No Jerks

Were allowed to have one.
"We're allowed to have one."

Yesterday, Desiree said:

His outburst was cocky and out of the map.

But when you say “astonishingly, this outburst did not get the operator fired” I get a little scared.

Everybody must also be allowed to have an own opinion, a freedom of speech and by all means a bad day.

Maybe I didn’t properly convey how big of an asshole this guy was. It’s not his misinformed opinion that bothered me so much as the fact that he screamed at this poor PA, at the top of his lungs, because he didn’t get a preliminary call sheet five minute sooner, when we were rolling. (We were rolling five minutes earlier, not that he screamed while rolling.)

Unless you’re a doctor or a soldier or a police officer, there is rarely a good reason to yell at a work. Maybe if a crane is about to fall on someone’s head. But other than that, it’s uncalled for.

I know someone’s going to say, “But that’s Hollywood, Anonymous! People are going to yell over petty things! Get used to it.”

Yes, that’s true.  But on the other hand, shut up.  Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s right.

And it doesn’t mean there’s no alternative, either. I’ve heard that Bill Lawrence enforces a “No Jerks” rule on Scrubs. The theory goes, no matter how good you are at your job, there’s someone else who’s just as good and isn’t a dick.

Some day, I’d like to have that rule on my own set. If I was a producer instead of a PA on this show, and I heard about something like this happening, I would make the camera operator apologize to the PA, in front of the entire crew. He did, after all, embarrass the PA in front of the entire crew. And then I would make it clear to the op that, if he yells at anyone ever again, someone better be in mortal danger, or his ass is fired.

Call me naive if you must, but I’m young. I can still afford to be naive.

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20 Responses

  1. Film production is collaboration, but it is not a democracy. Saying that everyone has an opinion and should be able to freely express it is ridiculous. There are people with higher levels of power and it is their prerogative to see the production through in their own way. Can’t handle it? Then quit and get a job at Burger King.

  2. I was on set in Korea where the DP was a real diva.

    My Korean was a little rusty at the time so I didn’t make out completely what the beef was, but it seemed every time the dolly grip went a little too fast or slow the DP would yell at him something fierce. DP would hit the grip with a hat, scream in his face, ask him where he learned to be such an ass, and basically embarrass the poor guy for five straight minutes before storming off to have a cigarette, putting the entire production on hold for a good 10 minutes.

    This happened at least once a day, sometimes two or three times. And everyone else on set just had to sit there and endure this jerk’s hissy fits because he was the oldest male, kinda like a silverback, on set. Even the director wouldn’t say anything because she was a good ten years younger than him.

    I can’t believe a guy like that can still have a job. A “No jerks” rule sounds like an awesome idea.

  3. If the guy continually behaves like this then the chances are the crew will ‘push’ him out eventually anyway. It sounds to me more like he was stressing over something and vented at the first little annoyance that came his way. That doesn’t excuse bad behaviour but an On Set PA needs to be able to recognise when people are just ‘venting’

    I doubt very much that it was the PA who would have been embarrased, a good On-Set PA can handle a situation like this effortlessly. Even if the PA was to just wait quietly until the guy finished shouting, and then say something like “No worries, I’ll make sure production gets the message for you. In the meantime, would you like a nice cuppa tea or one of my wicked hot choccies?”

    The person doing the shouting will always end up being the embarrased party and will most probably eat humble pie and apologise profusely later on. Especially when they suddenly remember that the On-Set PA is their ‘Go to’ guy and they shouldn’t be pissing them off!

    I believe one of the keys to becoming a good On-Set PA is to never, ever, take things personally because they never are (If you’re good)

    On a new set always aim to become the ‘Go To’ guy.

    You need to get to the stage where the crew (and cast) realise that you’re the person they need to talk to if they want to get ‘anything done round here’ because you always follow through and get things done. They know that if they need information or equipment or even just a laugh and some gossip then you’re the person to see about it.

    Once you get to this stage and if you’re really good, it starts to become ‘your set’, and you can subtly begin to change people’s behaviour without them even realising it and then you get everything running on ‘your set’ according to how you want to run it.

    Sounds crazy I know, but it does work, believe me, it just requires you to work hard and do your job and smile and listen, listen some more, observe and learn. The On Set PA is in one of the most advantageous positions of any crew member in that we’re in the thick of the action and get to see and hear everything that is going on. You can choose moments when you can ask Director’s, 1st AD’s, DP’s and the like questions that will give you knowledge that very few have access to. In my opinion it is an essential starting point if you want to progress to more senior on set positions and move into directing, DOP’ing, etc.

    And some might actually find that they prefer to become a specialist On Set PA and hone their skills to the point where you’re not just the ‘go to’ guy for the crews but for the production companies also when they’re starting to think about crew for an upcoming production. You don’t come cheap anymore but if you’re available you’re worth every penny and then some!

    Take heart all you On Set PA’s out there. It’s not often that the 1st AD on a large production has to rush off to help the Executive Producer with something and he turns not to the on set 3rd AD, nor to the 2nd AD and not even to the DP, but to his “go to” guy, the On Set PA and says ” ******, I have to rush off for an hour, can you keep the crew focused and run the next coupla takes for me please?”

    “No worries boss, take your time!”

    It has been known to happen.

