Wednesday, April 27, 2011

He Can Shove The Scrims Up His Ass For All I Care...

"Hey A.J. Do you know what a 'scrim' is used for?"

I paused at this question. Not because I didn't know what a scrim was, but because I knew what was coming.

Having only met that morning, we were day players brought in to wrap out a set and oversee the return of all the gear to their respective rental places. Currently, we were counting scrims; piecing together complete sets whenever we could and making note of what was missing. Which, apparently, prompted the slightly past middle aged juicer to ask me the proposed question.

I stopped what I was doing and looked at him. I often get quizzed, especially by people who've never worked with me before and quite honestly, if I was sick of it before, it just plain pisses me off now. How many shows do I have to be on before I'm recognized as a capable addition to a crew? And how many years do I have to put into this industry to finally be taken seriously? How did they think I landed this gig to begin with? Did they just assume I fell off a turnip truck that was passing by the studio and decided to stroll in and start moving shit around because it looked fun? Did people really think I knew so little about this job??

But while most of these unwarranted pop quizzes were from guys who were looking for an easy ego trip, this guy at least seemed to be asking from a place of "helpfulness". To me, it was still a dick move to assume I didn't know what such as basic piece of gear was used for though, but just maybe a little less of a dick since he's been nice to me so far and genuinely thought he was doing me a favor.

"Yeah. Do you know what it's for?" I hoped my cadence would kind of make light of the situation while at the same time, signaling to him that it's an insulting question to ask me if he's serious. He didn't get it.

"Yeah. But I'm just making sure you know."

"It's to cut down the light," I replied as I got back to work. He nodded, putting a pause in the "conversation" while I silently pleaded that he move on and to let that be the end of it.

No such luck.

"And....?" he asked.

" 'And...?' " I was getting confused. I had answered his dumbass question. What else did he want from me?

"And... What else?"

I stopped what I was doing and looked at him again to see if he was serious. He was.

And what was even more frustrating was the way he posed the question. "And...?"?? What the fuck?? What do you mean "And...?"?? There's a million things I could've said to replace the ellipsis in his question.
"And... They usually come in sets of five*: two reds, a green, a half green and a half red."
"And... A red takes down a full stop of light; a green takes down half a stop."
"And... A red one is called a 'double'. A green is a 'single'. A half red is a 'half double'. A half green is a 'half single'."
"And... It reduces the intensity of the light without changing the color temperature."
"And... It's a pain in the ass to try to fit more than two of them in a blonde. But not as much of a pain in the ass as you are right now."

I could've fired back all that and more, but I didn't. If I did, I'd probably sound like a know it all, which personality wise, is just as bad as not knowing anything. And second of all, I didn't want to give him the satisfaction. If I answered him correctly and then some, he seemed like the type who'd sit there smugly with a nod that said, "Good girl" like I was some kind of pet he was proud of. No thank you.

"Listen, there's a lot of things I can say about a scrim." I didn't want to play his game anymore. Wait. Scratch that. I never wanted to play his game to begin with. "You're gonna have to give me a little more to go on about what specific answer you're looking for."

The guy looked at me. I couldn't tell if it was a "She's just covering up because she doesn't know the answer" look, a "Maybe my question is kinda ambiguous" look or something else entirely.

"And... It cuts down the light without softening it." He had answered his own question. There. Done.

It was a silly answer too, in my opinion. I never would have answered it that way because based on the design of a scrim, there's no way it could soften the light. Plus, that's why we have diffusion, which obviously softens (or "diffuses" if you will) the light. Set carts and equipment trucks generally have rolls of it in any kind of variation you could imagine. Pieces of the stuff are often pre-cut and ready to fly into set on a moments notice. Even if you didn't know what a scrim was, you'd have to be a moron to be in this business and not know what diffusion was for, and by that sense, one can safely assume that a scrim didn't diffuse the light simply because we have diffusion.

Even if I had gone on a five minute tirade and rattled off everything I could about a scrim in hopes of hitting on the one answer he was looking for, I probably wouldn't have gotten it. He might as well have said "And... They get really hot if left in a light." An answer so obvious that it wouldn't have crossed my mind.

But whatever. The question was done and answered. Can we get back to work now, please?

"So A.J...."

I cringed.

"Do you know why they call it a 'Source Four'?"


* Well, where I come from anyway.  :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It's Not A Good Idea.

