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The Most Hated Department

The camera department are jerks.  They’re rude, arrogant, self-centered, and self-important.

Now, realize that I used to be a loader and a 2nd AC, and I was no exception.  I’m speaking from the inside, here.

In the camera department, we always sit by ourselves at lunch; we don’t mingle with the rest of the crew.  We don’t chat or joke or goof around with the rest of the guys.  We’re our own little autonomous unit.

I used to think it was because of the pressure the we’re under.  There’s not much down time.  When we’re rolling, we’re obviously busy with framing and focusing and all that fun stuff.  In between takes, we’re moving the camera or laying marks or whatever.

Actors and script supervisors are busy mostly during the take.  Grips and electrics do most of their work before the shot.  Hair and make up, well, I’m not really sure when they work.

The pressure is particularly acute on the loader.  It’s not hard to redo a take if an actor flubs a line, or a dimmer operator misses a lighting cue, but if the loader either loads or cans a roll of film incorrectly, that’s hours of work down the drain.

My AC used to hold up a roll of exposed film and tell me, “This is gold.  This is the whole reason we’re here.”

Well, sorta.  The actual reason we’re here is for the editor to take that film and cut it together into a coherent story told in pictures.

But still, point taken.  You write the script, build the set, stage the scene, light the actors, all so we can point a camera at it and show it to an audience.

So, I always believed the egotism and arrogance of the camera department comes from the fact that they’re the end of the production process.  But a friend of mine (an electrician, of course) has another theory.

Camera department is the only department who doesn’t have to help anyone else.  Grips have to provide shade and place lensers; electrics supply stingers and work lights; the whole point of craft services is to help the rest of the crew (more on them another day); hell, even the hair stylists will cut a crew member’s hair for cheap or free.

But not camera.  They do their own thing all day long, ignoring everyone else, setting their cases on the furniture (which pisses off art department to no end), yelling at people to clear the way for their cart.  No wonder everyone dislikes them.

Of course, the actors don’t help anyone, either, but they’re like children.  You’re happy if they manage to get from their trailer to stage without getting lost or distracted by a butterfly.

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13 Responses

  1. I’m a DP and an electric, about a 50/50 split. I’ve never been in the camera dept except as a DP/operator, but I do understand the pressure. A lot of responsibility is placed on their shoulders.

    However, you could also say the same of the electric dept. Without them, there would be no lighting, and no power to all those other departments who come and demand it while we’re running 4/0.

    …and it’s also true of, say, grip, for light control, camera movement, and overall safety. Or the wardrobe dept to oversee every last detail of a period piece. Or the script sup, to make sure it all cuts together.

    Every department is under enormous pressure. And I’ve met self-important assholes in every department. Because some people are just like that. Hell, I’ve been like that if you catch me at the wrong moment, because just then, what I’m doing is more important to me than what you’re doing.

    So everyone, just try to be nice to each other. It’s not super easy, but with practice, you’ll get the hang of it!

  2. I would consider myself an aspiring AC. I’ve worked as a Camera PA on quite a few big projects, and DP’d smaller indie projects. I have to say I got a good chuckle out of reading this article and the ensuing comments. I do agree with the other AC that Camera doesn’t have spare time on set. Who is always precalled earliest? Camera and our beloved Brethren, Juicers. Who is typically last to wrap out? Camera and all of G&E… My point being there are just more responsibilities and duties in camera department than the majority of departments on set.
    Oh, and it’s no secret.. Everyone hates camera because they secretly want to BE camera… Everyone knows we’re the cool kids on set, stop telling yourselves differently. You call it self-important, I call it jealousy.

  3. Is anyone else getting the irony that the (alleged) “self-important jerks” left the “self-important” comments? Hilarious.

    “Here’s 12 paragraphs of why you can’t label me as a self-important douche!”

  4. I’m an AC that spent a ton of time Gaffing a gripping. I prefer camera now.

    I help all depts when I can. But before I make the split second decision to help someone I have to do 1 million calculations in my head to make sure I won’t be neglecting something else I’m supposed to be doing.

    Again, I help when I can, but I generally find that the people that need help, aren’t good at what they do, or they are lacking enough crew members to do the job in the first place.

  5. You said at the beginning of your blog the an AC is very busy (i’m a 2nd AC) so when are we suposed to have time to help other people? if i was to wonder off to help someone in that time the 1stAC might need a lens you, just can’t leave your post, and if you do it only to load or go the the bathroom.

    After the day, you’re so tired that you have little or no energy to help people and you often are left behind writing up the sheets.

    At lunch, is a time to talk about what needs to be done and address issues, we might be eating but were still working, usually having to talk shop about what needs to be done.

    I then spend the rest of my lunch updating my sheets, and checking on the batteries.

    I do what when I can, if I make proper coffee I try and make some for sound or the sparks…I love sparks…just don’t try to out drink one.

    the job requires that your anal about everything you do. I think if we had the time to sit around and drink tea and chat to people we wouldn’t be seen as so “rude, arrogant, self-cantered, and self-important”.

    But when someone puts a cup of coffee on your lens box for the third time, I just pour it away in front of them. rude yes, arrogant yes, self important yes. why because if not that box with worth allot of $$$$ would have been destroyed and we couldn’t film for a day or more. there’s no room for oops I’m sorry. so yes we have to windge about things, that seem unimportant.

    yes we barge people out the standing in the gangway talking about who they shagged last night, but again once you’ve had to ask people a few times and they haven’t got the message you just need to come through and shout “mind your backs” this comes across as self important we don’t think where better than anyone else just that we don’t have time to wait for a good moment in your conversation to ask you politely get out the way.

    When I started out as a trainee I used to chat to everyone, but I just got told off for not concentrating on the job, because if your chatting you’re not listening to what’s going on, and then you end up slowing everyone down by asking stupid questions about where is it you wanted the tripod, or what lens did you just get for your notes, when you know you should have been the one who got it.

    At the end of the day im there to do a job and that comes first, but apart of what i like about filming is the team and the bond you build over the project. I do my best in any downtime to chat to people, and go for a drink after hours. We’re a team where all important and we all need to respect each other.

    my most hated department are the actors overpaid egos that often don’t care about what where trying to create, and only care that there egos are massarged. not all actors are like that thank god, but a suprising number are. and i have to say they really irritate me. not that I would let on to them….I have some sence of self presavation.

    don’t hate us hate the job:-)

  6. You’ve nailed this one on the head. The sense of entitlement those guys project is a truly awesome thing.

    A couple of years ago, I was on a show where one of the 2nd A.C.’s was about an hour late to work. He comes flying up to the street we’re shooting and yells at me that he needs a parking space. I reminded him that the call sheet specified “no crew parking on set” that day (things are different in NY), so he just turned around and went home.

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