Monday, October 14, 2019

Act Like You've Been Here Before.

"YES!!! It works!"
I was wiring up some fixtures on a job and this particular part was being a pain in the ass. After some struggling, we finally got it lit up and not only that, but it looked pretty cool. The Art Department on this job had some fun ideas going.

"Come on, A.J. Act like you've been here before," chided my boss.
"Act like you've done this before. This isn't your first time doing fixtures. Be cool," he said, shaking his head and moving on to the next item on our list.

I chuckled to myself, gathered up my tools, and followed after him. Little did he know, I was going to be excited about getting the next challenging piece to light up. And the one after that. ...And the one after that.

Because honestly, the day I stop being excited about this stuff is the day I should stop doing it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

I Don't Know How To Say Goodbye.

Earlier this year, I was on a show. The show wrapped, we said our goodbyes and we left. We knew the show would return for another round later this year, but we also knew we wouldn't be returning with it. Between the changes in leadership, a scheduling conflict and the constant disagreements between my boss and a higher up, the writing was on the wall that we'd be replaced the second time around well before this first round finished shooting.

While the Gaffer was happy to bid good riddance to the show, I had no ill will towards the production. Sure, there were challenging moments to politically navigate, and a whole lot of shots that were called didn't really make sense, but most of the crew was pleasant enough to work with, crafty was always busting out with some good stuff, and production was based less than ten miles from my house. All in all, it seemed like a pretty standard production to me.

And like any other job I've done, I had to say goodbye to it and move on to the next one.

But here's the thing: I've never been really good at saying goodbye to the projects I've been on. No matter how standard, or even sub-par they are, something about them still has me invested in what happens to them. I can't just move on without a look back. I'm always curious to know who's working on it now. And who left. Where they're shooting this season. How many episodes did they get. Did things improve after I left or did things just get worse?

After this particular job ended, I was able to find other work rather easily. I bounced around on different shows and reconnected with some old friends and colleagues. But whenever I ran into someone from the aforementioned show, conversation would inevitably lead back to it. And since almost every department was returning to it but mine, I picked up a lot of info. Like, when production would start up again and where. And with who. And for how long. Details that any other person who wasn't returning to a show wouldn't give a rats ass about. But for some reason, I cared.

Eventually, the start date neared and they ended up building sets for it again. By pure coincidence, I got called in to day play on it and help put the rig in. It was so weird being back on sets that were so familiar to me and yet no longer mine. I kept noticing little changes they made, like closing off certain hallways or swapping one light fixture for another. I kept referencing last season so much that I was even starting to annoy myself. But I couldn't help it. I knew I should just lay the cable as instructed and go home. But for some reason, I cared.

My last day on it was their first day of shooting. It was so weird being back with a crew that was so familiar to me and yet no longer mine. The grips were as friendly as ever. The camera department was as surly as ever. Everything was the same, yet different. It was a weird mix of being in a place I was so familiar with, but as an outsider. I didn't quite know what to do with myself. Which is probably Hollywood's way of telling me to move on, but for some reason, I still cared.

I still cared what lights they used. If they ever fixed that weird untraceable short in the chandelier. If the grips ever switched to the bigger dolly they wanted. I still cared if the DP was still obsessed with the God awful yellow on every other light. If production finally started approving appropriate manpower. The show was absolutely, 100% no longer mine, but for some reason, I still cared.

But why do I still care? It's not an ego thing. I know the current lighting guys don't care that I was there before them and "Back when I was [insert irrelevant thing], things were different" comments make me want to barf. The show was pretty standard and formulaic.We weren't exactly making TV history. It wasn't as it if was something I hadn't done a million different versions of already. And it's not like I was abruptly kicked out and needed closure. I had known from nearly the beginning I wouldn't be back and I knew exactly why. By all intents and purposes, I shouldn't give a damn about this show that I'm no longer a part of, and yet, I'm low-key obsessed with it.

And it's not just this show in particular. I still hold some lingering curiosity about pretty much every show I've been on. No matter how much time has passed, if I run into someone currently working on one of my previous productions, I can't help but gather as much info as I can on it, like an old girlfriend who's not quite over her ex.

I suppose one of the big, on going lessons in life is not only knowing when to let go, but how. And if anyone has any thoughts on how to tackle the latter, let me know.

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