Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Evidence That The World Is Not A Fair Place.

In one of those weird "I need a crew at the last minute and got your name through a friend of a friend" types of calls, I ended up Besting on Electric side for a few days on a short film with a crew I was totally unfamiliar with. It's a little odd, but eh, work's work.

Most of my crew members were fine. It was a mish-mash of experience levels, but overall, we weren't too bad for a rag-tag team of strangers thrown together at the last minute....

Except for one guy.

You'd give him an order, and he'd stand there and stare at you for a while, as if you just ordered lunch in Italian instead of asking him to unload the truck or grab some tape. Ask him to get a light, and it wouldn't occur to him to bring along the scrim bag and a stand. Ask him for a 100amp cable and he'll bring you a 60amp. He'll bring you a 4 bank kino fixture with a 2 bank ballast...

I'd be willing to chalk those mistakes up to inexperience, but even non-industry related tasks seemed to baffle him. While going through his paperwork, I noticed a few pages where his signature was missing, despite bold, red letters stating "SIGN BOTH PAGES."

On one form, instead of writing in his name as it was asked, he wrote in his e-mail address.

The kicker?

He's a member of Local 728.

This guy is a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees as a Studio Lighting Technician. In other words, this guy is a Union member and therefore eligible to work on big, multi-million dollar, studio funded productions (and he has) as a juicer. Which means that he'll often make more money in a day than I will in a week... For the same exact job.

I know of some pretty kick-ass grips, juicers, etc who do nothing but live, eat and breathe their jobs. They work hard, know their craft inside and out and have been trying to reach the holy grail of Union life longer than I have. And yet, they've never been able to reach it.

Those are the guys that should be in the IA. Not the kid who was with me the other day, tying the wrong knots onto cables.

This was just another reminder of how unfair this Industry is. How every day, the blind powers that be pass over talent, skill and training in favor of those with plain, dumb luck.

Welcome to Hollywood.


The Grip Works said...

It is truly unfortunate that some people do get the breaks. But in my opinion, a stage tech like that maybe a union member, but there has got to be a reason he was free to do your last minute job.
I cannot believe someone that incompetent will get hired on big jobs in an environment where jobs are few and far between.
Forget about him. Concentrate on what makes you such a good grip/juicer.
It is a combination of intelligence, hard work , extreme focus on set, people skills and a positive attitude.
It sometimes takes longer than it should, but those are the guys that wind up relegated to the sidelines. They will be called ONLY when no one else is available.
I have a list of grips, when I'm making up a crew before a movie starts, that are to be called as dayplayers ONLY if no one else is available.
That list is populated by Gentlemen like the one you just had the pleasure of working with.

Michael Taylor said...

Examples of brain-dead humanity abound in all walks of life, and the Hollywood unions -- including my own, the very same 728 -- has its share of wide-eyed, slack-jawed droolers interested only in a paycheck at the end of the day. The demise of the seniority system thirty years ago (imperfect though it was) brought an end to an informal but effective apprenticeship every juicer and grip had to serve before earning a shot at working on a first unit crew. These days, any fool lucky enough to get his 30 days can have a union card, which means that card is no longer a guarantee of anything.

I'm sure The Grip Works is right, and the guy you're talking about is one of those fourth-string bench warmers who got in the biz (and stays there) through the grace of family connections. His kind views the Industry as a personal birthright, and serves only to make the rest of us (and unions in general) look bad.

Is it unfair that he has the coveted IA card while you don't? Absolutely. Having taken the scenic route to my own card -- fifteen long years -- I know very well just how much that stings. But if life in general is unfair, it's even worse in Hollywood, where no good deed seems to go unpunished. Unfortunately, it's all part of the deal.

Niall said...

AJ you'll get your card one day soon and you'll be better for it for having gone the long hard road to get it.

I got a lucky break and got an IA card about a year into my career. It's left me in a position where today I'm having to really prove to the higher up guys that I'm not as green/useless as I use to be.

It'll take me a few years to clean up all the fall out from getting my card too early.

You really can't win for losing in this situation. Your either too green with an IA card or it takes two millennia to get the fucking thing.

Either way, keep your head down and grind away. It's all one can do.

A.J. said...

The Grip Works, Michael, and Niall -
I definitely don't mind taking the scenic route to getting my IA card (if/when that happens). I'm a believer of working your way up and if anything, I may be a little bit too comfortable in my little indie world. What kills me though, is when good guys who are an asset to any set, no matter how hard they try, can't seem to beg, crawl and claw their way in and yet a guy who puts down "" as his last name gets in. I have no doubt that he'll probably be kind of "phased out" of the work pool soon enough, but the fact that he even got his Union card in the first place has me in awe (nepotism wasn't a factor in this case). And even though I'm not campaigning for spot on the roster (yet), I gotta admit, it kind of stings.

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