Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I Don't Care What You Say. I Was On Time Today.

So here's a question for you: Is your call time the time you're required to be at crew parking or on set?

If you asked me this question a few years ago, I'd probably look at you like you're an idiot and say, "Uh, duh. The answer is 'set'." Call time, especially for newcomers, is generally understood and defined to be the time when one starts work, and work on a film set is, well, obviously on the set.

But if you ask me that same question today, I'd without a doubt say "crew parking" and look at you with evil eyes that dare you to challenge me.

I started out in this business on fairly straightforward locations. Sure, there were many times where I had to circle the block for half an hour to find parking,* but for the most part, we'd roll up to the house/warehouse/middle of nowhere we were shooting at, park in the nearly empty residential street/parking lot/dirt road and walk the twenty yards or so to set. Being on set and ready to work by call time usually wasn't a big deal.

But as the shows I worked on got bigger and bigger, the more I found myself required to park further and further away from set. If I'm at a studio, I'm told to park at a specific parking structure (often across the street from the main studio) and then walk my ass to the stage which takes anywhere from ten to twenty minutes (because of course, it's all the way on the other side of the lot). If we're filming on location, it's not unusual for crew parking to be a few blocks (or even miles) away from set with pass vans shuttling people back and forth. Sometimes, it can even be a little bit of both. I've had a job or two where I had to park in a studio lot only to be shuttled to another location.

With that in mind, now let's look at the call time scenario:
- I arrive at the studio parking structure and wait my turn while the guard at the gate checks the IDs of every person in every car in front of you (3 minutes on a good day).
- It's finally my turn to hand over my driver's license and a visitor's pass is issued to me for the day (1-1.5  minutes if you're actually in the system, but 50% of the time, someone on the show forgets to put my name in and I'm stuck at the gate trying to work it out).
- By the time I get through, parking can be scarce and I'll have to wind my way all the way up to the roof or all the way down to the basement to find a free space (4 minutes).
- I park, gather my shit and either take the stairs or wait for the elevator to bring me back to the ground floor (1-2 minutes).
- There, I find a pass van from my show waiting for me... and thirteen other people. If I'm lucky, I'll hop in, slam the door behind me, and off we go. If I'm unlucky (more often than not), I have to sit in that fucking pass van for another ten minutes or so until the van's full and/or another van has returned from it's run before it can leave. Meanwhile, I'm in the back pissed off because the more time I spend sitting in the van doing nothing is less time spent getting and enjoying my breakfast and/or less time I had to get ready that morning. It also means that I ran a yellow light and cut off a minivan for nothing.
- Van finally leaves crew parking and heads towards set (a 7 minute drive)...
- ...but has to stop by base camp first (add another 4 minutes).
- While at base camp, the P.A. that needs to be dropped off kindly asks the driver to hold on for a sec because they just need to drop something off quickly and then hop back in the van (another 3 minutes).
- And just as we're about to hit the road again, hold on! Some other people at base camp would like to go to set too (another 2 minutes).
- Finally, back on the road again and five minutes later, you're on set.

By that time, it's been 30-40 minutes since you pulled into crew parking. (I'm not exaggerating any of that stuff either. That exact same scenario has happened to me on multiple occasions.)

And at that point, if you still think it's fair to say that you have to be on set by your call time, I'm going to be mad at you.

Very, very mad.

Because I'm not the one who chose to park a couple miles from the location. And it's definitely not my idea to sit in a pass van twiddling my thumbs for twenty minutes. And I absolutely cannot control a transpo driver, so that van's going to leave when it leaves and make as many stops as it wants to along the way no matter how much I fume in my seat.

I can anticipate how bad traffic will be on my way to work. And I can maybe anticipate how many cars I have to wait behind at the studio gate based on the time of day (lord help you if you drive in at the same time as a game or talk show audience). But I absolutely cannot predict how long it takes for me to get from crew parking to set, especially if I'm relying on a production dictated method of transportation. And if production's mandating where I park, where I work and how I get from one to the other, they better damn well have me on the clock for it. The same is said for the reverse: I'm still on the clock and collecting (sometimes hypothetical) overtime at the end of the day even if the truck is all buttoned up and ready to move, if I'm stuck waiting at location for a goddamn pass van to pick us up to take us all back to crew parking. If you're keeping me from going home at the end of the night, then you better damn well be paying me for it. Therefore, if the clock stops once I get dumped back at crew parking, then the clock should start there as well.

Now that said, I make every reasonable effort to be on set by call. On certain show's, I've even been known to pull into crew parking an hour before my call simply because I'm anticipating a pain in the ass trip to set. I know several other people who do this as well and I've never met anyone who intentionally waits until their call time before setting a foot out of their car. In fact, I'd see that as kind of a dick move and I'd imagine that person would have a short career in this town. Despite the occasional heated "discussion" of call time being for parking vs set, everyone at least agrees there's somewhat of an unspoken rule that you at least try to make it to set before call.

But sometimes, no matter how early you pull into that lot, you get screwed on the process in going from Point A to Point B. And sometimes, that's when you get the asshole boss or co-worker that insists you're late because "call time is when you're supposed to be on set."

