Saturday, July 31, 2010


That kind of hurt.

I got a call from a friend:

Friend: "Hey, are you free to work today? A couple guys I know are looking for juicers. Call time is in about half an hour."
Me: "Maybe. What's the rate and location?"
Friend: "I don't know. But the Gaffer is a guy named [Juicer 1] and his Best Boy is [Juicer 2]. Do you want their numbers?"

What my friend didn't know is that I've worked with Juicer 1 and Juicer 2 on a number of other shows, one even as recently as a couple of weeks ago. I already have their numbers and they definitely have mine. So for them to be scrambling for crew at the last minute to the point where they're calling other people to help search for them, and neither of them calls to see if I'm available...?


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Breakfast Breaks And Bitching.

It's the end of a rough day and all I want to do is go home. As everyone's prepping to leave for the night (returning things to the carts, tidying up any loose ends, etc) a PA walks around shoving the next day's call sheets into our hands. "Check your individual call times. They're all a little bit different," he warned.

And true enough, they were. A bunch of departments had a pre-call* the next day, including us. Which was weird.

It wasn't uncommon for departments like hair, make-up, wardrobe, etc to come in early, but to give a pre-call for G/E on that particular show was a bit of a conundrum. But whatever. We were still getting a reasonable amount of hours for a turnaround, so if they wanted us to show up early and kill some time in the morning, so be it.

That is, until the Gaffer came up to us and said that breakfast was a half hour before our pre-call.

Now, for those of you lucky enough to even have the option of a courtesy breakfast, showing up a half hour early for it is pretty standard operating procedure. You come in, have breakfast, then get to work at your call time. Six hours later (because they're required to feed you another meal no later than six hours in**), you get lunch. Six hours after that, if you're still working, you get 2nd meal.

All that changes with a pre-call though. What typically is supposed to happen (but correct me if I'm wrong) is you come in at your pre-call. Work. And then about fifteen minutes or so before the general crew call, you take a break for breakfast. That kind of "resets" your meal clock and six hours into shooting, everyone, no matter what their call time, takes lunch at the same time. That way, everyone's synced up and no one's going longer than six hours without a meal.

But what was confusing about this particular situation was that our breakfast was being served before our pre-call, which meant that it'd be more than six hours between our meals. But by the time any of us had actually stopped to think about this, we were already well on our way home for the night.

So we all show up the next morning, a half hour before our pre-call, still perplexed about this whole pre-call and breakfast thing, and while we're eating our eggs and bacon, I bring up the issue to my Best Boy.

Me: "So... Why are we having breakfast now and not with the rest of the crew when they come in during the general crew call?"
Him: "I don't know... But Production told us to show up at this time if we wanted breakfast."
Me: "So does this mean that we get meal penalties*** then?"
Him: "Why would we get a meal penalty?"
Me: [Kind of surprised he didn't think of this already...] "Because we have a pre-call and we're not breaking for breakfast later, so we're essentially going more than six hours before we get lunch."
Him: "Oh. Huh. That's not right, is it? I'll talk to Production once we're in and all set up."

So we go about with our breakfast and start work at our pre-call. I check back in with my Best Boy a little bit later in the day about the whole meal penalty thing. He says it's a no-go since it was written on the call sheet that we have to take an "NDB". This is the part where I skip ahead a bit because I don't want to bore you with the details. Basically, my Best Boy had no idea what an NDB was (Non-Deductible Breakfast) and Production had to explain it to him. Only, their definition was wrong and was using that false definition to get around paying us a meal penalty. I then explained what a real NDB was and back to the negotiating table he went.

It wasn't until after lunch when he finally got word that Production gave in and was going to pay us a meal penalty. He didn't know how much, but at least it was something (it ended up being a fair amount). Either way, it took a lot of grief and bitching on our part to keep pushing our Best Boy to even talk to Production about paying us a penalty. So much belly-aching in fact, that a few of us were wondering if it was even worth all the hassle.

I got my answer a few days later when I ran into the Wardrobe Assistant in the bathroom. Making friendly chit-chat, I asked her how her morning was going. "Ugh, stressful," she said, with an exasperated sigh. "But I could just about kiss whoever it was that who kept bitching about not getting a meal-penalty a few days ago. Production's been giving me a pre-call all this week and now they have to pay me the penalties too."

