How to Set Up a Courtesy Flag

Have you ever shot in the desert? If you aren’t a road runner or cactus, I don’t recommend it. Especially the last few days in the Los Angeles area.1

It’s a dry heat, sure, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a hundred and fuck degrees, and there’s no shade within 50 miles, save for the crafty tent, which everyone and their mother is trying to crowd under.

Except that’s not quite true. There are little pockets of shade dotted throughout the set, thanks to our friendly neighborhood grip department. They’ve set up courtesy flags.

For you newbies, this has nothing to do with semaphore. A courtesy flag is exactly the same as a normal grip flag,2 only it’s not used to flag the lights. It’s a flag that grips set for the crew who are unable to move into the shade themselves. Generally, camera operators and video village (if it doesn’t have its own tent), but it can be anybody, really.

This is one of those things that isn’t technically anyone’s job, but because film is a collaborative medium, and on a film set (ideally), people try to pull together however they can. I’m sure it all started one day, 80 years ago, some grip saw a cameraman3 baking in the sun, and thought, “I can solve this problem for him.”

And then it just became a regular part of a grip’s job.

As a PA, you’ll often be told to grab a courtesy flag. On a union show, this means, ask a grip to set a courtesy flag. Under no circumstances should you just grab a flag and c-stand off the truck. You might want to set it up yourself, but remember, you are not a grip. There might be a very good reason a grip would rather set the flag himself than hand it to you.

Now, on a low-budget production with a small crew, there may not be the manpower in the grip department to spare a guy setting up a flag the doesn’t, technically, affect the shot. You may have to set the flag yourself.

Here’s how to do it.

  1. Grab a c-stand, a sandbag, and a 4 by 4 floppy. This is a flag that is in a four foot by four foot frame, with an extra square fabric that is attached at one end. This can flop down, to make the flag essentially 4’X8′.
  2. Spread the C-stand legs out. You can turn the stand over, if this makes it easier, but do not rest the stand on its head. You’ll ruin it.
  3. Set the legs down on a flat surface, with the highest leg facing the direction the arm is going to stick out. This guarantees that, no matter what, the stand won’t fall in the same direction as the arm (which is generally also towards people).
  4. Drape the sand bag over the big leg. Remember, if the dirt is touching the ground, it’s not doing it’s job. It should be hanging slightly above the ground.4
  5. Rotate the head so that the knuckle is on the right, when you’re facing the same direction the arm is going.
  6. Loosen the knuckle, and rotate the arm until it’s more-or-less where you want it to be. Again, rotate it so the knuckle is on the right.5
  7. Slide the flag into the appropriately sized hole in the arm’s knuckle, and tighten.
  8. Pull the floppy down, and enjoy the satisfying ZZZZrrrrppp noise the velcro makes.

That’s it. It’s incredibly simple, which is why you’ll see a seasoned grip toss one up in about five seconds.

It’s also why other people fuck it up. They think, “Legs, arm, tighten, yeah yeah yeah.” Then they put the knuckles on the wrong side or face the legs the wrong way, and the whole thing collapses on the director’s head.

Guess who gets fired then?

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Not that I’m giving away where I’m shooting this week or anything…
  2. Black fabric stretched taught over a wire frame, with a handy little rod sticking out for attaching to c-stands, clamps, what have you.
  3. There weren’t a lot of camerawomen back then.
  4. Some people mistakenly think the big leg should face away from the arm, so the sandbag can act as a counterweight. This might make sense intuitively, but if you really think about it, the sandbag is too close to the main post of the stand to have any real leverage, and because of the triangle formation of the legs, your c-stand is now going to fall towards whoever you’re shading (see step 3).
  5. This is so the force of gravity actually tightens the knuckle. Do it the other way, and the weight of the flag will eventually loosen it, and everything will come crashing down.
Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

How To Find Just About Anyone in Hollywood

Every once in a while, I get a strange email like this:

Hello!

We have a strange research question for Anonymous Productions Assistant’s Blog!

