Saturday, November 21, 2009

Signs Your Shoot Is Going To Be A Bad One.

Sometimes you can tell how bad a shoot is going to be before you even get to set. If you see any of these signs, either quit now or brace yourself.

You get e-mails from a production that don't contain the name of the show. This means the people in charge work on shoots once in a blue moon. They don't need to use titles in correspondence because it's the only project they've had all year. In other words, they don't work on films for a living and will probably expect you do put in 18 hour days, eat pizza for lunch, etc, because they're doing it for "fun" and so should you.

When they e-mail you about your availability, they don't include a job title. It's most likely a copy-and-paste form letter and they're too lazy to throw in "grip" or "electric". If they can't even do that, imagine how they handle the really important stuff.

They expect you to pick up the truck and gear the day before for free. Because, you know, load in and prep doesn't take a whole day, so they shouldn't have to pay you for it.

They ask if you have any gear they can use. Notice I said "use" and not "rent".

They insist on having a pre-production meeting and/or tech scout, but when you get there, everyone else shows up late. They don't know what kind of shots they want or where the camera's going, and when you ask them a simple question, the answer is always "We don't know yet."

The location is on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere and they don't include a map. It's either because the thought didn't even cross their minds, they're lazy, or they assume that just because they managed to find it, 50 other people should be able to find it too. All bad signs.

The location is on a busy street downtown and the call sheet says "Street parking only." Not only will you spend half an hour hunting for a spot, but you'll have to park half a mile away and then move your car every two hours.

There's three company moves in one day. They're all more than ten miles apart. They don't give you a map. Four pages are scheduled for each location. And no, they're not reimbursing you for gas. Oh yeah, and it's street parking.

If they use the words "passion project." Run away. Far, far away.


British grip said...

- What you call a 'job' they call a 'project'.

- When they call you, they are very eager to tell you the name of the DOP / director / producer / writer and how great the script is. They don't mention money or hours for a LOOOOONG time.

- Real co-ordinators don't ask questions like 'You want to go on the recce? Why would the key grip need to go on the recce?' or 'and would you want to be paid for that?'

- Real jobs have co-ordinators.

AussieLX said...

...when the gaffer and lx crew isn't hired until two days after the studio should have been rigged... Leaving three days to rig, cable, patch and trim several sets while being told by the UPM that there 'doing you a favour' in getting additional labour

Michael Taylor said...

You are soooo right about "passion projects," which is a nice name for a vanity shoot directed by an actor who thinks he/she really should be directing.

"It'll be fun," they always say.

And it is -- for them, playing the role of director. But for the crew doing the same hard work we always do (only without the proper equipment), it's not much fun at all.

Niall(John) said...

Your all forgetting the best thing to make a project even more hellish, the weather. Add heat, snow, rain, high winds, and any other kind of problem the stratosphere can throw at you adds to the Lovecraftian manner production is treating you. My favorite is side ways rain, a Seattle staple of horrible shoots.

A.J. said...

British Grip - All very true, especially the part about the "recce" (though we call them "location scouts").

AussieLX - What's an "lx crew"?

Michael - Rule of thumb: if they say "It'll be fun," it probably won't be.

Niall(John) - That's why I don't live in Seattle. :)

Nathan said...

A few jobs back, I bought my Assistant Location Manager a GoldFold
while we were still prepping the job. She said, "It's a really bad sign when you get a great wrap gift before the show even starts".

Now I make a habit of getting one for my ALM's during prep. It sorta prepares them for the worst (which will definitely happen at some point).


Anonymous said...

i got the heebe jeebies reading that lastest post.
as soon as i started turning down those types of jobs my life got better.
-anon gaffer

A.J. said...

Nathan - If my boss got me a really nice wrap gift before the show even started, I'd be tempted to just take it and run. :)

Anon Gaffer - Same here.

wordplaysam said...

That's's like you were there on my last shoot! Only about half of the first day was spent shooting--the rest of the time was spent driving around to all of our locations in completely obscure, back country places. There were no maps given. I'm not sure if I was one of the lucky ones--I convinced one of the actors, who had an iPhone with a GPS, that he wanted to carpool with me. We were the first car to every location, but that usually meant that we had to sit around waiting for everyone else to find the place...sometimes as much as an hour! I got gas money at the end of the shoot only because I begged the director for it. I don't think anyone else got any.

Richard Ragon said...

Add these in..

When someone says, "We're going to revolutionize the way films are made". Translation, the only revolution here, is they are going to hit up the whole crew for the money to pay for the film.

When someone says, "This is a good project for your reel". WTF is a sound guy doing to do with a REEL, where technicians, not creative artist. My biggest creative decision on the set will be where to stick the boom.

And finaly..

When someone is looking for "interns" for all the department heads!! Hell.. I wouldn't mind working for free sometimes, if it's a very experienced crew, heck I could truly learn something.. but if it's a full crew of "interns".. I want combat pay!!

BoskoLives said...

My warning sign? When you get a call sheet that has more producers names on it than there are people listed in the G+E section.

And as a sound mixer, I stopped going on location scouts a long time ago unless they are well paid deals. Most of the locations I end up working on were found by a location scout with all the perceptive skill of Helen Keller, and when I mention the really poor sound there I'm answered with either: 1. The director loves the way it looks, 2. It belongs to a friend of the producer and we're getting it for free, or 3. It's close to the production office. I'm a good sound mixer but I'm not a magician, and I hate taking the shit because the house that they got for free is alongside a freeway (true story) and it's used for an interior scene of a home in the country.
Jerry w

A.J. said...

Sam - Company moves on a poorly run production are the worst. I feel your pain. But congrats on getting your gas money. Most shows like that don't even give it a thought. "The location's in Temecula and you're working for free, but you want us to pay for your gas? What??"

Richard - The offers for "material for your reel" always crack me up. What's a grip going to do with a reel??

BoskoLives - I'm surprised one of the answers isn't "That's okay. We'll fix it in post."

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