Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Advice, Part III.
"He's a fucking asshole."
I look at my friend in shock. He's usually pretty calm and mild mannered, but when the topic of a mutual colleague came up, his words and demeanor turned vile.
Apparently, the two men were on a low budget feature together a long time ago, and some crew members tried to flip it.* When the production company wouldn't budge, a picket line was formed with most of the crew walking off. One of the guys who stayed, however, was our mutual colleague.
On the surface, it seems like a shitty, shitty thing to do. Here your colleagues are, willing to walk off a job as a form of protest to the menial pay and crappy working conditions, trying to make things better for everyone involved in the future, and here this guy was, staying behind and fucking it all up by continuing to work on the other side of that picket line. He was called a lot of things by doing that, with "scab" being the only one I could post on this blog. The situation was ugly.
I hadn't met him until well after the un-flipped show had wrapped, but I had heard many battle tales about the fight to turn it union by that point. It wasn't until a couple weeks into the current show that I found out not only had he been part of the whole ordeal, but he had performed the cardinal sin of crossing the picket line. When the topic came up in conversation though, he just shrugged and said, "Look, I know I pissed off some people. But I had to do what I had to do. I had bills to pay. A family to support. And if I stayed, the production company offered me a higher position with more pay for every show they did after that one." Knowing how often this company had a show going, this meant practically having a full time job. Shitty pay still, sure, but he'd get more than what he was making before and it was a livable wage if you weren't stupid with money.
I nodded. While I personally wouldn't have done what he did and I can understand why others would forever refer to him as a "fucking asshole," I also understand why he crossed that picket line and continued to work. He saw an opportunity for a promotion, raise and a promise of future work that would keep the bill collectors at bay for as long as he needed. So he took it.
That, my friends, was a business deal. Plain and simple.
I get that. What continues to flabbergast me though, is how personally some people took it; to the point where they're still calling him a "fucking asshole" years later. It's not like he looked each and every person on the picket line in the eye and said, "Fuck you, fuck you, and especially you" as he crossed it; it's not like he purposely did it to take money out of someone's hands; and it's not like the producers wouldn't have found someone else to take the deal. But I'm sure he did think that if someone was going to get a deal like that, it might as well be him.
Sometimes we get so caught up and passionate about our jobs that we forget it's a business. He needed the work and money and found a legal way to get it. It wasn't a personal attack on anyone. It was just business.
I repeat: It wasn't personal. It was just business.
I think that's one of the hardest lessons to learn in this industry. It can be hard to watch someone cross the picket line you're on and not take it personally. It's hard to watch the Best Boy hire an incompetent crew member over you and not take it personally just because the kid happens to be the Gaffer's nephew. And a Producer once told me he felt like he was being personally attacked when I took him to the labor board over penalties for paying me late.
But you have to keep in mind that everyone has bills to pay. That not everyone can give up a promotion to walk a picket line. That by hiring the idiot nephew, the Best Boy will stay on the Gaffer's good side. And that Producer should keep in mind that what is a "passion project" for him is a business deal for the rest of us and he should be prepared to pay if he can't honor that deal.
I find that those of us who can't differentiate between the two concepts hold on to bitterness and anger a lot longer. And on the flip side, those who can differentiate the two tend to go further in this industry because they think more in terms of a business sense and less on personal level.
Granted, it's can be a thin line that's often blurred, but it's also some of the best advice I've ever gotten.
"It's not personal. It's just business."
Advice, Part I
Advice, Part II
* For those who don't know, non-union shows of a certain size and budget can turn union if it's "flipped." Meaning the crew members contact a union rep, who then contacts the producers and see if a deal can be reached. If it can, the show turns into a union show, meaning the crew gets a few perks including benefits and if they're not a union member yet, their "days". If they can't reach an agreement, more often than not, a picket line is formed.