Color Coding for Scripts and Film Documentation

A recent visitor to my house snuck a peek at my collection of callsheets, production reports and scripts that goes back the better part of a decade. She was struck, not by how data-dense, nor how specific they were, but by the fact that, like folders full of 8 1/2 x 14 Skittles, they came in assorted colors.

Almost all production documents are color-coded by edition. Callsheets, Production Reports, Travel Movements, Memos, Shooting Schedules, One-Line Schedules, DooD Schedules, Exhibit G's, Cast Lists, Crew Lists, Vendors' Lists and even the pages of the script, will go through several versions in the course of production. Some of them will change dozens of times as the studio makes changes, as new rolls are cast, as new crew are hired, as weather plays havoc with scheduling, as re-writes are ordered and on and on.

Even though a movie work day starts at thirteen hours, there are still not enough of them to accomplish every last task or to read every piece of paper that passes through one's hands. To streamline the transfer of information across departments and to make sure everyone is operating from the same assumptions, every set of changes leads a document to be printed on a new color of paper. This way, a person can tell at a glance if they have the newest edition of a document.

The editions generally go as follows:

1st Ed White
2nd Ed Blue
3rd Ed Pink
4th Ed Yellow (Sometimes called "Canary")
5th Ed Green
6th Ed Goldenrod
7th Ed Salmon
8th Ed Buff
9th Ed Cherry

And then it starts over with "Double White," "Double Blue" etc.

The system is nearly standardized, but not quite so. Some studios and some production entities abbreviate or modify the list and, once you get past the Goldenrod version, you should probably double check the studio handbook.

What struck my friend most were the scripts. It would be truly wasteful to reprint a hundred or more copies of a hundred page script to indicate a re-write of only one scene, so the color-coded edition changes affect only one page at a time. The new pages are printed on the appropriate color, the old page is removed, replaced with the new one and the script is re-bound. By the end of a show, copies of the script are piles of colored layers, an edge-on pastel rainbow, the edition of which is indicated by the cover page.

I wish the IRS, the DMV, my bank and the other institutions with which I'm forced to deal would adopt a similar policy. It would make the world a whole lot more colorful.


And Some Days...

After a precarious landing and a trip to the ER, you find yourself sipping coffee with with a sloppy grin on your face and a bass drumming ache in your shoulder. Your arm is in a sling and you can't do much but marvel at how such great and terrible things can happen in the same day. You consider whether it's appropriate to smoke that celebratory cigar you've been saving for months, lament that strangers won't ask how you hurt yourself and ponder how long the ligaments will take to heal so that you can do it all again.

Here's to Blue Skies and the Skin of our Teeth.


Hate is a Strong Word

Rawksta'hr got me started on this one. When I started thinking about this, I didn't realize that there was this much to contemplate. Just goes to show, I suppose. I had set the whole thing aside but now the advent of Google+ makes it seem newly relevant.

It's is oft lamented by Facebook users that there is no "Dislike" button. Users of the social media giant can express their approval of everything from sports scores to vacation plans to articles in the New York Times with a single mouse click. There is no similarly easy way to express one's disapproval and a vocal plurality of users have been clamoring for team Zuckerburg to add one for years now.

They shouldn't and I'll tell you why.

As the web goes, Facebook is a pretty polite place. I'm not saying that Facebook is a land of courtly manners but, by the standards of the internet at large, it's fairly civil. Adding a "Dislike" button will only encourage trolling by codifying a method of psychological bullying. 13 year-olds with ego problems should not get a 30 billion dollar company's help in ostracizing their fellows by giving them a one-click method of voicing their disapproval.

Pictured - A Troll Ass

Advocates of the "Dislike" button hugely underestimate the veracity of internet trolling culture. A "Dislike" Facebook is one on which emotionally stunted individuals will constantly post racist, misogynist, violent or inflammatory material just to see how many "Dislikes" they can accrue. Some will point out that such statements would already violate the FB ToS and could be removed by administrators. Given, however that the turnaround time for such things can be weeks or months and given the increase in such statements that a "Dislike" button would foster, chocking it up to the ToS doesn't seem all that practical.

In the culture at large, positive thoughts can be taken at face value. When viewing someone's photographs, eating their food or touring their home, it's quite enough to say, "This is good; I like this." Obversely, when one manifests disdain, one is usually expected to explain why. "I don't like this; it's too spicy," for instance. The "Dislike" would upend that social norm,* giving any asshole in your circle of friends the ability to censure without reason, to express their disapproval without having to articulate it. Nobody with a functioning vocabulary is at all impaired by not having a "Dislike" button. There's a comment box. If you dislike something, you can express that in words.

Proponents of the "Dislike" function will point out that one can "Like" that my grandmother died. That would be an asshole thing to do but, since most people don't post "My grandmother died," they post something like, "My grandmother died after eighty-seven long happy years. Please keep my family in your prayers," if someone were to "Like" that, one would presume that it was a show of support. A simple solution to this, by the way is to allow users to disable the "Like" button.

