Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You Can Lead A Horse To Water...

Back when I was still in school, a teacher of mine kind of went off on a rant about the No Child Left Behind Act. "I don't want to leave any kids behind, but I'm not about to drag them around, kicking and screaming either!"* she said, as she pantomimed dragging something across the room like a heavy sack of potatoes (I had some very eccentric teachers). "I can't teach a kid who refuses to learn."

That particular moment always stuck with me. Not only because it was a random tangent that had nothing to do with history class and acted out in a dramatic fashion, but because she made a lot of sense. You can chain a kid to a desk and take away his iPhone until he can recite all 50 states, but that doesn't mean he'll actually do it. Eventually, you'll only end up exhausted and punishing yourself by trying to teach a kid who doesn't really want to learn. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

The same holds true for today. A friend of mine really wants to be a juicer. There's no use trying to warn him away from a job of lugging around heavy cable for 14 hours. This is a guy who actually looks forward to it. He has a desire to learn about how all the lights work, the capacity of each cable, etc. He'll even sit there and study the lamp designations if you tell him to. In all, he's the kind of guy that despite still being pretty green, you're really rooting for him to make it.

But like so many people who can't seem to quite make it in this business, you can offer him all the opportunities you want, but you can't make him take them.

Most of the time when I call to offer him work, he'll turn it down. The reasons vary from the understandable ("I told my mom I'd pick her up from the airport.") to the unacceptable ("I already made plans to check out this new club tonight."). And yet, between those calls, he'll complain about how hard it is for him to find work.

But like I said, when you actually manage to get him on a set, he tries his hardest and you really want him to succeed. So, like a sad sap, I keep offering him the work.

I've even gone out of my way to score him some jobs. If I knew someone on a low budget shoot that's gearing up, the kind with some pay and some gear to play with (in other words, the perfect training ground for an up-and-coming kid) I'd be sure to have them let me know if they need a day player or two because I know the perfect guy for the job... But when those calls came in, he'd be too "busy" to take them.

But he kept asking me for work.

The last straw came not too long ago when I actually got him to come out on a shoot. It was pretty last minute (I was actually at the location already) and was surprised to hear that he could make it. I sent him the call sheet and directions, which included pretty clear parking instructions. But you know what? He didn't read them. He just figured it'd be easier if I explained it to him.

Sure. No problem. So I did.

But I only got as far as which exit he should take before he interrupted me. "Hold on... Uh... Let me just get as far as that first, and then I'll call you for the rest." And he hung up. That's when I realized that he wasn't even bothering taking notes. Instead, he was using me as a human GPS.

During the time I was waiting for him to call me, I got to thinking. Why was I trying so hard to help this kid? Sure, he's got potential. He's got the curiosity. The willingness to learn. He's a hard worker (when he gets to work). But he also doesn't jump at opportunities that are handed to him. His priorities are sometimes a bit skewed. And he'll give up on trying to figure out driving directions before he even really looks at them. At times, it felt like I was pushing the kid to succeed more than he was. And when that happens, you know something's wrong. You should be the one driving your own success; no one should have to drag you to it.

I realized that maybe I should let go and see if this kid could make it on his own. I'll still help him if I can, but I can't go out of my way to do it anymore. I can't look for work for him. And I can't worry about whether or not he'll find crew parking when I've got my own job to do.

The only thing I can do now is offer him the tools to succeed. I can give him a call sheet, but he'll have to find his own way here...

And with that, I stopped dragging him across the metaphorical room. Sure, I gave him the rest of the directions when he called (after all, I didn't want to abandon the kid), but after that, he was on his own. No more babying him and guiding him through the day. And you know what? He survived. And he probably felt that something was different too, because at the end of the day, he admitted that he was probably depending on me a little too much.

I took this as a good sign. It means he's aware that maybe he hasn't been the best when it comes to figuring things out for himself. Perhaps now he'll take more initiative and find his own way through this mess of a business.

