Wednesday, January 12, 2022

"Don't Leave."

I wanted to quit. I was going to quit. I was deeply unhappy on this job and as much as I liked some of the people, one of them was a horrible enough person to spoil it for everyone. I wanted to leave.

I had planned on letting the Gaffer know at wrap that I was going to be leaving the show and why.* He was the one who hired me, after all, so I figured I'd owe him at least that much. But then I got a phone call during lunch that changed those plans. 

The phone call itself wasn't an important one. It was about a job over the weekend that I was going to do regardless of whether I had quit my show or not. The important part was that one of my colleagues had overheard/misheard part of my conversation and assumed I was leaving the show. 

"Please don't go," he said. "It's so terrible here, I don't know if I could stay if you weren't around."

I sighed. Fine, I thought to myself, I'll just stick it out a little bit longer and take it from there.

Some more time had passed and things only seemed to have gotten worse. Or maybe it just seemed worse because the misery had been going on for so long now. Either way, I was seriously thinking of quitting again.

This time, another friend must have sensed it was coming. He's seen me metaphorically kicked around the most and has been the main person I vented to whenever another incident happened, which was a lot on this show. But I guess he felt that this particular episode would be the one that broke the camel's back and after listening to be vent for the millionth time, he asked me not to quit. I hadn't mentioned to him I was thinking of quitting, before or now, but he still asked me to stay. He said he hated it there, too. But hanging out with me made things more bearable. So I stayed.

Some time later, surprise! Things were still terrible. I was crying on my way home from work a lot and we weren't even halfway through shooting the season. There were other jobs starting up with people I knew would love to have me that I enjoyed working with. I had to leave for my own sake. 

But again, another colleague must've sensed how bad things were getting. We were eating lunch together one day, just the two of us at catering, when he asked me not to leave. He hated it there but couldn't leave. He depended on this crew for work and didn't know if he could fall in with another as easily. But what he did know was that I made things better there and things would be worse if I left the show. He's a sweetheart of a guy to the point that I can't stand to see him sad, so again, I stayed.

Again and again, people kept asking me to stay. Some of them repeats, some of them new. All of them saying that the show was terrible, everyone was miserable, but things would be worse if I wasn't there. Apparently I would be the highlight of their fucking day, if that give you any clue to how awful the job was. **

All in all, about half of my entire damn department had asked me at one point or another to not quit. 

Only one of my colleagues said they would support me if I chose to leave the show. She saw the horrible way I was being treated. She knew I deserved better. She'd been in my position before and had to resort to extreme measures because she didn't know how else she could get out of it. She didn't want me to go through what she did. She saw me struggling and gave me her full support should I decide to walk away from the show. She said she would be sad if I left, but she'd understand why. But she didn't have it that much better on the show that I did, she just had more chances to hide from it. I felt like she was the only one who really saw the mental toll this job was taking on me, and in turn, I think I was the only one to see how much she was struggling as well. So despite her giving me permission to leave, I stayed for her sake as well. Her support meant the world to me and I could sense that she could use some support as much as I did. So I stayed for her. 

Despite coming close to walking away from this job so, so many times, I eventually made it to the finish line. Things never got better, though it may have felt that way at times. I think instead I just came to expect getting treated like shit and could predict when the hardest hits would happen, which, when I think about it, just makes it all worse. 

In the end, I learned that I'm the type of person, that despite it being one of the worst job I've ever been on, I do not regret staying in misery for half a year for my friends. I'm glad I could make things better for them. However, there's no way I can ever go through that again. If put in the same situation now as I was then, I would leave. 

I guess you don't really know how much something affects you until you look back on it. It's been five months since we wrapped and I still tear up when I think about how I was treated. How worthless people made me feel there. It took months for me to feel like my old self again on a job, and if I'm being 100% honest, I'm not really there yet. 

As much as I want to be selfless and be the type to do anything for my friends, the reality is that I need to start being more selfish and put my wellbeing before others. I can't help anyone if there's no more "me" around. I learned that I need to be selfish for myself because there's no one else to be selfish for me. 



*It's probably important to note at this point that shockingly, Production wasn't the problem here. The misery was 100% caused by people within my own department which is probably the most disappointing thing of the entire situation.

**How this terrible job ended up so terrible is another post. Coming up soon-ish.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Optimist.


I realized I hated the show I was on last year when I'd spend my commute home fighting back tears (though oftentimes, I wouldn't even fight it). Almost every day. I know I should've quit but for personal reasons I'll touch on soon, I couldn't. 

So almost every day, I'd cry on my way home. 

But today, in some kind of morbid way, I learned that I'm at least an optimist. Because my tears always came at the end of the day. 

I never once cried on the drive in.

That's something, I guess...

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Ugh.


