no more, no less. I decided that trying the best I can and busting my butt for these guys 14 hours a day wasn't worth it. But I'll do my job because I'm a professional and I need the paycheck. I just won't be the one who's on set all the time or knows where everything is. And damn it, bring on the "she's always at crafty" comments because I'm getting a snack whenever I feel like it. I've already made my peace with not coming back.
But apparently, not giving a shit is what gets you hired.
"Anyway, keep up the good work," my colleague told me as he got up to get another cup of coffee, "I think you might be one of the regulars on the next show..."
* ...due to leaving of their own volition. They had another show lined up as soon as this one wrapped. I wasn't poaching their spot!
Sunday, October 7, 2012
I'm on a stage for a fairly simple shoot, surrounded by "old timers" in every department. Guys who have been around for ages and have the balding heads and beer guts to prove it. Most of them give me curious looks throughout the morning, but for the most part, leave me alone. But I could tell that a few of them think of me as nothing more than a newbie; someone they'll have to annoyingly keep an eye on. Granted, I'll be the first to admit that I have a lot to learn still about this business, but I can tell my ass apart from a Tweenie... Despite these guys assuming otherwise.
Whatever. I was there as a favor to a friend more than anything and didn't give a rats ass to what these grumpy guys thought of me. I just wanted to do my job and get the hell out of there when the day was done.
Since this was such a simple set up and most of the lighting was left up from the day before, I spent most of my time sitting by the dimmer board, keeping my distance from the herd. I got the distinct feeling that these guys didn't think much of me, so I returned the favor and left them alone.
I still did my job, though. I am a professional, after all. I panned the occasional light and flipped switches off and on when requested. And since I was the only one there who knew how to use a lighting console, most of my tasks included pushing buttons and bringing up channels. Yeah, it was just that easy of a day.
Then the Gaffer asks for a double to be taken out of one of the lights. I glance around and realize that I'm the only one on this side of the stage, so I "copy" the Gaffer and head towards it.
I'm only a few feet from the light when I hear rapid footsteps behind me. But I think nothing of it and continue on with my task.
As my hand reached the top of the light, however, I hear a voice screaming, "Wait! Wait! Wait!" But it was too late. In one swift motion, I had already taken out the double scrim from the light as requested.
I turned around, with the offending scrim still in the jaws of the needle nose pliers I had used to pull it out, and faced my colleague who had beads of sweat forming on his face from chasing me halfway down the set.
"What?" I was starting to worry I had done something horribly wrong since he had so urgently tried to stop me.
"Oh..." He now paused, catching his breath and looking at the scrim dangling from my pliers. "I was going to stop you from pulling the scrim out with your bare hands."
"Yeah. I saw that you weren't wearing gloves and was going to stop you because the scrims get hot."
" ' The scrims... get hot...?' " I was desperately trying to understand where he was going with this.
"Yes. The scrims get hot from being in the lights. I didn't want you to burn yourself. But I see you used pliers. Good." And with that, he retreated back to whatever corner of the stage he was at before.
All I could do was just stand there, scrim still in hand, watching him walk away in disbelief...
Did he really think I didn't know the lights get hot??
Sunday, September 30, 2012
|My, how the times have changed...|
Diffusion Bags / Scrim Bags : A lot of the Old School guys refer to these things as "diffusion bags." I'm not quite sure why, but I've always been taught to call them "scrim bags" (because, you know, there's scrims in them). It can get fun and confusing when you hear the veteran Gaffer say, "Drop some diffusion in that light" and for a brief second, you're stuck wondering how the hell does one "drop" Opal or 216* into a light.
4/0 : Most of the newer guys don't roll their eyes when you ask to double team the cable. Most of the older guys will and then mumble something about doing it themselves.
Gloves: Many of the older guys don't use them. All of the younger ones do.
The Cameraman / The DP : When I first started working, my peers and I would often refer to our boss' boss as "The Cinematographer" or the "The DP." As I gained more experienced and gained footing on slightly bigger shows, the "Cinematographer" was now solely referred to as the "DP." But as I started working with more and more Old School kinda guys, they almost always referred to the big boss as "The Cameraman." This also would throw me for a loop the first few times I heard it because my immediate thought always was that they're talking about the Camera Operator or even the 1st AC.
Equipment: The older guys are more likely to put shit away when they're done using it. Many of the juicers of my generation simply don't. It drives me nuts.
Future: The Old School juicers look for their next job. The New Kids look for their next opportunity to move up. The Old School juicers just want to reach retirement. The New Kids still hope they'll become a DP/Producer/Writer/Director...
*I actually do wonder whether or not those links really have a picture of the product. :)
Sunday, September 23, 2012
6 is the number of days a week I've been working recently.
17 is the number of hours I'm gone each day.
15 hours is the longest turnaround I've had (the day off excluded).
6 hours is the shortest.
3 different shows a week is the average I've been day-playing on.
12 is the number of callsheets I've found floating around in my car.
3 visitors are staying with me next weekend.
1 entire apartment needs to be cleaned before then.
That all adds up to...
1 blogger that needs a break.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
I'm sitting on an apple box at staging, chit-chatting with one of the regular juicers from my department while we wait for instructions from the Gaffer.
"I wonder how long we'll be at this set for," he wonders out loud.
"This scene is about a page long, and then we move into the bedroom set for a couple of scenes. They're long ones though, so we'll be here for a while," I rattle off, somewhat matter-of-factly.
"Oh... Do you think we'll go late?"
"Maybe. You're on location tomorrow doing a bunch of night scenes, so they can go pretty late if they wanted to right now without worrying about a short turn-around time."*
"Hm... Good to know." He sits there, thinking for a moment, then asks, "What location are we at tomorrow?"
"At some house in Monrovia."
"Ah. Okay, thanks."
"No problem... But wait a second. How do I know this stuff and you don't? You're here everyday and I'm only here once a week, if that!"
