Monday, February 17, 2014

"A Grip Without A Jet Ski Ain't No Grip At All!"

This year started with a vengeance and hasn't let up. In less than 48 hours after the clock stuck midnight on December 31st* I was back at work and haven't stopped since. I've been fortunate enough to roll from one show into the next, but the steady work means I haven't had time to do much else.

As such, I've been behind on a lot of things lately. Behind on getting an oil change for my car. Behind on keeping up with the mail that's piling up on my kitchen table. Behind on doing my taxes. Behind on updating this blog (sorry!).

I'm also behind on my television watching, but thank goodness for the internet or else I'd never been able to see the Simpsons episode that aired shortly after the New Year. Called "Steal This Episode," the story centers around Homer and his bout of movie piracy. I thought this was a very well done episode, managing to deal with a serious issue in our business with humor and thought. And while I agreed with much of what this episode had to offer (especially this tid-bit), one part did make me chuckle more than the rest.

Despite most shows (and commercials) that aim to give the viewers a glimpse into life on set and below the line portraying us rather unrealistically, I think this one nailed it.  :)

* Or January 1st, if you want to be technical about it.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Being Spoiled.

“And they didn’t even give us a t-shirt!”

I stared at the ranting electrician standing before me in awe. Not because I couldn’t believe he didn’t get a t-shirt, but because he was bitching about it.

Get a couple of grips or electricians in a room together long enough and it won’t be long before the work horror stories come out, with each one trying to top the last like some kind of production fueled pissing contest.

While the theme of these bitchfests “discussions” often vary from topics like unsafe working conditions to terrible locations, this particular round was focused on how cheap productions can be (which, interestingly, inevitably circles back to unsafe working conditions and terrible locations; and vise versa). And among the woeful tales of crews paying for their own lunches and non-existent expendables, the newest member of out group, perhaps needing to feel like part of the conversation, chimed in with his own anecdote of hardship.

He’s the oldest one out of all of us on this particular crew, which mainly consisted of people my age just starting out in the industry, and had far more years and sizable shows under his belt than most of us combined. He had just spent the better part of last year working on a hit show. One big enough that it was consistently near the top of the ratings list each week, sending talk shows and gossip blogs into a frenzy after each time it aired. It was a show popular enough that other countries had their own versions.

Needless to say, the show was big and made a lot of money.

Unfortunately, they didn’t spread that wealth around to my coworker’s liking. But his anger wasn’t towards the quality of the food or the lack of manpower for the rigs they’d put in, but with the fact that they didn’t get a wrap gift at the end of the season.

“Can you believe that?” he huffed, “Not even a t-shirt!” He was pretty worked up about it now.

I, on the other hand, was flabbergasted.

Sure, I can understand where he’s coming from. If the way he was performing on set today was any indication, he probably worked his ass off for that show and just wanted some kind of acknowledgement for his hard work. However, a show t-shirt is usually a wrap gift, which is something that’s, at best, an obligatory “thank you” from the powers that be, but in no way is such a gesture mandatory on any show.

While I’ve never personally worked on the show in question, I’ve done a day or two on shows just like it, and if the shows’ operating procedures were even remotely similar, the guy had it good.

Decent catering, real soundstages, good rates and a fully stocked coffee bar are just a few of the perks shows like that enjoy. Not to mention enough guys you could possibly need, that, on average, work for eight hours but get paid for ten; some days without even breaking a sweat.

The fact that he’s whining about the lack of a free shirt tells me that there’s nothing else worth complaining about on that show.

And while I agree that it’d be nice if we got some kind of token of appreciation from the people we toil for, nowhere does it say they can’t be dicks about it and send us off with nothing more than one last paycheck.  It is, however, mandatory that we have safe working conditions and get paid on time, all of which was met on that show and then some. Not getting a t-shirt, though surprising for a show with such a big name, isn’t something worth raising your blood pressure over.

Especially when you’re following a story about how one show never had anything but pizza for lunch and three departments had to share a truck.

I think some guys, mostly ones who have been doing this longer than I have and perpetually work on big things with real budgets like the way it’s supposed to be done, often get too comfortable and seem to forget that on most shows, Production isn't your friend. They're your employer. You’re exchanging work for money; not gifts. Guys like that also tend to take simple courtesies for granted. Like twelve hour turnarounds, snacks at crafty that eat like a meal, and meals at catering that eat like a feast. They often forget that the minimum required turnaround is nine hours, crafty isn’t obligated to get that hummus you like, and catering can be done by El Pollo Loco if Production chooses to do so.

It wasn’t that long ago that I found myself on sets like that (and far worse) every day, and as I climb my way up to bigger and better things, I hope I’ll still remember the shit shows that I came from. I hope I don’t get complacent enough to take for granted the niceties that production does provide us with.

And above all, I hope I never get to the point where I’m spoiled and feel entitled enough to complain about not getting t-shirt at wrap from a show. Because really, if that’s all you have to complain about, you have it pretty good.

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