10 Responses to Lies I Get Told on Set

A New Orleans-based coordinator responded to Thursday’s post, and I felt it was worth calling everyone’s attention to:

10. I mostly rent PAs cars. When I ask for a personal vehicle to be used, you either get mileage or gas paid for. If a flat happens on the job, I work with accounting to get it coded to transpo. I don’t know what tyrants you’re working for, but I’ve worked in NOLA for a while, now, and I don’t know anyone that diabolical. Also, with that much wear and tear on a car you need to cut your losses in the long run and look for a new more economical car.

9. Production and their relationships with food, be it crafty or catering are pretty ridiculous. I agree. You can never keep it stocked well enough for very long. You have to realize that you’re dealing with a herd. If shooting crew and production are occupying the same crafty, say, for instance, when you’re on stage, crafty is an all day thing to keep up, but thems the breaks, baby. You took the gig and, from what I can tell, you knew this when you signed up. There are crapass aspects to everyone’s job. No one has it all lollipops and daisy chains. It is, after all, work. From the tone this manifesto is taking, it seems that you’d relish in watching people squirm and freak out from you being able to say, “we aren’t allowed to spend any more than this and there is nothing I can do about it.”

8. I’ve never said this, heard this, or had this said to me. The umbrage I take from this is that you’ve never seen someone “pay it forward.” Again, I think you’ve worked some dipshit shows with some dipshit people. I pay it forward every time I can and I see people do it often. Even on the show I am on.

7. I personally keep my PAs as close to twelve hours as possible The reality is that it doesn’t always work out that way. Runs and flare up are unpredictable. You make up for it other ways. Delayed start time. Cut early throughout the week. Little things. If the OT is truly well over twelve hours, I get it approved. For this point, I have to fall back on the whole, “you knew it was a snake before you picked it up, Josh.” You have such contempt for the snake. WHY DO YOU KEEP PICKING UP THE SNAKE?!

6. This reads like a hint of envy, but far be it from me to say it is so. I will say that perhaps the attitude you’re demonstrating in this kind of posting was prevalent during your tenure as a PA? ….and that the coordinator noticed it….? Perhaps? Production is all about the right attitude and you get out of it what you put into it. It might be time to move on if you haven’t moved up.

5. The worst thing I can think of is having to pick up someone’s dog’s shit. Probably in accounting…probably. This happened once to me in my PA days and I refused. I have a line. That crosses it. No one, but NO ONE, will come at you for being put in that unfair of a position. Regardless of this extreme instance, you are a god damned production assistant. You’re a jack of all trades ESPECIALLY when you work in production. The ones that move up and get noticed are the ones that sincerely WANT to. I know I did. My production friends and I talk about this a lot. The difference b/w us, and, trust me, we’re not that far apart, I think, is that when we were coming up we wanted it more. We wanted to be the best. We never sacrificed our principles by picking up dog shit, metaphorically or literally, and we were applauded for it. Sometimes promoted.

4. Here’s a point where I sort of agree with you, outside of the shitass attitude re: PAs. Interns, like communism, work on paper, In practice, they’re a bit tricky. There’s a mindset that gets a little wet at the thought of exacting revenge from the Production Groundlings and filing a class action. Talk about shooting your career in the foot before the first big race. It is very easy to abuse interns, but I think this is a double edged sword. I think that interns need to set a few standards and ground rules for their unpaid time. I know I did. What is the worst that can happen? You get fired from your unpaid job?

3. You’re yearning for the day a job will end as soon as you get it. Then you’re upset when it pushes or pulls. Oh, fuck off. Find something else, man.

2. I don’t know what kind of nonunion gigs have asked this of you, but you should avoid them. Then you won’t get treated like this.