I am helping a friend research and find pizza boxes for his Guinness Book of World Record Collection of pizza boxes. (He’s amazing – Scott Wiener – http://www.scottspizzatours.com/projects/pizzaboxes)

He’s been traveling across the globe showing his collection, and most recently hosted a film series about films that have to do with pizza. That’s when the question popped up. Who designed the great pizza boxes in movies that have specific pizza boxes in them: Mystic Pizza, Home Alone, Do the Right Thing, etc.? And is there a chance to find them?

He’s planning on opening a complete PIZZA museum in NYC within the next few years, and these boxes would have an amazing home.

Any chance you might help us reach production designers/art departments?

He is interested in pizza boxes made specifically for any film, TV, or shows of any sort.

Have a slice day,

C.C.

First of all, how did you miss Spider-Man 2?1

Anyway, not super relevant to this blog, right? Now, watch how, using only the power of imagination, I turn this into a post useful for my readers.

A pizza box is a prop (because it’s something handled by the actors), so you really don’t need to go all the way up to the production designer. The prop master will most likely be able to help you with your question.

It’s easy to find the prop master’s name on IMDb, but not everyone (especially below-the-line) lists their contact information there. So how would you find Doug Harlocker?

Most Hollywood prop masters are members of IATSE local 44, which also includes set decorators, greensmen, and special effects technicians. It’s incredibly easy to find a member you’re looking for. Just call up their local, and ask for contact information.

And here’s where it comes back to you, dear reader. As you make your way through Hollywood, you’ll probably find yourself drawn to one department or other. Maybe you dream of designing costumes, or like creating make-up effects, or maybe, like CC, you’re interested in props. But how do you get into that field?

I have no idea! Ask someone who’s already successful in that area. Look up movies and series you enjoy, check who works in that department, and find the local they’re most likely in. You’ll be able to get ahold of just about anybody in less than two phone calls.

Hell, even the DGA and WGA have directories (which will more than likely put you in touch with their agents, but still).

Once you get them on the phone, simply tell them you’re an admirer of their work, and tell them you’d like to take them out for lunch or drinks to learn more about their trade. It’s hard to turn down a free meal, especially when the other person wants to flatter you for an hour in the process.

I recommend this to anyone trying to break in. You’ll learn a lot, make connections, and probably have fun, too.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Holy shit, in that five minute clip are Aasif Mandvi, Donnell Rawlings, and Emily Deschanel! And Joel McHale is in it later! Who wasn’t in this movie?
Posted in The Industry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be Careful Who You Talk About

It’s been said1 that everyone knows two businesses: their business, and show business. After all, who doesn’t love celebrity gossip, box office results, or debating Game of Thrones theories?

But when you work in Hollywood, celebrities aren’t just wealthy, good looking people. They’re also your co-workers. Celebrity gossip is office gossip.

It’s a weird experience working with a celebrity, since you know so much about them (the names of their children, the number of times they’ve been married, maybe even watched a sex tape or two), but they know nothing about you. That’s gotta be awkward. So don’t make it more awkward by saying, “Hey, I saw you on TMZ last night!”

You can probably still talk about movies, right? That, too, can be a minefield.

Sure, you recognize the stars of a given film. You may even know the director (or occasionally the writer). But it’s entirely likely you don’t know the 17 credited producers, or the cinematographer, editor, or production designer.

A film is the work of hundreds of people, most of whom toil in anonymity, just like you and I do. If you talk shit about the blockbuster that came out last weekend, it’s not impossible that someone you’re talking to had a hand in it. Granted, they may not take it personally.

But then again, they might.

My boss was telling an embarrassing story about a dinner party he went to a few weeks ago. He knew some of the people, but not everyone. His friends were giving him shit (in a friendly way) about a movie he had produced a few years ago that bombed.

Not really thinking, my boss goes, “Yeah, well, it did better than that piece of shit Jupiter Ascending,2 right?”

Everyone at the table froze. After an awkward moment, someone on the far side of the table, who my boss didn’t know, slammed his hands on the table, stood up, and stormed out.

“Um, What just happened?” my boss asked.

The host clarified: “He was one of the producers on that ‘piece of shit.'”3

Moral of the story, don’t talk about movies you hate. In fact, maybe you shouldn’t hate movies at all, anyway.

