Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thank You, Concrete Walls.

I got a call from a number I didn't recognize, but I answered it anyway. Turns out it was a from a colleague of mine asking if I was available for a job the next day. I was. He gave me an address and a call time, and I thought nothing else of it as I hung up the phone.

I show up to set the next day to find that it was in the basement of a building. And we weren't using the basement as a location. The basement had basically been turned into a sound stage with built sets and everything. Huh. Interesting. 

Anyway, after ingesting a bowl of powdered scrambled "eggs" and some potatoes from crafty/catering, we got to work and lit the first scene of the day. Not terribly difficult as a lot of the lights were still in place from when they shot a different scene the day before.

And as usual, once we got the first shot all set up and the cameras were about to roll, I found myself a nice apple box to sit on and pulled out my phone to check my messages... and saw that for the first time in a while, I had no reception.

"Well, duh," I thought to myself. "We're in a basement."

I looked around to see if I can spot the usual sight of crew members hunched over their phone; their faces illuminated by their Facebook page. I saw none.

Because, duh, we're in a basement.

Then I realized why I had gotten a call for the job from a number I didn't recognize. My friend had used a land line in one of the offices that had been set up down here.

Because. We're in a basement. With no cell reception. Duh.

And it was a weird day, not because we're in a sound stage that was basically underground, but because I realized just how attached to my phone I was. (Though definitely still not as attached as others are.)

I lost count of how many times I pulled out my phone just to be greeted by a reminder that I have no cell signal. And I was surprised by how often I caught myself just automatically looking at my phone throughout the day.

And it did take some time getting used to, but I eventually learned to stop myself whenever I started to reach for my phone for any reason other than to see what time it was.

And even more interesting was what was happening around set. Without the use of a phone to occupy our time underground, we started talking (or rather, whispering when we're rolling) to each other more. I had conversations with more grips on that first day than I usually do over the course of a whole show. People were reading real magazines and newspapers, passing them on when the last page was read. It seemed like this is what work would be like ten years ago in this industry.

I will admit, it was a little nerve wracking to not use my phone all day. After all, the success of a day player is reliant on how quickly you can return a call. But part of me felt it was somewhat freeing in a way.* I'm old enough to remember the days when cell phones weren't that common. When I could just go about my business without being attached to a digital leash. Without this thing in my pocket I had to constantly check.

Owning a cell phone meant that you can be reached anywhere at any time, but sometimes, I miss being unreachable.

Wrap was eventually called, and one by one, we made our way from the basement into the night air. As my phone gained reception again, it buzzed with the slew of incoming messages that hadn't been able to find me all day in the digital ether.

I browsed through them and answered the ones that needed answering. Then I promptly shut my phone off for the night...

* However, the most amusing part was when I learned that the Best Boy couldn't stray too far from the office or else he'd be out of range for the cordless phone Production had set him up with that he had to carry around with him. This "no cell phone thing" probably wasn't very freeing for him.


Michael Taylor said...

Yep, that's how it used to be -- newspapers, magazines, and quiet conversation between (and often during) takes, rather than everyone hypnotized by the blue glow of those tiny screens. I liked it better in the old days, of course, but suspect I'm in a minority of one in that regard.

So it goes...

The Grip Works said...

I did a movie that shot for 4 months on the Tibetan plateau. No cell phones worked, and the only phone booth thad did long distance calls (the store was called Dynamic Dialling) had queues outside on the weekend to make calls ...

A.J. said...

Michael - I'm with ya on that one...

The Grip Works - I'd gladly swap my cell phone for a little while for that experience!

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