Sunday, August 16, 2009

"That's Not My Job."

It's a phrase that no one likes to hear, yet sometimes, we're forced to say it. Especially if you're working in grip/electric on a low budget shoot. For some reason, Production assumes that they can use us like PAs when they've run out of actual PAs to abuse. It's even worse when a different department assumes the same thing (whether it's because of stupidity or laziness on their part... usually both). So in case anyone wants to avoid hearing "That's not my job" from a grip/electric, here are a few guidelines...

-- Just because it's on the truck doesn't mean we're responsible for it. This is a continuation of my previous post. We understand that there's not enough money for each department to have its own truck and we all have to share. And while grip and lighting gear may take up most of the space, that doesn't mean it's our job to load on the wardrobe/props/tables/chairs for you. While most of us are nice enough to do it anyway, it really bugs me when people just expect you to. On that note, just because there's wardrobe/props/crafty stuff in the truck doesn't automatically make us part of that department. I shit you not, I once had a sound guy ask me if a specific microphone was in the case he had me put in the back of the truck. "Uh... I dunno. It's really not my responsibility to know exactly what's in that case." Without missing a beat, he gives me a stare down and says "Yeah, it is." Um... What??

-- It's not our job to do lock down. Find someone else to keep people from walking by that window when we're rolling. Don't have enough PAs? That's not my problem. I'm too busy setting up for the next shot, wrapping up the last one, or tweaking the lights between takes to fix your lack of foresight.

-- If we're running put-puts, believe it or not, it's not our job to get gas for them. Yes, we're the ones who operate them. We turn them on, run the cable, and make sure they're working properly. And while we do keep an eye on the fuel gauge, someone else needs to be the one making the drive to the gas station to fill up the gas can. In fact, a good rule of thumb: if it requires leaving the location, don't ask us to do it.

-- If it's not grip/lighting gear, we're not touching it. I'm sorry if there are boxes of props and a camera case in the shot, but it's not our job to move stuff that belongs to another department. It's not that we're lazy and unhelpful, but it's because some of that stuff is worth more than my car. Or someone worked really hard to get that futuristic ray gun just right and one wrong move could reduce the all important prop to broken pieces on the floor. I have enough worries trying not to damage my own gear, thankyouverymuch. And inversely, if you're not in g/e, don't touch our stuff.

-- It's not our job to be extras. We're not the ones who insisted on doing a big party scene. We're not the ones who couldn't get thirty of our closest friends to show up. And it's not our fault you didn't think to cast someone to be "Girl On Bus" when she was clearly written in the script. Again, it's not our job to fix your lack of foresight. (And don't act like you're doing us a big favor when asking us to be in the scene. You're not.)

Some of this may sound like whining, yes. I mean, how hard can it be to keep civilians from walking on the sidewalk during a take? Or going down the street for a can of gas? But the point is, that's not what I was hired to do. My own job is keeping me busy enough without having to explain to my boss that no, I can't tweak that light/adjust that flag/fly in a stand because I'm setting up chairs/moving cans of paint/watching a dog piss on a tree outside. And don't pull that "This is a low budget film. Everyone helps with everything" crap either. I'm all for lending a hand where it's needed, but there's a big difference between working together and flat out doing someone else's job. Being low budget is not an excuse for being unprofessional.


Nathan said...

Another problem is that if something is seen as "anyobody's" or "everybody's" job, it's really nobody's job. That's how shit falls through the cracks...because everyone will walk right by a problem and assume that someone else will deal with it.

And, no...I don't want any other department handling my stuff either. As long as my department is the only one messing with our stuff, we know where it is. And if I'm borrowing sandbags or stingers from G/E, you can be damned sure the best boy knows exactly what I've got and you can be sure that at the end of the day, he's going to acknowledge that I just returned "5 of this and 7 of that". We both like it a lot better that way.

Michael Taylor said...

The lack of professionalism you describe is one of the worst aspects of the low budget/indie world. Once you start helping the other departments (in effect, doing their jobs) there's no end to it -- you'll be run ragged doing everything but your own job. That's no way to learn anything useful, nor will it favorably impress those in a position to hire you on the next job.

Being too eager to please, I fell prey to this on my first few jobs, but that experience taught me the importance of ignoring all other distractions to focus on my own work first -- which was the first step on the road to becomming a professional.

There are a lot of negatives in working union jobs, but one good thing is that when necessary, we all help the other departments -- but only as long as that help is requested or required. Otherwise, we leave it alone. Each department is run by pros, and they can handle it.

Some of the nicest, smartest people I've met on sets have been in the sound department, but every now and then one will turn out to be an arrogant, sarcastic jerk. If sounds like you ran into one of those -- and I really hope you told him to shove his precious fucking microphone where the sun don't shine.

Douglas said...

As a sound guy, I'm sorry you ran into an ass.

Some of us are jerks. Most of us understand that nice is good, because sound is often the first thing to be compromised on, especially if the director has discovered the 'magic' of ADR. We often need odd things from other departments, so 'plays-well-with-others' is one of the more important parts of the job.

The person in wardrobe? Yeah, I will come bearing coffee, snacks, or even flowers, because I might need snap tabs sewn into clothing for my lavs, and I really, really don't want that dupioni silk used, as it will kill dialog all day. Juicers? I will do anything I can to make your lives easier, because I'm gonna need some large, noisy HMI ballast moved at some point, and it won't be fun for either of us. And unblimped generators? Sure, it was cheaper, but running all that cable to get it far enough from set?

Most of us are good...But the bad apples stick out.

A.J. said...

Nathan - You make a good point. If you're going to be moving or borrowing stuff from another department, at least make sure that the appropriate people know about it.

Michael - I too, was eager to help anybody and everybody on my first few jobs, but that got old fast. It's one thing to lend a hand when a hand's really needed, but it's another to lend a hand because of some very poor planning on someone else's part. In situations like that, I feel like I'm just enabling them to do it again.

Sound guys and I usually get along like peanut butter and jelly, but yeah, this one was a jerk. Unfortunately, I'm too nice of a person to tell him where he could shove his microphone. I did, however, "politely" remind him that he's the one with the word "sound" in his job title, not me. Then I hopped off the truck, told them to finish packing their own damn stuff and went home.

Douglas - Playing well with others is so important, especially since every department relies on another. So why someone would purposely act like such an entitled ass is beyond my comprehension. And for the record, I know not all sound guys are like that. Sound is often one of the nicest departments I meet on set, but now that I know you're just being nice to get something from us juicers.... hm...

D said...

Stick to your guns. Back in the day, my response was," if you want me to do my job and yours, i'll need more money." Nowadays it's,"the budget might be low, but the work's the same."

A.J. said...

D - That's a good response. I usually go with "I'm doing my job. Someone else needs to be doing theirs." Or "The budget may be low, but we can still act like professionals."

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