Sunday, October 11, 2009

Think Before You Leap.

It's a cool summer evening. The kind that makes you want to sit on a porch, drinking a tall glass of sweet tea; savoring every sip as you watch the neighborhood kids run around their yards. There's a slight breeze blowing as I stand on the edge of a roof top, surveying the ground below. My toes are dangling over the side as I contemplate whether or not I should jump...

On the other side of the house, the cameras are getting ready to roll. I was on the roof tweaking a light when the AD shouted that we were "ready for a take!" and with those four words, the ladder I had used to climb up here was swept away. I'm now stuck. Damn.

"Sorry A.J." I heard over the walkie. "You can either look for a safe way down or wait until we're done with the scene. But I gotta warn you it looks like it's going to be a long one."

With a groan, I look around. Luckily, it's a one story building, but it's still one story too tall for me to hop off of. I notice that there's a part of the roof that seems to slope down a little more than any of the other parts, so I head over to check it out.

On that side of the house, there was a rather large, raised planter hugging the wall with nothing in it but soft looking dirt. Hmm... If I maneuver this just right, I could land in that patch of dirt and from that, I can easily hop to the ground and be at crafty, munching on a bag of Doritos in no time.

But on the other hand, if I miss the planter, I could potentially break a leg and/or twist my ankle. Not only would that take me out of commission for a while, but the loud thud of me hitting the ground followed by screams of pain could potentially ruin the sound during a take. And forget about me ever being hired by these guys again. No matter how safe that drop looked, I'd always be the idiot dumb enough to jump off a roof.

I look over to the back of the house where they were shooting. They had just started rolling and the Gaffer was intently watching the monitor. He's a good guy. He's one of those bosses that will help the crew pack up gear at the end of the night and doesn't leave until we're all in our cars, engines started. And when he heard I was getting desperate for work, he pulled a few strings to get me hired. I thought about what would happen to him if I jumped and landed wrong. He'd probably have his ass handed to him by Production for hiring such an idiot and "allowing" me to jump off a roof. They probably won't hire him again either.

Then I thought about how I met the Gaffer. I was sent to him on a recommendation from a DP friend of mine. Even though he wasn't on this shoot, his reputation was at stake as well. If the Gaffer was going to get shit for something that I did, you can bet money that my friend was going to hear about it. Any recommendations he gives from there on out would be either highly questioned or even ignored.

Then there was the money. How much was I getting paid for the day? Is the amount worth risking getting seriously hurt for? (The answer's always no.) Add in the cost of at least three ruined reputations, and the answer is a no-brainer.

Sure, the jump looked safe enough. It wasn't too far from the sloped roof to the planter, but one wrong move on my part, one caught shirt sleeve or even one strong breeze catching me off guard, and my ass would be in the emergency room.

A lot of guys I know (mainly the young ones) would have opted to jump. While they're fully prepared to take responsibility for whatever happens, they don't take the time to think about who they're really representing. Not only are you representing yourself when you step onto a set, but you're also representing whatever department you're in, the Key Grip/Gaffer or Best Boy who hired you, whoever recommended you to them, whatever film schools you attended... The list can go on. If you screw up, a lot of careers are on the line; not just your own.

I step back from the ledge and make myself comfortable for the long scene ahead. A little while later, I heard over the walkie, "Hey A.J. How are you doing up there? Do you need anything?"

"I'm doing fine, but I wouldn't mind it if a bag of Doritos from crafty found its way up here."

A few seconds later, a bag of chips landed by my feet. I happily munched on them as I watched the camera roll below me. Somewhere in the distance, I could hear the happy laughter of children, running around their yard. I guess there are worse places I could be...

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