The guy just sits there and gives me a shrug before going back to Facebooking on his phone.
Ah... The life of a day-player... Where you give a shit more than your co-workers, and yet they still get hired over you.
* Despite what Producers may think, crew members need sleep to function properly and need a minimum number of hours between the time we wrap and our call time for the next day. If tomorrow's call time isn't until late in the day, we can techincally keep shooting late into the night and still have our minimum turn around.
Monday, August 27, 2012
...not blinding the stand-ins every time you turn on a light.
...moving out of the way when someone is carrying something heavy and trying to get by you.
...opening and/or holding the door for someone who has their hands full.
...spreading the word to your fellow colleagues when something good is put out at crafty.
...not taking half the chicken wings in the serving pan before anyone else gets there.
...not using a chair as your own personal bag holder when there's no where else to sit.
...not asking the caterer a million questions when there's a long line of hungry people waiting behind you.
...not yelling into the radios. And while we're at it, it's also not hitting the "talk" button when someone else is clearly talking.
...telling someone they're laid off as soon as possible to they can start looking for work.
...calling out "flashing" when you take a picture using a flash.
...returning stingers you've borrowed instead of leaving them in a pile who-knows-where.
...not wrapping said stingers if you don't know how. Really, it's okay. It's easier for us to do it ourselves the first time than to re-do your attempts.
...helping someone push along a cart; especially if it looks like they're struggling.
...returning pens you've borrowed when you don't have the good sense to carry one of your own.
...throwing your trash away and not leaving it on the truck/carts/shelves/etc.
...checking in on the person up in the condor every once in a while to see if they need anything.
...not disappearing when a major set up is about to happen.
It's amazing how rare common courtesy is these days.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
|For a brief moment, I had it...|
Thursday: I get a call checking my availability for next week. Three days of work for a pretty decent rate. Sweet!
Friday: I get a call from a different show, asking if I'm free next week. Five days of work. The rate isn't that great, but I'd have a little extra spending money in my pocket after five days with them than the previous offer, plus the bonus of solidifying myself with a semi-new contact. I tell them I'll take it if it's five days for sure. Best Boy says he'll double check and call me back.
I hang up, a little proud of myself for being such an in-demand juicer.
Saturday: I finally hear back from the Best Boy about the schedule. It is for five days, but apparently the Gaffer wants to bring in his buddy instead. You know, the one who's been out of work for a while and can't find a job on his own, blah blah blah. Great.
I'm a little disappointed, but not too much. Being the smart cookie that I am, I never told the first job I was planning on bailing, juuust in case things changed. Which means that despite getting dumped, I still had three days of work at a good rate to look forward to.
I love it when things work out that way.
Sunday: I step out of the shower to find a message on my phone from Job #1. "Sorry kiddo, but the schedule changed..."
And that was how I went from being an in-demand lighting tech being sought after by multiple shows to being unemployed this week.
Gotta love this industry...
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
"Hey A.J.! Where've you been??" Crafty asks me, "We had quesadillas and that salsa you like yesterday and you missed it!"
"Aw... Damn!" I replied, bummed that I missed out on some good eatin'. These guys knew their way around some tasty snacks and had quickly become my favorite crafty.
"So, where were you?" Crafty asks again.
"Uh... no where. Just sitting around at home."
"Yeah," I knew where this conversation was going, "I'm just a day player on this and I guess they didn't need me here yesterday."
"What?? How are you a day player on this? You work harder than most of the guys here!"
I shrug, give him a smile and go on my way. I've been day playing with this crew for a while now, and nothing more. I come in once every couple of days. Sometimes a little more often; sometimes a little less. Sometimes just enough to fool the other departments into thinking I'm around all the time before laying me off again, which was the case now. And no matter how much my co-workers like me or how much I get along with everyone, something tells me that my status as a day player isn't going to change anytime soon with these guys. Which is fine if it wasn't for everyone else reminding me of that fact.
A few minutes later, I run into the On Set Decorator.
"A.J.!" she says, patting me on the back, "Where'd you disappear off to yesterday?"
(Here we go again...)
"No where. I was just at home."
"What? What happened?"
"...Nothing. I'm a day player on this and they didn't need me here yesterday."
"What? You're a day player and not a regular?"
She gives me a puzzled look. I shrug and offer a smile as I continue on my way.
I don't get very far when a P.A. known for his friendly banter catches a glimpse of me.
I stop in my tracks. "What?"
"Where'd you go yesterday?"
"What do you mean?"
"I'm a day player. They didn't need me yesterday so I stayed home."
"Oh... Wait, what??"
I shrug and smile at the boy as I continue on with my work.
Sometime later, I find myself sitting by the Key Grip waiting for the next set up to start.
"Hey, look who's back today!"
"Hi, Key Grip. How are you this morning?"
"I'm good. What show did you leave us for yesterday? Something good, I hope!"
"Um... No show... I'm just a day player on this and they didn't need me yesterday."
"Wait, you're only a day player?"
He stares at me for a second as if he's trying to figure out if I'm pulling his leg or not. "Bullshit."
I smile at him and shrug.
"You could've fooled me. I see you on the set working more than I see any of the other guys... Why aren't you a regular?"
I offer him another shrug. "Your guess is as good as mine."
He nods, understanding my predicament.
I do work hard for these guys. I'm the one on set, never letting the Gaffer out of my sight while the other guys are at staging, staring at their phones. I've known the Gaffer and Best Boy longer than any of the regulars. One of them had even commented to me before about how the Gaffer seems to be less stressed whenever I'm around. And yet, I'm still only a day player.
I have my own theories and speculations as to why that might be. I won't get into the details of what they are, but the rational side of me kind of understands the hiring decisions that were made. Or at least, I've accepted it. I can't make someone hire me.
What does bother me, however, is the constant reminders from people every time I'm out for a couple of days about how I shouldn't have been the one to be gone at all, and the awkward conversations that go with it. Conversations, that despite nicer wording, essentially reads between the lines like this:
Them: "Where have you been?"
