Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Just A Day Player.

"Hey A.J.! Where've you been??" Crafty asks me, "We had quesadillas and that salsa you like yesterday and you missed it!"

"Aw... Damn!" I replied, bummed that I missed out on some good eatin'. These guys knew their way around some tasty snacks and had quickly become my favorite crafty.

"So, where were you?" Crafty asks again.

"Uh... no where. Just sitting around at home."


"Yeah," I knew where this conversation was going, "I'm just a day player on this and I guess they didn't need me here yesterday."

"What?? How are you a day player on this? You work harder than most of the guys here!"

I shrug, give him a smile and go on my way. I've been day playing with this crew for a while now, and nothing more. I come in once every couple of days. Sometimes a little more often; sometimes a little less. Sometimes just enough to fool the other departments into thinking I'm around all the time before laying me off again, which was the case now. And no matter how much my co-workers like me or how much I get along with everyone, something tells me that my status as a day player isn't going to change anytime soon with these guys. Which is fine if it wasn't for everyone else reminding me of that fact.

A few minutes later, I run into the On Set Decorator.

"A.J.!" she says, patting me on the back, "Where'd you disappear off to yesterday?"

(Here we go again...)

"No where. I was just at home."

"What? What happened?"

"...Nothing. I'm a day player on this and they didn't need me here yesterday."

"What? You're a day player and not a regular?"


She gives me a puzzled look. I shrug and offer a smile as I continue on my way.

I don't get very far when a P.A. known for his friendly banter catches a glimpse of me.

"Hey, you!"

I stop in my tracks. "What?"

"You're back!"


"Where'd you go yesterday?"


"What do you mean?"

"I'm a day player. They didn't need me yesterday so I stayed home."

"Oh... Wait, what??"

I shrug and smile at the boy as I continue on with my work.

Sometime later, I find myself sitting by the Key Grip waiting for the next set up to start.

"Hey, look who's back today!"

"Hi, Key Grip. How are you this morning?"

"I'm good. What show did you leave us for yesterday? Something good, I hope!"

"Um... No show... I'm just a day player on this and they didn't need me yesterday."

"Wait, you're only a day player?"

"Yes, sir."

He stares at me for a second as if he's trying to figure out if I'm pulling his leg or not. "Bullshit."

I smile at him and shrug.

"You could've fooled me. I see you on the set working more than I see any of the other guys... Why aren't you a regular?"

I offer him another shrug. "Your guess is as good as mine."

He nods, understanding my predicament.

I do work hard for these guys. I'm the one on set, never letting the Gaffer out of my sight while the other guys are at staging, staring at their phones. I've known the Gaffer and Best Boy longer than any of the regulars. One of them had even commented to me before about how the Gaffer seems to be less stressed whenever I'm around. And yet, I'm still only a day player.

I have my own theories and speculations as to why that might be. I won't get into the details of what they are, but the rational side of me kind of understands the hiring decisions that were made. Or at least, I've accepted it. I can't make someone hire me.

What does bother me, however, is the constant reminders from people every time I'm out for a couple of days about how I shouldn't have been the one to be gone at all, and the awkward conversations that go with it. Conversations, that despite nicer wording, essentially reads between the lines like this:

Them: "Where have you been?"
Me: "I've been sitting at home, not doing anything because I'm a loser and not good enough to be here full time."*

This. Multiply by several times a day. After a while, it starts to get to you.

But what can I do, other than reply with a smile and a shrug...

* This is not to say that all day players are losers who can't hold a regular position. I'm just saying it sure seems/feels that way sometimes a lot of the time.


CJ said...

Oh, the frustrations of a creers beginnings. I have to say, I love this blog and your writing because it reminds even stubborn old hands like me we all started somewhere. Dayplaying can be a tough pill to swallow especailly if you have a relationship already built with the gaffer, keys, bests, what have you. Just remember, more than likely they are filling in gaps in coverage due to a call out and we, meaning the people who hire, place great importance on who we call to step in. At least the good one's, please don't judge us by our worst examples. Having never met you and just based on the posts you have here, past and present, I can say you appear to have your head on straight and a passion to be the best. Keep pushing and filling in those gaps. Remember, is it worse that people ask about you or never bring you up at all?

JD said...

And neither the Gaffer, the Key Grip, nor their "bests" can do anything to get you a deal?

