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Company Move

Reader Andrew writes in:

There’s a line on the latest one-liner that says “company move.” Why would this be in the schedule? Wouldn’t moving the production offices take all day? Why is it happening in the middle of a shoot day?

Ah, the company move. Not quite as terrible as “EXT. NIGHT,” but in its way, even more insidious.

First of all, Andrew is interpreting “company” incorrectly. Like calling every movie a “show,” the term “company” is a hold-over from the bygone era, when everyone working in Hollywood had also been a vaudevillian at one time. We’re talking about the shooting crew and the cast, as if they were a theater company.

“Company move” means that company is moving. Not your offices. You get to sit still.

There’s actually more than one type of company move. The smallest is the “stage move.” As you might imagine, this is when the crew moves from one soundstage to another, on the same lot.

Typically, sets are pre-lit by the rigging electrics and grips, or at least well on their way to being so. Most of the gear the set G&E team needs is already there on stage, or near at hand on the trucks. Moving from one stage to another is as simple as walking, for most departments, save for camera and sound.

Next is “push move,” which is like a stage move, but on location. If you’re shooting in the same general area, or building, but the next scene calls for another “set,” the crew has to push all their gear to that room, floor, or whatever. While the riggers have, again, done as much pre-lighting as possible, locations don’t tend to have lights and flags and such, like a stage. Now everyone has to push their gear from one set to another.

A little further than that is the “stakebed move.” This typically means the location is close to the stages, or at least close to the basecamp, if they’re on location. This is what you do if the location only requires a minimal amount of equipment. Everything you need is loaded onto a couple of stakebeds, while the crew and cast are loaded into passenger vans.

Then there’s the full-on company move.

This is when every bit of gear is loaded onto the trucks, and it’s all hauled to a new location– the cast trailers, AD trailer, make-up trailer, costume trailer, camera, grip, electric trucks, and more. Around a dozen semi-trucks transporting thousands of pounds’ and millions of dollars’ worth of equipment.

On a typical location day, these are packed up at the end of the night, and the teamsters either drive them to location after everyone else is wrapped, or drive them incredibly early in the morning, so the trucks are in place, open, and clean when everyone else arrives.

If you ever see a teamster talking a quick nap in the middle of the day, it’s probably because he’s been up since 3:00AM!1

Bad as that is, what’s worse is when there’s a company move in the middle of the day. ADs (who create the schedule) will do their damnedest to avoid this, but sometimes, it’s just unavoidable with the way the script is written.

What essentially happens is that the crew must wrap twice. After shooting whatever scenes needed to be done in the first location, you have to pack everything up (which can take an hour or more), drive to the next location (which might take days, depending on traffic), and then unload again. After shooting those scenes, you have to pack it all up yet again.

God help you if you have more than one company moves on a single day. You’ll be lucky to get two pages in. At a certain point, I feel like the UPM should be allowed to go to the writers and say, “Guys, this is a ridiculous number of locations. Let’s do a little re-writing to make it more reasonable.”

Yeah, right. Like the writers will ever worry about practical considerations.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. To be fair, they also get paid incredibly well for their long hours and short turn-arounds.
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4 Responses

  1. A few years ago I took a call to day-play on “Tell Me You Love Me,” an HBO production that went one-season-and-out. We had a 5 a.m. call in the dark and cold of Van Nuys Boulevard (the water in the gutters was iced-over), unloaded the trucks, lit the scene, shot the scene, then loaded up the trucks again and made a company move to another location. There we did the same thing, then on to another location, and yet another. Those four location required three full company moves… lather, rinse, repeat. Wrap was called shortly after 9:00 p.m., whereupon we loaded all the equipment back on the trucks for the final time, finishing at 10:00, a full 15 hours after call.

    Thanks to the cable contract engineered by HBO way back when it was just a baby competing against the broadcast goliaths, we never went into double-time that day — and we’re working for five bucks an hour under normal union scale.

    Working much longer hours for considerably less money is why we who work below-the-line refer to “HBO” as “Hey Bend Over.”

  2. At a certain point, I feel like the UPM should be allowed to go to the writers and say, “Guys, this is a ridiculous number of locations. Let’s do a little re-writing to make it more reasonable.”

    Actually, that happens all the time…especially on episodic shows. It may be the UPM, or the 1st AD, or even me going to a Line Producer asking if it really advances the story to have “Gilda Sternheart” talk on her phone from the walkway on the Brooklyn Bridge instead of on the street corner right outside the restaurant we’re already shooting that day. Especially when it’s for some piddly little 1/8th page scene. Line Producers hate that shit.

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