I fucking hate those days.

Some more examples of why call time should be for crew parking:
- I once was in a pass van for over half an hour... And the location was half a mile away. (I hopped in, waited for other crew members... and the only other person to show up after five minutes was a P.A. who had to run a bunch of errands around the lot, so we shuttled him around and when he was done, we ended back at crew parking and waited another five minutes for just arrived crew members... WTF?)
- I once was in a pass van for about an hour... Because the location was thirty miles away.
- If you're at a studio like WB, you have to check in with the guard at crew parking, find a spot, go back to the ground floor where you wait at the stoplight of a very busy intersection so you can cross the street where you'll wait in another line so the guard at the gate can send you through a metal detector and fondle your belongings. Then you make the nice, long trek (uphill) all the way to the other side of the lot where, of course, the stage is. (It can be a 15-20 minute excursion, depending on how long your legs are.)

So if you're a Gaffer, Key or Best Boy, please take all that into consideration the next time you feel like calling someone out for being a minute or two late despite them being in crew parking at (or even well before) their call time.


* But those types of shows were so low budget and/or unprofessional to start with that you weren't getting paid anyway, so you don't feel too bad for being late because you couldn't find parking.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I'm sitting behind camera somewhere, keeping an eye on the DP while the Gaffer sneaks out to make a quick phone call. The scene's pretty much lit as the DP makes some final adjustments with the framing. I'm out of the way, but still close enough to hear what he's saying; especially this to his Dolly Grip:

"Okay, move it to the right a little bit... No, no... Go back... No... That's not right either... [turns to his AC] I have no idea where the lens on this thing is."

Granted, the camera did look something like this, and I'm sure he was only (partially) joking, but it was all I could do from laughing out loud when I heard him say that last part.

It was absolutely the last thing I expected to hear from such an accomplished DP and it was by far the best thing I've heard all week.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Know Your Knots.

This conversation happens way more often than you think:

Juicer 1: "Hey, you just tied a granny knot. Not a square knot."
Juicer 2: "No I didn't."
Juicer 1: "Yeah, you did. That is a Granny knot. This [as he demonstrates] is a Square knot."
Juicer 2: [looking at it] "That's what I just did."
Juicer 1: "No... It's not." [Demonstrates the two knots again.]
Juicer 2: "...What's the difference?"
Juicer 1: [Flabbergasted] "Uh... a lot."
Juicer 2: [Now annoyed] "Dude, whatever. Shut the fuck up and get off my back."

Interestingly enough, often times when I see this conversation take place, Juicer 2 isn't the "new kid." I've seen guys who've been doing this for a while not know the difference between a granny knot and a square knot (sometimes also referred to as a reef knot).

It's scary to discover you're working with someone who doesn't know basic knots when they should, and even scarier when they don't know they don't know their knots.

So in case you didn't know...

This is a granny knot.

This is a square knot.

Still don't see the difference? Look again.

The top is a square. Bottom's a granny knot.

And keep looking until you finally do.



They may look "close enough" but when it comes to usage, a granny knot comes undone WAY easier than a square knot. So do yourself a favor and if you haven't already, learn how to properly tie a square knot.

Because while you may occasionally need to tie a square knot, you will never need to tie a granny knot.

And more importantly, because I'm sick and tired of hearing this conversation on set.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What I Learned From A Porn Star.

Warning: A couple of the links embedded in this post may be NSFW.

After thinking about the post I put up earlier this month, I remembered a story I heard a few years ago. I have no idea if it has any ounce of truth to it, but for whatever the reason, the story stuck with me.

Once upon a time, during an porn shoot in the valley somewhere, a producer stepped out of the warehouse they were in to smoke a cigarette. To his surprise, he found one of the newer actresses sitting on the curb outside, crying. Concerned, he asked her if everything was okay.

The young starlet looked up at him with tears in her eyes, and said, "Those girls in there... They're just so mean to me."

Now, I have no idea what these women did to her. I don't know if they just made catty remarks or if they sabotaged her scene or what. It doesn't really matter.

But what does matter is that the producer sat down next to her, looked her in the eyes and said, "You know why those other girls are so mean to you? Because they see you as threat. You may think of yourself as just another new face in the industry, but they see your talent and they see your potential, and that scares them. They don't like. That's why they're so mean to you."

The girl thought about this for a moment before she stopped crying, gathered herself up, and went back inside.

Now, I have no idea what she did once she got back to the shoot. And I don't know what she did after the shoot. I guess it doesn't really matter.

But what does matter, is that girl turned out to be Jenna Jameson, one of the best known porn actresses in her industry, and in turn, mainstream pop culture. Mention her name, and whether they admit to (ahem) seeing her work or not, almost everyone has heard of her.

So you know what, you catty girls out there? You can be as mean to me all you want. Because I know that one day, I'll be as well known in this industry as Jenna is to hers.*

You better watch out, bitches.

* Yes, I realize this may be an odd comparison to make. And yes, I realize this can lead to a whole slew of whore/slut/dirty hoe related comments, but no matter what your view on Jenna or pornography is, my point still stands.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Invisible Car.

Sorry, but I found this too cool not to share.

