Tuesday, May 7, 2013
I remember when I was just starting out in this business, sometime between eons and not too long ago; back when I didn't know what labor laws and 4/0 were; back when all I carried on me was a pair of gloves and a pocket knife. I remember it'd be a rare treat to get a real "professional" on our crew. A guy who not only made more than minimum wage on a regular basis working on set, but managed to eke out a pretty livable income.
These guys were usually on these "passion projects" (aka: no pay gigs) as a favor to a friend while we were there because we needed the work experience (and "copy, credit, meals"), and oh, how my colleagues and I would clamor towards them. We'd often try to network with them and chat them up in our downtime in hopes that they'd like us enough to bring us on to their next paying gig. We'd work harder if we knew they were around, possibly watching.
These were the guys you wanted to impress. Not because you thought you had something to prove, but because you kind of idolized them. They were doing what you've dreamed of and have been striving for years to do: make a living from this business.
These guys were viewed as knowing their shit. Hell, they have to if they're good enough to be generating an income, right?
(You can kinda see where I'm going with this...)
As time went by and I climbed the ranks, I found myself often surrounded by idiot colleagues. Some of them above me in rank, and some who are considered my equals. But the cool thing was that I was finally reaching that part in my career where I was making money. And not just any money, but enough to live on.
Eventually, I was making enough where I could offer to work on a friend's "passion project" without feeling burnt out and resentful. I was now doing those freebie jobs as a favor, and more importantly, a choice; no longer having to to pay tribute to the Hollywood Gods by working for free in order to "pay my dues."
The funny thing is that when I got there, I found a whole crew of electricians and grips who are just starting out, looking up at me with wide eyes and hopeful dreams that one day, they could be like me. I found them working harder when they knew I was watching and passing me their phone numbers at the end of the night in hopes that I'd bring them on my next job. They were trying to impress me.
Somehow, I had become the hero I had idolized not that long ago.
Realizing this was a weird feeling. Sure, I'm making an okay living, but I still never know where my next paycheck is coming from. Or what my next career move is. And I'm still trying to impress others when I'm on the job, hoping they'll bring me on to their next one.
And even scarier, while on a "big show," I'll notice my colleagues doing something stupid and think to myself, "Really? How did this guy make it so far?" And I'll realize that someone just starting out may idolize him because he's set foot on jobs that they've only dreamed of. I know I would've all those years ago.
And I'll wonder if those guys I used to admire and tried to impress with my work were just as clueless as I am now.
These kids just starting out look at people like me as someone they want to emulate. And I look at them, paycheck aside, still feeling the same way I did when I was in their shoes. Not knowing what's going to happen. Looking busy if my boss is around; trying to network myself into the next big job... Only I don't tell them that. That I'm just as lost as they are, but only on a different level.
No one ever does.