Just talk about sports, instead.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Citation needed.
  2. He actually said a different movie, but I’m protecting his identity as well as mine.
  3. For the record, I kinda enjoyed Jupiter Ascending. Not my favorite story, but it looked amazing, especially on the big screen.
Posted in On the Job, The Industry | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Annoying, Or Taking Initiative?

Ryan writes in:

I recently got a job PAing at a fairly large production company for a couple of weeks. Due to lack of space, I was placed at a desk on a different floor than the people I am working directly for.

When I arrive in the morning sometimes I am given a small task that takes little time to complete, or given nothing at all. I feel like I’m being annoying if I call/email/walk back downstairs to ask if there’s anything I can be working on or help out with. Should I assume that if there was something to be done they would let me know or should I take initiative and risk being annoying?

You’ve heard the phrase, “Children should be seen and not heard?” Well, as a PA, you are the child in the production office. Constantly bugging your boss can be a mental drain for them. Asking once should be enough.

As much as possible, you should be working. If they haven’t given you something to do, find something to do on your own. Restock the kitchen. Organize the script shelf. Clean your messy desk.

Or, at least, you should appear to be working. If your boss walks by and sees you fucking around on Reddit or Facebook,1 she might start to wonder why they hired you in the first place. At the very least, ask the development department for a script and read it.

The good news about Ryan’s situation is, if he decides to slack off, they probably won’t notice. But there’s another phrase that applies– “Out of sight, out of mind.”

If the boss never sees you, she’s going to forget you’re even around, even if you’re doing a fantastic job. That’s no good, either. Try to ensure the work you make for yourself is visible.2

Another way to utilize your free time is to ask if you can sit in on meetings and phone calls. (Again, seen and not heard.) It shows initiative, and you’ll learn a ton. Once the meeting is concluded, find a good time to ask your boss some questions. Clarify anything you don’t understand, and especially make sure to ask your boss about her job. Everyone likes to talk about themselves, and your interest will definitely be taken as a positive.

In short, don’t let the distance from your boss’s office deter you. Keep yourself busy, and the boss will notice.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Or reading an anonymous PA blog…
  2. I realize this sounds incredibly cynical, but we work in a superficial business. Why should your job be any different?
Posted in On the Job | Tagged | 2 Comments

How NOT To Make a Microbudget Film

Last week’s post about why movies are so expensive got some interesting responses. The Burger King (probably a burger king, not the burger king) wrote–

Most of this is very true, but you are wrong in implying that independent filmmakers can’t make movies unless they have $98,000.

  1. Dead Hooker in a Trunk, $2500, sold to IFC Films
  2. El Mariachi, $7000, sold to Paramount Pictures
  3. Following, $6000, sold to Momentum Pictures

Those are just three dream scenario examples excluding all of the digital age directors who spent several years making no-budget films until they progressed to $98,000+ movies (Gareth Evans, Andrew Bujalski, Ti West, Adam Wingard, Mike Flanagan, many others).

If you want to make movies, go make movies. Not excuses.

J Steinmetz had this to say:

The price of payroll for skilled and talented folks is just that; professional people actually save the production money, by not wasting it and knowing how to spend it.

One may rent a room for a person to walk around in a white smock.

That does NOT make a physician. The patient is paying for the doctor’s knowledge and skill. An unskilled person may actually unintentionally kill the person.

There are films and TV programs made by unskilled people.
They are not watched, since they do not communicate, so they do not make any money.

And finally, regular commenter Marigrace said:

Oop! I hope TAPA didn’t just out themselves with that sly Indiegogo plug.

I’ll respond to the last comment first. Other Halves is a film that Crew Call producer Chris Henry sound designed. He asked me to plug their Indiegogo campaign, because they’re looking for finishing funds, and some of those funds are for Chris’s salary. He produced 26 episodes of Crew Call for free, so I figure I owe it to him to at least try to get him paid by someone.

And, to be honest, the trailer is pretty cool:

Chris’s experience on that movie is what inspired the previous post, in fact. The amount of money the producers are looking for struck me as laughably small, until Chris told me the total budget. It’s not quite as small as some of the budgets BK cited, but definitely less than a hundred grand.