  4. I’m neither young nor naive, but I like the “no jerks” rule a lot. I’ve worked on thousands of sets over the years, for all kinds of people. Some of those DP’s and directors were (are…) arrogant screaming assholes who impose their will by fear, while others get the job done (and with a lot less drama) in a quiet, friendly, and very competent manner.

    I’ll take the latter every time. Those are the people the crew really wants to do a good job for, who engender a deep sense of loyalty, and allow us to feel we all really are in this together. The assholes usually get the job done, but in the process, make life miserable for everyone else. Working for them, a long hard day becomes ever so much longer.

    As a juicer, any bad behavior on my part reflects on my boss, the gaffer — and making your boss look bad is never a good idea. These things are usually handled within each department, and in the screaming incident you describe, I’d be surprised if the DP didn’t take that camera operator aside later — privately — and read him the riot act for such a rude, uncalled-for outburst. If he didn’t, he certainly should have. Then again, some department heads have a problem enforcing discipline, and rather than confronting the errant crew member, simply don’t hire them on the next job. I’d be interested to hear if that operator is allowed to come back next season.

  5. James: I don’t think violence would be justified, here. The guy screamed; he didn’t beat the kid.

  6. dm: I have read “The No Asshole Rule.” It’s an interesting, if superficial, work. There’s actually a link to it in today’s post.

    Desiree: My argument is that yelling is never okay, especially if you’re yelling at someone four levels below you because you had a “bad day.”

    I mean, if his kid’s dying of cancer and he’s started snapping at people at work, that I’d at least understand.

    That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a guy who’s so petty about the set hierarchy that he can’t stand the idea that a make-up artist got a call sheet before he did.

    At that point, I don’t think we need a pattern of behavior to justify shitcanning this asshole. He’s clearly and obviously a dick.

    Again, it’s not his opinion that upsets me; it’s his abusive method of delivering it.

  7. i always thought had someone treated me like that i may have to meet them after work in a parking lot somewhere and go total CAPE FEAR on their ass… complete with beating someone with a bicycle chain. sure, it’s illegal and probably immoral but i guarantee that person would think twice before treating someone like that. naomi campbell throws phones at her maid because she knows her maid won’t beat the shit out of her.

    and seriously, how hard is it to beat the shit out of naomi campbell?

    i worked a retail job where a customer didn’t get what they wanted (and they were wrong and shouldn’t have gotten it) and persisted to berate the seventeen year old girl at the counter and made her cry in front of a storeful of customers. it was a video rental store so you had regulars and in a storeful of onlookers (i mean, the store stopped as this woman screamed), one of the regulars stepped forward and told her to shut the f*ck up. she was taken aback. they then told her if she still unhappy she can either call when the manager is in or step outside where the regular offered to beat her ass in a parking lot.

    she shut up and left. people act the way they do because there are no consequences. sometimes apologizes are in order and sometimes, like spoiled children, behavior just warrants an asskicking.

  8. There are way too many bosses and managers out there, in all fields, that believe their workers need to fight each other so the competition would make them more productive. It doesn’t work. This strategy is bull. It takes a really wise person to get into a place of power and remember that yelling, pressuring, and embarrassing people destroys morale, and ultimately destroys the product. I love those producers for having the “No Jerk” rule, it is so critical. I also wish there were more of those and fewer of the latter, and I wish those aholes were punished, but life’s not exactly fair. Best you can do is do what you can to avoid those people-slash- workplaces and try to stick with a team you know works well for you.

    @Desiree, as for freedom of speech, politics and opinion are always grappling each other in the film world. Walking that tightrope is really really layered and tricky, and just calling it “voicing his opinion” is ignoring the fact that the whole issue is a gray area.

  9. Interesting that you quote me.

    I said he was cocky and off the map and by that I meant that what he was doing was wrong and of course he should apologize.

    If he is always yelling and never understand that he hurt others, he is out of job.

    My point with freedom of speech was that everybody must be allowed to have an opinion. People who are afraid of loosing their job if they say what they think don’t do a good job and don’t feel well doing it.

    Now, I don’t think yelling is a good way to handle problems, and this guy needs to reconsider his approach. But one bad day (if that what it was) should not ruin your career.

    He made a fool of nobody but himself behaving like that.

  10. Nicely said.

    I believe that people should be considerate towards others. I have worked on sets like this and sets like what you stated. The atmosphere on the kinder set seems to thrive more. I don’t think you are naive, but maybe I am just as much as you since I too am young here.

    I don’t know why your reader stated it was freedom of speech. Yelling and belittling another is a right of our freedom? To me this sounds a lot like the Christian Bale vs Bruce the DP situation (in reverse). Maybe not as rude, but just as disrespectful.

  11. Nicely said. I believe that people should be considerate towards others. I have worked on sets like this and sets like what you stated. The atmosphere on the kinder set seems to thrive more. I don’t think you are naive, but maybe I am just as much as you since I too am young here.

    I don’t know why your reader stated it was freedom of speech. Yelling and belittling another is a right of our freedom? To me this sounds a lot like the Christian Bale vs Bruce the DP situation (in reverse). Maybe not as rude, but just as disrespectful.

  12. You’re not being naive. I’ve worked with Producers who have done exactly what you say you would do.

    They make for really loyal crews.

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