Me: "I've been sitting at home, not doing anything because I'm a loser and not good enough to be here full time."*
This. Multiply by several times a day. After a while, it starts to get to you.
But what can I do, other than reply with a smile and a shrug...
* This is not to say that all day players are losers who can't hold a regular position. I'm just saying it sure seems/feels that way
Monday, August 6, 2012
To say I've been busy this past month and a half would be an understatement. I've been slammed with work. The hard, grueling, fourteen hour days of non-stop labor kind of work. And just when I think it's over, my phone rings with another round... And now, another.
Not that I'm complaining. I've been doing this long enough to know that I should just smile and take the hits sometimes. Work is work and when you're in an industry as fickle as this one, you take the jobs while you can. Especially since there were some change ups in the crews I roll with, leaving me with an uncertain next few months. And top that off with some friends of mine who've been moaning and groaning about how they've been out of work for a month or more, I know better than to open my fat mouth and complain.
But that being said, I've been busy. And tired. And for some reason, the pile of unread mail (or more accurately, unopened bills) on my kitchen counter keeps growing.
I guess what I'm trying to say is don't be surprised if posting here is a little lax in the next couple of weeks. I'll post when I can, but between the 7am call times and midnight wraps, it might take me a while before I build up enough energy to pop out a decent post. Meanwhile, take solace in the fact that me working means oodles of stuff for me to bitch about when I finally return.
Or better yet, go to the beach. It's sunny and blazin' hot out here.
Ten Things I Did Last Week.
1) Ate nothing but potato chips from crafty one day because catering was horrible.
2) Struggled with a ratchet strap for a few minutes while the rest of the department watched me.
3) Got hit with sprinklers more times than days worked.
4) Ate pizza three times.
5) Ate tacos twice.
6) Ate three hot dogs.
7) Re-packed a truck a few times because everything wouldn't fit.
8) Lost my right glove. Found it. Then lost my left one.
9) Gained a farmer's tan.
10) Turned night into day.
Monday, July 23, 2012
In no particular order:
- Being first in the breakfast line.
- Hopping in right before the pass van takes off.
- Shooting in a cool store/museum/building/school with a game room.
- Food trucks for second meal.
- Taking gators and golf carts for a spin.
- Hanging out on the lift gate at lunch.
- When one day of work with a good crew turns into two weeks or more.
- Getting a wrap gift you can actually use and/or wear.
- Really good crafty.
- P.A.s who know how to do a proper lock up. ie: They don't shush you for every tiny thing despite set being a hundred yards away; They let you cross when the Director stops the scene to give notes even though we're still rolling; They let you onto set even though we're about to roll because they know you're supposed to be on set for the shot.
- Taking a blind call for work only to show up and realize you know a big chunk of the crew from one show or another.
- Setting down a light, turning it on and it's in the absolute perfect spot. "It's great! Don't touch it!"
- Taking home part of the set dressing at the end of the shoot.
- Tail lights when there's still daylight out.
- Locations that are five minutes from your house.
- Martinis where you only have one light playing.
- Full crew on load out and wrap days.
- Load out days in general.
- Beating the clock.
- Hard outs that actually mean it.
- Seeing the Gaffer across the room and knowing what he wants before he can even reach for his walkie. And even better, with an understanding nod to one another, you perform the task without one word being exchanged.
- Being able to use house power.
- Day exteriors.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
(I'm taking a cue from D this week...)
In no particular order:
- Bathrooms that are right next to set. As in, you're trapped in the bathroom and can't flush because they're rolling.
- Breakfast isn't served yet because you have a pre-call and by the time you catch a break, catering has already stopped serving.
- People who put chairs in doorways, and when they see you heading towards the door carrying something big and heavy, they scooch over... but are still in their seat. The chair's still in the way, asshole. Sliding your butt to the left or the right doesn't negate the fact the chair hasn't moved.
- Departments who insist on wrapping up the stingers they borrow, not because they're trying to be nice, but because they're trying to prove they can do it right. Guess what? You can't. The loops are too big/too small/it's backwards and/or "over-under."
- Departments who "borrow" stingers without asking, use them in some far corner of the set without telling anyone, and then leave them there at the end of the night.
- The guy who's there for one day and wins Five Dollar Friday.
- 9am calltime way across town.
- 5pm wraps way across town.
- That one guy from that one department that bugs you for a stinger every time you're in the middle of a major set up. And no, it can't wait. And yes, he's going to bug you every 30 seconds about it.
- Sloooow service elevators.
- Gaffers who change their mind about the same damn light five times.
- Unexpected rain when you're out on location.
- Shooting at a house on a steep hill with an equally steep driveway.
- Overloaded carts with a broken brake and a flat tire.
- When 2nd meal gets there the second they call wrap.
- When Locations can't figure out how to turn off the sprinkler system.
- Carrying a full roll of tape on your belt.
- Getting mistaken for a P.A.
- The equipment delivery you've been waiting all morning for finally arrives the second you sit down for lunch.
* Because we all know no post is long enough to list them all. :)
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
As I was doing research the other day (read: going to random websites and procrastinating), I stumbled upon this article that talked about the proposed ban of large sodas in NYC. Interestingly enough, it wasn't the absurd subject matter that made me do a double take, but rather the very first line:
"While hit new movies might make millionaires out of actors, directors and key grips, movie theaters often make little to no money on the actual ticket sales of high-profile, first-run movies."
How many of you can spot what's wrong with that sentence?*
* Either that, or I'm in the wrong department...
Friday, July 6, 2012
Regrets collect like old friends
here to relive your darkest moments...
... It's hard to dance with the Devil on your back.-Florence + The Machine
I have a lot of regrets in my young lifetime. Shy and reserved in my youth, I tried my best not to draw attention to myself. Fitting in was my goal. I hid from opportunities. Standing out for any reason, good or bad, terrified me. I was always unsure whether or not I should speak my mind. I didn't stand up for people when I should have. I had dreams, but was too scared to reach for them.