1. Then walk at twelve. They won’t stop you. They might ask you to not come back, but I think, deep down inside, that’s what’s best. You have such bile and vitriol for the industry and the system and the people who make it something a lot of people enjoy, but you’re a masochist. You’re talking like a battered spouse. I’ve been doing this for a while and I can guarantee you that it is not for everyone. The worst people in this industry are the ones who get stuck. I hope you’re young enough to get out. This is simply not for you. It shows. I guarantee you your current boss, assuming you’re working, knows this. Anyone reading this knows this. You’re not gonna get ahead spitting on the system, even from behind a computer. It is a small town. ;)

Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

2nd AD Anthony Robinson

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Today’s guest is a 2nd AD who got into the DGA the hard way– by earning his days as a set PA. It is not easy.

Anthony Robinson tells us about everything from buying lunch to directing background actors, all while maintaining a positive attitude. Here’s a little secret that even Anthony doesn’t know– I’ve been a PA on a show with him, and I can vouch for the fact that he is easily the happiest-go-luckiest AD I’ve ever seen.

If you’re a fan of Survivor, you may recognize Anthony from the Fiji season a few years ago. He didn’t win, obviously; if you won a million dollars, you wouldn’t continue being a PA, either.

The producer of today’s episode was Chris Henry, who also wrote the theme. Follow him on Twitter at @MrStonebender.

If you like the show, please rate and review us on iTunes. You can also subscribe via Stitcher, or with the Crew Call xml feed.

Back episodes of Crew Call can be found on the Anonymous Production Assistant website.

To help support Crew Call, simply click on the Amazon banner before you go shopping:

Posted in Crew Call, On the Job, Podcast | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Lies I get Told as a Production Assistant

I’ll admit, other than a few shows that went on location in Vegas, I’ve never shot outside of Los Angeles. I have never worked in places like New Orleans or Detroit, where tax incentives draw film production. I work in Hollywood, literally and metaphorically.

But today, a guest blogger wrote in to talk about PAing in New Orleans. This list is… rather eye opening. A lot of this happens on non-union shows here in Los Angeles, but none of this is what I would consider “normal.”

Here are Josh’s Ten Favorite Lies:

10. “You won’t have to drive your personal vehicle”

There will be a lot written here about my car. It is a very fragile beast and has cost me thousands of dollars over the years. Having bought it very cheaply off of my grandmother in 2010, I’ve accepted the cost of this maintenance whether it’s engine issues or new tires. I, however, will not accept fronting the bill for the wear and tear on my car because of employment situations that offer NO compensation whatsoever. I’ve put over 600 miles on my car in a single Monday through Friday work week. Oh, they’ll pay your gas receipts or reimburse your for ‘mileage’ but they won’t replace a flat tire or cover your oil change. I’m not sure what realm of reality production managers occupy but it must be one where PA’s vehicles are powered by the double rainbow of raw ambition, where nothing could possibly go wrong. Because you know, the typical PA can afford a brand new, perfectly functioning vehicle.

9. “We need to cut down on our crafty spending.”

Invariably through the course of production, some well meaning manager or coordinator will freak out about much money has been spent on crafty so far. ‘Crafty’ is some strange industry code word for junk food: chips, nuts, crackers, candy, soda, etc. Imagine a film crew as a horde or overweight British children, fingers stained purple from digging their hands into blueberry pies all day. They are the most overfed class of people you’ll find in Western culture and most of them are armed with the red tape of union regulations to keep themselves that way. With this knowledge in tow, it is IMPOSSIBLE to ‘cut back’ on crafty spending during a movie shoot. You’re boss is just trying to cover his ass by giving you this impractical instruction. He isn’t really seeing what you see each day in the office and/or on set. It’s feeding time at the zoo. Every minute. Every day.

8. “After you do this, you won’t be a P.A. anymore.”

I guess for those dreaming of a future in the production industry, this would be the ultimate carrot on a stick. You’ve done X many shows and now you’re looking for any opportunity at all to move forward. Excellent, making that known will be your first fatal mistake. The coordinator or unit production manager or assistant director that hires you is merely trying to crew up. It’s an inconvenient part of preparing (or prepping) to shoot a movie. They will tell you whatever you need to hear in order to take the show and fill out that spot on the call sheet. Alternatively, you’re wedged into a corner because now you want to make a great final impression that you are beyond PA duties – meaning you’ll probably have to do double PA duties just to save face in front of the employer. The only way someone moves forward in any career, at least from what I’ve witnessed, is fucking over the person who hired you by taking a better job offer. Seriously, I’ve seen no one ‘pay it forward’ and help a PA move up because they did well on a couple shows. Anyone good enough at gophering shit is a threat to the bigger gophers with fancier titles, like Assistant Directors. You know how they’ll really help you? By offering you another shit PA job when you’re broke and desperate. Indentured servitude, my friend.

