6/30/2011

Job vs Calling



I just got a resume that highlights the PA applicant's "flexible schedule."

Talk about just not getting it.

If there's one thing that knocks people out of this industry, it's the hours. Your schedule is from when-we-tell-you-to-be-there until sometime after when-we're-done. There is no wiggle room on this. Once you've been around for a while and you're part of an established team, you can work it out where you get to attend family events like weddings. We're not so big a bunch of assholes as to tell you that you can't attend your mom's funeral but taking the evening off to go to a concert or to celebrate an anniversary just isn't in the cards if you're a rank and file filmmaker. You just have to learn to make life accommodate work because the reciprocal won't happen.

It would be nice to go do the things that everyone else gets to do, like have drinks on a Thursday evening, arrive at or leave work while the sun is up or know what my nieces and nephews look like. But, that's just not how this works because the culture of shooting-unit film makers is much more akin to that of presidential campaign staff, deployed Marines or lifetime missionaries than it is like that of the modern office professional. We do this, all day, every day and, as long as there's still days until picture wrap, everything else is secondary. Frankly, that's the way we prefer it. Life is just simpler this way.

The very notion of a "flexible schedule" gets snickers of derision because it smacks of someone unprepared for the lifestyle and you have to be prepared for the lifestyle if you're going to be any good or at all happy doing this.

6/13/2011

In Which I Pick Some Nits



Not to be an elitist asshole, but there are certain twists of phrase that absolutely give you away as an on-set first-timer. It's not that there's anything innately wrong with being new at a job, it's just that, in this business at least, a distressing plurality of the greenwoods are cocky and entitled well beyond what their level of experience would justify. If you're going to be that guy, fine, but try to remember these things:

Length of a script or of a scene is articulated in eighths of a page and not by some common denominator. We say that a scene is one and six-eighths long, not one and three-quarters.

The vacuum tube and filament in a light fixture that actually produces the illumination, it's called the "lamp" not the "bulb."

Those products that we use up in the course of shooting a film: tape, sash cord, recordable media, canned air, office supplies, razor blades, p'touch tape, cleaning supplies, batteries etc. are collectively referred to as Expendables, like the 80's action homage. They're not 'consumables,' 'disposables' or 'supplies.'

PR means "Production Report" -- Not Public Relations

Time, especially for the purposes of payroll, is articulated on a decimal clock, the minimum unit of which is a "tenth" of six minutes. So, if I get to work at seven in the morning and leave work at seven thirty in the evening, my time card will read 7.0 - 19.5. Also, the clock does not reset at midnight so if I come in at noon but don't leave until ten after two in the morning, it will read 12.0 - 26.2 .

NDB stands for "Non Deductible Breakfast." What that actually means is a discussion for another time.


These are just a few little bits of jargon but they're a few of the ones that seem to be misunderstood the most often and they're the ones that I've noticed today. Learn the lingo is all that I'm saying.

6/09/2011

Corp-Speak



Going Forward

On the Same Page

Goal Oriented

Synergy

Prioritizing

Team Player

Metrics

Productively Actualized

On Deck

Outside the Box

Core Principles

Action Items

Critical Mass

Dovetail



Go. Fuck Yourself.

6/06/2011

Pretty Little Soldiers



Dash and I went to junior high together but we went to separate high schools. We flew in similar circles, went to all the same parties and had lots of friends in common but we weren't all that close. Fifteen years on, though, he's one of only two childhood pals that ended up in the movie industry and our two lives, while superficially similar, could hardly be more different.

First, I planned for this to be my life since my earliest days. Once I got over those half dozen when-I-grow-ups that all little boys have: astronaut, fireman, paleontologist, president, I knew that I wanted to make movies. Dash, on the other hand, wanted to be a stage actor, to be a Broadway triple threat.

We spent fifteen years wandering our respective early adulthoods. He did a spate as part of a roaming troupe that did educational theater all across the country. He was a stage hand and then a PA. I did the rounds as a bartender, customer service rep and then a boom operator. Ultimately, I landed in the production department and he found himself an East Coast AD.

Owing to the different roads we've taken, we have huge differences of opinion as to the nature of each other's careers. He works in indie world, helming small shows destined for the festival circuit and second-tier DVD release. He manages edgy, original, artistically daring films made by aspiring auteurs and small crews that are lauded by critics, coo'd over by kinophiles and ignored by the world at large.