Then one day, I realized I couldn't live this way anymore. Something had to change. I could be better. I could do more. I have the potential. It's in there, somewhere. I knew it. The person I wanted to be was aching to be let out...
As I grew older, I grew stronger. I realized that I didn't know what was holding me back because, well, nothing was. My biggest enemy was me, cowering behind a safe wall of familiarity.
That's when I stopped hiding. I stopped waiting for opportunities to find me, only for me to cowardly pass them up. Instead, I sought them out. I hunted them down. And when I didn't like the terms given, I'd change them until I did. I made myself known.
I now walk into a room with purpose. I do my job with strength and integrity. I look out for those around me. I surround myself with very good people and forget the rest.
I got tired of keeping my true self locked away within me. I got tired of all the missed opportunities. I got tired of all the regrets. And it took me too long before I finally had the courage to do something about it. Sometimes I wonder where I'd be if I hadn't hidden myself from the world for so long.
But I do not regret not coming out of my shell sooner. My decisions in the past, whether they were mistakes or not, formed the path that has led me to where I am today.
And where I am now is pretty damn awesome.
Friday, June 29, 2012
Friday, June 22, 2012
Bernadette sighed as she looked at herself in the mirror. Her faux vintage tee seemed to clash with the color of her sneakers, but a quick glance at the clock told her there wasn't anything she could do about it now. She grabbed her phone and keys off the kitchen table and ran out of her apartment, taking care not to slam the door this early in the morning.
With the sun barely starting to glow over the horizon, there were only a few other cars on the road. But that didn't stop her from stepping on the gas pedal just a little bit more than she needed to. After every exit she passed, she glanced anxiously at the clock on her dashboard.
6:13... 6:14... 6:16...
She knew without a doubt in her mind there was no way she could be late, but that thought did little to calm her nerves. Her anxiety was the kind every newbie starting out in this industry has. One that feeds off the desire to succeed in this town. Like a kid on their first day of a new school, this was a nervousness that cannot be quelled.
After moving to L.A. a few months ago, Bernadette didn't seem to be able to fit in with anybody. Despite her doe like eyes, petite frame and fair skin, it wasn't her dream to come to Hollywood to make it as an actress, like so many other girls her age who come to this town. No; for reasons that only she could know, she wanted instead to be behind the camera doing one of those thankless jobs the rest of the world doesn't have a clue about.
But after being in this city for some time now, this small town girl couldn't find a paying gig as a crew member. "Yes, I'm new," she'd often think to herself as another day of submitting resumes ends in disappointment, "but I've got passion and a willingness to learn. Doesn't that count for something in this town?"
But instead, the only few meager offers she'd get were for non-paying student projects or micro-budget productions that at most, only lead to other non-paying projects. Bet that never deterred Bernadette, who would take every opportunity that came her way. "You never know where it may lead," she'd tell herself. So when a Producer finally replied to her eager e-mails and asked if she could "help out" on their shoot, it didn't take her long to say yes.
As Bernadette pulled into the parking lot of the location, she glanced at the clock one last time. 6:32. She was twenty eight minutes early.
She turned off her engine and took a deep breath; taking in the few moments she had before she stepped out of the car. She was always nervous before starting a new shoot and today was no different.
But it wasn't long before she heard the familiar sound of a lift gate being lowered. 6:38. Still a little early, but Bernadette climbed out of the car anyway. Never to be one who just sits there while others are working, she grabbed her gear and headed towards the grip truck parked on the other side of the lot.
The day went by rather quickly. Partially because production was on a very tight schedule, but also because she got along rather well with the crew. They all met as strangers in the morning, but left that night as friends.
But even more surprising was the call Bernadette got a few weeks later from her boss on that job.
"Hey, Bernie. Remember me?" Of course she did. He offered her a spot on an ultra low budget shoot he was booked for the following week. "The pay is less than minimum wage, but at least it's something," he sheepishly offered. And of course, Bernadette took it. The pay may have been insulting, but it was a start.
The job came and went. It was brutal. The crew was grossly understaffed for what it was, but Bernadette was just happy to get through it and finally get her first paycheck for doing a job she loved. And even better yet, a week later, she got a call from the boss again for another paying job; this time with a slightly better rate.
Once that job ended, it wasn't long before he'd call again, offering this hard working girl a spot on his crew for the next job. And the next. And then, the one after that.
The work from him wasn't exactly steady, but it was money. And the rest of his guys were usually gems. All old pals before they became co-workers, they welcomed this girl aboard with open arms. For the first time since she moved to this town, she felt like she belonged somewhere. But most of all, it finally seemed like her career was gaining momentum. She knew she had a lot to learn still, but she was no longer a stranger and was being accepted as a colleague.
"Oh yeah," she'd sometimes think to herself after a particularly good day on set, "I'm going to be just fine in this business."
But it wasn't before long that it all went to shit. One night, Bernadette got a call from the boss. After some chit-chat, she wondered when he'd get around to telling her about their next gig. Only, he never did. Instead, he asked her if he could take her out to dinner sometime.
She sat there in silence for a second, stunned. "But don't worry," he continued, sensing her concern. "Even if you say no, I'll still hire you. You're an awesome tech and a good part of the team."
She turned him down as gently and diplomatically as she could. "No worries," he answered. "I understand. I figured I'd at least give it a shot though. And don't worry. Like I said, I'll definitely still call you for work. There should be something coming up real soon," he promised.
They ended the conversation as they normally did; sounding like nothing more than colleagues, and as she hung up, Bernadette breathed a sigh of relief. Turning down a guy you're not interested in is tricky enough, but it's even more treacherous when it's your boss. But she believed him when he said he'd still call her for the next show.
A few weeks came and went without another call from him. Then a whole month passed by. Then a few months. Then a whole year. Then a few years.
