Saturday, May 31, 2014

Beggars Can't Be Choosers.

Every once in a while, the town explodes with work and suddenly the Best Boy has gone through his entire contact list without finding anyone available. That's when he'll turn to the rest of his crew and say something like, "I'm having a hard time finding people for tomorrow. Do you guys know anyone who's available? Any one will do at this point, as long as they're available."

And this is where my colleagues all bust out their phones* and start making texts and calls, eager to A) please the Best Boy by solving his dilemma and B) throw work their buddy's way who will in turn, owe them a favor; hopefully in form of a call for work in the future. A win-win situation for the guy who comes up with an available body first.

Meanwhile, short of throwing out a name or two that I know the Best Boy knows but may have overlooked, I'll sit there and not even bother despite my track record of always being able to find someone available when others have failed. Being a perpetual day-player for the better part of the last decade means I've built up quite a database of contacts to pull from.

Why don't I jump at the chance of helping out the Best Boy, throwing a friend work, all while ensuring that our department won't be short-handed the next day? Because 1) I'm usually a day player and I don't exactly want to be that guy: the new guy who suddenly invites his own people to the party. I'm technically a guest on these guys' set, so I feel like they should be the ones to have first pick on who to invite into their home. 2) I'm also taking a risk when I recommend someone. If they're not liked or fuck up, it reflects poorly on me and any suggestions I make in the future might be ignored, despite me saving the day by finding someone available in the first place.

And 3), more often than not, the conversation between me and the Best Boy on the subject usually goes something like this:

Best Boy Electric: I need someone for tomorrow. Anyone. I don't care who they are. I just need an able body. Do you know anyone?

Me: Yup. I know a guy who's available tomorrow. Do you want me to bring him in?

BBE: Eh... I don't know. Are they any good?

Me: (Rolls my eyes and/or stares at him blankly.)

ARE YOU FOR REALS?? You're practically begging to find someone who's available, specifically saying that skill level doesn't matter, and when that person's found, you suddenly change your tune?

Okay, I get that they don't want someone on crew who's just going to be more of a hinder than a help, but here's what I find frustrating:
A) If it's so busy out there that everyone you know is already booked, chances are that you're not going to find someone who's the best in the biz. Those people usually get snapped up first because, duh, they're the best. What you're likely to end up with at this point is someone decent. At the very least, you'll get someone who can stack cable and push carts around for a day and you'll never have to hire them again after that.
B) Do they really think I want to bring in someone who's just going to be a burden? There are some people who I'll never hire myself and chances are VERY good that I won't want to work with them either and bring them on a show I'm on.
C) YOU. ARE. DESPERATE. TO. FIND. SOMEONE.  ANYONE. And guess what? I did. But apparently you're not that desperate because you're having second thoughts and don't want me to call him in. But oh wait, you are that desperate. But you still don't want me to book him. But you're still asking if I know anyone. And still don't want me to book him. Meanwhile, time's ticking away and all your other resources are tapped and you really need to find someone. Anyone. "Hey, A.J., do you know anyone who can come in?" "Yup." "I don't know... Are they any good?" And round and round we go.

See? Frustrating.

* Who am I kidding? They're out already.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

How To Sit On A Milk Crate.

Yes. There is a wrong way and a correct way to sit on a milk crate.

I understand that we're on set for long periods of time and chairs, unless you're one of the special few with a designated seat at video village, can be hard to find. So what do you do when you have a strong urge to get off your feet? You sit on anything that seems stable enough.

For grips, that often means an apple box or an unused dolly. For everyone else, it's whatever they find, which often happens to be a milk crate. They're usually lying around set, probably by a distro box, containing stingers or miscellaneous gak*. And when stood up on its side, can be a suitable place to rest your butt for a bit.

While I usually don't have a problem with people treating our storage containers as lounge furniture (provided, of course, they get the hell out of my way when I need something), I take issue when they use the wrong milk crate.

Yup. You read that right. You can't just sit on any ol' milk crate.

For the love of gummy bears and unicorn farts, PICK A MILK CRATE WITH A STEEL BAND.

They look like this:

And like this:


And like these:

Note the steel band wrapped around the top of the crate. THOSE ARE THE ONES YOU SHOULD SIT ON.

The ones without the steel band, like this one?:

Yeah, they may look a lot like the ones with the band, and a milk crate's a milk crate so what's the big diff, amirite??


The steel band, as simple and inconspicuous as it may seem, is there to strengthen the crate and help keep it's shape. If you sit on a "regular", all plastic one, your fat (or skinny, it makes no difference) ass will distort the crate, causing the sides to bulge out and the top to cave down. Which may not be a big deal to most people, but when your distro cart's packed down to the millimeter and you depend on the crates stacking neatly on top of each other for easy transport only to realize you can't because some asshole decided to sit on your gear and you're now trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, you bet your last cookie it's a big deal!

Now, I'm not saying that a steel banded crate will never bend. When it comes to a well seasoned Teamster, anything can happen. But while a steel banded crate will sometimes bend, an unbanded one will always bend, no matter who you are.**

And if, and only if, there are no banded crates available and you're just dying for a seat and the only option left is a regular, plastic, easily distorted crate? Please at least have the common sense to sit on the back side (as opposed to the open side) where your weight will have a less of a chance of fucking it up.

Thank you.

* The accessories that usually accompany a distro box: splitters, gang boxes, lunch boxes, etc.
** Unless you're a small, child actor. In which case, you should be either on set or in the schoolroom; not sitting on a milk crate next to a 1200 amp distro box.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Calling "Hollywood".

I remember one of the first days I ever set foot on a sound stage. We were sending things up to the perms with a rope and the guy next to me was explaining how it's done.

"...and when it's all tied up and ready to go, yell 'Hollywood' and the guys up high will hoist it up," he finished with a nod.

I don't know why "Hollywood" is the universal call to start pulling something up, but I do know I thought it was pretty weird. Couldn't I just holler out "okay!" when it was safe for the guys up high to start pulling?

I remember feeling timid and kind of awkward whenever I had to call out "Hollywood" that day, saying it so softly that I wasn't sure the guys up high could even hear me. I found the whole ritual so odd that I guess I didn't want to draw attention to myself in case I was doing it wrong and/or the whole process was just a joke.

But somewhere along the line, something changed. Now, whenever I'm ground support for a team up high and something's ready to be hoisted up, I yell out "Hollywood!" loud and clear, as if hollering out such a thing was the most natural thing ever. I'll say with enough confidence now that the whole stage can hear me clearly and I don't even blink an eye at it. Sometimes, if I'm in a good mood, I'll even add my own flare to it. "Holly-wooooooooood," anyone?

It's weird. How did an act I once found so odd turn into second nature for me?

I made this revelation the other day when I was working the lift gate on our truck. I was calling out when the gate was about to go up or down and I was doing it without even realizing it. When I finally did, a faint smile reached my lips. Like calling out "Hollywood," there was a time when I was new to this world and I was shy about calling out the movement of the gate. Now I yell them out so automatically that I don't even know I'm doing it.

Now I'm wondering what else I used to do with trepidation but now tackle with swagger.*

* Answer: Probably everything.  ;-)
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