The Prevalence of Asshole ADs

Anonymous Base Camp PA writes…

Well, actually, first let me explain what “base camp” is, for those who may not know.  You ever see a usually-empty parking lot full with unlabeled white semi-trucks and trailers?  That’s base camp.  It’s where the physical production is based, specifically the AD trailer.

Even if you’re shooting on stage and the production office is down the hall, “base camp” is where you find the ADs and set PAs crammed into a tiny, metal cube that’s hot in the summer, cold in the summer, has a shitty internet connection, and sufficient desk space for about half as many people as are actually in there.

Anyway.  Anonymous Base Camp PA writes–

I remember reading your post a while back about AD’s being misanthropic, miserable people.

Actually, I wrote, “a nice AD is as rare as Bigfoot shitting a diamond on a unicorn riding a lightning bolt while being attacked by a shark during a solar eclipse.”

Ever since I read that post, I’ve wanted to write and tell you about my 2nd 2nd who apparently wants to punch me in the face, emotionally, as many times as she can throughout the day. I have to wonder how common this is in the industry.

ABCPA goes on to tell a story that I fear may give away her identity, but suffice it to say that her 2nd 2nd yelled at her for something that was completely out of her control.

My hair totally looks like that.
I was seven when this strip came out, and it's still relevant to my life.

Sadly, this sort of behavior is so common that I actually wrote ABCPA to find out if we were on the show.  Turns out, we’re not even in the same time zone.  This happens everywhere.

It’s largely accepted, I think, because the AD’s immediate superiors (the UPM and/or line producer) are usually former ADs themselves.  They acted like assholes when they were on set, so they don’t question it when their AD does the same now.

I’ve said before that DPs and ADs are jerks.  I think it’s because they’re the two department heads whose underlings are constantly visible to the director and producers.  The director never sees the art department coordinator, so when something goes wrong, the production designer can’t make a show of chewing her out.

Yelling at her PAs is an AD’s way of transferring the blame.  It’s immature and stupid and, honestly, the main reason I prefer the office, even when it’s lonely.

I wish I could give you better advice than “Suck it up, and promise not to do the same when you’re an AD,” but I can’t.  It’s either that, or quit, and I never recommend that.

2 Comments

  1. So as a production and line manager I can say, from personal experience, being an asshole is simply a crap choice the AD and other Producers or UPM’s simply make because they’re underskilled in managing their work. There is simply no other reason.
    On every film people ef up horribly and often it can affect an entire days shoot costing 10’s of thousands of dollars but that is extremely rare; less than 1/10th of 1 percent among 200 films worked.
    Unfortunately our industry is rife with people in positions that require no talent or education and are groomed by dicks and jerks, women and men, to manage something they barely understand and most department staff suffer the fools pride as a cost.
    Karma doesn’t do them justice.. so my advice is build a tough shell, try to out distance them with your work and once burned try not to ever work for them again, that is unless you like being surrounded by assholes.

  2. Hey! I was a DP! LOL But I was a PA first long before that.

    If anything ever went wrong on the set when I was DP, I took full blame and responsibility. After all, it was me who instructed the grips/juicer what to do. I never let anyone take the fall or blame for something that was ultimately my fault.

    I was very protective of my crew.

    And the one thing I carried with my through my career was, a good PA is worth their weight in gold.

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