Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hey, Dolly Grip...*

From "Breathless" (1960)

Lighten up.

I'm sure that there's no doubt in your mind that your job is one of the more important ones on set and one of the hardest. You're responsible for the thing the camera is mounted on 99% of the time and it must be a bitch to maneuver it around a set full of director chairs, stands and piles of cable.

But you know what? Everyone thinks their job is the hardest/most important job on set. Yet if any one department is gone, all hell breaks loose. There'd be no set without an Art Department; no place to shoot without Locations; no trucks without Transpo; nothing to see without lighting; etc, etc. Which goes to show, EVERY job is important so just get the fuck over yourself and stop acting like an entitled douche.

Yeah, I get that while you're trying to lay down a piece of dance floor, it can be a pain the ass when people keep accidentally stepping on it. But look around you. Is the set tinier than two parking spaces? Is your plywood taking up every inch of available floor? Then guess what? You're gonna have to just deal with it. Just like I have to deal with moving my already-perfectly-placed-light out of the way every three minutes for another cart that's trying to squeeze in the room or (ahem) your dolly. Acting like a diva and throwing a hissy fit every time there's a new footprint on your dance floor isn't helping.

And on that note, can you try to be considerate? Yeah, pieces of track and plywood can be heavy and awkward to carry, but is that any reason for you to come plowing at me with them with no intention of stopping?? Believe me, the last thing I want to do is get in your way when you're carrying that shit, but if it's a crammed set, I can't exactly dodge out of the way as quickly as you'd like me to (especially if you don't announce that you've got "points" coming though. I don't have eyes in the back of my head, but I do have ears). Sorry if those of us with job titles that are beneath you can't part like the Red Sea fast enough for you, but that's no excuse to come charging at us full speed with a "get the fuck out of  my way" scowl on your face.

And maybe you can show us the same courtesy that you expect from us "unimportant" people? For example, the other day when I was carrying that super heavy light (plus a stand!) that's bigger than I was and the only way for me to get to where I needed to go was to step over the dolly track you were leveling? Would it have killed you to stop leveling the damn thing for two seconds so I could pass by without body checking you with the bottom of the stand? Could you really have not just let that wedge sit on the floor untouched for just a tiny moment longer? Did you really have to keep gently nudging it with your toe while I stood there with a really heavy light, patiently (as much as possible anyway) waiting for you to finish so you could step aside and finally let me through?

No? Well, fuck you then.

Every department has to make concessions for everyone else and not one of us is more important than the other. We've all got our own jobs to do and you can give us all the dirty looks and eye rolls you want, but we can't stop working just because you'd like a roving six feet radius of clear space around you, the dolly and your carts at all times. It's not all about you. It's about us.

And the more we work together, the faster we'll be able to shoot and the sooner we'll be able to wrap and go home. So please stop being a dick about everything.

* More specifically, the asshole Dolly Grip I worked with for a few days. Which is odd, since they're usually some of the nicest guys I'll meet on set. Also, shout out fo D from Dollygrippery who is definitely not in the asshole category.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I Find It Interesting When...

... you get a job offer that you would've jumped for joy about two years ago, but now the thought of working on a show like that again makes you kind of cringe...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Think Before You Leap, Part 2.

Definitely a recommendation fail...

It was well into December and the flow of work I'm getting was showing no signs of slowing down. I found it odd as I remember being lucky to get a weeks worth of work around this same time last year and now I was struggling to find a free day just to do some holiday shopping. I chalked it up to my good fortune and timing.* I just happened to get hooked up with some shows that usually needed a few day players and weren't wrapping until dangerously close to Christmas. However, based on the number of other calls I was getting and couldn't take, I figured I wasn't the only one riding a good wave until the end of the year.

But apparently, the season's good tidings wasn't hitting everyone and a friend of mine casually mentioned that he wasn't working and didn't have anything lined up in the foreseeable future. Which I guess seemed normal to him given that this time of year isn't usually known as a busy time in our business, but it struck me as a bit odd since he's almost always working.

So when a guy I knew called me up to see if I was available when I wasn't, I told him that I knew someone who was. "Yeah, sure," he said. "I'm desperate. Have him give me a call and I'll bring him on tomorrow." Sweet. Not only had I helped him fill a spot when he was having trouble finding someone, I had also helped a friend gain employment. Double points for me! Yay! I like being helpful!

But oh, if only the story ended there.

A week or so later, I get a call from the guy again, asking if I was available. I wasn't, but while I had him on the line, I decided to ask him how it worked out with my friend the other day. Unfortunately, his response was less than fantastic.

"Uh... So how well do you know the guy?"

Oh shit... That's never a good sign.

"Um... I know him fairly well," I answered truthfully, yet somewhat vaguely in a thinly veiled attempt to distance myself from the guy. I knew something bad was coming. "We've only worked with each other a few times, but we kind of run in the same circles."

"Oh, okay. Well, the guy not only got into a shouting match with the UPM, but he also re-organized my carts in a bizarre way and had trouble following basic instructions. And not only that, but it turns out that some of the other guys here had worked with him before and not everyone that knew him has had a pleasant experience."

Fuck. From his initial tone, I was expecting a bad review, but definitely not this bad. After a moment of stunned/awkward silence, I realized that there wasn't much I could do now but apologize profusely and try to save my own ass.

"Wow... I'm super sorry. I've never had a problem working with him before. I've recommended him to other crews a few times in the past and it's always worked out. He works on some pretty big stuff and I figured it'd be a good idea for the two of you to meet. Yadda yadda. I'm so sorry. Yadda yadda. Thanks for telling me about this. Yadda. Again, sorry."