7. “We’re gonna get you out of here early tonight.”

Another fucking evil carrot on a stick. Let’s say your day is rapidly approaching the 12 hour mark. This can be the light at the end of the tunnel or just the sad car accident you pass on the way to the graveyard. Your boss starts flipping out that it may be a long night. He knows you have to be back to work early the next day and you need a proper turnover. So he lies to you, giving you the false hope that you may indeed go home early or at least, at your 12 hour mark. Guess what? It’s more or less a trick to keep your morale high as you are silently march into your 13th or 14th hour. I know what you’re thinking, ‘but what about the overtime?’ Hahahahaha, I’ll get to that later. For now, never believe anybody when they say it’s going to be a short day. Firstly because it’s NOT and secondly, a short day in the production industry could be fucking 14 hours to some people. Very sad, lonely people.

6. “We’re all crewed up but I’ll get you on the next one.”

This one’s pretty obvious to anybody who has been unemployed for at least a month between jobs. You exercise every connection you think you have with your ‘friends’ and come up empty handed. Remember when I said I’ve only seen people move up when they stab their bosses in the back? You won’t see more underhanded maneuvering like on the last days of shooting or wrap on a production. Everybody is lining up their next gig in shadowy fashion because they don’t want the person next to them to hear about it. Those who already have their next job locked in won’t tell a fucking soul, except for their little clique that probably helped it along. You’ve busted your ass on every show but like any other job, if you haven’t infiltrated somebody’s clique (any department) then you’re going to be high and dry come the end of your show’s run. Those people you hung out with during all of production suddenly aren’t so chipper to talk about movies and sports with you when you ask if they know anything coming to town soon. However, corner one of your ‘buddies’ long enough and they’ll promise you the next job. If that was actually going to happen, you wouldn’t be unemployed at wrap.

5. “You’ll never have to do that.”

Oh yeah, the friendly pat on the back and reassurance that – despite you’re PA status – you’ll never have to do that. What is ‘that’ exactly? It could be anything! That’s the beauty of PA work, it’s a catch-all for every department on a production. Anybody, from the laziest teamster to Tom Cruise can pull you aside and ask for a favor. You’re walking around a shooting range with a target on your back. The only difference is the shooting range is a bunch of children who need to be handheld through every miniscule task and you’ve got a big neon sign hanging over your head that reads “Hey I’ve got hands!” Technically, no little job is beneath you, whatever your pride may assume, but there are moments where your boss will confide in you that THIS time you won’t have to worry about _______. Why? Because someone else is doing it. It’s their job, after all. You may feel a brief reprieve, like your day just got easier. Well guess what? There’s no rules and even some other PA can delegate their pointless task down the ladder to the next PA. No assistant is safe from the trivialities. At that point, pray you have interns.

4. “Don’t worry. You’ll have interns.”

Hahaha, oh yes, interns! We are no longer talking indentured servitude in the production game. Oh no, it’s straight up slave labor! Have you heard about those recent class action lawsuits where the interns on ‘Black Swan” sued 20th Century Fox? Currently there is one pending with interns from the Wendy Williams Show. These little angels are the unpaid sweatshop workers of Hollywood and beyond. They are usually college students (sadly, not all of them) trying to crack into this dream-factory industry. The problem is, labor laws prevent them from being any real use. You, the PA, get told you will have interns helping out. But interns go home early. Interns have school schedules. Interns can’t drive their personal vehicles. This is the production fucking the person they ARE paying, you. Instead of hiring another PA who could share the load of a 60hr work week, they bring along a couple interns for free. Instead of making you’re job easier, you have to now waste time instructing interns what to do and how to do it properly. Now you’re fucking training people too for a shitty PA wage. And you thought things were going to be better? True, they didn’t really ‘lie’ to you in this case. There are interns available to do stuff. But I guarantee you they won’t be there when you really need them. Like ANYTIME you’re shooting overnight.

