Monday, May 13, 2013

Nothing Is Free.

A colleague walked to set one morning wearing a hoodie emblazoned with the name of his last show. No doubt a wrap gift from Production.

I couldn't help but laugh when I saw it.

"You worked on that?" I asked him, gesturing to the name on his sweatshirt.

"Yeah. Why?"

"I knew a lot of people on that show. Even got called a few times to work on it, but I was always already booked on something else. I did hear a lot of horror stories from set though," I replied, with a sly smile on my face. The thought of my friend toiling on the hell that was that show was entertaining to me the same way you'd find it hilarious if a friend got hit in the balls.

"Sure, you laugh now," my colleague said with his own smirk on his face, "but I did get a pretty sweet free sweater out of it!"

I looked at his sweater and then back at him. "No.... You didn't get a free sweater. One way or another, you paid for that sweater."

He stood there for a second, confused. Then he laughed. "Yeah, I guess you're right. I fucking earned this stupid thing."

And that, he did. They worked ridiculously long hours on that show. And at locations that took a better part of a gas tank to get to. With a Production that kept changing its mind at the last minute, causing every department to perpetually scramble. All while being undermanned and paid what essentially amounts to a few dollars more than minimum wage. Those guys ended the day, every day, tired and exhausted as all hell, and often only got nine hours of turnaround before they had to do it all over again.

That sweater, as simple as it may be, wasn't free.

Nothing in this business is.

We may be envied by outsiders because we get "free" snacks on set all day, every day. But we also work six hours straight before we get a break. My Mom thinks I'm lucky that the company provides us lunch every day, not knowing about a California Labor Law that states "a suitable place for [eating lunch] must be designated," and "facilities must be available for securing hot food and drink or for heating food or drink." It's probably easier in terms of budget and time management for Production to just bring in a caterer if we're on location. And no one that thinks we have it made seems to remember that while they only work eight hours a day, a standard day for us is twelve.

And has anyone ever noticed that often times, the shittier the show, the better the food is? Productions have figured out long ago that we'll put up with a lot of crap as long as our taste buds are satisfied.

We may get catered meals, craft service tables and the occasional wrap gifts, but those all, in some way or another, come with a price. Nothing in this business is free.


Anonymous said...

So true! Hmm..what's that saying? "Everybody has a price..." Some people set theirs higher than others. In the places where the stakes are really high, things like tshirts don't matter (I'll take the pay or points, please) :)Tshirts wear out eventually and all you can do is wash your car with them anyways (value goes down with time), but that takes a bit of foresight :) In some cases if they'll trade/ buy you gear for your service (eg a camera lens, etc) it's actually a MUCH better deal, too ('cause you can make your money back)

JB Bruno said...

My mentor, who worked years as PM and line producer for Roger Corman, used to refer to the "high cost of free" and, if an excited director or department head we were getting something (like a location) for "free", he would immediately ask, "How much is this free (insert thing) thing costing me?" Sure enough, it would always be something like "oh, it's free, but they stay open, and won't quiet the noise, and they have health violations, and you have to pay the guard...." As you said, nothing is free.

Michael Taylor said...

There was a bumper sticker popular back in the 70's -- mostly (but not exclusively) seen on pickup trucks -- that read: "Gas, Grass, or Ass -- Nobody rides for free"

Although crude and simplistic, that sentiment was (and is) an apt description of life in Hollywood and beyond, where nobody rides for free.

A.J. said...

Anonymous - I still don't know what to do with most of the XL swag shirts that vendors insist on giving me. Thanks for the suggestion of washing my car with it. Never really thought of that!

JB Bruno - OMG. Don't even get me started on locations that stay open while you're shooting in it...

Michael - Ha! I've forgotten about that bumper sticker! I'll still see one around every now and then.

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