The following is a list of things that should NOT be placed directly behind a parked production truck, because well, it's not a good idea:

- Dumpsters.
- Crafty.
- Background holding.
- Wardrobe racks.
- Camera cart. (Exception: see below)
- Any kind of cart for that matter, unless it belongs to the same department as the truck.
- A Producer's car.*
- A picture car.
- An assortment of ladders.
- The generator.
- A condor or scissor lift.
- Heavy ass pieces of set dressing that needs a forklift to move.
- Video village.
- Basically anything else.

Simply because, and you may want to sit down for this, despite the truck looking all peaceful and innocent and content with where it's parked....


And it'll happen whether or not all your shit's in the way.

*To that note, it's probably not a good idea to park behind a truck even if you leave enough room for the lift gate, because we'll probably need the extra space to roll the carts off the gate as well. Be especially aware if it's the grip truck. Just think about long sticks of speed rail and dolly track, the height of a lift gate and how it lines up with your windshield, and I'm sure you'll get the picture.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

And I Was Just Trying To Be Nice...

It’s a low budget shoot. The kind that mixes newcomers with a more experienced crew. The Dolly Grip is one of the newcomers, still trying to get a feel for the machine and figuring out the gears. It’s his first shoot as the official Dolly Grip and he’s excited and nervous at the same time. He’s a good guy, so the rest of us try to help him out as best as we can.

So when I overhear the AD saying the next shot is going to be one with a few boom moves in it, I toss the Dolly Grip a hot stinger. “Juice up, Dolly Grip,” I warn him. “The next one’s heavy on your boom.”

The Dolly Grip nods in appreciation and as I hear the familiar hum of the dolly charging up, I step away to tend to the rest of my job. A few minutes later, I hear the also familiar click of the dolly getting its fill and shutting off. So I go to retrieve my stinger.

As I bend down to pick it up, I’m stopped by a pissed off Camera Operator.

“Hey,” she says. Apparently, she had witnessed the short exchange I had with the Dolly Grip a few moments earlier. “Next time, you tell me about what’s coming up in the next shot. Not him.”

I looked at her with what was probably a confused look on my face. “Huh?”

“You told him that the next shot was a boom. You tell me that next time. Not him.”

Uh... WTF?? I’m a juicer. I do lighting. I provide power for the set. And short of occasionally helping the Camera Assistants find power to charge their batteries, I have no reason to talk to anyone in the camera department, let alone the Camera Op. I don't know how they do it on other sets she's been on, but I've never been on a job where it was a juicer's duty to keep them informed about what shots are next. Granted, it's not my responsibility to keep the Dolly Grips informed either, but anyone who works below the line will tell you that set electricians have an allegiance towards grips more than any other department. Plus, running him a stinger now saves me the trouble of doing it later when I've got a list of other things to do, and truth be told, he's a lot nicer than she is.

So what the hell makes her think it’s my responsibility to inform her of what the next shot entails? And further more, what makes her think she can talk to me that way?? I get that on a job like this with a crew of mixed experience, it’s not uncommon for the more seasoned members to guide and inform the newbies of what they may not know, but I know she hasn’t been in this industry much longer than the Dolly Grip I was helping out. In fact, this was her first gig as an operator. So who the hell does she think she is? I guess her new found power was getting to her head.

I roll my eyes at her, mumble “Whatever” and continue on with my job. It wasn't my responsibility to correct her misguided assumptions about job descriptions either and I figured she'd learn the hard way soon enough. But for the rest of the day, she glared at me whenever I walked anywhere near the dolly or her camera.

Wow. Way to be an unprofessional bitch, Camera Op.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Next Time My Phone Wakes Me Up, It Better Be For Work...

My phone is annoying me lately. It keeps ringing.*

The frustrating thing is that it’s not necessarily ringing off the hook from work offers. It’s ringing unnecessarily.

Let me explain.

I’ve been lucky enough to be working a lot lately. Which is a good thing, especially if you‘re a dayplayer like me. The not so good thing is that a lot of the jobs I’ve been getting are night shoots or splits, so instead of the usual 6am to 10am call times that people usually get, I’ll get one in the late afternoon or just before sunset, meaning that I’ll be working well into the night and often until dawn.

While the thought of such a schedule is enough to make most people groan, I actually don’t mind them so much provided that I’m given enough of a warning to get my sleep on the day before (or at least attempt to).

