Wednesday, March 28, 2012
I Don't Care What You Say. I Was On Time Today.
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.