But Chris also confirmed Steinmetz’s comment. The lack of experience in the crew caused slow downs on set more than once. Many of them were unpaid interns from Berkeley, in fact. (The movie was shot in San Francisco.)

I don’t know how well or how poorly things went on the sets of Following, El Mariachi,1 or Dead Hooker in a Trunk, but I can guarantee you that few, if any, people got paid on those shoots.

There is a trade off for both parties when it comes to free crew. For the crew, hopefully it means you’re gaining experience, or that ever elusive first credit. If you keep your eyes open and mouth shut,2 you’ll learn a lot.3

But are you learning the right things? Every set is different, but there are still good ways and bad ways to shoot a movie. A sleazy producer looking to exploit wide-eyed, wet-behind-the-ears film students so he can make a quick buck selling a shitty movie on the VOD market is probably not somebody whose habits you should pick up.

Which brings me to the trade off on the other side. It’s very difficult to make your first movie, whether as a producer or director. Nobody believes you can do it until you’ve already done it. It’s the worst kind of catch 22.

When you’re asking people to work for cheap or free, it should be because you believe so strongly in the project (the cast, the script, the director), you’ll do anything to make the movie. One simple measuring stick– is the producer getting paid? If so, then everyone should get paid.

If the producer is taking home half the budget (under the guise of his “production services company”), but the grips and ACs are working for $100/day, something is really wrong.

As a PA, these things are hard to know. My best advice is, after your first day, look everyone up on IMDb. See what their experiences are. If the DP has a bunch of camera assistant credits, that probably means she’s taking a pay cut in exchange for a promotion. That’s a good sign, because she’s read the script, knows the producers, and believes this film will be good for her career.

If, on the other hand, key people have no credits, or credits in entirely different departments, you might be working on a glorified student film.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. El Mariachi may be the least fair of these comparisons. I don’t know what the exchange rate was at the time, but seven thousands US dollars probably went a much longer way in Mexico in 1992 than it does in Los Angeles today.
  2. Except to ask questions. Even then, though, don’t ask too many questions.
  3. This is doubly true if you live outside of a major film market, like New York or Los Angeles. There probably aren’t a lot of films shot in the Berkeley area, so even a small budget film like Other Halves provides a unique opportunity for film students there.
Posted in On the Job, The Industry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Are Movies So Expensive?

For longer than I’ve been in the Industry, we’ve been hearing how cheap, digital cameras
and readily available editing software would democratize cinema. There would be a revolution in independent filmmaking that would tear down the studio system.

Except… that hasn’t happened. The reason is, equipment is no where near the biggest expense on a film set. People are.

At one time, you needed to  buy an actual film camera, film stock, pay for developing, and rent a massive edit bay. An average person could afford none of this on their own, so “independent” cinema still required a huge amount of infrastructure.

But those were all necessary-but-not-sufficient conditions to shooting your movie. You still need a cast and crew. Even when Don Hertzfeldt hand-draws every frame of a short cartoon by himself, there are still 11 other people in the credits–

On your typical TV show, payroll is about 70% of the budget.1 Take away above-the-line talent (who are still paid through payroll), and the crew is still around 50%. And these are shows that are renting soundstages, trucks, and massive lighting packages.

How does this make sense?

Let’s bring it down in scale. Let’s talk about a hypothetical, small-budget, indie movie. Something you might PA on when you’re starting out in the business, or maybe you feel like you could produce yourself, now.

We’ll assume all of the locations are places you can borrow (or steal). You’ll shoot with the DPs camera, using whatever lights he and the gaffer already own. The sound mixer is kinda enough to supply his own gear, as is the editor. This’ll be cheap, right?

We’ll give you a 20 day schedule. That’s not very long for a feature film, but it’s not unreasonably short either. We’ll say there’s a cast & crew of 35 people. Again, small, but not crazy. You can shoot a movie like this.

Everyone who’s working on it loves the script, but they can’t work for free for a month. So, you pay everyone minimum wage.

So, how much is that? 35 people X 20 days X $140/day = $98,000.

