Monday, July 5, 2021

Remember This Feeling...


Remember this feeling of loneliness. The crying. The feeling of being worthless and useless. The not being listened to. The being ignored. The being told you don't know anything. The walking on eggshells. The egos. The mood swings. The misogyny that didn't even try to be hidden. The alliances formed where teamwork should have been.
 
Remember how you ended every drive home fighting back tears as you thought about the day. Remember how you were sitting in traffic and burst out crying when it suddenly hit you how much you wanted to quit. How you suddenly found yourself hating a job that you used to love. How you found yourself not caring about something you used to care so much about. How, for the first time in fifteen years of doing this job, you find yourself being filled with dread at the thought of going into work every morning. How this job turned you into someone you don't even recognize anymore.

Remember all this so you don't get sucked into it again. Remember all this because, more often than not, time makes you forget the pain and only remember the good. So if they invite you back on the next show, don't think about the people you did stay for. Don't think about the rare moments of happiness that existed between all the yelling. And definitely don't think that maybe next time it'll be different. It won't be. Don't let them fool you. Don't think that they'll treat you any better. Don't think that old habits won't die hard.

But do think about yourself for a change.

Don't look back at the past with rose colored glasses. Don't let history repeat itself. Take what you can from this job. Make the best lemonade you can out of this batch of rotten, fucked up lemons you were given, and then move on. Say your goodbyes at the end of the show and mean them. Walk away knowing that you tried. That you held up your end of the bargain but they didn't hold up theirs. Walk away knowing that the problem lies 100% with them and 100% not with you. 

Walk away with grace and don't look back.

Remember that you deserve better than this. Remember that you ARE better than this. That you deserve to work with people who appreciate you. That know who you really are. That know what you can do and what you can bring to the table if they let you. That will listen to your opinions and treat them with respect. 

Remember that you have value and know what you're worth.

Remember all this because you know yourself. You know that you'll eventually consider working with these people again because you'll rationalize it as "not being so bad." You know that time will dull the pain of what you felt on this job and you'll only remember the fun times, but forget that you've never wanted to quit a job more.

Never forget that part. Never say yes to these people again. Remember this feeling because they are holding you back when all you want now is to be free.


Saturday, May 15, 2021

How Not To Do A Grounding Bond.

Electricity is a weird thing that most people don't understand. They just flip on a light switch or plug in their phone charger and go about their day without really giving it another thought. In reality, it's a weird, almost magical thing that involves a web of science, theory and mathematical calculations. I've studied it, read books on it, and work with it daily and honestly I still don't understand it 100%.

But one thing I do (mostly) understand is "bonding". The ground in most electrical systems acts as a safety net of sorts and when there's more than one electrical system being used (like on a location where production may use the location's electrical outlets/"house power" while also bringing in their own generator) it's important to connect the two grounds so both systems are on the same "plane," so to speak. 

This is often done by attaching a grounding clamp to the grounding rod of the house we're shooting at (usually located below the electrical box of the location) and running the (appropriately sized) cable back to the generator and attaching the other end to the ground there. A good rigging crew knows this and is prepared to do this, seeing as how a Fire Marshall can shut the show down for the day if this isn't done. It's that important.

A bad rigging crew, however, will do this:




Note: out of all the ways you can safely run a grounding bond, taking the female Hubbell off a stinger, taping it to the grounding rod, and plugging the male end into the nearest distro box is not the proper way to do it, or at all acceptable, for many reasons. And to do all that without at the very least capping the live wires with wire nuts? ... I literally have no words. 




Friday, March 12, 2021

Diversity, Pt. 2.


One of these things is not like the other, pt. 2



A previous post of mine produced a couple of interesting comments that I thought would make an interesting follow up.


Anonymous said...

As a white female AC, I never considered myself "diverse" but this has started happening to me often. I recently found out at the end of a show that the DP had been forced to fire his go-to AC last minute to hire me - an AC he'd never met and didn't yet trust. It explained a lot about the unspoken dynamics that I had no way of knowing about. The minute I stepped on that set I was at an automatic disadvantage, joining an all-male crew who looked at me as the one who got their buddy kicked out.