The problem arises at the end of the work “day” when I’m at home and crawl into bed. The sun will usually be rising in the pale blue morning sky as I close my window shades and plop onto the mattress like a kid belly flops into a pool on the first day of Summer. Within minutes, if not seconds, I’ll drift into a deep slumber. Working nights, unless you’ve been doing it for an extended period of time, takes a toll on you no matter how much you try to prepare for it.

Occasionally, since the rest of the world revolves around a schedule that’s the opposite of yours, you’ll be rudely awakened well before your much needed seven hours of sleep by such things as leaf blowers, lawn mowers, garbage trucks, and noisy neighbors. These things are obviously beyond your control and you can do nothing but just accept being prematurely woken up by them as a part of life. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Which makes it even more frustrating when you’re trying to sleep in on a day when the neighbors are gone, the gardeners aren’t around and it’s not even trash day, but you’re woken up anyway… By your friends and colleagues.

It seems to be inevitable. About two hours or so after my head hits my fluffy pillow, my phone will ring, usually from a text or something. And the message is almost always something frivolous, like sharing the contents of their breakfast burrito or a funny encounter with an eccentric homeless guy while they were rigging somewhere downtown.

It’s frustrating and pisses me off with no one to blame because as I’ve said before, the rest of the world isn’t on my schedule. How are they supposed to know that while they’re out enjoying the warm California sunshine, I’m still happily wrapped up in my comforter in a darkened room?

But what really irks me are those messages that come at a time that would piss me off even if I wasn’t working nights. For example, I was woken up at 7am by one the this morning from a friend “sharing“ an anecdote about his car. Yes, I realize that in the world of call times, 6am isn’t unheard of so depending on what I was working on, it might not be too far of a stretch to think I was already up at that hour too. But in my opinion, it’s one thing if they send me a silly text message if they know I’m awake at that hour, but it’s a whole other issue if they just assume I’d be up. Because chances are, unless I have are reason to be up that early, I’m not.

And further more, I was so incensed about how thoughtless the dumbass was being that I had trouble getting back to sleep, making me tired and cranky for the rest of the day. This has happened more than just a few times.

Sure, a simple solution to this seemingly mild yet definitely irritating problem would be to just simply shut off my phone. But unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. The last time I did that, I woke up to half a dozen messages on my phone from my boss and production. The first couple messages were informing me of some changes that were made, and the rest were frantic calls wondering where I was and why wasn’t I calling them back. Apparently, it’s unheard of in this business to shut your phone off for any extended period of time.**

And if this post sounds like a frivolous rant, it’s probably because I’m sleep deprived and cranky.

* That is, if my phone actually made a ringing sound. Despite having a long list of ring tones to choose from, “ring ring” isn't one of them.

** Even if you’re on set.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Reason #28 Of Why I Refuse To Do Condor Duty On Low Budget Shoots...

It's nighttime and we're getting our condor into place for the upcoming shots. The residential street we're on has a slight slope to it, and as the Gaffer kept instructing the operator to keep going forward, I could tell the guy up in the bucket was getting concerned about how (un)level this heavy piece of machinery was getting. Finally, the Gaffer was happy with the placement of the base and was ready for the arm to start booming up.

"Hold on a sec," came the operator's voice over the walkie. "Can someone on the ground double check to see whether or not I need some cribbing*?"

Another co-worker and I mill around the bottom. Granted, he is on a slope, but it wasn't a very noticeable one and we both decided that while it probably wasn't necessary based on where the basket was going to be, it couldn't hurt to have them.

"Well, better safe than sorry is what I always say," called the Gaffer after hearing our prognosis. "Hey Best Boy, can you get some cribbing out to the condor?"

The Best Boy, who was standing next to me, copied his boss' call over the walkie and then proceeded to grumble. "Ugh... I miss [his usual condor guy]."

I actually happen to prefer working with my current colleague instead, so I asked him why.

"Because," he replied, "he complained less."

Um... What??

I couldn't believe what I had just heard. The guy who was about to go 60ft up in the air in something the size of a bathtub was asking a simple question concerning his safety, and the Best Boy interpreted it as whining.


*For those who are unfamiliar, by rolling onto them, the cribbing creates a level surface and safer operating environment for the condor. I've also heard them referred to as "leveling blocks".
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License .