Forget that it's a Mercedes-Benz. Instead, focus on the fact that it's an "invisible" car!

Plus, it's with all this talk about LEDs these days, it's hard to ignore the fact that they're rapidly changing the face of our industry (and more specifically, my department).

Friday, March 2, 2012

Them Bitches Be Crazy.

It always bugs me when I meet a new male co-worker for the first time and they immediately play the girl version of the "Who do you know?" game. The one where they go, "Oh! You're a chick! I know other chicks in this business too! Do you know Amy? Samantha? Sara? etc, etc?"

Yeah, they usually mean well, but stuff like that always rubs me the wrong way because 1) immediately pointing out that I'm different than you isn't exactly promoting equality in the workplace; 2) just because we're female doesn't mean we know each other (that's kinda like saying, "Oh, you're wearing a baseball cap! I know other people who wear baseball caps! Do you know [so and so]?"). It's not like female juicers in this business are rounded up every month for a mandatory secret gathering with cupcakes and tea. If I happen to know the person you're mentioning, it's because I've met and/or worked with her before, just like I happened to meet and/or worked with every other person (male or female) that you may know. And 3), believe it or not, girls often don't get along with each other.

Which makes the "Who do you know?" game kinda tricky. You may say to me, "Oh, I know this really cool girl named [blah blah]. She's a badass on set. Do you know her?" and think you're trying to be all friendly and create a common bond between us, but there's a good chance that while I'm smiling and nodding on the outside, inside, I'm thinking, "Yeah, I remember [blah blah]. She was such a bitch to me."

I hate to say it, but sometimes those stereotypes about women being catty to each other are true and unfortunately, just because we're women trying to hack it in a male dominated world doesn't automatically mean that we're hugging each other and singing Kumbaya around the campfire. It doesn't mean that we vent to each other our shared frustrations about working with sexist pigs. And unfortunately, it doesn't even mean that we support one another in our accomplishments.

Out of the handful of women juicers I know and have worked with, there are only one or two of them that I truly enjoy working with and vise versa. We cheer each other on when one of us lands an awesome job and lend each other a hand if we need help with something. The other women I know, I probably couldn't care less about it. I don't know what I may or may not have done to them, but they just don't like me. They often barely say hello to me in the morning, roll their eyes at me if I need a hand unloading cable, or the ultimate girl tactic, act all nice to me in person, but then talk shit about me behind my back.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't get it. I don't understand why it's considered "normal" for us ladies to be so bitchy towards one another. In the "real world," maybe. If you're vying for the last promotion within your nine-to-five job or don't like the looks of the girl with the pretty blonde hair that's suddenly talking to your secret crush, then I can maybe understand the bitch factor coming into play. But come on, in an industry where there are so few females to begin with? You'd think we'd at least try to pretend to give a shit about one another. I remember all the bullshit I had to put up with getting to where I am and how nice it feels when I have someone to commiserate with and talk to, so it baffles me when I work with a woman who doesn't seem to want anything to do with me.

And I suppose one could argue that maybe I'm giving off that vibe as well, but I really doubt it. I was on this one crew not too long ago and it just happened to be that there was another female in our department. I didn't particularly have a problem with her, but the rest of guys on the crew did. "She's not really a team player," was a complaint I've heard from a few of them, "She'll do all this stuff by herself and kinda push you away like she has something to prove. Who is she trying to impress? Why can't we all work together? I help you, you help me." It would've been so easy for me to jump onto that bandwagon and dish out my own complaints about her. Me and my new colleagues could bond over our common dislike of someone, cementing my place on that crew as someone the guys could relate to and get along with.

But I didn't. Instead, I played the compassion card. I told them I could understand where she was coming from. That I've had to deal with the same chauvinistic pigs in this business that she has. The ones who didn't think women belonged on set. With guys like that, you had to prove you could do the work by yourself or else you didn't work at all, and if you work jobs like that long enough, that kind of ethic can stick with you no matter who you're working with now. And while I may not exactly agree with her "I'll do it all myself" attitude, I stood up for her because I felt like I could relate to her more than any of these guys could. Whether she knew it or not, I was her best ally on the set.

But her attitude towards me? She'd roll her eyes whenever I needed a hand lifting something heavy, like all those chauvinistic pigs before her. As if I was putting the woman's movement back a few years by asking for a little help. She wouldn't greet me in the morning or say goodbye at the end of the night unless I made the first move. She'd barely say two words to me the whole time we worked together, other than brush me off with a "I've got this. Why don't you go help the other guys."

Damn girl. Why you gotta play it like that?

I want to see more women on set doing what we do. I'd like to one day work in a business where getting a swag shirt cut for the female form isn't such a big deal. I'd like to have a co-worker who I can chit chat with about getting our nails done or giggling about how our underwear keeps riding up our asses today. But none of that can happen if we can't even get along with each on the job.

I don't understand it. Why aren't we nicer towards each other? Why is it so hard for us to support one another in the workplace? I'm not asking to be best buddies with every chick on set I meet, but why aren't we helping each other more? Why can't we all just get along?

Apparently, great minds think alike. TAPA touches on the same topic this week.
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