Hiring more diverse crews is a great priority and long overdue. But in the shady and often last-minute way production handles this goal, all the pressure gets put on below-the-line crew. There has to be a better way...right?

 

First off, that is a shitty situation for her to be placed in. At the very least, she should have been told why they hired her. And I don't mean in a "I didn't want to but they made me hire you" asshole kind of way, but she someone should have mentioned to her that she's a "political hire." Knowing the story surrounding your out-of-the-blue employment can help you asses workplace situations better. If you're hired because the last guy kept posting the show's storylines on Twitter, you might be more conscientious of how much time you spend on social media while at work. If you're hired because the lasts guy broke his leg and is on disability, you might relax a bit more and just enjoy the ride knowing you're only a placeholder until he can walk again. And if you're replacing your predecessor simply because you're female, you deserve to know that, too. So when the loader is giving you attitude or the DP is ignoring your suggestions, you can better asses if the situation is because of something you may have done or if it's more likely that they're sour from having to replace their long time friend with you. Context matters.

She should've also been told so she could decide for herself whether or not she wants to be placed in that kind of environment to begin with. It's hard enough to come in on a show where you don't know anyone as it is, but it's even harder when you're the reason their core group isn't together anymore. It can take a mental toll on you when you don't get along with your department and you have to spend 12-16 hours a day with them, five days a week. Of course, ideally, we would love to live in an "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar" world where all women would take this challenge on with gusto just to prove the patriarch wrong, but this is real life. This business is hard. Not everyone is up for this challenge. Not everyone wants to suit up for battle everyday. Some of us just want to work hard for colleagues that appreciate us. Some of us would prefer to surround ourselves with people who like having us around. It's okay to not want to subject yourself to a hostile work environment in the name of "equality," especially when it shouldn't be a burden for just women to bear. I didn't sign on this business to be a martyr. Men should be fighting for women to have a seat at the table just as hard as we are. 

Bottom line, Anonymous should have been told the events surrounding her hire well before the end of the show. I get it. Telling someone you didn't choose to hire them isn't a very nice thing to say and doesn't make you look very good, and I know from experience that hearing it isn't so great either. But it's important information to know because then I can make an informed decision about whether or not I want to take the job, and if I do, I can figure out the best way to handle certain situations that may pop up during the course of the shoot. And above all, I deserve to know because I. Am. A. Human. Being. I am a real person who should be allowed to make my own decisions. I am not just a Pretty Little Diversity Prop™ to be brought in to make you, your department, or your production look good. 

Anonymous also poses the question: "There has to be a better way...right?" 

There is obviously a lot wrong with the way "diversity" is being practiced on productions right now. A lot of shows are just telling their department heads to hire minorities and then pat themselves on the back. Some other shows are telling those departments who to hire, and then patting themselves on the back. Either way, while I appreciate the effort and it is a step in the right direction, it's not exactly the best way to do it. A friend of mine works for a very prominent post house and says he loves that his company is trying to be more forward with this, but they're doing so by promoting women that aren't anywhere near having the skills to do the job they're suddenly promoted to. This leads to frustration among the existing staff, more work on their plates and the result is an inferior product. It's gotten to the point where he and some of his colleagues are considering leaving the company. Another friend of mine was on a show that was so gung ho on having a diverse crew that when the town was so busy they couldn't find a woman to work in one of the departments, production actually found and hired one from out of town. They flew her in, gave her a place to stay for the next few months and gave her a per diem, etc. While I applaud that show's commitment to diversity, I question what kind of change did they foster in the end? Once the show wraps and Ms. Imported Labor returns to her hometown, what really changes? The guys here aren't any more committed to hiring women than before the show started. The pool of women to hire from hasn't increased. And since she's not local, Ms. Imported Labor can't add these guys to her list of potential work calls. In essence, nothing has really changed. 