I secretly smile to myself. Sure, it was a bitch and a half to get a meal penalty for a pre-call, especially since a pre-call for my department on that particular show was pretty rare to begin with. But fighting for something like that now ensured that Production won't be taking advantage of us like that in the future. And more importantly, without even knowing it, we stuck up for our brothers and sisters in other departments who either don't realize they're being taken advantage of, and/or don't have the strength to stand up to Production (after all, it's a lot easier to replace a department of one rather than a whole G/E crew). I think that's a marvelous thing.

*A "pre-call" is a call time that's earlier than the general crew call. ie: Make-up might have a pre-call because it takes them a couple of hours do a particular actor's make-up.
**Typically speaking, that's how it works. But there is such a thing as "French Hours" which is a whole other story entirely.
***A "meal penalty" is when Productions goes over six hours between meals (although there are certain exceptions that don't apply to this particular case) and have to start paying the crew a certain amount of money for every specific increment of time they're late for lunch.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fun With Warnings!

Seen on a studio stage.

It can get pretty loud on a film set. Unless the cameras are rolling, people from every department are hustling and bustling around, trying to get their jobs done. Art Department's trying to finish dressing the set, drilling holes in the walls, or what have you. Hair and Make-Up are swarming over the Talent and touching them up while Wardrobe crawls around the floor fixing hemlines or buffing shoes. The P.A.s are passing out sides and waters while the Background hits on them....

All in all, it can get pretty crowded and people end up standing or sitting where they probably shouldn't be. Then come in the Grips and Electrics, carrying their long, steel dolly tracks, pointy-legged stands, and hot-hot lights, and holy shit, you better get out of their way unless you want to get violated by a c-stand or whipped by a stinger.

Luckily, we Grips and Electrics are trained to yell shit out all the time, like "hot points!" when we're carrying something sizable and pointy. Or "line out!" when we're tossing stuff over a set wall we can't see over. When you hear either of those calls, it's a signal that you should either be damn sure you're out of the way or cover your head.

Sometimes though, Grips and Juicers are idiots lacking any kind of common sense. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "line out!" coming from someone as they're tossing something over the wall, making it impossible to react and get out of the way in time. Or worse yet, calling "line out!" and tossing something without giving a clue as to which direction they're headed. How am I supposed to be out of the way if I don't know which way you're going??

(One way to solve this problem: Call "Hey, behind the bedroom wall! Line out!" or bang on whatever wall you're going to be tossing over, shout "Line out!", wait a second, and then toss the line only as hard as you need it to travel. There's no reason to hurl the free end of a stinger like a football if you only need to go two feet.)

Another thing that bugs me is when we bitch about how no one listens or gets out of our way when we're not even calling out the warnings properly. "Hot points!" and "line out!" are pretty standard terms in our industry and anyone who's been working for any amount of time on a set knows what they mean. But sometimes, a Grip or Electric will try to amuse themselves and thinking they're being funny, will be a bit more "creative" with their warnings.

A few things I've heard over the years:
"Free rectal exam!" when you're holding something like dolly track at waist level.
"Free dental work!" when you're holding something like dolly track at shoulder level.
"Headache!" when you're tossing something over a set wall.
etc, etc.

While some of those warnings may be amusing, it may not be clear to other people on set what's going on. A background actor probably knows what "Get out of the way!" means, but will probably stop and look around confused when he hears "Free rectal exams!"

And while I in no means am trying to be a party pooper, I'm a fan of safety and warnings like that should be clear to everyone. At the very least, make it understandable enough so that if you do end up beaming someone in the head or defiling them with a piece of track, you can't say that you didn't give them a fair warning.

Monday, July 19, 2010


... at the end of a long day at work, a girl just needs an honest to goodness hug.

Friday, July 16, 2010

An Open Letter To The Grips...

Dear Grips on the current show I'm on,

The reason why I asked for a sandbag was because the light I was working on is in a high traffic area. Yes, it may have been sitting bottom stick on its stand, but talent, two camera crews, and a boom op would be dancing around to avoid running into it during the take, not to mention the rush of make-up, wardrobe, ADs, and PAs, when those cameras stop rolling.