I'm at the other end of the spectrum. I work on mult-million dollar studio pictures. Behemoth movies created largely by committee that are often forced to side-step grit and gumption in favor of spectacle and profit. But, the food is always good, the accommodations always comfortable and the checks always clear.

The cultures of these two worlds are different. His colleagues are mostly young and eager idealists, people who are looking to do what has not been done before. One perpetuates a career through enthusiasm and willingness to suffer, in the form of long days and low pay, for the artistry of the endeavor. My compatriots are slightly older, deeply jaded, fantastically ambitious, mercenaries who covet the number one slot at the box office. One keeps working in the studio world through one part luck, one part schmooze, one part grit and three parts professional flawlessness.

We've never worked together and we probably never will. On the rare occasion that we see one another, there's always a bit of tension, a complex tension built of posture, opposing experience and perhaps just a touch of envy. He ranks higher than I do but I make more money. I get to rub elbows with celebrities but he's integral to his productions in a way that I am not. On some level, he thinks that I'm a sell-out and, on that same level, I think that he swims in the shallow end.

In a way, though, we sometimes look at each other with eyes for what is greener. Dash's work will never have the prestige or recognition that mine has and mine will never have the legitimacy of his. I wonder what it would be like to make a movie without having to kiss above-the-line ass and I bet he wonders what it would be like to know that you're going to get paid on time and that the catering isn't going to suck.

It's of no consequence, though. We've each carved out our niche and, despite some puffing of chests to one another, we're making the careers that we want and we're both doing better than most at it. It's just funny how careers turn out, how our intentions brush with and sometimes push against reality, how our opinions of our work evolve as we learn and mature in our fields. It's strange how we end up in places we never thought we'd be and places we always knew we belonged and it's even stranger that sometimes they're the same place.

6/02/2011

I'll Won't Hug Your Elephant and I Won't Kiss Your Ass



I try to be above it; I try to be aloof. I try and watch politics with the same casual disinterest that I read industry trades or financial reports, keeping a conscious distance and knowing that my ability to influence events, while not null, is negligible. It doesn't work, though. I can't muster the detachment and the more I pay attention, the more angry I get.

Like I said before, I'm a registered Independent and have been for my entire voting life. I used to think that there was a happy middle. I used to think that Conservatives and Progressives, each a group of fundamentally good people working towards what they thought was best, each holding a kernel of truth on a variety of issues, each acting in good faith and each willing to work with the other would move the country forward by inches. But, I stopped believing that a long time ago.

For a while I believed that Conservatives, especially religious conservatives, were actually bad people. I thought they were greedy, power-grubbing bastards who cared much more about money and victory than about the welfare of the nation. At this same time, I thought that Liberals, probably in the form of Democrats, were poised to rediscover their principles and make the nation great again. I don't believe either of these things anymore.

I've realized that we're left with a one party of idiots and one party of assholes and frankly, I'm sick of it. I don't want legislative progress. I don't want new party initiatives. I don't want process stories and horse races. I don't want hand-holding and I don't much care if the two sides find common ground. I just want them to quit being a bunch of fuckups with their heads so far up their asses they can probably lick their own tonsils.

I don't want bipartisanship; I want politicians to do the right thing.

I want Republicans to realize that 'the free market' is not a panacea for economic and social ills and I want Democrats to realize that not all social and economic problems can be solved by state intervention.

I want Conservatives to quit fetishizing Personal Responsibility [TM] and admit that far too many people are victims of circumstance. I also want Liberals to quit facilitating a culture of victim-hood that insists no one is at fault for their own station in life.

I want the Right to stop quietly blaming minorities for the country's problems. I want the left to stop loudly proclaiming that middle class White men created all the worlds evils.

I want the Republican Party to have a sense of moral justice & I want the Democratic Party to have a spine.

I want both parties to kick the religious right to the curb and tell them that this is a secular nation and that these false debates about evolution, abortion and public faith are over, the way they should have been thirty years ago.

I want both parties to realize that you can't enrich a society by impoverishing art and science.

I want everyone in public office to realize that flag burning, gay marriage and gun control aren't even close to being our biggest problems right now and I would really like it if they would stop calling each other Socialists and Nazis.

I want the leadership from both columns to look at the financial crisis, the housing crisis, the debt crisis and all the financial woes of the last several years and realize that, Democrat and Republican, this is your fault. And, I want voters all over the country to realize that it's our fault as well for putting these power mad, bread and circus, cocksuckers in office in the first place.

Fuck Everybody.