So what's the better way? Like most things, you need to start from the ground up. You need to foster women, and other minority groups, at the beginning stages of their careers. I remember working with a number of women during my "copy, credit, meals" days. Sure, there were obviously more men than women then, too, but I remember running into more women that did grip and electric then than I do now. Instead of being the only female on most of my jobs now, I used to have at least one other woman in my department every second or third show I was on and it was great! However, as I moved on to bigger and better jobs, they've all but disappeared. Thinking back to the several women I had worked with back when I was really just starting out, I only know of one that's still in the business, but she had switched over to camera. Did every guy I know back then make it to the big leagues? Of course not,  but I do see a hell lot more of them around.

So what happened to all the women I started out with? I don't know, but based on the amount of sexism, comments, and misogyny I've experienced on my way up, I can only guess they weren't given enough chances and opportunities and/or were just tired of the constant battles. 

In other words, we need to foster the idea of more women in this industry at an earlier stage. While it's great that Oscar winners and other big time names are advocating for parity on set, if you're only thinking about parity by the time you're working on a big budget movie, there may not be a pool of qualified women to pull from that can work at that level. However, if you fight for equality on those shitty shows, the movie of the weeks, the low budget commercials, those short form webisodes, and bring them up with you on to the network TV shows, the mid-tier movies, those big brand commercials, there will be a wonderfully diverse pool of Oscar caliber crew to pull from. If we wait to accept women only when they've made it to a certain level, it's already too late.

A second comment on my previous post on this topic states:

Phillip Jackson said...

I feel ya, to me the fix isn't the current white boss hiring "diversity" but actually put people who would naturally hire those folks to begin with. Power doesn't like to give up power. Hire a cis white male gaffer, he's going to hire cis white males. But I find that step is much harder to force since those Hollywood execs aren't really down to not be in that hiring power.

While I don't necessarily disagree with him, I do have mixed feelings about this, especially the "Hire a cis white male gaffer, he's going to hire cis white males" part. This is where I'm going to have to be that person and say "not all men". I honestly wouldn't be in the position I am today if it wasn't for a cis white male gaffer that gave me my start. Literally almost no one would hire me except for dead-end production companies and "passion projects" off of Craigslist. It was a string of extraordinary circumstances that led to me meeting him and he took me under his wing, brought me on some big jobs, and introduced me to other higher ups with a more than generous recommendation of my abilities. He was an older gaffer on his way out, and he told me he was doing this because he thought about what kind of legacy he was leaving behind in this business and decided he wanted to promote changes for the better. And while I can't vouch for what his hiring practices were in the several decades before I met him, he gave be a healthy foundation to build my career on before he retired. 

I guess what I'm saying is that the "trick" isn't to not hire white cis male Gaffers (or any other department head), but to hire people who hire diverse crews on their own. Productions need to look at their track records before handing over a deal memo for them to sign. Has the DP spoken out on the subject before? Have they signed a parity pledge? Who do they usually hire? DPs who are committed to diversity are more likely to hire Gaffers, ACs, and Key Grips who share that same view. So while we're fostering women from the ground up, we also have to remember that change comes from the top down. As Phillip said, we need to "actually put people who would naturally hire those people [in meaningful positions] to begin with."

The last thing I'll touch upon (for now) on the topic of diversity placement is to think about who you're giving those "opportunities" to and realize they are real people who may not exactly be thrilled to be hired based on a quota. Am I grateful to be considered for a job I probably wouldn't have been called for under any other circumstances? Sure. Am I thrilled that the circumstance is solely because I don't have a penis? No. 

I, and I assume most of us, would prefer to be hired on our merit. Hire me because I'm a badass tech, not because you have to fill a quota. Hire me because you want to be a part of positive change, not because someone is making you. Hire me because you believe having a diverse crew will make you a better boss, a better human being, and give you a more well-rounded crew, which in turn will give you a better show, a better product, which, in the end, means you gain more power instead of losing it. Hire us so we can show you what we're capable of.




