Following yesterday’s post, I had a few more thoughts on mistakes.
I used to be a personal assistant to a producer. He asked me if I ever wanted to be a director, and I said I did. He told me I could never do that job until I could do this job perfectly.
This statement made absolutely no sense to me, whatsoever. What could getting coffee and rolling calls have to do with directing a film?
There are many career paths in Hollywood, but some are more straightforward than others. Advancing within certain departments works much the same way it does in any line of work– with each promotion comes more pay and extra responsibilities; as you advance far enough, smaller responsibilities fall on those below you.
A best boy, for instance, does the same work as a grip or electric, with the added responsibilities of ordering and tracking equipment (among other things). This, in turn, relates to being a gaffer key grip, in that these department heads are responsible for budgeting for said equipment, as well as hiring crew.
Other careers make less sense. A set PA becomes a 2nd AD, who becomes a first AD, who suddenly becomes a UPM. You spend twenty years running around sets, and then suddenly you’re sitting at a desk?
Camera makes even less sense to me. The ability to load film does not reflect whatsoever on your ability to pull focus, which in turn has no bearing on your camera-operating skill. Then, you’re promoted to DP, and suddenly you’re in charge of the grips and electrics, too!
Directing is an extreme version of this. Directors often come from being department heads. This makes sense for a DP, who’s already in charge of three departments. Less so for a costume designer.
But the absolutely most nonsensical career path is that of the writer.
In TV, producers will often hire their assistants to be writers. But what does getting the boss’s lunch order right have to do with writing a script?
This is what they mean by “paying your dues”– lying. There are jobs that must be done, but bear no relation to what you ultimately want to do. The older generation, including my old boss, simply lie to the next generation to get them to work hard at an essentially meaningless job.
And I’ll probably be doing the same thing in twenty years, I guess.