I'm still rooting for the kid to succeed, but whether or not he'll be "left behind" is now completely up to him...

*I realize that this isn't quite what the bill meant for educators to do.

Friday, March 26, 2010

This Is Getting Old...

Me: "Damn, the Gaffer really went off on that new guy."
Colleague: "Eh, it sucks, but everyone gets yelled at when they're first starting out."
Me: "Yeah, but I don't think I've ever been yelled at like that though."
Colleague: "Well yeah, that's because you're a girl."

Prop Guy: "Ugh. The caterers never get anyone's orders right."
Me: "I dunno. They get mine right most of the time."
Prop Guy: "Well yeah. You're a girl."

Best Boy: "I really wish the Art Department wouldn't get so snobby every time I ask them for something."
Me: "Snobby? Really? That's weird. They've been perfectly nice to me so far."
Best Boy: "Well yeah. That's because you're a chick."

Oh... That's the reason why??

All this time, I was thinking I never got yelled at because I actually paid attention to what I was doing and didn't fuck up as much as the others.

I thought my breakfast orders usually came out right because I keep things simple (bacon, eggs, toast) instead of some crazy egg white-cheese-salsa-turkey bacon-avocado-on-lightly-toasted-sourdough-bread concoction.

That the Art Department was nice to me because I was nice to them. Never mind that I know all of their names and ask them how they're doing every day. Never mind that you only go to them when you want something and often roll your own eyes when they ask a favor in return.

But now I know it's all because I'm a girl. Not because I know how to do my job well or that I have basic people skills. And it's definitely not because I'm a hard worker or because I'm considerate of others and their own jobs.

No no no... I get treated the way I do because I'm a girl.

Thanks for clearing that up.

Monday, March 22, 2010

UPDATE: What's Going On Here?

Me: "Hey friend-who's-now-working-at-a-rental-house! How's your day going?"
Him: "Eh, it's busy but easy. We're pulling a subrental for [previously mentioned, well known rental house]. Hundreds of everything."
Me: "Oh really? Hm... Interesting..."

So basically, the very rental house that I was at before is so busy that they pretty much have no more equipment and are renting from somewhere else to fill their orders.

Out of curiosity, I did some asking around. Most of the bigger players I know of (read: the ones who work on the larger, studio produced movies) are still hunting around for work. But the smaller fish (read: the ones in my weight class or lower who work on low budgets, webisodes and other indie projects) are busier than we were a month ago. That's not to say that we're all working; just more of us than before.

That makes even less sense to me. Why are the big time guys starving for work while us little ones are more or less keeping busy? It wasn't all that long ago that it was the other way around. With the strikes (and/or threat of strikes), sucky economy, runaway productions, etc, there were less Union productions going on, resulting in too many out-of-work juicers, grips, set dressers, etc. To fill the void of more lucrative jobs, many of them turned to indie productions, taking a pay cut in favor of any work at all. Whatever productions that were still going on in L.A. jumped at the chance to hire top tier people for non-union, low budget rates and one by one, my friends and I found ourselves out of work.

But now the tides seem to be shifting. Things do seem like they're picking up. For who exactly, where and why though? That still remains a mystery to me...


Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Kids Have It Easy.

I've worked really hard to get to where I am today.

I came into this town not knowing anyone. I didn't know a thing about mambo-combos, 10Ks, or HMIs. I didn't know how to use a walkie-talkie or work a lift gate.

I didn't have a fancy school teaching me these things either. Instead, I worked my way up from horrible, non-paying, run and gun guerilla style, low-budget shorts to official feature films, commercials and music videos.

I'm not ashamed to say that I worked for free a lot longer than I probably should have. And while I may not be rolling around in money right now, what I do get paid these days is miles away from what I was getting a year ago.

And I'd like to think that I earned every single penny of it.

Which is why it kind of frustrates me when all of a sudden, I'm working with a guy who stepped into this business a little over a month ago.