Happy Women's Month, everybody!


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Which Job Are You On?

 

"Hey, let's get an 18K on a roadrunner in the backyard." 

The call came over the radio and we all snapped into action, some of us heading to the yard to scope out the power situation while others head over to the truck to start pulling the pieces. Everyone got to work except for a dayplayer still looking at his phone. "I'll catch up in a minute," he said. "I'm almost done with my paperwork for the job I'm on tomorrow."

Okay. Not a problem. There's more than enough people to handle one light.

Later on another call came over the radio. "Camera sees some of our gak and cable in the shot. Can we get some people over to the west side of the building to clear it?" 

Again, we snap into action and in seconds we're all grabbing a piece of cable to move it out of frame. 

...Everyone except for that one guy. 

"It's okay, dude. We got it," one of my colleague says to him rather sarcastically.

"Oh, sorry. I'm in the middle of e-mailing production on my job next week about my rentals."

Some more time passes and it's time for us to light a new scene. We clear out the old lights and reposition everything on the other side of the yard. It's a pretty busy set up and surprise, homeboy is no where to be found.

Finally we're all set and return to staging where we find him plugging in his phone. "I was on a phone call with the best boy I'm working with tomorrow," he explained. "Did I miss anything?"

Shortly after, another call for a light comes on the radio and again, everyone starts moving except for the dayplayer. "I gotta answer this text. It's about the next job I'm doing."

My other colleague has had enough at this point, stops what he's doing and asks him, "Okay. But which job are you on now?"

The dayplayer takes the hint, puts his phone away, and grabs a light. 

Listen, we all know dayplaying can be a hustle. You're trying to fill your week with calls and that means occasionally being on the phone while you're on another job. But constantly dealing with other shows while ignoring the one you're supposed to be working on is poor form. 

Don't ever forget what job you're actually on. 


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Diversity.


One of these things is not like the other.

 


"So how did you end up working with the Gaffer?"

I was helping a day player button up his condor for the night when he asked me this question. I had been with this particular crew for some time now, but this was the guy's first day with us so our conversations were peppered with getting-to-know-you questions.

"Oh, I did a pilot with him a while back."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. One of his guys threw my name in the hat because production wanted more diversity in their crew and apparently I was the only option available," I said, adding a slight chuckle at the end of my reply. I thought back to how on my first day with them, I was expecting to see different genders and ethnicities peppered into the crew but when I showed up, my entire department was made up of white males with the exception of me. "Three years later and I'm still here."

"Oh, yeah," the guy replied, though he didn't seem to find the humor in my answer, "My usual Gaffer ended up doing a show like that. We had to let go of a few of our regular guys." The way he said it made it clear that he wasn't happy about that. 

Nor do I really blame him. I like most of the people I work with and am always sad when I no longer get to work with any one of them, but at the same time, he didn't seem to see what his comment was implying: that his usual crew was made up entirely of white, straight, males. And in addition, it didn't seem like he saw any problem with that. 

As more and more shows are pushing for diversity and gender parity, and that's a great thing, I will say that I don't always agree with their tactics. (But that's a much longer post for another time.) And while it has happened more than a few times now, I'm not exactly thrilled that the only reason why I'm on a crew is because "production made them hire" me. I'm a set lighting tech, not a human prop. But in all the times I've been hired in the name of "diversity" I've never once not been called back to work with a crew, even when they move on to shows without a quota requirement. So while they probably would have never hired me on their own to begin with, I'm obviously good enough to keep around when given the chance. 

I'm not saying that any "diversity hire" my day playing colleague's Gaffer had to bring on is any better than any of the guys he had to let go, but the fact that there wasn't someone already in his repertoire shows that he doesn't really give a shot to those who don't come with a certain type of privilege to begin with. And that's a problem. If there was any diversity in his crew at all, their unit would still be intact.   

The conversation died and we packed up the rest of the gear in silence. Then he headed in one direction while I headed in another.



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