As you may have gathered from my last post, I was essentially going thorough a form of personal hell on my last job. And I'm not even being dramatic about it. I was miserable every day for several months. Thankfully, the show is over but it is far from behind me. I'm still dealing with the mental ramifications of it as it definitely had an effect on my personal relationships as well as my professional ones, and, quite frankly, it messed me up. So until I work it all out (and I am trying my best to move on), I've sadly got nothing for you. 

....Except this hella infuriating photo. Seriously. Who does this??
 




Monday, July 5, 2021

Remember This Feeling...


Remember this feeling of loneliness. The crying. The feeling of being worthless and useless. The not being listened to. The being ignored. The being told you don't know anything. The walking on eggshells. The egos. The mood swings. The misogyny that didn't even try to be hidden. The alliances formed where teamwork should have been.
 
Remember how you ended every drive home fighting back tears as you thought about the day. Remember how you were sitting in traffic and burst out crying when it suddenly hit you how much you wanted to quit. How you suddenly found yourself hating a job that you used to love. How you found yourself not caring about something you used to care so much about. How, for the first time in fifteen years of doing this job, you find yourself being filled with dread at the thought of going into work every morning. How this job turned you into someone you don't even recognize anymore.

Remember all this so you don't get sucked into it again. Remember all this because, more often than not, time makes you forget the pain and only remember the good. So if they invite you back on the next show, don't think about the people you did stay for. Don't think about the rare moments of happiness that existed between all the yelling. And definitely don't think that maybe next time it'll be different. It won't be. Don't let them fool you. Don't think that they'll treat you any better. Don't think that old habits won't die hard.

But do think about yourself for a change.

Don't look back at the past with rose colored glasses. Don't let history repeat itself. Take what you can from this job. Make the best lemonade you can out of this batch of rotten, fucked up lemons you were given, and then move on. Say your goodbyes at the end of the show and mean them. Walk away knowing that you tried. That you held up your end of the bargain but they didn't hold up theirs. Walk away knowing that the problem lies 100% with them and 100% not with you. 

Walk away with grace and don't look back.

Remember that you deserve better than this. Remember that you ARE better than this. That you deserve to work with people who appreciate you. That know who you really are. That know what you can do and what you can bring to the table if they let you. That will listen to your opinions and treat them with respect. 

Remember that you have value and know what you're worth.

Remember all this because you know yourself. You know that you'll eventually consider working with these people again because you'll rationalize it as "not being so bad." You know that time will dull the pain of what you felt on this job and you'll only remember the fun times, but forget that you've never wanted to quit a job more.

Never forget that part. Never say yes to these people again. Remember this feeling because they are holding you back when all you want now is to be free.


Saturday, May 15, 2021

How Not To Do A Grounding Bond.

Electricity is a weird thing that most people don't understand. They just flip on a light switch or plug in their phone charger and go about their day without really giving it another thought. In reality, it's a weird, almost magical thing that involves a web of science, theory and mathematical calculations. I've studied it, read books on it, and work with it daily and honestly I still don't understand it 100%.

But one thing I do (mostly) understand is "bonding". The ground in most electrical systems acts as a safety net of sorts and when there's more than one electrical system being used (like on a location where production may use the location's electrical outlets/"house power" while also bringing in their own generator) it's important to connect the two grounds so both systems are on the same "plane," so to speak. 

This is often done by attaching a grounding clamp to the grounding rod of the house we're shooting at (usually located below the electrical box of the location) and running the (appropriately sized) cable back to the generator and attaching the other end to the ground there. A good rigging crew knows this and is prepared to do this, seeing as how a Fire Marshall can shut the show down for the day if this isn't done. It's that important.

A bad rigging crew, however, will do this:




Note: out of all the ways you can safely run a grounding bond, taking the female Hubbell off a stinger, taping it to the grounding rod, and plugging the male end into the nearest distro box is not the proper way to do it, or at all acceptable, for many reasons. And to do all that without at the very least capping the live wires with wire nuts? ... I literally have no words. 




Friday, March 12, 2021

Diversity, Pt. 2.


One of these things is not like the other, pt. 2



A previous post of mine produced a couple of interesting comments that I thought would make an interesting follow up.


Anonymous said...

As a white female AC, I never considered myself "diverse" but this has started happening to me often. I recently found out at the end of a show that the DP had been forced to fire his go-to AC last minute to hire me - an AC he'd never met and didn't yet trust. It explained a lot about the unspoken dynamics that I had no way of knowing about. The minute I stepped on that set I was at an automatic disadvantage, joining an all-male crew who looked at me as the one who got their buddy kicked out.

Hiring more diverse crews is a great priority and long overdue. But in the shady and often last-minute way production handles this goal, all the pressure gets put on below-the-line crew. There has to be a better way...right?

