Friday, December 18, 2009

Just Ask.

It's impossible to know everything there is to know about the job of a set lighting technician. Or grip. Or any other job in this business for that matter. So if you don't know something, I don't care who you are (or who you think you are), I suggest you ask.

Some things you can figure out on the fly. For example, if you don't know where a specific cable run will go, you'll probably be able to work it out when you get to the location. Never used an HMI before? Lucky you, there's really only one way you can hook it up.

But there are just some things you can't fake. Need to tie a bowline but don't know how? The only way you're going to learn in time is to ask the colleague next to you. Don't know what settings the generator needs to be on? Ask someone who does.

I'm a strong believer in asking questions when you don't know something, especially if it concerns the safety and well being of others. That knot you just faked could send something crashing down on to someone's head, and a genny running too high can be a ticking bomb.

On the flip side of that, don't be a dick if someone asks a question you think they should already know the answer to. Some of us out there only know about what we've worked with, so unfortunately, what may be second nature to you may not be so clear to the rest of us. I have a friend who's been in this business way longer than I have, and yet he doesn't know how to properly use a GFCI, simply because he's never had to use them. Just like I don't know how to set up a piece of scaffolding because I've never been a grip when we had to use it.

The other day, I watched as a guy from the art department admitted to not knowing how to tie a bowline and his boss gave him shit for it as the rest of the department watched. "What do you mean you don't know how to tie a bowline? Anyone worth his salt knows how to tie one! Whatever. Go sweep up the other set." The guy, completely embarrassed, sulks off.

A little bit later, I return from the crafty table just in time to watch the rest of his co-workers start to raise the chandeliers they just rigged when one of them slipped and crashed to the ground. The culprit? A wrongly tied knot by one of the other guys who was prepping the chandeliers to be taken up. After watching his buddy get yelled at by his boss, there was no way he was going to admit to not knowing how to tie a bowline. Lucky for them, there was minimal damage and no one got hurt.

This time.

So for Pete's sake, if you don't know how to do something, ask. And if someone asks you a question, don't be an asshole.


Peggy Archer said...

Oh, how I wish people would 'man up' and just ask if they don't know something.

Especially if it involves, say, the coded knot system we use for cable.

Ed Beecher said...

It is time I reveled my SUPER POWERS.

1. I have the Herculian strength to lower the toilet seat and keep it there.
2. I have the psycic ability to know that the roll of paper in the room occupied by the same seat will not replace itself when empty and, wait for it, replace the empty roll.
3. When lost I ASK DIRECTIONS.

And I am stealing that sign in your post for our repair desk (:

Happy holidays

A.J. said...

Peggy - YES! I can't believe how many times I've seen wrongly coded knots. That's definitely something you should ask if you're unsure about it.

Ed - That's hilarious. Although, I do hope that super power #1 and #2 don't necessarily correspond to #3, otherwise, I'd be a tad worried about you...

Michael Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Taylor said...

Amen. Given the paucity of formal training in our industry -- even in the unions -- it's a miracle more of us don't get killed.

One useful side effect of having the balls to admit a lack of knowledge on set is the slight tinge of shame that generally accompanies such a confession. None of us enjoys the feeling, but for me, that shame has always provided a powerful incentive to learn whatever it was I needed to know, whether how and when to tie a bowline, clove hitch, or square knot, or the proper way to code a cable run.

We all learn from and teach each other in this business. After 30+ years, I'm still picking up new things on set, usually from younger juicers accustomed to working with the latest equipment. Giving a hard time to anyone willing to admit a lack of knowledge is the mark of an immature, insecure asshole.

Life below decks would be a lot better if we could leave that sort of behavior to the clowns who work above the line.

(Sorry about the deleted comment -- too many typos in that one...)

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