3. “You’re last day will be on _______”.

This is going to sound a lot more negative than it really is. Every job starts with this really positive estimation of how long your job will last. You can kind of hastily plan out how much money you are going to make and start budgeting for how long you can survive unemployed afterward. Yes, that’s correct. Unless you scammed your way into a lucrative friendship mentioned in #6, your great reward after a show ends is sitting at home, slowly going broke. But that’s after your last day, which exists hazily in the future, never really explained to you by any of your superiors. Most of the time it is after the movie wraps but you’d be surprised. The bean counters like to look like hot shots towards the end of productions and start sending people home at will. PAs will be the first get the axe, usually fucking over the poor PAs who remain. It has it’s pros and cons. Getting to go home early is always nice. But you can’t plan for it and usually it’s always one week shy of that last paycheck you really needed. Another sad fact is that by the end of a show, you’re so numb from all bullshit that you’ve settled into your little routine. And then the boss says to pack up your desk. He may have said your last day was next Thursday but here you are walking out the door. Things change, I guess. Never in your benefit.

2. “We are short on Transpo drivers”

This goes straight back to the first lie about driving your personal vehicle. You’re never outright ordered to drive your own car for production purposes. No, you see, the local managers and coordinators know better than to just say “Hey punk ass production assistant, you’re hired, and now you’re fucked.” No, they have to lull you into a false sense of security and comfort. They’ll do you favors first so they can eventually drop the hammer down on your soft little ass and the car it rides in. It’s the same on every show. “Hey, we’re short on Transpo drivers, you’ll have to make the morning run today”. They say it like they are shocked and disappointed in the local teamsters. It’s not production’s fault your personal vehicle is now going to get raped by useless mileage – it’s that shifty transportation department, lazy assholes! No. It’s not. The movie purposely doesn’t hire a lot of drivers because teamsters cost money and they can just as easily force a PA to do all the driving. They save money on paying union shit and the PA has no other choice. It’s planned out and executed in the same fashion, always around the beginning of principal photography. This is the most bold faced lie of them all and probably the most disgusting practice used in the industry.

1. “Write down 12 hours on your timecard but I want you to keep track of your actual hours.”

As many of you should know, a regular work week on a production (TV or movies) is not 40 hours. It is 60 hours. Overtime only kicks in after 12 hours in a single work day. As a PA, none of that is guaranteed but local production managers still like to keep the PAs buttered up with the hope for more money. After all, when you calculate the right-to-work state weekly wage for a PA ($650) against a full week, you get something pretty close to minimum wage per hour. I have actually spent my slow moments calculating the exact point I hit minimum wage after 12 hours. It’s very sad math. So let’s say you’re really slaving away with a 65-70 hour work week, putting in at least 1 to 2 hours past 12 each day. Overtime for PAs is a giant no-no to managers, so you have to report 60 flat hours. But then they try to act like your supporter and ask you to keep track of your ‘real’ hours as if down the line, they can convince one of their superiors to approve your overtime hours. The cold fact is…there’s no approval necessary. YOU WORKED OVERTIME. You did the time and what a shock, they’ve fucked you. They don’t owe you anything. You can kick and scream but the only solstice you’ll get is that shit line from a boss. And what is overtime, anyway? An extra 50 bucks on your paycheck? You lost 65 hours of your life. Time is infinitely more valuable than money and even when they do sack up your overtime pittance, it’s not worth it. Going home as early as possible is the only time you, the PA, can ever win.

* * *

So, dear readers, what do you think? Is this typical for filming outside Los Angeles?

Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

When Do I Get a Call Sheet?

Elle writes in:

I’m doing my non-paid, freelance internship as an Art Dept. PA. This one is a web-based, Emmy-nominated series.

