Saturday, August 27, 2011

Job Titles: Best Boy vs. Best Girl.

The call sheet for my next job comes in and the first thing I do is scan my department to make sure the appropriate names are there. I already see an issue two lines in with my own name: Electric: Best Girl.


I can see why they changed the wording of the title, but let me give you my take on it.

Sure, the "Boy" part in "Best Boy" stems from the fact that the role was traditionally male, so it only makes sense that some would change it to "Girl" when it's a female taking the lead.

But to me, the title of "Best Boy" is no longer a gender specific term. Yes, it may have started out that way, but decades of usage has turned it more into a very specific job title than the casual description it once was.

So much so, that when you think of your possible career path in this biz, you think "Okay, I'll start as a lamp op, then move onto being a Best Boy, then Gaffer..." Even if you're a chick, the thought of referring to yourself as a "Best Girl" doesn't even occur to you.

It's also a title that's so steeped in tradition that I feel as if I've worked really hard to achieve it. Like reaching it would be somewhat of a milestone. Something that finally ties me in with the old school ways of filmmaking past. And to have that title changed when I get there seems a bit... dejecting.

Plus, seeing as how there's so few girls on the team to begin with, if there's only one in your department, isn't she the "Best Girl" by default?* So it's pretty much a meaningless title to begin with.

But most of all, being called a "Best Girl" instead of a "Best Boy" just feels... wrong.

*Admittedly, if it was an all girl crew, I don't think I'd have a problem with there being a "Best Girl."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I'm on a tech scout for an upcoming job. One of the locations we're in is a hole-in-the-wall bar, and as the scout went on, the laundry list of "issues" we have with the place keeps growing...

- It's a VERY small space. Cramming an entire crew, talent and equipment in there all while keeping everything/everyone out of the shot would be nothing short of a miracle... And very uncomfortable for all involved.

- Because of the space issue, most of the lights we'd use would have to be hung from the ceiling or on the wall... And no, we aren't allowed to drill into anything.

- The layout of the space doesn't quite fit in with the layout of the scenes, so the Art Department is going to have to get a bit creative and create spaces where ones don't exist.

- Despite a good chunk of the day now having to be devoted to the extra set up time needed by our departments, we only have a very limited amount of time to shoot in there since we can't afford to buy the place out entirely.

- It's facing a very busy street. (Sorry Sound Department!)

- The two main walls of the place (the longer ones that are facing each other) are mirrored.

- Etc, etc...

So I ask one of the Producers/Locations person (Yeah, it's that kind of job) why the hell we're shooting here at all when there's so many other bars in the area that better fit the needs of our production. I mean, come on, who chooses to shoot in a place with MIRRORED WALLS if they can avoid it?

Her response? "Yeah, I know... But the Director comes here all the time and he really likes the look of the place."

Sigh... Of course he does.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Nap Time.

Once we're in at call time, the film set is a very busy place to be. Juicers and Grips are hustling and bustling about, carrying lights, stands and flags around, shouting things like "Hot points!" and "Watch your head!" Transpo is busy shuffling vans, cars and trucks around and driving people too and from set. Camera people are running back an fourth with various camera pieces and video cables while sound is trying to mic up the actors. P.A.s are making their daily rounds, ordering breakfasts and passing out walkie talkies and call sheets while the Art Department is busy putting the finishing touches on the set all while moving furniture out of the way for the onslaught of people in the room.

When we're finally ready to shoot, the time between takes is filled with Make Up, Hair and Wardrobe fawning over the talent, doing touch ups. Juicers and Grips are doing minor tweaks. Props is scrambling to reset drink glasses/pens/books and the Camera people are still running back and forth with various pieces.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Then six hours into the day, lunch is called and the silence follows. The set suddenly becomes a ghost town as the whole crew is herded like cattle into the catering line. And once everyone has eaten, many of them disperse into whatever dark corner or hole they can find.

And the napping commences.

One or two people can usually be found laying down on the floor of their respective trucks. Someone usually claims the couch on set. If there's any kind of risers or platform on your stage, don't be surprised to find that someone built a "nest" under there. Makeshift hammocks are hung from wherever they can. Furniture blanket sleeping bags can be found everywhere if you look hard enough. If it's a clean enough looking place where someone can comfortably lay down, chances are, someone already is.

After a few minutes of quiet mixed in with a few light snores, the shrill cry of the P.A.s cut through the calm air like a dog chasing a ball; "We're in!"

And then, like zombies rising from the dead, they slowly awaken, one by one. Suddenly, they appear from every corner, staggering out of dark and shadowed corners, blurry eyed and bed headed, all standing to do one last simultaneous yawn and stretch. They stagger to their respective departments, rubbing the sleep from their faces, and get back to work.

In almost an instant, the set comes to life again, buzzing with action. The Juicers start moving lights around. The Grips follow with their flags and stands. Props is digging through bins looking for the appropriate item. And the Camera people are running back and forth with various camera pieces...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Bus Is Coming.

