Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Scapegoat.

"Oh, brother," moaned the Best Boy Electric of a show I'm day playing on as he walked through our pre-light for tomorrow's set. "I think Juicer1 fucked up again."

I followed him through the stage as he looked around, naming the mistakes as he passed by them.

"That Kino's facing the wrong way.... That tenner's supposed to be in the other window... Everything's supposed to have 1/4 CTO on it, not 1/2..."

"I swear, I don't know what I'm going to do with this guy."

I stood there, saying nothing because I knew exactly what he was going to do: Keep hiring him.

The guy was a "must hire" from the Gaffer, so despite several weeks of screw ups here and there, the BBE had no choice but to keep him on the crew. Even the Gaffer was starting to notice the errors more and more, but he and Juicer1 go so far back that loyalty trumps the occasional mistake.

And despite the fact that I'd probably be working with these guys more if Juicer1 wasn't taking up one of the highly coveted regular spots, I actually like working with Juicer1. He was the type of guy that didn't stress about much; even when our lighting set ups were getting a little frantic. He never rolled his eyes whenever something was too heavy for me to lift by myself; never even gave me as much as a sigh. Instead, he'd reply to my apologies with a sincere, "Oh, that's okay," give me a hand and then resume out task as if nothing's happened. He'd tell me about his girl problems or a new blender he bought with the same kind of thoughtful passion. A large, burly looking guy who was really more like a teddy bear than anything else.

And more importantly, he'd do the jobs no one else wanted to do.

The fast shooting pace of this show meant that we always had to be one, maybe two steps ahead; lest we be the ones to drag down Production. That meant we usually had one or two people either pre-lighting a new set, or cleaning up an old one while the company was shooting. And more often than not, Juicer1 was that guy.

It's not because he necessarily volunteers for the job. Or because he's selected for it. He doesn't really care either way. But he's usually the one doing the not so fun jobs because no one else will. Either eager to impress the Gaffer or just plain lazy (or maybe both), none of the other regulars dare leave the Gaffer's side.

Which is probably why Juicer1 "fucks up" so much: The more work you actually do, the more mistakes you'll make. Even if you only mess up 10% of the time, that's still 100% more than someone who does nothing at all.*

Sadly, when it comes to work like this, department heads don't look at the ratios. They just care about why that 10K is placed in front of the wrong window. ("Because Juicer1 set it, that's why," was rapidly becoming the "joke" answer.)

I understand why the other guys don't want the pre-rig/de-rig/pre-load tasks. (It's thankless work; You get less face time with the Gaffer who's ass you're trying to kiss; There's no crafty there; etc.) But I don't understand how they can justify never doing those tasks.

I finally understood what was going on when I was day playing for these guys one day and Juicer1 had radioed for someone to please come give him a hand on task on the other stage. His request was met by silence. Assuming that one of the regular guys who knew the rigs better than I did went to go help him, I went about my business covering the set. Some time later, I left my post and headed towards crafty. I passed by staging and saw most of my department stationed there, faces hovering over their phones. The only one missing from the crowd was Juicer2, so I assumed he had gone over to help Juicer1.

So imagine my surprise when I ran into him at the crafty table.

"Hey, Juicer2," I asked him, "if you're here and the rest of the guys are at staging, who's helping Juicer1?"

"Oh," he laghed, "Probably no one. I was sitting with the other guys when the call came through. We just all looked at each other and then went back to what we were doing."

"What??" I was a little shocked but could tell where this was headed.

"Well, he didn't ask for help again over the radio, so he's probably doing okay."

I stood there for second in disbelief. We both knew, as did everyone else, that the job Juicer1 was doing on the other stage involves jockying around some pretty big lights. Definitely a two person job, minimum.

"Watch the set for me, will ya?" I sighed. I grabbed two bottles of water from the cooler before I headed out the stage door.

I found Juicer1 on the next stage, frustratingly trying to head up a 10K by himself. I gave him a hand and handed him a bottle of water when we were done.

"Sorry, Juicer1," I said. "I would've come over sooner had I known you were alone over here. I thought one of the other guys had come over."

"Nope," Juicer1 said, trying to disguise the bitterness in his voice. It was the kind of bitterness that could only come from seething as you did an unpleasant task on your own. He seemed like he'd finally had enough of this bullshit. "I know they make fun of me when my back's turned. But who the fuck else is going to do this stuff?" He took a drink of water before he continued. "Those guys over there are so scared to leave the Gaffer's side. As if they're going to lost their precious spots up his ass if they give me a hand for five God-damned minutes."

I laugh. "Yeah, you noticed it too, huh?" He nods, taking another drink of cool water to calm his nerves. "Well, listen. I'm just a day player on this. I will always just be a day player on this. In other words, I don't give a rat's ass about impressing the Gaffer like some of those other guys. If you ever need a hand and none of those other guys will help, just ask for me to come over and I will."

"I know you will, A.J." He was starting to calm down. "But it shouldn't have to be like that. It shouldn't have to be that I'm the only one doing this stuff all the time and it shouldn't be that you're the only one who will answer."

He's absolutely right. It really shouldn't. And despite my offer being sincere, I knew he'd never take me up on it. I knew that he'd keep taking all the shitty responsibilities and taking the crap when mistakes were made despite no one else ever stepping up to the plate. And I knew the other guys would continue to snicker about him behind his back and Juicer1 would try his best to ignore them.

He's right. It really shouldn't be this way, but it is. I just hope he at least found a little relief in knowing that he had some back up if he ever needed it. It's the only help could offer him, which is more than the others could say.

*Okay, so my math may be wrong. 100% of zero is still zero, or whatever. But you get my point and I was told there'd be no math.

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