 

First off, that is a shitty situation for her to be placed in. At the very least, she should have been told why they hired her. And I don't mean in a "I didn't want to but they made me hire you" asshole kind of way, but she someone should have mentioned to her that she's a "political hire." Knowing the story surrounding your out-of-the-blue employment can help you asses workplace situations better. If you're hired because the last guy kept posting the show's storylines on Twitter, you might be more conscientious of how much time you spend on social media while at work. If you're hired because the lasts guy broke his leg and is on disability, you might relax a bit more and just enjoy the ride knowing you're only a placeholder until he can walk again. And if you're replacing your predecessor simply because you're female, you deserve to know that, too. So when the loader is giving you attitude or the DP is ignoring your suggestions, you can better asses if the situation is because of something you may have done or if it's more likely that they're sour from having to replace their long time friend with you. Context matters.

She should've also been told so she could decide for herself whether or not she wants to be placed in that kind of environment to begin with. It's hard enough to come in on a show where you don't know anyone as it is, but it's even harder when you're the reason their core group isn't together anymore. It can take a mental toll on you when you don't get along with your department and you have to spend 12-16 hours a day with them, five days a week. Of course, ideally, we would love to live in an "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar" world where all women would take this challenge on with gusto just to prove the patriarch wrong, but this is real life. This business is hard. Not everyone is up for this challenge. Not everyone wants to suit up for battle everyday. Some of us just want to work hard for colleagues that appreciate us. Some of us would prefer to surround ourselves with people who like having us around. It's okay to not want to subject yourself to a hostile work environment in the name of "equality," especially when it shouldn't be a burden for just women to bear. I didn't sign on this business to be a martyr. Men should be fighting for women to have a seat at the table just as hard as we are. 

Bottom line, Anonymous should have been told the events surrounding her hire well before the end of the show. I get it. Telling someone you didn't choose to hire them isn't a very nice thing to say and doesn't make you look very good, and I know from experience that hearing it isn't so great either. But it's important information to know because then I can make an informed decision about whether or not I want to take the job, and if I do, I can figure out the best way to handle certain situations that may pop up during the course of the shoot. And above all, I deserve to know because I. Am. A. Human. Being. I am a real person who should be allowed to make my own decisions. I am not just a Pretty Little Diversity Prop™ to be brought in to make you, your department, or your production look good. 

Anonymous also poses the question: "There has to be a better way...right?" 

There is obviously a lot wrong with the way "diversity" is being practiced on productions right now. A lot of shows are just telling their department heads to hire minorities and then pat themselves on the back. Some other shows are telling those departments who to hire, and then patting themselves on the back. Either way, while I appreciate the effort and it is a step in the right direction, it's not exactly the best way to do it. A friend of mine works for a very prominent post house and says he loves that his company is trying to be more forward with this, but they're doing so by promoting women that aren't anywhere near having the skills to do the job they're suddenly promoted to. This leads to frustration among the existing staff, more work on their plates and the result is an inferior product. It's gotten to the point where he and some of his colleagues are considering leaving the company. Another friend of mine was on a show that was so gung ho on having a diverse crew that when the town was so busy they couldn't find a woman to work in one of the departments, production actually found and hired one from out of town. They flew her in, gave her a place to stay for the next few months and gave her a per diem, etc. While I applaud that show's commitment to diversity, I question what kind of change did they foster in the end? Once the show wraps and Ms. Imported Labor returns to her hometown, what really changes? The guys here aren't any more committed to hiring women than before the show started. The pool of women to hire from hasn't increased. And since she's not local, Ms. Imported Labor can't add these guys to her list of potential work calls. In essence, nothing has really changed. 

So what's the better way? Like most things, you need to start from the ground up. You need to foster women, and other minority groups, at the beginning stages of their careers. I remember working with a number of women during my "copy, credit, meals" days. Sure, there were obviously more men than women then, too, but I remember running into more women that did grip and electric then than I do now. Instead of being the only female on most of my jobs now, I used to have at least one other woman in my department every second or third show I was on and it was great! However, as I moved on to bigger and better jobs, they've all but disappeared. Thinking back to the several women I had worked with back when I was really just starting out, I only know of one that's still in the business, but she had switched over to camera. Did every guy I know back then make it to the big leagues? Of course not,  but I do see a hell lot more of them around.

So what happened to all the women I started out with? I don't know, but based on the amount of sexism, comments, and misogyny I've experienced on my way up, I can only guess they weren't given enough chances and opportunities and/or were just tired of the constant battles. 