Michael Taylor said...

I've been there. After my last crew blew apart (the DP retired), I spent four years in the wilderness day-playing for whoever would have me -- rigging calls, lamp dock work, last-minute covering for a sick juicer, you name it. I worked my ass off for every one of those crews -- much harder than the regular crew -- because that was the only way to prove myself (all over again) to a new set of best boys and gaffers
Then -- after a gaffer all but PROMISED me a slot on the crew when one of his regulars was due to move up to BB for another gaffer -- I still didn't get the first call. He offered the slot to another juicer he'd known longer than me... and only when that guy turned the gig down did I finally land a slot on a pilot.

Where I worked my ass off all over again... and finally earned my spurs as a regular on his crew.

At that point, I had thirty years combined experience working as a juicer, BB, and gaffer -- which goes to show how hard it can be to crack an existing lineup no matter how hard you work. But if I hadn't busted my ass all that time, I'd never have even been considered, much less offered, that crew position.

So it's not you, or necessarily the fact that you're a woman. Crews are tribal, and those tribal bonds are as hard to form as they are to break. It's an uphill slog all the way, and yet one more example of how many dues must be paid to make it in this business.

I have no doubt your time is coming, probably when you least expect it. Hang in there...

A.J. said...

CJ - Thanks for the kind words and insight. I know Bests usually try to avoid calling in "just anyone" when they need a day player. And I'm glad I'm missed when I'm not around. It's just a little frustrating sometimes when everyone around you is asking why others are in and you're not. It's a tricky situation.

JD - I think if the Gaffer and Best really wanted me in, they would've made me a regular right off the bat. I'm okay with being a day player. I just don't need the constant reminders that for some reason, I wasn't good enough to make the cut.

Michael - I definitely get what you're saying, and I've been there a few times myself (minus the 30 years experience part, of course). What's interesting about this particular crew, however, is how there seems to be a new crop of "regulars" at the start of every show; some of them never having even met the Gaffer and Best before, let alone worked for them. Yet I've been day playing for them for a couple years now with nothing more than the promise of "We might have a day for you sometime next week."

I have no doubt that my time is coming. I guess now it's just a question of how much longer will I paw at their door before I find a new one to knock on...

JD said...

A.J. I retract my silly comment.

Unless a crew member is released or the workload increases dramatically, it's unlikely that the Gaffer or Key Grip will be able to sign on an additional person, regardless of how talented they are. Sometimes (often), it's who you know, not what you know.

What Michael said, the tribal thing, all too true. Some people you meet (so un-skilled, so mediocre), got to wonder how they keep getting called back.
It's also all about the budget and the bean counters, often little to do with the realities of the workload.

Nathan said...

Assuming you've related this accurately, (and I'm sure you have), nobody asking you how you're "just a dayplayer" views you as a loser. They're shocked that you're not part of the regular team.

It sucks that you haven't been able to break in as a regular, but the way the question is being asked is a compliment. You should take it that way.

The Grip Works said...

I often work as a Key Grip in countries other than my own, including the US. I find day players who are often better than my regular crew. I can only suggest to my best boy that we bring that guy in more regularly, but the actual hiring is at the discretion of the best boy.
There are politics and insecurities at play very often ... as a day player, theres not a lot you can do, other than be really good at your job, and make them feel the pinch when you are not there.

A.J. said...

Nathan and The Grip Works - I definitely don't view the "how are you just a day player" questions as insults. I'm usually flattered by how many think I'm worthy to hold a regular spot on the crew.

I guess what I'm trying to get across with my post (and apparently failed to as a writer) is the awkwardness that comes with the questions. In other words, how am I supposed to answer without throwing someone under the bus?

I can't really tell them the Gaffer and Best Boy don't want me there every day; that one of the regulars is about to go bankrupt so he needs the work more than I do; that someone else has known the Best Boy longer; they want someone who's willing to lift cable by themselves; etc, etc. Out of the many different scenarios that have played out in my own my head, there's just no diplomatic way for me to answer that question without making someone else look bad.

So for me, the repeated question of "why aren't you a regular" can rub me the wrong way when I can't answer the way I want to. I understand it's a compliment on their part, but it's more of a frustrating situation on mine.

Nathan said...

Color me edified.

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