Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Best Job In The World."

This is not what I do all day.

It's kind of a nice day outside. L.A. has finally started to cool down after a heatwave. And I had just settled down in a shady spot under a tree with a bag of trail mix and a soda when the Sound Guy walks past me.

"Wow, A.J.," he smirked, "You have the best job in the world."

"What do you mean?" I asked, not sure what he was getting at.

"You get paid to do nothing but hang out all day."

I was too stunned at his comment to respond before he picked up his boom mic and walked away.

"Nothing but hang out all day??" WTF?? 4/0 doesn't run itself. Scenes don't light themselves. And I don't just "hang out" all day.

First off, the Sound Department primarily works during takes. Electricians typically do most of their work before the takes, setting up the scenes. Which means I'm working while he's waiting and vise-versa. I could just as easily and haphazardly make that same comment to the Sound Guy the next time I'm scurrying by with a hot 2K in my hand and he's sitting by his cart reading a newspaper as he waits for the scene to be lit. But I wouldn't do that because I know better.

Secondly, yes, I will admit that some days are easier than others (there's not a whole lot you can do on a day exterior in the middle of summer). But there's always something that needs to be done (video village still needs power, as do virtually every other department, and more often than not, so does the sound cart, you asshole.)

And not only that, but the house we were shooting at had about a dozen or so HMIs working; six of which were 18Ks; all of which were a struggle to place (on the porch without a ramp, in the maze of a garden, behind a fence with a narrow walkway, manuvering around an inconviently placed sound cart*, etc). How the fuck did he think all those lights got there? Did he suppose the garden gnomes came to life and moved them into place for us?

And last, but not least, I'm not "hanging out" between set ups. I'm "standing by." Which may just sound like semantics to some, but there is actually a real fucking difference between the two terms. I may be making small talk with the Props Guy or getting my snack on at the crafty table, but my first priority is paying attention to what comes over my walkie, not to mention making sure nothing is burning, melting or getting overheated. I may not be actively running a stinger or touching a light the entire time, but I'm not off the clock either. I get paid to pay attention.

I try damn hard at my job. I bust my ass on a daily basis, dealing with live power, hot lights and heavy equipment all for less pay that what the lowest guy on the totem pole in the Sound Department makes. So whether he was kidding or not, his stupid comment about how I do nothing but "hang out all day" was hurtful to me. And even more so, it pissed me the fuck off.

* True story.


Anonymous said...

They're are a couple boomies I have been working with for the past few years, that whenever we are on a job together we tend resort to having a banter match pretty much about this topic.

It's all in good fun ofcourse, and we have a mutual respect of what each other does.

But lets face it, a boomie just holds a stick above their heads all day, getting in the way of our lights... How hard can that be?

Michael Taylor said...

I have to hope that sound guy was just joking... and who knows, maybe he thought he was flirting with you -- never underestimate the capacity of the human male to say something stupid in a lame attempt to appear witty and clever to an attractive female.

Or maybe he's just an idiot.

Everybody's job on set is worthy of respect, but I do find it galling that the lowest person on a sound crew -- the utility man/woman -- who rarely works up a sweat and usually goes home at the end of the day with clothes clean enough to wear the next day -- makes a much higher hourly rate than a Gaffer, the department head of set lighting.

That's not right.

A.J. said...

Anonymous - I'm probably one of the few people who think a boom op's job can be pretty tough. I know I wouldn't want to spend all day everyday holding a stick above my head in a sweaty room full of people. But then again, I don't know many boom ops who'd want to run cable either.

Michael - I knew the utility person got paid way more than we do, but the thought that they get paid even more than the gaffer didn't hit me until now.

Wow... That's definitely not right.

Anonymous said...

Well anonymous,
On the east coast the sound utility makes the same as a company electric usually, boom paid as a second, both not more than the gaffer. Also, the boom op doesn't just "hold the stick over his head all day getting in the way of the lights." There's a lot Iof ballet going on to avoid the lights and still get the mic where its going to get good sound and a good ops on set during the lighting process to work out kinks with G''n E and camera. Also the utility is often the one on the floor laying rugs and running cable when not wiring the cast or finding off set noise problems when not picking up the second pole...also it's only a 3 person department.... Sure there are some lazy folks in any line of work but in the episodic world over here, the sound dept is rarely sitting around and when I've worked as a utility, I've never been paid more than the gaffer.


Mike the NY boom op

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