My fellow colleague was given notes on the cable run we're supposed to put in and my job was to fall in line and give him a hand. Five minutes in, and he asks me whether or not we should phase tape the cables (the right answer is technically "yes," but this crew likes to run things a little... differently.). I say sure, and as we're wrapping the connectors in the appropriate colors, the Best Boy walks by us and asks us why we're wasting our time and his tape on phase taping when we could just do the knots. My colleague's reply? "A.J. told me to."

Uh... What?? You got the notes for the rig, which makes you in charge of it. Plus, you asked me whether or not we should phase them with tape!

Later on, I find the Juicer on set, clutching the tub of household globes, looking lost. I ask him what's up and it turns out he had just finished globing up some lamps on set and tried to take the extra bulbs back to our staging when he was trapped in by the sudden the wave of talent, stand ins, camera people, make up people, and art department that came flooding into the room. "Here, can you hold these for a second?" he asked, handing me the box. And soon after I grabbed it, I noticed an opening in the crowd and started to make my way towards the door, only to be caught by the Gaffer seconds later. "What are you doing? Don't take those away! Keep them in the room!" Like a puppy with its tail between its legs, I put them back.

The Juicer whose idea it was to clear them out in the first place? He just stood there, saying nothing.

We're setting up lights for the next scene and I get a list of what goes where. Juicer's supposed to assist and I give him a run down of the notes. Part way through the task, I absentmindedly set a Tweenie down where a Baby should go, and the next thing I hear is Juicer shouting across the room, "Hey, Gaffer! Isn't a Baby supposed to go here instead?" The boss takes a look over here (and at me, standing with the wrong light), and confirms.

Yes, I had made a mistake. But you know what, Juicer? Next time, bring it to my attention first and if I'm being a stubborn bitch about it, then bring it up to the powers that be.

Don't shout it across the room to the Boss and make me look like an idiot.

Don't ask me for my opinion on something, and then blame me for it when it's not to the Boss' liking.

Don't make me take the blame for something that was your bad idea.

Don't throw a fellow colleague under the bus.

Yes, some of these things may sound a bit petty, but little mistakes in the boss' eyes tend to add up. Plus, we're supposed to be working as a team, and singling me out is just poor form. I know you're trying to cover your own ass and make yourself look good, but there are other ways to go about that other than  making everyone else look bad. And if you are constantly looking for scapegoats for your own fuck ups, then maybe you should stop fucking up so much to begin with, or GTFO.

And call me old fashioned, but if I screw up, I'll man up and take responsibility for it rather than have someone else take the fall. But I also would've happily accepted the "we" defense from the Juicer. "Sorry Gaffer, but we thought it'd be a good idea to clear the room of our gear." "Yeah, it takes more time, but we figured it'd be a good idea to phase tape as well as knot the cables."

Leaving me out to dry like that though? Not cool.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Can You Believe He's Still Single?

I'm filling in for a friend on some job out in the Valley when the Gaffer instructs me and another Juicer to prep a 6k Par with a medium lens in it.

After the Juicer and I head the lamp up and round up the corresponding accessories, we pull out the medium lens from its case and discover that some gunk has melted onto it from whenever it was used before.

We obviously have get this stuff off before we put it in the light, and the Juicer sighs as he ponders how to go about this.

"Do you have a razor blade?" I offered, trying to be helpful. "We could just scrape it off."

"No no no... That won't work," was his immediate reply. Then after some more thinking he turns to me and goes, "What we need is something like nail polish remover. Do you have any?"

"Um... What?"

"Nail polish remover. You're a girl, right? Don't you carry some?"

I stare at him blankly for a moment, not quite sure how to answer that.

"No... I don't have any nail polish remover. I'm telling you, just take a blade to it and scrape the stuff off."

He then asks the Make-Up girl who just happens to be passing by. "Hey, do you have any nail polish remover in your kit?"

The girl thinks for a minute and kinda paws through her stuff before giving him the same answer I gave him and goes about her business.

Finally, the guy digs through his own tool pouch and emerges with an alcohol wipe in his hand.

"Ah... This will do." And with that, he proceeds to try to wipe the gunk off.

After a few minutes of wiping and scrubbing, no progress was being made. It was the equivalent of using a moist towelette to remove old gum from hot asphalt: not gonna happen.

Eventually, the Gaffer came over the radio again and asked for another light. And despite there being other guys inside to man the set, the Juicer copied the boss' call over the radio. "Here," he said, handing me the alcohol wipe, "You continue at it while I go inside." And just like that, he left me holding the bag on what was his shotty idea.

Great co-worker I have, huh? He refuses to take advice from a female co-worker, then proceeds to insult her by implying that all chicks carry nail polish remover (note: my nails weren't even painted), and comes up with a shitty idea that in no way would work. Then, when it's very apparent that his plan is going no where, he removes him self from the job and runs away, leaving me now solely responsible for the task all while still insisting that I stick with this useless idea. That, my friends, is male stubborn sexism at its finest.

But whatever. The second he rounded the corner, I tossed out the useless wipe, whipped out my razor blade and in less than a minute, the lens was as good as new.

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