Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Keep On Trying, Charlie Brown."

 A Metaphor for my past few months.

It's been crazy busy out there in Hollywoodland the past couple of months. Like, crazy busy. This town's been booming so much that I've been working basically non-stop on shows that are have previously been way out of my league. Shows with better pay, hours, benefits, and a serious amount of equipment to play with. A far cry from the usual mish-mash of low budget productions that I'm used to, with their tiny paychecks and fuck-the-crew attitude. All this has been very good for my resume (like anyone looks at that anymore anyway) and my bank account.

But despite all the good fortune I've been experiencing from the sudden (and seemingly steady for at least a little bit) flow of work, part of me is looking forward to when it all dies down.

I know, I know. I complain when there's no work going around, and I complain when there is. But this is... Different.

It's not that the work on these new shows is any harder (it isn't). Or that the hours are any longer (they aren't). Or that I'm in desperate need of some R&R (I do). It's not even that the cable's getting heavier (actually, the more I work with the stuff, the lighter it seems) or that I'm in desperate need of doing laundry (I can put it off for just one more day...). It's because this wave of recent work has been hard on me; not physically or mentally, but emotionally.

Because this industry is filled with assholes.

And I don't just mean the kind that'll throw you under the bus without as much as blinking an eye just to save their own ass. That kind of douchiness deserves its own post entirely.

I'm talking about the ageist and sexist assholes who make snap judgments about your ability to do your job just by looking at you. The ones who put you down every chance they get just so they can feel like an Alpha male. The ones who push you to the sidelines because they assume you don't have the skill, knowledge or right to be there. The ones who watch you like a hawk, waiting, knowing that you'll somehow make a mistake, and if/when you do, they're right there to wag their finger in your face, telling you how wrong you are. The ones who think you don't belong in their tribe of sweaty men and makes you feel like you're a worthless burden to them before you even get to work.

Then there's the inadvertent assholes. They're the ones who seem to be on your side. They look at you with their "poor little girl who can't possibly handle the work" eyes and they mean well as they try to "guide" and "teach" you the way they do things. Which is incidentally the same way you've been doing for years. But they'll never know because, just like their knuckle-dragging counterparts, they assume you don't know any better before giving you a chance to prove otherwise. Despite their attempts at "helping you," this back-handed slap in the face makes them just as much of a dick as their co-workers who openly put you down.

Sure, this story is nothing new. I've dealt with this kind of asshole time and time again over the years. But this recent flow of work paired with how this industry is set up and the way the calls have been coming in, I've basically been dealing with two solid months of this kind of bullshit and that can really take a toll on a person. I mean, something has to be really fucked up here if I'm actually looking forward to returning to the screw-you world of low budget shows.

Somewhere down the line, you start wondering how much more of this you can take. You start thinking there's nothing you can do to prove to these guys that you deserve to be there. And you start to doubt yourself. What if this abuse and harassment never lets up? How much longer can I/will I/should I put up with this shit? Sure, it's a good opportunity with a great paycheck, but is it worth me feeling like a useless outsider every day?

I knew as I climbed this ladder, to whatever top it may lead to, that I'd run into this kind treatment. I know that some of you reading this may be tempted to call me a whiner and say I should just suck it up. Hell, I'd probably be thinking the same thing if I was reading this post a year or two ago. But unless you've been in my shoes, you have no idea how hard this is and how utterly brutal it's been. I've always considered myself to be a "one of the boys" kind of girl. A girl who is smart enough to only listen to those who are trying to help and ignore those who try to put you down. Someone who is strong and independent and doesn't put up with bullshit. I've even, at one point, considered myself to be somewhat of a pioneer, paving the way so future generations of badass chicks who want to break into this business won't have to face the same hardships and discrimination that I had to.

But then again, I never, not ever in a million years, thought I'd find myself sitting on my bedroom floor this morning getting teary-eyed over it either.

This industry is hard. And it's even harder if you're female. And just when you think you're finally making some progress, it seems like someone will inevitably come along and pull that metaphorical football away, just because they can, and you'll land flat on you ass. Time after time.

I know how you feel, Charlie Brown.

Ps. Did Charlie Brown ever kick that ball?


Kile said...

Wow, that would definitely take a huge emotional toll on anyone subjected to that treatment. Sorry to hear it's so common! Stay strong, despite the many assholes out there, there's always good, decent people out there. ...Or at least I hope so...Haha

D said...

AJ, how close are you to getting a union card? I think your troubles may be more related to your age than your gender. I have worked with many kickass girl grips and I can tell you that no one doubts their ability. I do know, though that you do deal with a lot of sexism. I also know that generally, when someone clearly under the age of 30 shows up, we (unfortunately I'm included in that) tend to treat them differently. I was once in that place so I know the feeling, but I can't imagine pairing it with being female in a traditionally male field. Hang in there. And don't automatically assume it's because you're a girl. There are several female grips who make two of a lot of guys I know.

Anonymous said...

Don't mean to steal your thunder. Yes you are a pioneer, one of many. Like: She told me that when other "kids" had crap summer jobs working for minimum wage, she'd be on set, working as an electric. Don't know where she is today.

A.J. said...

Kile - Thanks for the kind words! I hope so too!

D - I think it's a mix of both my age and gender. Sometimes I'll be on a show where I'm not the youngest and will still be treated that same way while the younger guys get taken under their wings. I don't automatically assume I get treated the way I do because I'm a girl, but sometimes, it's hard to shake that feeling.

Also, this kind of attitude seems to be more prevalent on the few union shows I've had the "pleasure" of being on.

Anonymous - You didn't steal my thunder at all! I know that there are many women that have broken into this business before me. As hard as it is for me to do the same now, I can't even imagine how tough it was for them!

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