I’m asking the 2nd AD for a call sheet (or any information at all, like ‘Hey, yes, we need you tomorrow’) at 8 pm and getting the emailed call sheet at 2 a.m. with, surprise! A location with a two-hour drive and a noon call time.

Here are my questions:

  1. What’s a reasonable time to wait for a call sheet/call time for the next day? (Paid or not.)
  2. When should you start asking for the info you need to be proactive but not annoying?

The thing about non-union productions is, there ain’t no rules. They don’t have to give you your call time at a reasonable hour, or maintain a responsible turnaround, or shoot in the studio zone.

Working on a union show protects you, even if you yourself are non-union.

Less pretentious than the COEXIST bumper stickers.

Hey, a bumper sticker that’s true!

That being said, the professionalism of a non-union show is measured by how closely it adheres to union rules.

Here’s the basics (if there are any ADs out there, please correct me on any of these points)–

First, they must give you a callsheet at wrap. If you’re not on set, they have to deliver it to you electronically.

Calltime is, in part, determined by the longest turn around, which is typically the actors (they get twelve hours’ worth). If no actor in the last shot today is also in the first shot tomorrow, the next longest turn around is the camera department (eleven hours).

So, if you had a noon calltime, it’s not crazy for you to get a call sheet at 1:00AM.1

That being said, by lunch time, the ADs should have an idea of what tomorrow’s call will be. Again, big shows have “prelim callsheets,” which are preliminary (obviously), and therefore non-binding. Still, they give everybody an idea of what’s happening the next day, instead of surprising them at the end of today’s shoot.

Prelims are also helpful for those of us in the office who work normal business hours. If I leave at 7:00pm, but the crew doesn’t wrap until 2:00am, the prelim is all I have to go on when I wrap out for the day.

Now, a small show may not have the time or budget to run off prelims, but they should still give you a head’s up if you’re starting at an unusual hour the next day. I mean, the difference between a 7:00am and an 8:00am call is minimal, but shooting a split day really affects the rest of your week.

If they haven’t given you a call time by 8:00pm, and they’re not paying you, it’s time to give them a call. Try again every half hour or so. If they don’t respond by the time you hit the hay, fuck ‘em.

When you’re getting a paycheck, you’re on the production’s clock, whatever that may be. But if you’re working for free, they at least owe you some courtesy. There’s a difference between paying your dues and being abused.

On the subject of abuse, the location is two hours away? Unless you live in Valencia and they’re shooting at Knott’s Berry Farm, there is no way they’re shooting within the zone.2

Again, if it’s non-union, they’re not obligated to film within the studio zone, but they’re assholes if they make some poor college student drive out to the middle of nowhere on her own dime. At the very least, this should have been something they warned you about in advance.

You’re supposed to learn as an intern. That’s why you get college credit instead of being paid. But on a show that’s being run unprofessionally? You’re learning all the wrong things.

Don’t stick around a shitty production like this. If they can’t get basic things like call sheets right, I can’t imagine what else they’re doing wrong on this show.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Or slightly later, since the ADs have a bunch of shit to do before they can sit down and fire off an email. That’s why it’s the production office’s responsibility on a big show; small shows often don’t have a production office.
  2. A thirty mile circle, from the corner of Beverly and La Cienega. It’s where the show TMZ gets its name.
Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Scheduling Conflicts

Michael writes in:

I freelance camera op at two digital production companies that each have plenty of work but also have plenty of freelancers at their disposal. Each week it’s hard to coordinate my schedules between the two, as they can ask me to come in a day before and, at many times, their schedules clash.

Is it annoying of me at the very end of every week when they’re preparing the schedules for the next week, to send them a friendly email with my availability to them? Obviously, I want to both stay at the forefront of their minds, but also try to work out my schedule with them a bit in advance in order to avoid conflicts. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

I love the emails that answer their own questions. It makes my job so much easier.

Yes, emailing potential employers about your availability is a great idea. If they make their schedule on a weekly basis, then a weekly email is what you need. It helps both them and you. It helps you, because you want to remind them of what a great operator you are; it helps them, because it makes their task (scheduling crew) that much easier.