It soon became very obvious to her that despite his promise, she'd never hear from him again. And as time passed, she eventually found other crews to take her in and other jobs that paid. Though she still frets about her sneakers and the theoretical traffic in the mornings, she now walks onto each set with a sense of purpose. She no longer worries if she'll ever get a paying job. Her schedule is filled with work. She's come a long way from who she was a couple years ago and she's proud that she's made it this far by herself.
But every once in a while, as Bernadette sits and reflects on how far she's come, her mind inevitably always goes back to the first Key who's ever hired her for a real job. And she'll think back to their last conversation. And she'll wonder about the real reason why she never heard from him again. Was it because of his bruised ego? Was he afraid things being awkward on set? Did he lose his phone?
Eventually, her mind will ask the question she isn't sure she wants to know the answer to: Did he hire her in the beginning because she's good at what she does, or did he only hire her because he thought she was cute?
And despite where she is now and what she may accomplish in the future, that question that will haunt her for the rest of her career.
Friday, June 15, 2012
"... And here's where another distro box is hidden. I think that about does it. Any questions?"
I shake my head. I'm day playing on a new-to-me-crew on a new-to-me set, and one of the regulars is giving me a quick and dirty run down of the where everything is on the stage before the day officially starts. So far, nothing seems out of the ordinary. Just then, the Best Boy makes his way from around the corner.
"How's the tour going? Did you show her where everything is?"
"Good. What about the 'system.' Did you explain that to her?"
"Oh... No, not yet."
The Best Boy turns to me, suddenly serious, "So, our Gaffer has a particular way of working. When he asks you for a light, it's your light and yours only."
At this point, I'm a little bit confused by what he meant. Isn't that how it is on other crews? The Gaffer calls for a light, someone replies to him and they bring in the light. Meanwhile, others help him out by running him power and whatnot, but the placement and focusing of it is often the responsibility of the person who answered the call. That's the way I've been working a set for years now. Have I been doing it wrong all this time? As I pondered this, I must've had a perplexed look on my face because Juicer 1 jumped in to elaborate.
"So if he asks you for a tweenie,* you head it up, bring it in and find power for it yourself. No one else but you. He'll get mad at us if we help each other out."
"Wait... what??" I understood what they were saying, but I didn't understand it. "I can't even help someone run power?"
"Nope," replied Juicer 1. "He'll get mad."
"I know it seems weird, but you'll get used to it," offered the Best Boy.
"Don't mess with the system. It's actually pretty efficient," said Juicer 1. And with that, we got our first orders over the walkie from the Gaffer and our day had officially begun.
I've never worked on a set before that was run like that, and I'll admit the idea piqued my interest. Especially the closing remark where the guy said it was "pretty efficient."
After wrap, I reflected back on my first (and so far, only) day working this way. Was it more efficient than the "traditional" way of working the lights? I wouldn't say so. But interestingly enough, it didn't take us any longer to light a scene either. It was kind of a wash in terms of saving time.
What I didn't like about it though, was how strenuous it could be. During our "daytime" scenes, our house set was lit by what we dubbed to be "10k Alley"; a series of big lights, one lined up after the next, pointed through the large living room windows. And guess who ended up assigned to the row of BFLs?** Little ol' me. It was a bit of a bitch to move, power up, and tweak each and every one of those lights by myself while the other guys could do nothing but hang around staging, playing with their iPhones.
But once those tenners*** were set, it was good to not have to run around setting other lights. Those were now being assigned to the other guys. Well, it felt as good as it could get anyway. I'm not a fan of sitting around with free hands while other guys are scrambling to get their assigned project done, no matter how much I just busted my ass.
In the end, while it was an interesting way of working and I can see the advantages of it, I just couldn't fully get on board with the idea. I'm used to working as a team with my co-workers. With everyone taking a little bit of the burden (one guy bringing in the light, one guy running power, another cutting a piece of gel for it, etc,) the job seems a little bit easier. No one's sitting around, twiddling their thumbs while their colleague gets peeled. No one's moving BFLs by themselves.
Also, the problem with "the system" is that it assumes everyone is built the same way with the same capabilities. If I'm called to bring in a 5k, I'm expected to bring it in myself. Never mind that to me, it's heavy-ass piece of gear, and never mind that most of the guys I work with can throw it over their shoulder without a problem. And it doesn't matter that I can aim and cut a Source4 like nobody's business. If another Juicer if having an issue with getting it to hit juuuust the right spot, I can't help him out.
I guess I just like the option of working as a team and playing to our own strength and weaknesses, no matter how "efficient" the other way may be.
* By the way, anyone else annoyed by the fact that Mole Richardson started putting latches at the top of their Tweenies??
** Big Fucking Light.
*** Not my Flickr stream.
Saturday, June 9, 2012
... you struggle to get a heavy light from one side of the set to the other, all while carefully fighting through a sea of actors, grips, camera people and unfortunately placed set dressing; send up said heavy light top stick on the stand, only for your Gaffer to tell you to "add a double" after it's set; all the grips are busy, so you struggle to carry a ten step ladder by yourself, again across the sea of actors, grips, camera people and unfortunately placed set dressing; and when you finally get up there, you burn yourself trying to shove that goddamned double in.
Once you're done, you radio to Gaffer to see how he likes his newly tweaked light that you just poured all your best effort and energy into and he says, "Eh... Yeah, it's okay."
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Cinegear was this weekend, and for those of you who don't know, the expo is the place to be if you want to check out what's new in the grip, electric and camera departments. A crap load of companies are there showing off their latest toys, plus it's a good place to run into old friends and score a free t-shirt or two.