I couldn't believe that this guy had fucked up so badly. I mean, I guess I knew what kind of a perfectionist he could be, but I saw that more as a positive than something that would drive him to re-organize a cart full of equipment that wasn't his. And maybe I could even let the lack of following instruction thing slide. Despite him being a veteran of the biz, I can vouch that it can be pretty confusing for a new day player working on an unfamiliar set with an unfamiliar crew, no matter how seasoned you may be. But the biggest part of the SNAFU Trifecta was the yelling at the UPM. Yes, they can be unreasonable, power-tripping, egotistic dicks, but yelling at one is definitely a bad idea; especially if you're a new day player. And ESPECIALLY if you're there based on a recommendation. It's always been a rule in my book that if you're on a job because someone pulled some strings, it means that person has put their reputation on the line for you, and therefore, you better damn well put your best foot forward or at the very least be on your best behavior. Douche bag UPM or not, there was no excuse for what that boy did.

And now, not only did I have to apologize to the Best Boy, but I'm also set up with the awkward task of defending my (apparently poor) decision to send him his way. In no way did I want him leaving the conversation thinking I just blindly sent an asshole to his crew. I wanted him to know that I really did think it'd work out between them and I had actually thought it out instead of just giving him the name of the first guy I knew was available. In other words, I was scrambling to save any kind of credibility I still had with the guy.

Luckily, he seemed to be pretty cool about it.

"Don't worry about it, A.J.," he said, with a slight chuckle that let me know he wasn't taking the incident too seriously. "Yeah, I had some apologizing to do on his behalf, but it's all good here now. Anyway, it's a shame you're not available to come play with us tomorrow but maybe next time."

We said our goodbyes and ended the conversation. It's good to know that while he may never take a recommendation from me ever again (no matter how desperate he may be), at least I still have a solid enough of a reputation with him that he'll still call me for work.

But the other guy? You can bet I'll think twice before throwing his name in the hat again.

*Or perhaps it's a side effect of union negotiations coming up. I hear Producers are trying to shoot everything they can in case another stalemate occurs.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Farewell 2011.

I don't know about you, but going home for the holidays is usually bittersweet for me. Sweet because I get to see and spend time with family members that I only see once a year, and bitter because, well, I have to spend time with family members that I only see once a year.

But this year was especially bitter. A lot has happened in my large family in the past twelve months, and especially to the dozens of cousins that make up my family peer group. First houses have been bought, grad schools have been attended, impending baby arrivals have been announced, world travelers have come home for the first time in years, wedding proposals have been made, etc, etc. And all these are joyous occasions, of course. I'm not disputing that.

What made this year's annual visit such a thorned pill to swallow was that I had a pretty momentous year as well, and no one aknowledged it. No one understood. No one realizes how rare it is for a female my age to work on the shows that I've been on this year. No one recognizes the names of those who've I've had the pleasure to work for; the leaders in their fields and the fact that I got to meet, let alone work for them, have painted my L.A. friends green with envy. None of them know that I do things like work with high voltage and ride condors. They all enjoy listening to music, but none of them know I worked with that band they're enjoying on a music video. And that commercial that's playing on the T.V. in the background? Yeah, I had a hand in that as well.

But none of them know that. None of them asked what this year was like for me. I was lost among the shuffle. I was pushed aside as relatives scrambled to get closer to those with the more relatable news of upcoming weddings and stories from abroad.

And it's not that I was jealous of all the attention the others were getting. I'll be the first to admit that their news is understandably bigger than mine. But a handful of family gatherings later, everyone was still gushing over the same people they were a few weeks ago as I sit idly by with a cup of cider in my hand. And to top it all off, most of the conversations I did manage to have with Aunts and Uncles involved them saying things like how brave so-and-so was for traveling on their own. Or how smart my cousin was for installing his own sound system in his new house. And throughout their boasting, I'd politely smile and nod in agreement, but in my own head, I'd be thinking, "Oh yeah? Forget traveling solo on your thirties. Try moving on your own to a place you don't know in your early twenties with no money, because that's what I did." "Installing a home speaker is nothing. I'm in charge of putting in high voltage cable runs to power hundreds of people on a daily basis." But I'd hold my tongue.

I definitely understand that in this world, very few people know how a movie is made, and even fewer know what a bitch it is to make a sustainable living off of it. But damn it, I had a motherfuckin fantastic year and it sucks that I can't share my news with family because they'll never get it. The stories of my struggles and success will fall on unsympathetic ears as their eyes glaze over and search for a more "accomplished" family member to latch on to.

And I know I've touched on this topic before. But for whatever reason, this year's neglect seemed much more prominent, and I must admit, I've never been so glad to be back in L.A.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Video Break.

I'm working on a few posts, but they're definitely still works in progress and no where near ready to share with you guys, so in the meantime, here's a video I found that I really enjoyed.

What does it have to do with the film biz? Well, I could talk about how it just fucks with your mind about what's real (shot on set) and what's not (CGI), just like a lot of movies do these days. I could talk about how such a seemingly simple video with such a seemingly simple concept can be one of the hardest to pull off. I could even go all film school on your ass and say something about how the creators turn a two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional one, but woah, wait a second, you're watching a two-dimensional image all along (I think it's safe to assume your monitor's flat.) and even throw in a reference to this "classic."*

But whatever. It's short, entertaining, and I think it's kinda cool.

Happy New Year, you guys!

*Apparently, it wouldn't be the first time.
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