As I've mentioned in the past, there are still a lot of opportunities for communication and a lot of methods of communication on the internet that are still coming to fruition and I'd be a fool to simply dismiss a new angle for expressing one's self. The problem with a "Dislike" button is that it would not be a method of expression. Instead, it would be a method to dodge expression, a way to simply belch a half-formed, and quite rude, non-thought out into the public sphere and I don't see that doing anyone any good. To sum up, kids and assholes will abuse it. Adults don't need it. Let's not bother.

*I'm usually all for the upending of social norms. On the other hand, I'm also a fan of civility. I don't see a contradiction here. Social norms should only be discarded if they are, in fact bad, and I don't see that being the case here.


Prestige Matters

"You get paid, right?" She asks. I have to confess that I do but I don't know how to explain to her that that isn't really the point. Sure, one doesn't wait tables pro-bono, but if I was doing it just for the paycheck, then I'd be better off doing something else.

This was some time ago, of course. I haven't waited a table in years but the revelation of that conversation has stuck with me. I understand that, for many people, the compensation is all that matters but for me it's not that way, going all the way back to my years in restaurants, it wasn't ever just about the money.

This whole realization happened when I discovered that a friend, who worked third shift at a Waffle House, took home nearly as much as I did despite the fact that I worked at a three-star bistro full of high-dollar clientèle and classically trained chefs. To be clear, my tips were better but she didn't have to tip out a half-dozen other staff and she made her tips in cash while I made mine on credit cards so she could dodge some tax obligation. Finally, I had to outlay a portion of my money to stay up to par with the establishment, getting my uniforms and aprons professionally laundered and starched, haircuts twice as often as I would have had otherwise, my subscriptions to two industry publications that I read religiously lest one of my diners ask how they're doing it at Les Halles this season. This is not even counting the uncompensated time I spent outside of work studying culinary concepts and brushing up my Japanese and my French.

She suggested that I say "Fuck it," and go to work with her. The standards I kept to appalled her. While she strolled in approximately when her shift began, cut lemons and made tea as it pleased her, dried her apron in the microwave, and was never expected to know whether the vegetables were organic. I, by comparison, was constantly faced with white-glove inspections, expected to know every answer, to pronounce every foreign term correctly, to anticipate my guests' every need, to stay as late as my diners cared to stay and to always be no more than one point shy of flawless. Despite the money, comparative ease and shorter hours, I would still never have traded places.

Why, because prestige matters, perhaps not to everyone, but it matters to me.

I kept the fine dining job because, even though I was part of an oft-denigrated profession, I wanted to be high in the waiters' pecking order. Now, making movies, I work very hard to stay attached to large-budget studio shows even when local indies have the same pay scale because it matters to me that my projects are recognizable. When I'm off, I skydive because bowling doesn't quite capture others' imaginations.

Perhaps I'm shallow, but I want to know that the things I do are considered important when compared against similar endeavors. Despite everything my elementary guidance counselor told me, it is not enough to simply know my own worth. Now, I don't define my entire self based on this. I'm not going to collapse into tears and cease to function because I have to take a gig that widens no eyes, but, given the choice I'll take the harder, less lucrative work that carries a modicum of eminence.

Is that wrong? I don't know, but it's what's informed the arc of my career and it's worked out pretty well for me so far. If I'm overworked or less wealthy than I would have been otherwise, I'm comfortable with that.


By a Crystal Blue Italian Stream

A long weekend is never quite enough. It leaves one hanging. The extra day is more a distraction than an opportunity to recharge. That unassigned Monday is always taken up with other obligations, family gatherings, public observances and that accumulating list of things that stay undone during the work week. We all find ourselves on the clock come Tuesday but just a bit out of place, shifted just far enough in time that the minutes don't add up the way we feel they should.

The better part of it is the four day week that follows, though that does as much to break the rhythm and make the following week seem disproportionately longer.

I'm lucky, in a sense. Though my workdays are half again longer than those of my friends in cubicle-farms, the freelance lifestyle means that I usually end up with several weeks off work each year. Granted, they're unpaid weeks, but they're weeks off nonetheless. That's when the batteries get recharged. That's when I get to be lazy and also when I get to take care of all those wouldn't-it-be-nice-if-I-could-only-find-the-time things. I realize that most people don't get that.

Two weeks' annual vacation isn't enough either. Bereft of free time, we try and legislate every moment of these clots of free days with cruises, road-trips, family outings or projects better left to professionals.

I think we should scrap the holidays, at least that collection of bank holidays that have been divorced from their intent, the holidays that most of America observes only through beer and bratwurst: Columbus Day, Presidents' Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day. Let's take all four of those and any others that I've forgotten, combine them all together, tack them onto the back side of Thanksgiving and let the whole country take a week and a half off at the end of November. Let's just shut it all down for seven business days, and I mean everything, all non-essential businesses and institutions, because retail workers, call center techs and bartenders deserve some time off as well. Without mandating a single additional bank holiday, lets just take a week away from the business of business. Let's take a week and all say, "Hey, we all get a little time to ourselves."

I think it would be much better for us than a stray barbecue Monday every few months.