Sunday, June 26, 2011

Advice, Part I.

I remember a time, quite a few years ago, when I first came out here to work in this business. I was just starting out and barely making any money. Most of the work I got (if I was lucky enough to get a call) were freebie jobs where lunch was pizza, which should tell you how shitty the jobs were. But seeing as how I was just starting out (I knew so little about the gear at this point that I could barely operate a put-put), I didn't really know any better, and even more importantly, I was more or less having a good time on these shows.

Then one day, I was somehow thrown into a much bigger position than I was prepared for. Long story short, I had applied for a grip/electric job and ended up shooting the thing. Sure, it wasn't a very big show, but it was a bigger thing than I was used to and I sure as hell had never been put in that position before.

So to prepare for my upcoming gig, I did my research as best as I could. I called around and asked other people I knew what they might get in terms of gear for this kind of shoot. I read up on some product manuals. Brushed up on my color theory and read up on aesthetics and framing. I basically made sure that when the day came to shoot, I was walking into the battle with everything I needed to make this project awesome. Sure, I may have taken the job with doubts in my mind that I was in over my head, but now, I was ready for it.

In the end, and I'm not gonna lie, the resulting footage turned out to be just okay. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. After all was said and done, I remember dwelling on the parts that didn't go as planned even long after the last piece of equipment was returned. There were some moments that I'd even relive in my head, wondering why I didn't make different decisions. Why did I frame it like that? What if I had changed the lighting? Why couldn't I have done better?

Some time after, a colleague of mine whom I had turned to for advice on this job asked me how it all went. I shook my head, still disappointed in myself. The budget wasn't big enough for me to get every light I needed to completely cover my ass like he had suggested, so I had to pick and choose which ones to keep. Some of my camera moves were a bit shaky and the framing was a bit off on some takes, but time constraints made it impossible to redo them. The crew was great, but their experience levels were all over the place. We had this really nice shot planned but by the time we got to it, the sun had moved. Etc, etc. At the end of the shoot, we had some decent footage, but overall, it was nothing like I was hoping for.

My friend listened to all of this, saying nothing; only nodding his head at the appropriate moments. When I was done venting, he said this, and only this, about the whole ordeal:

"You did the best you could with what you had. No one can fault you for that."

And those words stick with me until this day. Because you know what? He was right. I can be hard on myself all I want. And the Director may not have gotten exactly what he had envisioned. But in the end, I could honestly say that I did the best I could with what I had, and that's all that anyone can expect from me.

Even now, no matter how hard of a day I had or how much the Producer/Asshole Gaffer/Director wants to blame me or my department for whatever mishaps that may have happened, I sleep easy, knowing that I (and my department) did the best we could given the situations at hand.

And realizing this simple fact has made all the difference.


Niall said...

If you have passion for what you do, that's the hardest lesson to learn.

A.J. said...

Niall - That's a very good way to put it. It's easy to be hard on yourself when it comes to something you care about, and hard to learn when to let your mistakes go.

Niall said...

I struggle with that every day, but I've learned to be an indifferent professional. I still care but from a distance that allows me to see things from a sane perspective. Still bad moods are infectious on set.

As Key Grip once told me. Observe everything, walk with purpose, take no action.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License .