While I don't really know what's new in the grip and camera world, the big thing in lighting is officially LEDs. They were everywhere. Practically every lighting company had them. And while I can sit here all day bitching/praising about each individual company and their product line, one running theme among all the companies is that LEDs consume less power and run cooler to the touch.*
That said, my favorite part of the expo was when my friends and I were checking out the new LED Source 4s from ETC. One of their reps came over and chatted with us for a few minutes about them, and gave us the rundown on the specs of their new light. At one point, he demonstrated how much "cooler" the new model ran versus their more traditional one by putting his hand on it. "With our new light, I can grab it anywhere and easily make adjustments to it. I can't do that with our old model without a pair of thick gloves on. That means we no longer have to burn ourselves every time we use one."
That was the moment when we all looked down at our own arms in unison, and realized each and every one of us had scar from a Source 4 burn in one form or another.
Ah... The marks of camaraderie among strangers.
* Although, I do have to say that part is somewhat debatable. Most of the lights I saw heavily rely on a heat sink and/or a fan to keep cool.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Sunday, May 20, 2012
I've seen numerous videos of arc flashes before, but it was a slow Saturday night so I decided to take Michael's suggestion and looked up some videos on YouTube when I stumbled upon this one in particular.
Apparently, some construction work was being done when a backhoe hit some power lines underground* and fireworks obviously ensued. An event like that will surely "trip the breaker," so to speak, and shut down the power to that area. What many people do not know is that the system is designed to "reset" itself three times** before it gives up completely, so those workers were treated to a couple of light shows every 15-20 seconds.***
But what totally rocks my cookies is the dialogue in the video (which is somewhat NSFW).
That's THIRTEEN THOUSAND VOLTS running wild around in that hole and the guy wants to dive in there to rescue his bucket?? What really cracks me up is his answer when his co-worker tells him he can't go in to retrieve it:
"I have to."
"I have to!"
What?? Dude, it's not like you're a white knight deciding to rescue the princess from a dragon's cave. You're not Bruce Willis saving the world from being destroyed by an asteroid. And we're not talking about whether or not it's a good idea to tell your kid you ran over the cat this morning. We're talking about a bucket. You can replace it when you go to Home Depot after work and probably get it reimbursed if you remember to keep the receipt.****
How stupid do you have to be to insist on risking your life for a bucket? It's almost as stupid as the guy on set who tries to move an 18k on top stick of a Roadrunner on uneven ground by himself, obviously ends up tipping it over, only to rush to the other side to try and catch it.
Not that, ahem, that's ever happened...
** I've been told the reset cycles are what contributed to Adrienne Alpert's unfortunate accident back in 2000.
*** At least, that's my (very limited) understanding of how shit works. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
**** Unless, of course, it's some kind of magic bucket, in which case I stand corrected.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
It's been a while since I've ranted about cell phones at work, and I really need to get this last part off my chest before I explode:
LUNCHBOXES ARE NOT FOR CHARGING YOUR CELL PHONE.
I'm sick and tired of finding a goddamn phone charger plugged in to every outlet I need to use. I'm tired of finding random phones plugged into MY equipment with no owner in sight and/or name on those very expensive and fragile pieces of electronics. It's times like those then I want to just rip them out of the outlet and hurl them across the set. It seriously fills me with rage.
Because if your MOBILE phone can't go a few measly hours without being plugged in, you're stupid and you're doing it wrong.
If you can't make it to lunch without needing to charge your phone, maybe you should stop checking Facebook every two minutes.
If you know your phone can barely last a day on a full charge, charge it up before you come to work.
And if your phone can't hold a decent charge, get one that can.
Another option? Get a spare battery.*
And if you fail to do any of that? Well guess what? You're shit out of luck. It's not my problem you suck, so don't make it our problem to find you a solution. As the old adage goes, piss poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine. I've got more important things to worry about than your need to play Angry Birds.
If you're in another department, chances are we're running power to you anyway. The Camera Department needs to charge its batteries; Sound needs to run its mixer; Art Department needs to use a vacuum; Grips needs to plug in some power tools; Hair needs to heat up a curling iron; etc, etc. In that case, the power we run for your department is pretty much yours to do whatever you want with. If Costumes would rather use the stinger we give them to charge their phone than use it to plug in the steamer they need to do their job, that's fine by me. As long as what they're doing is safe, I don't give a rat's ass what they do with it. If they ask nicely, I'll even give them a cube tap so they can do both at the same time.
Now, with all that said, most of us in the electrical department aren't assholes. If for some reason or another, you're still in need of a place to plug in your phone, all you have to do is ASK AN ELECTRICIAN. Not a P.A., not a Grip, not an A.D., but a person who's actually responsible for the power used on set. We're usually pretty accommodating and will either direct you to the nearest possible option or get back to you in a few minutes after we're done running around lighting the next scene. And on that note, if we're unavailable to assist you in your dying phone emergency right that second, don't act like an entitled ass and plug it in anywhere you please anyway. Having a dead cell phone rarely constitutes as an emergency, so just wait five minutes. Consider it a practice in patience, which no one seems to have these days.
If, for some special, twisted, godforsaken reason, none of the above can be applied to you and you MUST plug in your phone RIGHT THIS SECOND, for the love of cupcakes, whatever you do, don't plug it into a lunchbox.
Because do you know what they're often referred to as? Drag-outs. As in, we drag them out to wherever we need them. Which is why you often see lunchboxes sitting on nice piles of cable, all hooked up to the d-box, powered up and ready to go. It's so we don't waste any time. If we suddenly need power on the other side of that door when we're setting up for the turn around, all we have to do is drag the pre-connected lunchbox over there and BAM!, we're ready to go. The only problem is, we can't do that if there's six cell phones plugged into it.
And I'm guessing if one of those is yours, you'd rather I not rip it out and hurl it across the room.
* I understand that not all phones have a battery that's easily changeable. In that case, get a battery booster/emergency charger/solar charger/external battery pack/thing-a-ma-bob. Or better yet, get a different phone.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Monday, April 30, 2012
While the rest of Hollywood is lining up at Window E right about now, I've been (to my surprise) riding the latest wave of work to the bitter end. In other words, I've been too busy lately to do any serious posting around here. That'll probably change very soon, but until then, this blog might be a bit quiet.