Still fresh and green, he doesn't know how to use a walkie. Doesn't know how to use the controls on a lift gate. Ask him the difference between a 1K and a 2K and he's at a loss for words. And you have to tell him twice in the same day that you should always wrap cable clock-wise.


I know that everyone has to start somewhere. That at one time, I was the one running around lost on a film set. But in all fairness, I was never the one who did less work and got paid the same, which is essentially what this guy was doing.

This guy happened to get onto this particular crew because he was a friend of one of the grips. When we needed an extra guy at the last minute, he was called in and kinda stuck around as a day-player. No problem. Happens all the time. The days were pretty slow on this shoot, so the extra pair of hands was nice, but not really necessary.

But then, as the days went by, we were getting peeled. The director kept changing his mind and would constantly add shots. The DP kept adding lights. The sun never lasted as long as we were hoping it would. Miles of cable would have to be run at a moments notice. Lights would be called off the second we got them running. And there would be more orders coming over the walkie than we had manpower.

This is where I got frustrated and annoyed with the newbie.

I understand the "trial-by-fire" way of learning. There's really no other way to learn this business than to be in it. You can sit in a classroom all you want. Have all the "simulated shoot days" you can at whatever school you're at. But nothing, and I mean nothing, comes close to being on a film set other than actually being on a film set.

Which makes it even more frustrating when you're mad at someone for being new, because now you feel guilty since you shouldn't be mad at the guy for learning things the only way things can be learned.

(Wait. Did that make sense?)

Anyway, so while my other cohorts and I were running around, pulling cable, bringing in lights, and rolling around 18Ks all day, this guy didn't really do much. I understand he's new and all and may not know to bring barn doors and scrims with every light, or how the locks work on a Road Runner, but when you're kind of shorthanded as it is, you can't help but wish for a co-worker who knew what he was doing. (Or at least knew enough to work while you chat with the cute girl from Props, especially when everyone else is working and/or waiting on him.) And while under normal circumstances, you'd probably take the time and teach the guy some of this stuff, but with the Gaffer shouting in your ear about "Where the fuck is that light??" it's often easier and faster to do it yourself than to just stand there, coach, and supervise the new guy.

Which then means you're doing more work. Now you're doing the work of two people and you're still getting the same pay. Which also means that the exact same rate you worked so hard for years to get is also being paid to the new guy you're covering for. Ugh.

Part of my frustration also lies with the Best Boy. He's a teacher in the sense that he loves imparting his knowledge to anyone even remotely curious. So while the rest of us are scrambling around the set during a re-light, the Gaffer's usually yelling at whoever is closest to him at the time, which was often me.

Gaffer: "Where's that damn Blonde??"
Me: "You just yelled at me about the Kino, so I'm doing that right now. I'll get to the Blonde in a minute."
Gaffer: "No, you won't. I just called for three lights. I have three juicers. You got the Kino, you're staying with the Kino. Now where's that damn Blonde?!"
Me: "How the fuck should I know? I'm working with the Kino."
Gaffer: "Who's getting the Blonde??"
Me: "I don't know."
Gaffer: (over the walkie) "Where's the Blonde??"
Other Juicer: (over walkie) "I dunno. But I'm working on the Tweenie you asked for outside."
Gaffer: (over walkie) "Somebody get me a damn Blonde to set, now."
Me: sigh. "Fuck this."

I leave my post by the Kino (with the Gaffer still yelling as I walk away) and head over to our staging area to grab a Blonde. And it's there that I find the new guy and the Best Boy. They were so engrossed in going over the different types of gel that we carry that the Best Boy was either oblivious to the fact that we needed all hands on deck, or simply figured the other juicer and I could handle it while he gave lessons on color correction.


Like I said, it's frustrating. And you can't be mad at the new kid. He's trying. And it's not his fault that his presence is an inconvenience. And you can't be too mad at the Best Boy. Sure, he keeps calling a newbie back to day-play on a shoot that requires a more experienced crew. That's definitely annoying. But you can't be mad at a guy who's going out of his way to teach someone about the equipment. It's something I would be thankful to have when I was crawling up that shiny new ladder.