For you guys to roll your eyes at me when I politely requested the stand be bagged is unprofessional (especially since you didn't have to travel more than three feet to retrieve one) and the fact that you guys took it off the stand when I wasn't looking is even more appalling.

It's a mutherfuckin' sandbag, for Pete's sake! That's what they're there for! To hold and weigh things down! Yes, I know it was a small light. Yes, I know it was bottom stick on a level floor. But did you know that none of that matters when it's sitting in a high-traffic area? And do you realize that you're technically supposed to be bagging every light anyway?

So please stop with the eye rolling, the little smug comments, and the undermining when our backs are turned. We're just trying to do our jobs, but we can't do it properly if you don't do yours.

An Fed Up Juicer.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I understand that sometimes, things get lost. Or stolen. Or broken.
I understand that sometimes, in those circumstances, you need to borrow a tool or two from a co-worker.
What I don't understand is when you have the tools but don't bring them to work.*

(And I'm not talking obscure pieces of gear either, like an Altman lighting wrench. On more than one occasion, I've been the only one in my entire department to carry something as simple as a screwdriver.)

And what I really don't understand is when you have the tools but don't bring them to work, and then ask a co-worker to borrow hers and even though she's reluctant to do so (and you know she's reluctant to do so because of your past record of not putting things back where they belong) YOU STILL DON'T RETURN THEM.

And then you take another job so you don't even see her the next day, or the day after... Or the day after that... And you don't even bother to make the effort of returning them to her. Ever.


*And yeah, we all see you carrying a "work bag" in everyday. But I'm also bewildered at the fact that there's no tools in the bag. Instead, it's used to carry magazines, DVDs and your laptop. In other words, nothing in it is used for work and everything in it is actually a distraction to keep you from doing any work.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's Kind Of Disheartening When...

... you realize this guy you've met and worked with over a half dozen times in the past couple of months, who you respect and kind of admire, not only has no damn clue what your name is, but he really doesn't give a shit.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Oh, just havin' a nervous breakdown."

Internships. It's what almost all college counselors encourage you to have under your belt before you graduate. It pads the resume and gives you a little taste and experience of life outside of film school before they kick you out of the familiar nest of term papers and Spring Breaks.

And the easiest internships to land are the ones in an office. Whether it be at a production company, management firm, or a talent agency, chances are you'll be spending your hours surrounded by desks and fluorescent lighting.

Most of the time, you won't be dealing with the high powered executives who have their own offices. Instead, I mainly dealt with their assistants and one thing I noticed is that they all know each other. Between the various internships I had, each assistant I met seemed to know the assistants from the last company I was at and vise-versa. Another thing I noticed is that they spend an awful amount of time in front of a computer, either answering e-mails, looking up directions, doing research, or more importantly, catching up on industry gossip.

One of the websites that all of Hollywood's high-powered underlings seemed to click on the most was Defamer. And back in its heyday, before it was enveloped by Gawker, the site was the source for all the juicy tidbits and rumors that affected the power players of Tinsel Town and through the snarky posts and devilish reporting rose their very own internet star: Molly McAleer (aka: Molls).

Starting out as just an intern, she'd compile and post a daily list of goings on in L.A. (concerts, gallery openings, etc) but eventually, probably tired of typing or just bored one day, she converted her list of "To Dos" into video form, throwing in the occasional rant about sharks and her dog, her opinions about the stars of the new 90210, or about life in general. Molls definitely has a personality that is nothing but her own, and the internet (mainly the industry assistants stuck in an office all day) ate it up.

Then one day, some changes were made to the website and she was laid off. I followed her around for a bit (in the internet sense) as she hopped from one web endeavor to another, but it just wasn't the same anymore and I eventually lost interest.

I have no idea what she's up to now (though I'm pretty sure she's still blogging and vlogging in the carefree way that only she can do) but one thing that really stuck with me is a video she put up some time after I had left college for the smoggy, hazy lights of Hollywood. It was a stark departure from her usual videos featuring an untroubled, bubbly girl as she opened up her vulnerable self for all the internet to see.