Meanwhile, out there in the union world, things aren't so quiet. As you may or may not know, the I.A.T.S.E. and the AMPTP came to an agreement on a new contract a few weeks ago and soon it will be up to the membership to vote "yes" or "no" on the new terms. While the I.A. is happily patting itself on the back for what they feel is a job well done, there's been outraged mumblings on set. From what I could gather, below-the-liners aren't too happy with the deal.
I could ramble on and on about the specifics of the deal and where I think they could stick them, but what really irks me is how the I.A. keeps trying to put a positive spin on everything, as if we're walking away from the table with exactly what we wanted. We're not idiots. Stop trying to sell us a polished turd.
Case in point: an e-mail from 728 about the new contract found its way into my inbox and parts of it are pure bullshit. From the e-mail:
What are some of the gains achieved in this contract?
- There are many. We were able to prevent the employers from attacking any of the conditions of the Local Union agreements. This means no changes to staffing, no reductions to overtime or meal penalties or any other conditions in the Local contracts.
- A three year contract (through July of 2015) that will provide for employment stability as this challenging economy continues.
- Wage increases of 2% in each year, compounded.
I'm sorry, but WTF??? How is having no changes to any of the conditions established in previous contracts gaining anything? For as long as I've known of the I.A. existing, the contract terms have been for three years. Again, how is keeping a three year contract a gain? And a 2% increase in wages? Didn't it used to be 3%? I definitely don't see that one as a "gain." Did I miss something here?
And don't even get me started on the health plan and the extension of the studio zone.
Instead, I'll direct you to this website. And tell you to take a look at these pages. And if you're a union member, I definitely suggest you take a gander at this.
And if you want to hear the point of view from someone who's weathered the years in this business and can do it more eloquently than I can, please take a moment to read this guy.
Monday, April 23, 2012
I was going through some old notes I had for possible topics to discuss on this blog when I came across this:
As I'm sure many have said before, if you're new on a crew (or in the industry, for that matter), it's best to just shut your mouth and f-
I have no idea what the rest of that sentence is or what exactly sparked that comment, but I like to think my thought was bluntly interrupted by a nice piece of chocolate cake (though in reality, it's more likely my laundry was done).
Either way, the lesson is a good one: If you find yourself in unfamiliar territory, keep your mouth shut and just
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
The blog 1000 Awesome Things is coming to and end, and although I'll admit I haven't been an avid follower of the site, I give credit to Neil Pasricha for reminding us to take pleasure in the simple things in life... Like "illegal naps."
I remember back when I was in college and, like most college students, wasn't getting enough sleep. Between churning out term papers, all night study sessions, extra curricular activities* and going to classes, I was often a walking zombie on campus.
Then one day, in my zombified state, I found myself with some time to kill between classes. It was a significant enough amount of time that I could take a leisurely stroll or enjoy a relaxed lunch, but not long enough for me to go home and make it back in time for European History. And as I sat there pondering my options with precious time ticking away, I realized that what I really really wanted to do was take a nap. The problem was there wasn't really any good napping places. It was in the middle of the day and by then all the "good" tables (read: comfy and dark) tables in the library were taken and it was too hot and noisy to lay down in the grass outside.
So I napped in the only place I could nap: in my car.
And I'm sure I'm not the first person to have ever done this, but it was definitely new to me. After I had put up my Hello Kitty sunshade and snuggled up to my sweatshirt-turned-pillow, I remember grinning to myself and thinking, "Ah, college. The one time when sleeping in your car in the middle of the day is perfectly acceptable and understood." I remember thinking to myself that this was one of those "uniquely college" experiences that would never repeat itself in the real world, and I smiled at that thought.
Oh, how little did I know then.
Years later, after graduation, after the late night study sessions, and long after the last term paper was due, I still find myself sleeping in my car in the middle of the day, and even more so than I did then. Sometimes, between the long hours, far away locations, and short turnarounds, all I want to do is sneak off during my lunch hour and take a nap. And if I can't find a quiet place on set to curl up and close my eyes for a few minutes, I often find myself back a crew parking. I'll throw my sunshade up, recline the seat back all the way, pull out the blanket and pillow that I now keep permanently stashed in the trunk of my car, snuggle up and take a gloooorious nap.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this and it's definitely not a new ritual for me anymore, but I still grin every time I do it...
* Take that as you will. :)
Thursday, April 12, 2012
It's pilot season out here on the West Coast right now, which means the town is kinda busy. Which also means that this gal is busy making money to pay the billz while there's still money to be made. Unfortunately, that leaves little time for me to really write any posts for this blog.
But I have gotten a couple of interesting comments left on various posts lately. Most of which is blatant spam (even though I decided to keep using word verification for comments, despite how annoying they may be), but one in particular has got me scratching my head. It seems to be part spam, part human and 100% WTF??
Either way, I just thought it was too crazy no to share:
Now, in case this is a serious comment from a treasured reader of this blog, I'll gladly address his or her concerns.
1) Don't worry. I'm not jealous of you asking questions.
2) I'm not a P.A.
3) What tags?
4) It's my blog and I'll rant if I want to. You would rant too if this happened to you.
5) If I get more jobs than you have P.A. positions, then I'm wondering exactly how many of your Motion Picture Companies in the valley are actually shooting anything.
6) I'm not a P.A.
7) I never said I work every day.
8) I'm sure there are some P.A.s that do.
9) I'm glad you think I'm a talented writer.
10) Thanks. I'll look into them.
I hope everyone's enjoying the busy season! :)
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
So here's a question for you: Is your call time the time you're required to be at crew parking or on set?
If you asked me this question a few years ago, I'd probably look at you like you're an idiot and say, "Uh, duh. The answer is 'set'." Call time, especially for newcomers, is generally understood and defined to be the time when one starts work, and work on a film set is, well, obviously on the set.