But there comes a point, usually at the end of the night when you're wrapping 4/0 in the mud by yourself and the new kid's practicing wrapping a stinger, you can't help but feel some resentment. And that resentment will grow when you realize that your paychecks are the same.

I hope the kid knows how lucky he is.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Crush Vs. Reality.

Some time ago, I worked on a short film for a few days. Nothing about this job was particularly memorable (standard locations, a decent A.D.... It was all kind of boring, really), save for a particular Dolly Grip.

We got along rather well. We were about the same age, had a thing for tacos, and were living in the same part of town.

Plus, he was really hot.

Carrying around those sticks of steel track on his shoulder while wearing slightly dusty jeans, a black tee and Top Gun sunglasses, he was the kind of guy a girl wouldn't mind sitting on a porch all day, watching him work with a glass of innocent lemonade in hand. Not to mention how well organized he kept all the dolly pieces that weren't in use (have I mentioned how neatness is sexy?) and how much concentration and grace he put into every shot. That just made him even more appealing.

By day three, we had a routine of witty banter and inside jokes going, and by the time the show wrapped, he suggested that we "hang out" sometime.* Of course, I readily agreed.

After a week or so of trying to get our schedules to match up, we finally make an arrangement to meet for coffee one morning. I threw on a pair of jeans and a cute-but-not-too-cute-that-it-looks-like-I'm-trying tee shirt and headed out the door. I had some fun chats with this guy on set, and was looking forward to seeing him again.

So imagine my surprise when someone looking totally different than the guy I met showed up at the coffee shop. The black shirt and jeans were replaced with slacks and a button down shirt in a nauseating pattern. The Aviator sunglasses had turned into obnoxious looking Oakleys** and his fluffy brown hair that I've been fighting the urge to run my fingers through was now sleeked back with gel. Eww.

And the jewelry... Oh my goodness, the jewelery. It was was gold. It was chunky. It looked like it belonged to one of the Guidos on Jersey Shore. And he had that odd habit of fiddling with one of his (multiple) rings while it was still on his finger, perpetually drawing attention to the fact that he was wearing more jewelery than I was. (Note to guys: That's a big turnoff.)

What happened to the fine specimen I was observing on set?

Throughout our conversation over lattes, I find out that the clothes he wears to work are ones he doesn't mind getting dirty, the glasses he wore are cheap ones he wouldn't mind losing or getting scratched, there's no point in doing his hair for work and it's obviously a bad idea to wear unnecessary jewelery if you're a grip. All were very valid points that I wholeheartedly agree on. I myself am in the habit of wearing "disposable" clothing and droppable sunglasses while on set. But there was such a drastic change from the hot tamale I was drooling over to who I was sitting across the table from, it was almost baffling.

By the time we finish our coffee, I'm no longer as attracted to him as when we were loading up the grip truck a little over a week ago. And as shallow as my previous paragraphs may seem, it wasn't just his misguided fashion sense that turned me off. Over the course of our conversation, I also realized that we didn't have much in common after all and the witty repartee we had going on at work was mainly based on, well, work. Without the distraction of a camera and a film crew around us, we didn't really have anything interesting to say to each other.

That said, it wasn't a particularly bad afternoon. It's just amazing how sometimes the people you meet on set can be so different when you see them in real life. Kinda like if you secretly follow Santa home from the mall. Sometimes, it's an illusion you don't want to see broken.

* Side note: I hate it when guys say "let's hang out sometime" because most of the time, I don't understand what they mean. Is it literally "hang out" as in "let's grab a beer and play Mario Cart with some of my other buddies" or is it "hang out" as in "I think we should go out on a date"? More often than not, I'm be interested in doing one but not the other and I get headaches trying to find the perfect ambiguous answer to the ridiculously ambiguous question. Save us both the confusion and just ask what you mean!