In other words, we need to foster the idea of more women in this industry at an earlier stage. While it's great that Oscar winners and other big time names are advocating for parity on set, if you're only thinking about parity by the time you're working on a big budget movie, there may not be a pool of qualified women to pull from that can work at that level. However, if you fight for equality on those shitty shows, the movie of the weeks, the low budget commercials, those short form webisodes, and bring them up with you on to the network TV shows, the mid-tier movies, those big brand commercials, there will be a wonderfully diverse pool of Oscar caliber crew to pull from. If we wait to accept women only when they've made it to a certain level, it's already too late.

A second comment on my previous post on this topic states:

Phillip Jackson said...

I feel ya, to me the fix isn't the current white boss hiring "diversity" but actually put people who would naturally hire those folks to begin with. Power doesn't like to give up power. Hire a cis white male gaffer, he's going to hire cis white males. But I find that step is much harder to force since those Hollywood execs aren't really down to not be in that hiring power.

While I don't necessarily disagree with him, I do have mixed feelings about this, especially the "Hire a cis white male gaffer, he's going to hire cis white males" part. This is where I'm going to have to be that person and say "not all men". I honestly wouldn't be in the position I am today if it wasn't for a cis white male gaffer that gave me my start. Literally almost no one would hire me except for dead-end production companies and "passion projects" off of Craigslist. It was a string of extraordinary circumstances that led to me meeting him and he took me under his wing, brought me on some big jobs, and introduced me to other higher ups with a more than generous recommendation of my abilities. He was an older gaffer on his way out, and he told me he was doing this because he thought about what kind of legacy he was leaving behind in this business and decided he wanted to promote changes for the better. And while I can't vouch for what his hiring practices were in the several decades before I met him, he gave be a healthy foundation to build my career on before he retired. 

I guess what I'm saying is that the "trick" isn't to not hire white cis male Gaffers (or any other department head), but to hire people who hire diverse crews on their own. Productions need to look at their track records before handing over a deal memo for them to sign. Has the DP spoken out on the subject before? Have they signed a parity pledge? Who do they usually hire? DPs who are committed to diversity are more likely to hire Gaffers, ACs, and Key Grips who share that same view. So while we're fostering women from the ground up, we also have to remember that change comes from the top down. As Phillip said, we need to "actually put people who would naturally hire those people [in meaningful positions] to begin with."

The last thing I'll touch upon (for now) on the topic of diversity placement is to think about who you're giving those "opportunities" to and realize they are real people who may not exactly be thrilled to be hired based on a quota. Am I grateful to be considered for a job I probably wouldn't have been called for under any other circumstances? Sure. Am I thrilled that the circumstance is solely because I don't have a penis? No. 

I, and I assume most of us, would prefer to be hired on our merit. Hire me because I'm a badass tech, not because you have to fill a quota. Hire me because you want to be a part of positive change, not because someone is making you. Hire me because you believe having a diverse crew will make you a better boss, a better human being, and give you a more well-rounded crew, which in turn will give you a better show, a better product, which, in the end, means you gain more power instead of losing it. Hire us so we can show you what we're capable of.




Happy Women's Month, everybody!


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Which Job Are You On?

 

"Hey, let's get an 18K on a roadrunner in the backyard." 

The call came over the radio and we all snapped into action, some of us heading to the yard to scope out the power situation while others head over to the truck to start pulling the pieces. Everyone got to work except for a dayplayer still looking at his phone. "I'll catch up in a minute," he said. "I'm almost done with my paperwork for the job I'm on tomorrow."

Okay. Not a problem. There's more than enough people to handle one light.

Later on another call came over the radio. "Camera sees some of our gak and cable in the shot. Can we get some people over to the west side of the building to clear it?" 

Again, we snap into action and in seconds we're all grabbing a piece of cable to move it out of frame. 

...Everyone except for that one guy. 

"It's okay, dude. We got it," one of my colleague says to him rather sarcastically.

"Oh, sorry. I'm in the middle of e-mailing production on my job next week about my rentals."

Some more time passes and it's time for us to light a new scene. We clear out the old lights and reposition everything on the other side of the yard. It's a pretty busy set up and surprise, homeboy is no where to be found.

Finally we're all set and return to staging where we find him plugging in his phone. "I was on a phone call with the best boy I'm working with tomorrow," he explained. "Did I miss anything?"

Shortly after, another call for a light comes on the radio and again, everyone starts moving except for the dayplayer. "I gotta answer this text. It's about the next job I'm doing."

My other colleague has had enough at this point, stops what he's doing and asks him, "Okay. But which job are you on now?"

The dayplayer takes the hint, puts his phone away, and grabs a light. 

Listen, we all know dayplaying can be a hustle. You're trying to fill your week with calls and that means occasionally being on the phone while you're on another job. But constantly dealing with other shows while ignoring the one you're supposed to be working on is poor form. 

Don't ever forget what job you're actually on. 


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