That’s right: nearly a hundred grand just to get people to show up on set. For minimum wage, whether they’re the director or a PA. No equipment, no locations, no props, costumes, or production design. It doesn’t include food, which is vitally important. It also doesn’t include the cost of acquiring the script, and it doesn’t include post production at all.2

Movies are, and will always be, expensive, because they require a lot of time from a lot of people. It doesn’t matter how cheap your camera is, or if the cast wears their own clothes, or if you don’t do any kind of set decorating whatsoever.

Even on the largest possible scale, people are the biggest expense. Watch the credits of an effects-driven movie. They go on forever, right? It’s not the computers and software that cost so much; they’re actually pretty cheap, in the over-all scheme of a $200 million budget. It’s the people who use the computers and software with talent and skill that really drive up the price.

People are the most important part of filmmaking, and so it stands to reason that they are where you spend your money.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. This is according to several payroll accountants I spoke with.
  2. Which might even be more expensive than food.
Posted in The Industry | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Booking Agent for PAs

Martin writes in:

I was wondering if you had ever heard of Booking Agents for PA’s. I found a job posting through a networking group on Facebook for a two-day PA gig which pays the normal rate. The contact person sent me an email stating this

“Thank you for your submission. I would like to bring you to the team. My company is a training and booking service non-exclusively, and therefore my fee is 15% of work I book you directly, and rehires. If you are interested in receiving additional work from me, please sign this independent contract agreement and fill out the contact sheet.”

I’m still very green in the industry and have never come across this before. Is this a scam or are booking agents for gigs a legitimate thing. The company is called Vegas PA’s, maybe you’ve heard of them before.

That is… bizarre.

No, I’ve never heard of a booking agent for production assistants at all, much less these guys. Granted, I’m based in Los Angeles, so that could be why I’ve never heard of a Las Vegas-based company. But I’m skeptical.

In simplest terms, the way an agency works is, they get you a job, and take a percentage of your paycheck for said job. This only makes sense for the client if the agent has better connections for gigs than they themselves do.1

Conversely, this only makes sense for the agent if 15% of the paycheck is worth the time and energy. A commission on Tom Cruise’s salary is more money than I’ve ever seen. Commission on a PA’s rate is less impressive.

And this is why I’m skeptical. Anytime I can’t figure out how someone is making money, I assume it must be a scam. Even if I don’t know what the scam is, I back away slowly, because clearly this person has thought it out more thoroughly than I have.

Now, it’s entirely possible Vegas PAs are on the level. It might be so difficult to find qualified production assistants in Las Vegas, that every production turns to them for their staffing needs.

It certainly wouldn’t be a viable business model in L.A. The only thing easier to find that PAs willing to work hard for little money is actors who are willing to do the same.2 An agency devoted to PAs wouldn’t be able to control the market. As an APOC or production secretary, I’d find Mandy or Craigslist (or even this very site) much less of a hassle.

Back to Martin’s question, I’d suggest reading the contract very closely. If they help you find work, that’s great! 85% of a PA paycheck is better than 0%, if you can’t land a gig on your own.

Just make sure you don’t pay anything upfront, first. That’s definitely a scam.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Agents also provide other services, like negotiating complex contracts and handling disputes between parties, which is why even big-name stars have representation. But that’s not really relevant to this discussion.
  2. An actor’s life is not for me.
Posted in Finding a Job, The Industry | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

The Minimum Wage and You

Several readers have asked how I think LA’s minimum wage increase will affect PAs. Well, it means we’ll get paid more. There’s a whole bunch of caveats to go with that, though.

First of all, the $15 an hour minimum wage you’ve been hearing so much about doesn’t take effect until 2020. I would hope anybody who’s a PA now won’t still be in five years. Maybe if you’re reading this as you starting in film school, you’ll get $15/hour.

Most PAs make $10/hour now, or $700/week (8 regular hours plus 4 hours at time-and-a-half, times 5 days). The new minimum represents a 50% pay raise, or $1050/week. That’s nearly what a union production secretary makes. Which is great! Right?

