Sunday, May 15, 2011

It's Never Good Enough.

It's sunny. It's hot. And I'm outside by myself.

I look out at the work I have to do ahead of me and see several hundred yards of cable (three phase!) that need to be wrapped. I'm a team of one, so those several hundred yards could've been miles of the stuff and it wouldn't really make a difference in my eyes. A lot of cable is a lot of cable.

I start by following the run and undoing the connectors whenever I came across some. When doing a big cable wrap job like this, I find the assembly line approach to be best. Undo all the knots and connections first. Wrap it all. Tie it last. Wrapping the heavy mutherfuckers is the most daunting part of it all, but the trick is to get a good rhythm going with it and don't stop. Pausing every twenty seconds to tie each finished piece slows you down and prolongs and adds to the misery, despite it all being the same amount of work in the end.

As I walked the run, I'd pause and groan every once in a while at the stupidity of the task at hand. Every corner I turned seemed to reveal another layer to this hell. I'd find things like empty pallets, dumpsters or even set walls on top of the cable, making a "basic" wrap job into one that involves even more heavy lifting.

Eventually, I reached the end of this rubber coated copper trail of misery and now the fun part began: The wrapping.

If you've ever wrapped any significant amount of cable all at one go, I don't have to tell you that it sucks, especially for those of us out there who don't exactly weigh much more than the stuff. Your arms get tired after the first few sections, but you gotta keep moving lest you never finish. And then your back starts hurting. A big cable job can wreak havoc on your lower back as you're constantly bending while pulling all that weight.

But one by one, I'd finish each leg of cable and move on to the next one. As the sun beat down on the concrete surface, I somehow managed to keep slowly, but surely, moving along the cable trail, leaving plops of neatly coiled cable in my wake, just waiting to be tied and loaded onto a cart.

And finally, the finish. The last piece of cable. I was in halfway through wrapping it when the Gaffer walked by. The one and only soul from the crew I've seen since I've been out here.

"How's that cable wrap going, A.J.?" he asks me, shielding his eyes from the bright daylight.

"Pretty good." I replied, not pausing from my wrapping movements. "This is the last piece of it right here." Aaaand done. "It just all needs to be tied and picked up."

"Wow...." He looks past me at the coils of cable dotted around what used to be their shooting ground. "You finished faster than I thought you would. Anyway, take a break and then come on inside. We're switching sets and I need you to be in there with me for that one. I'll send some of the other guys out a little later to tie and pick up the cable."

I nod and guzzle a bottle of water before I head to set. It's dark and cool inside, providing me with much needed relief from the scorching sun I was sweating in just moments earlier. After I grab a quick snack from crafty, I join in with the rest of the guys as we scramble to get the new shot lit.

Once things were up and running, we were informed that the set up probably wouldn't change much for a little while. "Now would be the perfect opportunity for all that cable outside to be picked up and sorted," the Gaffer announced over the walkie, "Best Boy, you can take whoever you want, but A.J., you're with me on this set."

So I stayed behind with the Gaffer as the Best Boy and the rest of the crew marched outside into what was rapidly becoming a rather nice and cool evening.

I had just settled into a cozy, unseen corner by camera where I would await my next orders when I hear the Best Boy over the walkie.

"Geeze, A.J. You couldn't tie this stuff up while you're at it?"

I sat there in silence because all I could think was "What... the... fuck."

I was out there, by myself, for hours, by myself, in the hot sun, BY MYSELF, wrapping all that heavy ass cable BY. MY. SELF. And there are FOUR of them out there right now in the cool air. None of them had to wrap a one single piece of that stuff and now they're bitching about having to tie them??

Was I really hearing this??



Unknown said...

haha. awesome. Ya gotta love the industry! Its chaos, but somehow, I really wouldnt want to be working in any other field right now.

What got you interested in grip work? What is your ultimate goal or position in film?

Niall said...

yeah people just plain suck some times.

Michael Taylor said...

This is a great post -- really well written -- but I have to think the BB was just fucking with you. That kind of comment is Standard Operating Procedure among the crews I work with when somebody does a mountain of work all alone, leaving very little for the others to finish up.

But if not -- if that clown was actually serious -- then he's a complete tool. In that case, it's no wonder the Gaffer wanted you inside doing the important work while keeping Mr. Clown Tool out of the way and tying up cable...

A.J. said...

Justin - Stealing a line from Michael, I'd say that circumstance and opportunity led me to the grip/electric world. But I agree, as stupid as it can be sometimes, there's no place else I'd rather be.

Niall - YES.

Michael - Thank you! And honestly, I don't think the BB was just fucking with me. I also don't think he meant it in a mean way either, just in a slightly annoyed way. He's usually a pretty good natured guy, but somethings tells me he didn't quite get how much work I did alone compared to what they have left to do.

In either case, yes, big thanks to the Gaffer for acknowledging the work I did I keeping me inside!

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