Wednesday, April 22, 2020


I had been in this business for a little while, mostly day playing, when I landed on this new show with new-to-me people. It's the first day for everyone, so shortly after call, everyone's huddled around the back of the truck as the Gaffer starts handing out start paperwork. After a few of us scrounge around for a pen, we kinda disperse with everyone looking for a flat surface to write on.

"Here," the Gaffer offers me a quarter apple. "You can use this if you want."

"No thanks," I reply. "I got something I can use." I open up my backpack and pull out a clip board.

The Gaffer just stares at me in shock.

"What?" I ask.

He says nothing for a second, then, he starts to smile. "Wow. That's some best boy shit right there," he finally says. Then walks away.

I complete my paperwork, start the day, and finish the job. Years later though, this short interaction still leaves me a little puzzled.

Before I landed on that gig, I've done several dozen different start packets and almost all of them were done by filling it out on the shelf of a cart, the floor of the truck, the rough diamond plating on the lift gate, a random set piece, or, of course, on a pancake, quarter, or half apple perched on my lap. And don't even get me started on all the times everyone in my department had to take turns because only one of those options were available.

So it only made logical sense to me to throw a clipboard in my backpack. I had a couple of them left over from my college days, so it's not like I specifically bought one just to do start work on, not that they're terribly expensive or hard to find to begin with. Plus, it wasn't heavy, nor did it take up a lot of room in my bag. It actually helped give it some structure and kept my tools from poking me in the back.

So why was it so odd that I carried around a clipboard to do paperwork on? I was a day player, who, like many of my other colleagues, started a new job every few days so I did new start work several times a month. If I had learned to bring my own pen instead of asking to borrow one, why was it so odd I did the same with a common writing surface?

Every now and then, this little memory will pop into my head. Honestly, I guess I could see where he was coming from since I don't think I've seen anyone else carry around a clip board, Best Boys excluded, but I've always wondered, why not? Why do my colleagues keep insisting on scrambling to find a semi-suitable writing surface that, more often than not, renders part of their start work illegible instead of investing in a $2, low profile, light weight solution?

While I don't lose any sleep over it, this is one of the questions in life that continues to baffle me.


Phillip Jackson said...

I think we, as crew, can get lazy when we hit a certain level of work. We get food (usually good) fed to us, we get emails with exact directions on where to go and when etc. We just sort of expect the best to take care of us as long as we just show up. So you taking initiative showed you taking that extra step.

Michael Taylor said...

Phil makes a good point, and I totally understand why that gaffer was impressed. During my BB years, I always carried one of those clipboard/case things that had a writing surface plus room for several pens, timecards, and a big spiral notebook inside. It worked for me and my crews, but I left it at home for the ten or twelve years when I bumped up to gaffing, then I still left it at home after I went back to juicing for the final stretch of my time in Hollywood. Thing is, I had no room for a clipboard in my work pack. Along with carrying spare gloves, batteries, and every tool I might conceivably need, I kept a small pharmacy in there -- Advil, band aids, alcohol wipes, Tums, Kleenex, nitrile gloves, a bandana, and anything else I (or my fellow juicers) might need on location. Plus, I'll admit it... I hated the absurd duplication of filling out another fucking ream of start paper-work on every new job, and I suppose not bringing a decent writing surface along was just a small, stupid, counterproductive act of resistance. I'd scrawl my name, address, and SS number ten times using a shitty pen and crappy quarter apple or pancake, then let production try to decipher my hieroglyphics...

Your way is a lot smarter than mine...

A.J. said...

Phillip - I suppose you bring up a good point. There's always something to eat, someone with a tool we need and can borrow, (pre-Covid times anyway) and a pen and writing surface, self supplied or not.

Michael - Now that you mention it, I tend to carry two clip boards when I'm a Best Boy: the one that's usually in my bag and the kind that you used to carry. Though I think if you hated the novel of paperwork you were handed then, you'd probably absolutely despise the digital ones they have now. They expect you to do it at home, off the clock ("It only takes fifteen minutes.") or at work but on the small screen of your cellphone. And you can't change anything, either. If the rate is wrong or there's a clause that shouldn't be there, you can't strike it out, initial it, and move on. It becomes a whole thing where production has to go in and change it in the system, which sometimes it won't let them do. I'm also so used to the paper stuff that I can get through it pretty efficiently. It takes me a lot longer to fill out the digital stuff. Plus, everyone's also a lot less likely to read what they're signing when they can just swipe and click. (/End Rant)

Michael Taylor said...

AJ --

Seriously? Digital start-work filled out on your phone?? Jesus H. Christ -- I retired just in time...

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