What If Your Boss Is a Screw Up?

Steph writes in:

My production supervisor1 is older; according to IMDb has been working since the 80s, so one would think with all her experience she’d be quite knowledgable. But there are some simple things I seem to know and she seems clueless about: ie stamping Gs and PRs “unapproved” before distro, or getting things like crew lists approved before distro-ing…many “standard” things like this. I’ve just been handling/shrugging it off until this point but last night she sent out the call sheet (I usually do it)…

I’ve always been taught to BCC everyone, or at least above the line people, when sending out mass emails. She sent it out and BCCed no one AND included actors’ personal emails in the blast. Our #1 sent an email back saying not to be included in mass emails unless she is bcc and that that is a good rule of thumb for all talent (duh). I mentioned the #1s email to her, and she didn’t seem to be phased by it…like, “Crap! I forgot to BCC! (because it happens sometimes)”

So my question to you is: as more instances like this come up, how do I tell my boss she is “doing it wrong”?

It’s one thing when you screw something up; it’s quite a different matter when it’s your boss.

I’m dealing with this very situation myself. It sucks, but the only thing you can do is to grit your teeth and bear it. There’s a limit to how much you can talk back before she’ll get sick of you.

It sounds like a lot of her mistakes have to do with computers. Remember, you grew up with them; she probably never had one until she was fifteen years into her career. You’ll have to do a lot of covering.

Also, you may not realize it, but people will be able to tell who’s doing it right, and who’s the fuck up. Yes, it may feel like “Oh, no, now the whole office looks like dummies!” But when you interact with people outside of her sphere of failure, they’ll figure it out. If you do everything right when they see you in person, they’ll know the mistakes are coming from elsewhere.

I know “Suck it up” isn’t the advice you want to hear, but that’s what it is.

This isn’t your last show. Keep doing good work, and everyone, including the prod sup, will know it. Hell, you might even get credit for putting up with this moron. (“How do you deal with that idiot every day?” is a question I’m asked regularly.) They’ll remember you next time.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Production Supervisor is a step above production coordinator. It’s a position you don’t often see in television; it’s more often used in big movies. I’m not 100% sure (someone please correct me if I’m wrong), but I believe it’s not a union position, just a nice title with better pay.
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6 Responses

  1. I’ve worked on a couple of shows and have always found, you do NOT find Production supervisors on a mid budget show 30m-50m based on my past experiences. The only shows that I’ve worked on that have had Production supervisors are the massive budgeted ones 100+.

  2. I might make a different suggestion. I am a line producer who has also been working as such, well, since the early 90s (when I started as an AD). I can tell you that my way of working has changed quite a bit, even if I was initially to do it how I was taught by a producer who started in the late 50s, BTW.

    I have gladly taken suggestions from younger people – including people I helped train. The production office is vastly different than it was 5 years ago, no less when your production supervisor started.

    Including your #1’s personal info would always have been a no-no, and the bcc thing has been around long enough she should have been up-to-date on it.

    My suggestion: ASK (as if you aren’t sure) something like “Hey, in the past, I’ve been asked to do it like this. Is that good with you?” It doesn’t sound like you’re accusing her of a mistake, and it might give her an out to not have to admit a ,mistake and still make a correction.

    1. JD,

      I’m actually the person who wrote in about this subject. And as it turns out the PS was, frankly, nut balls crazy (or at least that’s the explanation I’m going with). It got worse than not knowing about BCCing emails. To keep it short, I won’t get into it, but her lowest I think was not understanding how script distro works (the colors, and how new pages are to be released). Her way of doing it “right” was SO confusing I was starting to doubt my own understanding of it (thinking she couldn’t be THAT wrong, could she?)

      The advice you give is usually my go to (pretty much exactly as you suggested) – after all, a lot of time higher-ups have so much in their head they just honestly get momentarily confused. No amount of “playing dumb” on my part however made her ever realize, “Oh! Wow! That’s actually a good idea/that IS the way to do it.” Thankfully, for bigger things (like script distro) it went through the UPM, who would catch her mistakes and make her do it the right way.

      But, in general, your advice is the way to go I think – I was just in a situation where my boss was too far gone. But, you learn, you move on, you survive!

  3. I can answer the Supervisor position question for the people who are REALLY curious:

    Production Supervisor is a non-union position. It sits somewhere in this magical sweet spot between Production Coordinator (an IATSE position) and (Unit) Production Manager (a DGA position). But not all Supervisors came up from being Coordinators. Sometimes they come from Accounting, or Locations, or having been an EP’s assistant (I’ve seen that). So it’s a catch-all position just below UPM that has come to exist to be a stepping stone for a variety of people vying to enter the management sphere. And yes, it’s non-union, which makes it easier for people to come from different backgrounds and take it.

    Will IATSE try to unionize the position? Probably not. Local 871 (the IATSE branch that reps Coordinators) already sucks and is full of mismatched positions like script supervisors. The people who run that local don’t negotiate a minimum for POC or make the position a must-hire… aside from Pension Health and Welfare they do basically nothing except be a pain in the butt. So they probably won’t.

    DGA is even LESS likely to try to unionize Supervisors because they like being this elite exclusive club (ask any of your Set PAs about how many YEARS they have been slaving away collecting days to even make the first shitty step of joining the DGA).

    1. Actually, the DGA – while not unionizing the “Production Supervisor” position itself – has tried to create a union position to replace it: the Assistant UPM. However I don’t believe it’s recognized by the producers and/or studios, so you rarely see it.

      Most Production Supervisors do work usually under the UPM job description – often when the UPM is also the Line Producer. Hence why the DGA is trying (unsuccessfully) to replace it.

      1. *Like*

        This is a good point. I think it will stay non-union as long as it serves its purpose as a stepping stone and not a job people want to stay in for long.

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