The video resonates with me because it was a sucky time for me as well. Sure, I had fun running around and working on the occasional film set, but the money sucked and so did most of the offers I got. I didn't know anyone in this town and I was still trying to feel my way around. Some days were better than others. Sometimes I felt like I belonged and some days I'd feel dejected and lost. Sometimes I'd feel like I was really enjoying life and work in L.A. and then some days I'd stare at the wall, shaking my head and feeling like I bit off more than I can chew.

Anyway, she posted a video that I feel pretty much sums up how some of the bad days were. It was nice to know that someone else out there had felt this way and even though the two of us have never met, I seemed a little less alone in my endeavors. Even though she makes some references in the video that may be Molls specific, I think those of us who are out here on our own have all felt this way at one time or another. I know I still do from time to time.

I think it's something that those of you who have yet to start their Hollywood journey should watch, as well as those of you who've been in the business for a while or are still trying to make their way up.

It's a good reality check.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Just One More Time...

Just when I thought I was out, they pull be back in..."

People rarely remember the bad times. Sure, it was a sucky shoot with long hours, shitty catering and wet and muddy locations, causing you to grumble throughout the day. But a couple weeks after wrap, you usually look back at it all with a smile on your face. The weird thing is, you remember spending the whole shoot pissed off and miserable, but you no longer feel that animosity.

Part of it could be that time heals all wounds. Or that you were surrounded by great people who knew how to make the best of a bad situation. Or you could be in total denial.

Or it could be that despite the hell you went through, you were doing a job you love.

That's usually what it is for me. No matter how shitty the situation, the bottom line is that there's no job I'd rather have than one that puts me on set. I like being a part of the film making process. I like seeing part of what I helped create on a screen. I like the free food. But most of all, I like the people. Sure, there are a few assholes and weirdos here and there, but they're absolutely outweighed by those who are just awesome to be around.

I guess you could say that low budget indie productions are my "specialty." Probably 97% of what I work on are shoots where we're overworked, underpaid and often have to fend for ourselves in terms of safety and basic labor laws, and we make do with what we have with our limited amount of gear. It can be stressful and extremely challenging at times, but it can also be a lot of fun.

It's also a life you know you shouldn't get stuck in. A life like this is fine when you're young and just starting out, but any smart grip/electric knows that you should get out of it as soon as possible. You either climb as fast as you can to reach the holy grail of union life, or use where you're at now as a stepping stone to another career.

But sometimes, things are easier said than done. After so many years of living the indie life, I've grown rather comfortable to the situation. The pay I get on these low budget jobs isn't great, but it's enough for me to get by. I'm used to the rhythm of the particular crews I work with and we have a lot of fun working with each other. I've gotten enough of a good reputation within these groups that my opinions are very much heard and respected. And I've run into the same (budget friendly) caterers so many times that I know which dishes to avoid.

It's not the best life, but it's not particularly a bad one either (for now). It's familiar and comfortable, making it hard to say goodbye to.

Unless, of course, you're smack dab in the middle of a shoot with bad weather, long hours, and shitty pay. Then, it's easy for you to think to yourself, "I need to get out of this kind of life.... fast." But as I mentioned before, it doesn't take very long for that fire to burn out and you'll think to yourself, "Eh, it wasn't that bad after all" and you'll take another job.

It's a vicious cycle. You're hating the job. You loved the job.

And then there's the people. You end up loving these men and women that you spend every day with. They've become like family. A family you'd have to leave behind if you ever got the courage to say sayonara to the low budget life.

And leaving also means that you have to say goodbye to the crews you've grown accustomed to working with. Who knows if the new crews you meet will be as fun and understanding as they are? What if instead of respect, they look at you like you're just some little girl who doesn't belong in their department? What if you can't hack it in the world of bigger shows?

I know that I can't stay in this indie world forever. I know that with every shoot, I'm abused by Production one way or another (whether it be from skimping on safety, shitty pay, long hours, etc). I know that I'm hurting my own future and career in the long run. I know that I have colleagues who'd do unspeakable things for the opportunities and offers I've had. I know that the food on the bigger shows are infinitely better that what I'm used to.

But I also know that it'll be hard to say goodbye to this world I've grown accustomed to and enter a new one filled with so many questions and uncertainties. I know that I must leave someday, but for now, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want just one more taste of comfort and home.

After all, we rarely remember the bad times.

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