Wednesday, August 12, 2009

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie...

With so many different jobs on set, many of them with obscure names (grip, best boy, crafty), it's common for the newcomers to be confused on who does what, especially in the indie world where the lines tend to blur. And every so often, you're asked to do a task that isn't in your job description.

That's when you have two choices: Be nice and do it anyway or decide that this shoot's already too much of a pain in the ass and being asked to do something that doesn't involve a light or a c-stand is the last straw.

On one such occasion, I choose the latter. A stand-off ensued and threw off the production schedule by a good hour.

Like so many low-budget productions, the grips and electrics had to share a truck with production, and the last thing that was loaded into the truck the previous night was a couple of coolers as well as some wardrobe and props. So in the morning, after the truck arrived and parked for the day, we opened up the back and waited... and waited...

"Why aren't you guys unloading the truck?" asked the DP as he wandered by. "Because we're waiting for someone to move the coolers," explained the Best Boy. "We can't unload our stuff until that's cleared." "Oh. Okay." And the DP walks away.

The same exchange happens a few minutes later, this time it's with the AD. "Oh, okay. Let me go find someone to get started on that," he says.

So we waited... and waited...

Finally he comes back and is surprised to see that nothing's been touched. Apparently, he never did find someone to move them and just assumed that we'd get tired of waiting and do it anyway. "Can't you guys just unload it all?" he asks. "No," says the Best Boy. "We don't want to be held responsible for stuff that's not ours. Someone else is going to have to move them."

After some back and forth, someone finally gives in and the coolers get unloaded. By the time that happened though, the schedule had been seriously thrown off. Later on, an extra was hanging out by the truck and was remarking how ridiculous the whole scenario was.

Him: "Were you guys really arguing for an hour about who was going to unload the damn coolers??"
Me: "Yeah."
Him: "But they're coolers. They're not that heavy and it takes ten seconds to get them off that truck."
Me: "True, but have you ever read If You Give A Mouse A Cookie?"
Him: "The kids book? What does that have to do with anything?"
Me: "Well, if we unloaded those coolers, who do you think they're going to turn to when its running low on ice? Granted, it's not all that hard to dump a bag of ice in there, but if we do that, they'll expect us to fill it up with water and sodas as well. And when that happens, who do you think people are going to turn to when crafty is running low on chips and crackers? And when you're rummaging around for the crackers, would you mind looking for the coffee as well? Oh, and since you're the one who found the coffee can, you might as well brew a nice big pot of it. Then, before you know it, we end up being responsible for an entire department that's not ours. And what happens when there's no more ice? Or we run out of water? Or the coffee's bad? All of a sudden, we're taking shit for stuff we shouldn't even have to be doing in the first place."
Him (nodding his head in thoughtfulness): "Yeah... I guess you have a point. But come on man, they're just a couple of coolers."
Me: "Oh really? So you wouldn't mind unloading them tomorrow then?"
Him: "Me? No... That's not my job."

My thoughts exactly.


Unknown said...

Good thing I wasn't working with you guys on that set. Would've saved you some time.

I would have taken the coolers, set them on the ground next to the truck, and then unloaded everything, and THEN put them back on the fucking truck. Then it's not my problem and I'm not held responsible because they were in the same spot they were before.....

Then if someone asks you just say they are on the truck still, and it's still not your problem. I've worked on low budget stuff before and instead of causing arguments we just helped out other areas when we could...

It seems weird that you can use some sort of allegory to relate taking a cooler off of a truck to eventually filling it with ice and re-stocking it. I mean your story almost reminds me of the Rube Goldberg-esque ways that people die in Final Destination, sure it could happen but it's so unlikely.

Either way where were the PAs? When I was a PA a few times I would help out with that shit, it just sounds like you're working on an ultra crappy set.

A.J. said...

Desterado - The problem with taking the coolers off and then putting them back in is that they're still in the way. Despite unloading the major stuff, we still work off the truck half the time and having the coolers there not only is a pain in the ass to work around, but can be a hazard as well.

And yes, it was an ultra crappy set. There were no PAs and this was the same shoot where I was somehow expected to take care of the props just because they were on the truck as well. And by props, I mean a trunk full of rifles and guns. So while my allegory may be a bit far-fetched on most sets, I can assure you that's not the case on this one.

Nathan said...


A.J. is far from wrong on this one. You asked the pertinent question yourself - Where were the PAs? If a production is going to shove multiple departments onto one truck, they damn-well better make sure all of those departments are on hand when the gate comes down.

and A.J., regarding Nice guys finish of my first jobs as a PA was working for a Key 2nd A.D. who was everything you could hate in a 2nd (this was in the days when the 2nd did more than paperwork and actually left the honeywagon most of the day). He was a screamer, he was abusive to us all and he refused to consider any explanation offered to him. But one day, he caught a Teamster giving me a hard time and got into a nose-to-nose screaming match, the gist of which was, "Only I get to yell at my PAs. Stick to your own F'ing department!"

I could have lived without the abuse, but I forgave it all after that.

P.S. Hollywood Juicer pointed the way here. Good stuff. Consider it bookmarked (and linked as soon as I fix my borked blog).

Unknown said...

Sorry if I came off as an asshole the other day, I get pretty heated in my discussions. In any case your reply was pretty well thought out and helped me understand a little more what happened.

I did neglect the fact that you guys usually work off your truck a lot too, I've never done any G&E work but I always have seen them constantly going to the truck.

It seems weird to me that they wouldn't hire any PAs, not even one? That's crazy to me, you need the PA just to do all the...PA stuff.

I would think that low budget shoots like that would at least hire one, that sucks.

In any case your blog is pretty interesting so you've got another reader here, and I apologize in advance if I make another comment like my last one, but I like to get into discussions cause as big of a jerk it makes me seem I like to think it makes people think...either that or it's just fun.

All said and done it's a good thing that you stood up and drew a line in the sand as to where you were and weren't going to help. The worst thing in any job is when you get taken advantage of!

A.J. said...

Nathan - Thanks for the back up! And I know what you mean about that screaming AD. It's amazing/funny how one chivalrous (yet still asshole-ish) act in your favor negates a whole shoot worth of abuse.

Desterado - I'm glad that you're liking the blog and that you get so... uh, "heated" over the topics. I tend to leave small details out in interest of keeping the length of the posts down, but I guess sometimes those details are what make the situations I write about more understandable. In the case of this shoot, yes, they had hired PAs, but they had all quit before I was brought on mid shoot.

Those were the smartest PAs I've never met.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License .