“Win-win” is a thing corporate assholes say, but it also happens to be true in this case.

For my readers who work on longer-term gigs (such as film and television), you probably shouldn’t email potential employers weekly that you’re available. That really can get annoying when you’re fifteen episodes into a twenty-two episode season.

But when you’re coming to the end of a shoot, go ahead and check in with every AD and coordinator that you know. Don’t send a mass email; write a personalized email to each one.

Yes, you can include some boilerplate about how you’re available and would like to work with them again, but you should lead off with an anecdote or point of familiarity from the show you’d worked together on before. If nothing else, it’ll remind them just who the hell you are; don’t forget, they’ve worked with hundreds of PAs over the years.

If you haven’t found work in a month or so, it’s okay to contact them again. No less than that, though.

Posted in Finding a Job, On the Job | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Am I Too Small?

Indy (a college student) writes in:

I’m currently in college, and I’m interested in working behind the scenes for film and television. I would love to someday become a cinematographer, but one question that I’ve always wondered is if I’m too small to hold and operate a camera for long periods of time.

I’m very petite, just a little over 5 foot tall and weigh no more than 100 pounds, I was wondering if my lack of height and perhaps muscle would ultimately ruin my chances of becoming a cinematographer?

Do you think using a Steadicam would be too challenging? I have no experience in using camera equipment or even holding a camera so I have no clue. Sadly, I have no idea if I’m too short to capture the actors on camera (besides low angle shots) and I’ve only ever seen men handling the cameras.

Cameras are getting smaller all the time, but you sound extremely petite, even in this modern era of DSLRs and prosumer cameras on professional film sets.

Working your way up the ranks, though, is going to take time. No one’s going to let you anywhere near a camera just yet. First, you’ll have to be a set PA, then move over to camera PA, then 2nd AC, 1st AC, then operator. Granted, the ACs have to lug the cameras around plenty, but still, you’ve got a good five years to bulk up and practice, at least.

Steadicams are indeed heavy, but that’s also a specialized skill. Not every operator uses a steadicam. Heck, not every movie even uses handheld cameras at all. Most everything is shot on sticks or a dolly.

Women work in the camera department all the time. I’ve been a loader, and the first 1st AC I worked under was a woman. The show I’m on now has a female DP. From my own personal experience, among the “hard crew,”1 I’d say the camera department is the most open to women.2

Don’t assume your limitations will be an impediment. Your small hands might make it easier for you to make on-the-fly repairs to camera and gear, squeezing into small spaces and such. Get yourself out there and do your best.

You might make a fantastic cinematographer some day.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Grips, electrics, camera, sound, ADs.
  2. Sound off in the comments if your experience is different.
Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sound Mixer Chris Henry

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Today’s guest is a voice you may find familiar– our very own producer, Chris Henry.

Besides recording and editing Crew Call, Chris is an on-set sound mixer for indie movies. He’s relatively new to Los Angeles, and so I felt his experiences might be useful to some of the younger listeners out there, who are just starting out.

Sound is a tough department, because it’s vitally important, yet is often everyone’s last thought. It shouldn’t be your last thought though.

The producer of today’s episode was Chris Henry, who also wrote the theme.1 Follow him on Twitter at @MrStonebender.

If you like the show, please rate and review us on iTunes. You can also subscribe via Stitcher, or with the Crew Call xml feed.

Back episodes of Crew Call can be found on the Anonymous Production Assistant website.

To help support Crew Call, simply click on the Amazon banner before you go shopping.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Basically, Chris did everything except write this footnote.
Posted in Crew Call, Podcast | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Shit Happens

I just saw this post on Reddit:

Christopher Nolan breaks the 180 degree rule in The Dark Knight

Can anyone explain why he did it, and also why it works?

I’m new to film making, and I’ve been told that this rule is a rule that you shouldn’t break. But after seeing that Christopher Nolan breaks this rule, I am left confused.

The replies ranged from “There ain’t no rules” to “He was trying to get into the psychology of the Joker and blah blah bliddy blah.” But here’s the truth– shit happens.

