Sometimes, You’re Wrong

A couple months ago, I wrote a post about giving yourself extra time to complete tasks:

Whenever you’re given something to do, you need to factor in “shit happens.” If you think you can get something done in five minutes, say it’ll take ten. If you think it’ll take an hour to get across town, say an hour and a half.

A.J. (of Hills Are Burning fame) recently commented:

One caveat to the “shit happens” buffer is if you’re a best boy and are asked how long it’ll take you to wrap out for the night if they’re worried about turnaround or permit times. If you say an hour and a half and end up being tail lights an hour later, sometimes they get pissed because they “could’ve had time for one more shot.”

Every department probably has some variation on this. For an office PA, it’s the question of when to pick up lunch. Order too early, and it’s cold by the time lunch rolls around; too late, everyone resorts to cannibalism, and you return to an production office that resembles 28 Days Later.

I love this movie, but a "rage virus" is kinda dumb.
I ordered my burger animal style. Did you get it animal style?

This is, unfortunately, a hazard of living in a universe where time moves in one direction. You can’t reliably, unerringly predict the future.

And sometimes this means that, when you try to give yourself a little wiggle room, you might give yourself too much wiggle room. As AJ pointed out, the higher-ups will be upset by this, even though, really, you made a sound, measured decision.

In a way, I empathize with the hypothetical producer in AJ’s example. She doesn’t care about process; she cares about results. And the result was a spare half hour that could’ve been used to improve the show.

There’s no real advice to be had here. Even with years of experience, you’ll miscalculate like AJ or I (hypothetically) did. The only option is to accept that you are a fallible human, and that, sadly, doesn’t count for much in the producers’ eyes.

You’ll just have to take the chastisement, and promise to not make the same mistake again.

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2 Responses

  1. I have to question the assumption that “a spare half hour could have been used to improve the show.” Yes, in theory those additional thirty minutes could make for a better show, but in reality, that time will almost certainly be squandered by another jerk-off director getting “creative” in going for shots that in all likelihood would wind up on the cutting room floor — or the modern digital equivalent. Which means the entire crew will get home half an hour later for no good reason at all.

    Put it this way: in 38 years of working on features, television commercials, music videos and television shows (episodic and multi-cam), I’ve very rarely seen an occasion where an extra half hour of shooting made for a better film. It happens, but not very often.

  2. Incredibly depressing post. I approve. The tone reflects true life experience more than any of the “GO GET ‘EM, TIGER!” posts. I would like any person wishing to be a production assistant reading this to understand that YES you will be crucified and humiliated for having the office’s lunch ready 30 minutes too early. If you are catering the office AND maybe a small 2nd unit that is shooting that day as too…god have mercy on your soul. Nothing you do will be right or on time. Look forward to that! Hahaha!

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