Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Secret To Success.

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?"
"Um, what?"
"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!


Niall said...

I've been going through that same thing for the last two years. It's is really funny when you stop caring everything opens up and becomes easier.

Do your best, fuck the rest. Best advice I ever got.

Michael Taylor said...

Very interesting post. It's been a long time since I was still struggling to be accepted in the industry, but what you say rings a bell from that distant past -- there really is something to what you're saying here.

Not that you -- or any of us -- actually stop caring, but eventually we all cease acting like eager puppies desperate for acceptance. At that point, we stop wearing our proverbial hearts on our sleeves, and no longer act like the eager hopefuls we once were.

Maybe that's the point of no return at which you become a true professional -- taking the first real step down the path of jaded cynicism and donning the mantle of the dispassionate, thorough, no-nonsense professional.

Very often in life, whatever you are pursuing remains out of reach until you stop chasing so hard... at which point, it comes to you unbidden. Maybe that's what suddenly makes you an object of desire to Best Boys and Gaffers in terms of work. Once they understand that you really are good and that you know it -- and after you stop trying so hard to get them to notice -- they finally accept you as a worthy juicer.

I don't know -- this is a shot of Jack Daniels and two glasses of wine talking here -- but I think you're on to something.

And congratulations on having finally arrived...

A.J. said...

Niall - Yeah, it's kind of a trip how that works. If I had known it'd be this easy, I would've stopped giving a shit long ago. :)

Michael - Thanks, Michael, but I wouldn't count the chickens just yet. Despite them thinking I've been "improving," I've heard the "you're a shoe-in for the next show" song and dance from these guys before, only to find myself still on the day-player list the next time around while they hire unknown newbies as regulars. I just found it interesting that what I see as writing them off, they interpret as being a professional.

Jaded cynicism indeed...

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