Well, look at it from the studio’s perspective. Are you suddenly worth 50% more? Maybe, maybe not. Remember, manpower is the most expensive thing in any production budget. A sharp increase will mean they’d either have to cut back on the number of PAs they hire, or cut back on the hours.

One easy solution is for offices with three PAs to reduce that number to two. Sure, the APOC and production secretary will probably have to pick up some slack, but the studio doesn’t care.

Or, they might mandate no overtime, and send PAs home after 8 hours. Which means you’ll have more free time and approximately the same pay… which doesn’t sound so bad, really.

But let’s think a little further down the line. What about that hypothetical film student I mentioned earlier? This is all good news for her, right? Again, maybe.

Another way to look at the minimum wage is that it makes it illegal for an employer to hire somebody who’s worth less than $15/hour. You may think your fancy college degree means you’re totally valuable, but let’s ask a salty old grip what he thinks a wet-behind-the-ears kid who’s never set foot on a Hollywood sound stage is worth.

On most shows, there are three types of PAs: the one with tons of experience; the must-hire whose related to somebody higher up; and the newbie who managed to impress the coordinator with her grit and moxie.

I'm gonna make it after allllllll!

My first day on the show was uncomfortable.

If she can only hire two PAs, guess who falls off that list?

With this new minimum wage, there’s no valid option between $0 and $15. Looks like you’re going to have to intern for a while.

And here we get to the really awkward part of this post.

Proponents of the minimum wage aren’t exactly proud of its history, if they’re even aware. That’s because its original purpose, like that of trade unions, was to keep minorities, specifically blacks and immigrants, from entering the workforce.

Breaking into any business is difficult without connections, and historically, minorities have few. This is why things like affirmative action exist– to help minorities enter a field that is otherwise closed to them.

At $15 per hour, a show is only going to want to hire experienced PAs. How are you going to get experience? Interning. And thanks to the Black Swan law suit, the few legitimate internships that are available require college credit.

You’re no longer working for free, you’re paying to gain experience. And guess who is under represented in colleges? Once again, minorities.

I’m not saying that this new minimum wage law is motivated by racism, but there is such a thing as unintended consequences. Most internships are going to go to wealthy kids who can afford to go to film school in Los Angeles (or one of the few other production cities), and additionally have the free time to intern between classes instead of, say, working to pay for rent and tuition.

The entry level positions will then go to those who have interned. It’s the old born-on-third-base issue.

This isn’t a new objection, by the way. Here’s Walter Williams explaining the problems in 19fucking85, before I was even born.

One final note– the two biggest production payroll companies, Entertainment Partners and Cast & Crew, are based in Burbank. When you work on a show, they are technically the employer of record. Does that mean the city of Los Angeles’s minimum wage law doesn’t apply, even if I’m working at, say, LA Center Studios?

I have no idea. Hopefully an accountant out there can answer that one.

Tl;dr: the new minimum wage will be good for some people, bad for others. I don’t actually know if it’s sound public policy, but the issue is a lot more complicated than “Letz pay poor ppl more lolz!”

Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Outdoors in L.A.

Wow, people were not pleased by yesterday’s post, where I criticized a fellow PA for getting the lunch order wrong. To be fair to me, this conversation didn’t happen outside my head. Sometimes I write these imagined conversations out on TAPA for your amusement, but clearly I failed in this regard.

Takeaways for readers that don’t have anonymous blogs–

  1. Don’t be mean to your fellow PA.
  2. If someone doesn’t ask for something you think is standard, maybe ask to confirm they don’t want beans or cheese or whathaveyou?
  3. Lunch is free. If it doesn’t make you go into anaphylactic shock, deal with it.
  4. Don’t fuck up the producer’s lunch.

Moving on.

The anonymous reader (who happens to provide us with the UTA joblist) wrote in:

You mentioned you hike a lot.  Where do you hike?  I used to hike Angeles Forest and Castaic Lake but haven’t in years, but always looking for other hikers to hike with.  ​

Sometimes, Los Angeles can feel like one giant freeway at rush hour.

TAPA Trivia: I'm actually in this photo.

And you thought “mattress in lanes” was the weirdest Sig Alert.