I didn’t work on The Dark Knight, but just by watching the camera movement, you can tell how it was shot. The camera was placed over Batman’s right shoulder, slowly drifting to the left as they spoke. Then they turned around, put the camera over Joker’s left shoulder, and slowly drifted right.1

The cameras pass behind their respective characters at almost the same time, but since they weren’t shot simultaneously (each camera would’ve seen the other, obviously), it’s unlikely that they’d be perfectly in sync, no matter how good the dolly grip was.

The fact that they were so close implies that the filmmakers intended to not jump over the line, but rather slide across it during the conversation. Maybe one or two takes even matched. But in the end, the editor, director, and anyone else with input decided that the performances trumped the rule violation.

The camera movement hides the jump a little bit, since we, the audience, are anticipating crossing behind the character’s heads, anyway. The fact that it is the Joker we’re talking about means you can do crazy things and get away with it. In the end, most people probably never even noticed. It certainly didn’t bug me until ilikefruitydrinks pointed it out.

But we’ve had auteur theory crammed down our throats for so long that young, aspiring filmmakers (and, sadly, many film critics) really believe that every single shot and cut is filled with intention and purpose.

That’s simply untrue.

There’s only so many hours in a day, and therefore only so many setups can be shot. Even David Fincher has to call out “Print! Moving on!” at some point. We don’t always get it perfect. Compromises will be made.

A lot of times, the mistake you see in a film really is that– a mistake. Then, in the cold darkness of the editing bay, the post team has to figure out how to make a film with the footage they have, not the shots they intended to get.

This isn’t what people mean when they say “fix it in post;” this is standard filmmaking. Every movie, from your first short film to the most expensive Hollywood blockbuster, is a series of compromises. Sometimes we call those compromises “collaboration;” sometimes we call them “fuck ups.”

In the end, it doesn’t really matter. You do what you can with what you have. Sometimes it works, and you come up with The Dark Knight.2 Sometimes you get Trans4mers.

So don’t look at a movie and assume everything about it was the way the director intended. Because it’s just not.

Some of it is, but some it is just shit that happened.

 

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Yes, there are other shots in the scene, but they’re irrelevant to the current discussion.
  2. Although, not everyone thinks that it’s a great film.
Posted in On the Job | Tagged | 2 Comments

Production Designer Vincent Reynaud

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Today’s episode features yet another department about which I know precious little.

Our guest is a production designer, Vincent Reynaud. We talk about color, design, and many things I just plain don’t understand. Plus, Vincent has a delightful accent.

The producer of today’s episode was Chris Henry, who also wrote the theme. (I screwed up the recording on this particular ep, and Chris put in a heroic effort to save the audio. If you don’t like it, blame me!)

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Hey, You! With the Face!

I’m not sure about you guys but one of the biggest problems for me on a set is remembering everyone’s name.

Seriously, though. Especially when you are working a short commercial gig for one or two days? UGH.  Every single time a gig starts and you have to ask someone for the 50th time what their name is?

Really everything is just hopeless until, like, week two. (At least it is for me.)

“Does anyone have eyes on Bill?”

Nope, sorry. I really don’t know who Bill is; he could literally be standing next to me, and I wouldn’t know.

Checks bathroom. There’s no one in the bathroom.

“Well, Bill is not in the bathroom.”

“Hey I could use a water on set for Anne.”

Sounds great. I’ll just bring eight waters and hand them out to everyone on set, and hope one of those waters lands in the hands of Anne. I wonder what she does?

My favorite solution is when the walkies have everyone’s names on them. If you have ever done this as a PA: THANK YOU. Seriously, everyone loves you. Any sort of label on a walkie can help immensely. Even if its just the department, it at least narrows down the options.

For those people like me who have issues with names? I suggest always having the call sheet on you.1 Maybe while you hide in the bathroom to get a 5 minute break you can review names on the sheet and try and place the faces.

Does anyone out there have any solutions for the name predicament?

Maybe can we all just wear “Hello my name is ___” like dorks on set?

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. And really, there are many, many reasons to have your callsheet on hand, anyway.
Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , | 1 Comment