** I'd just like to note that not all Oakleys are gaudy, but these were. You know what mean.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


We're in the process of setting up a scene and I'm moving around a light. With people from every department milling about, dressing the set, setting dolly tracks, running sound cables, etc, the Gaffer's giving me instructions over the walkie rather than use hand signals or shouting over everyone else.

"Keep moving back. A little further... Keep going... Keep going... I said keep going! Keep going! Don't stop there! Keep walking back! What are you doing?? Don't just stand there! MOVE BACK!!!"

Eventually, annoyed and frustrated on my insistence to stay where I am, he throws his arms up in agony. Luckily, such a dramatic gesture involves both hands and thus, he lets go of the talk button on his walkie, finally letting me get a word in over the channel.

"Hey, boss? You're standing on my cable."

"...oh." He steps off it. "Keep going back, please."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Feeling Human Again.

After spending a few days working in the dirtiest, grimiest places in Southern California, this morning, I put on my "damn, I look good in these" jeans, a nice top and super cute shoes. I spent the better part of an hour doing my hair and make-up and completed the look with jewelery that I usually save for dressy occasions. I didn't have any big plans and wasn't going anywhere special, but damn, it feels good to look like a decent human being again.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Okay, I know I've bitched about the topic before, but damn, I feel like the cell phone problem is getting progressively worse.

Some examples of what I had to encounter today...

• I'm standing on top of a 12 step ladder. Due to the position of the light and the logistics of the location we're in, I'm kind of dangling off the side of it in extremely awkward position trying to adjust a light that's barely-but-not-quite within reach. Working on ladders that are taller than I am make me nervous to begin with, but being at the top of one in a weird, twisted stance fiddling with a burning hot light while an army of set dressers, grips and PAs mill around below make me more tense than a geek playing dodgeball in gym class. So imagine how even more nervous I am when the steps starts to quiver a bit just as I reach out to the light. I look down at the guy who's assigned to hold the ladder while I'm up there. The asshole's not even paying attention to the hot light dangling above him or the girl who's safety and well being depends on him. He's too busy texting (with both hands).

• I get sent away to pre-rig the next scene when I realize that I forgot to retrieve something from staging. On my way back, I end up walking in on a take. I got yelled at. I made my department look bad. And it was extremely embarrassing. Why didn't the P.A. who was doing lock-up stop me from crashing the scene? Because he was on his iPhone. Playing Connect Four.

• A BFL* is called for and three of us were setting it up. One of us walked away to grab another cable for it while me and the other guy finished getting the rest of it prepped. But now the two of us are waiting around for the other guy to come back. Tired of waiting around (especially since the set was waiting on us), I go in search of the guy to find out why a two minute trip was taking more than five. I found him as soon as I stepped on the truck. He was standing next to the needed cable, on his phone. He stands there, chuckling, then looks up and says to me, "Guess what my friend just said on Facebook." Are you fucking kidding me?? Not only was the whole set waiting on us/him, but he left me and another guy to do a three person job so he could check his FACEBOOK??

• "Last set-up guys! The faster we get this lit, the sooner we get to go home." At the end of a long day, this was music to my ears. My colleague and I were instructed to bring a grocery list of items to set. We snap into action, but as I turn the corner, I notice that he's no longer walking beside me. I stop and look back. The guy's just standing there, looking at his Blackberry. "Uh... Hey, you want to come help me with these lights or what?" He doesn't even bother to look up from his phone. "You go ahead first. I'm just going to deal with this e-mail real quick and I'll help you when I'm done." I roll my eyes, but since I want to get out of there before hour 14 hits, I continue on without him. By the time he's finished with his fucking "LoL, OMG, look at these cute cats!" e-mail, I had finished the hard part and all he had to do was help me wheel things in to set.

People need to do their motherfucking jobs and stop staring at a tiny screen all day.

*Big Fucking Light.
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