But the truth is, there are lots of green spaces in the city, including one of the largest urban parks in North America– Griffith Park. It’s over 4,00 acres.1 There are spots in Griffith Park that you wouldn’t even recognize as being in the middle of a major metropolis–

It's almost... TOO quiet.

Seriously, you can’t even hear cars.

There’s a bazzilion trails through Griffith Park, not to mention sites like the Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Sign, and tunnel to Toontown.

Oh, my God, I just realized that 'Toontown' sounds like 'Coontown.'

They took the sign down, though…

What I’m saying is, I never hike the same trail twice. I just grab some friends and go. Sometimes, we find an old, bandoned zoo that’s probably haunted, and sometimes we find a tranquil teahouse. You just never know.

This weekend, if you’re tired of being cooped up in a dark soundstage, why not get outside and go exploring?

I tear up a little every time I read this.

This, but with less snow.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. I don’t know how big an acre is, but that seems like an awful lot.
Posted in On the Job, The Industry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

There Are No “Standard” Toppings

Hollywood is the only industry that I’m aware of where the employees expect their employer to feed them. Lunch at the very minimum, and probably breakfast, possibly dinner,1 and snacks throughout the day.

And I love it. I basically don’t do any grocery shopping between August and April when I’m on a show. Free food is the best food.

But as an office PA, a good amount of your day is spent dealing with other people’s food.2 Taking orders, placing orders, picking them up, and most importantly, making sure your order is correct.

Yesterday, we ordered Chipotle for lunch. Since we’re not fully staffed yet, rather than order family style, the coordinator told my fellow PA to get individual orders. I, like everyone else, placed my order– chicken burrito, white rice, cheese, lettuce, fajita veggies.

About an hour later, the PA returned with lunch. I eagerly unwrapped my burrito– chicken, white rice, cheese, lettuce, fajita veggies… and beans.

INT. PRODUCTION OFFICE – DAY (FLASHBACK)

TAPA takes a bite out of her burrito, wrinkles her nose. Something isn’t right...

TAPA

Why are there beans in my burrito?

OTHER PA

It’s a burrito. Duh.

TAPA

I understand. But I didn’t order beans.

OTHER PA

Burritos always come with beans.

TAPA

I wrote down the things I wanted on my burrito. Beans were not on that list.

OTHER PA

You should’ve said, “No beans.”

TAPA

I didn’t write “No cyanide.” Is there cyanide on this burrito?

OTHER PA

Oh, come on. Cyanide is not part of the standard burrito order. A burrito is meat, beans, rice, and cheese wrapped in a tortilla.

The PRODUCTION COORDINATOR enters, holding a burrito with one bite taken out of it.

COORDINATOR

Did I get the wrong burrito? I didn’t order cheese.

Listen, everybody has their own idea of what is the “normal” way to eat something, whether it’s a burrito or a hot dog or french fries. But someone else might have a different idea…

Now, I’m just a lowly PA, so who cares if I got the right order? And our coordinator is a nice guy, so he just shrugged it off. But if that PA had gotten the producer’s order wrong, he would have been screamed at. Get an actor’s order wrong, and they’ll send you back to the restaurant.

The solution to this is simple: order what you’re told. If someone expects beans and doesn’t get them, well, show them the lunch order.3 It’s their dumb-ass fault for not ordering what they actually wanted.

And while we’re talking about food, always, always, always ask for sauce and dressing on the side. For one, it doesn’t travel well. And they always put on too much or too little. Plus, sauce is one of those things that restaurants themselves add without necessarily mentioning it on their menu.

“BLTs always come with mayonnaise. That’s standard.” Fuck you. They’re not BLTMs.

Anyway, my broader point is, if you give someone lunch with an ingredient missing, they’ll be annoyed, but at least they’ll eat. If you bring them food with something they’re allergic to, or just find gross, they might not eat it. Then they’re hungry and annoyed, which is not a good combination.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Known as “second meal,” for you newbies.
  2. Set PAs occasionally do, too, like when an actor has a weird call time, miss crew lunch, and are owed their own lunch before second meal arrives.
  3. You did write down the lunch order, right?
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