But if you ask me that same question today, I'd without a doubt say "crew parking" and look at you with evil eyes that dare you to challenge me.
I started out in this business on fairly straightforward locations. Sure, there were many times where I had to circle the block for half an hour to find parking,* but for the most part, we'd roll up to the house/warehouse/middle of nowhere we were shooting at, park in the nearly empty residential street/parking lot/dirt road and walk the twenty yards or so to set. Being on set and ready to work by call time usually wasn't a big deal.
But as the shows I worked on got bigger and bigger, the more I found myself required to park further and further away from set. If I'm at a studio, I'm told to park at a specific parking structure (often across the street from the main studio) and then walk my ass to the stage which takes anywhere from ten to twenty minutes (because of course, it's all the way on the other side of the lot). If we're filming on location, it's not unusual for crew parking to be a few blocks (or even miles) away from set with pass vans shuttling people back and forth. Sometimes, it can even be a little bit of both. I've had a job or two where I had to park in a studio lot only to be shuttled to another location.
With that in mind, now let's look at the call time scenario:
- I arrive at the studio parking structure and wait my turn while the guard at the gate checks the IDs of every person in every car in front of you (3 minutes on a good day).
- It's finally my turn to hand over my driver's license and a visitor's pass is issued to me for the day (1-1.5 minutes if you're actually in the system, but 50% of the time, someone on the show forgets to put my name in and I'm stuck at the gate trying to work it out).
- By the time I get through, parking can be scarce and I'll have to wind my way all the way up to the roof or all the way down to the basement to find a free space (4 minutes).
- I park, gather my shit and either take the stairs or wait for the elevator to bring me back to the ground floor (1-2 minutes).
- There, I find a pass van from my show waiting for me... and thirteen other people. If I'm lucky, I'll hop in, slam the door behind me, and off we go. If I'm unlucky (more often than not), I have to sit in that fucking pass van for another ten minutes or so until the van's full and/or another van has returned from it's run before it can leave. Meanwhile, I'm in the back pissed off because the more time I spend sitting in the van doing nothing is less time spent getting and enjoying my breakfast and/or less time I had to get ready that morning. It also means that I ran a yellow light and cut off a minivan for nothing.
- Van finally leaves crew parking and heads towards set (a 7 minute drive)...
- ...but has to stop by base camp first (add another 4 minutes).
- While at base camp, the P.A. that needs to be dropped off kindly asks the driver to hold on for a sec because they just need to drop something off quickly and then hop back in the van (another 3 minutes).
- And just as we're about to hit the road again, hold on! Some other people at base camp would like to go to set too (another 2 minutes).
- Finally, back on the road again and five minutes later, you're on set.
By that time, it's been 30-40 minutes since you pulled into crew parking. (I'm not exaggerating any of that stuff either. That exact same scenario has happened to me on multiple occasions.)
And at that point, if you still think it's fair to say that you have to be on set by your call time, I'm going to be mad at you.
Very, very mad.
Because I'm not the one who chose to park a couple miles from the location. And it's definitely not my idea to sit in a pass van twiddling my thumbs for twenty minutes. And I absolutely cannot control a transpo driver, so that van's going to leave when it leaves and make as many stops as it wants to along the way no matter how much I fume in my seat.
I can anticipate how bad traffic will be on my way to work. And I can maybe anticipate how many cars I have to wait behind at the studio gate based on the time of day (lord help you if you drive in at the same time as a game or talk show audience). But I absolutely cannot predict how long it takes for me to get from crew parking to set, especially if I'm relying on a production dictated method of transportation. And if production's mandating where I park, where I work and how I get from one to the other, they better damn well have me on the clock for it. The same is said for the reverse: I'm still on the clock and collecting (sometimes hypothetical) overtime at the end of the day even if the truck is all buttoned up and ready to move, if I'm stuck waiting at location for a goddamn pass van to pick us up to take us all back to crew parking. If you're keeping me from going home at the end of the night, then you better damn well be paying me for it. Therefore, if the clock stops once I get dumped back at crew parking, then the clock should start there as well.
Now that said, I make every reasonable effort to be on set by call. On certain show's, I've even been known to pull into crew parking an hour before my call simply because I'm anticipating a pain in the ass trip to set. I know several other people who do this as well and I've never met anyone who intentionally waits until their call time before setting a foot out of their car. In fact, I'd see that as kind of a dick move and I'd imagine that person would have a short career in this town. Despite the occasional heated "discussion" of call time being for parking vs set, everyone at least agrees there's somewhat of an unspoken rule that you at least try to make it to set before call.
But sometimes, no matter how early you pull into that lot, you get screwed on the process in going from Point A to Point B. And sometimes, that's when you get the asshole boss or co-worker that insists you're late because "call time is when you're supposed to be on set."
I fucking hate those days.
Some more examples of why call time should be for crew parking:
- I once was in a pass van for over half an hour... And the location was half a mile away. (I hopped in, waited for other crew members... and the only other person to show up after five minutes was a P.A. who had to run a bunch of errands around the lot, so we shuttled him around and when he was done, we ended back at crew parking and waited another five minutes for just arrived crew members... WTF?)
- I once was in a pass van for about an hour... Because the location was thirty miles away.
- If you're at a studio like WB, you have to check in with the guard at crew parking, find a spot, go back to the ground floor where you wait at the stoplight of a very busy intersection so you can cross the street where you'll wait in another line so the guard at the gate can send you through a metal detector and fondle your belongings. Then you make the nice, long trek (uphill) all the way to the other side of the lot where, of course, the stage is. (It can be a 15-20 minute excursion, depending on how long your legs are.)
So if you're a Gaffer, Key or Best Boy, please take all that into consideration the next time you feel like calling someone out for being a minute or two late despite them being in crew parking at (or even well before) their call time.
* But those types of shows were so low budget and/or unprofessional to start with that you weren't getting paid anyway, so you don't feel too bad for being late because you couldn't find parking.