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Replaceable

I heard the following story second hand, but I believe it, because the director in question is a real bitch.

(For my feminist readers, please don’t interpret my use of the word “bitch” as “I can’t handle working for a woman because I’m part of the repressed, straight white male hegemony.”  I’ve worked for plenty of women, most of whom were very nice and more than capable.  If this director were a man, I’d call him a “dick.”)

So, this director wanted a PA to place something on the roof of the location.  The AD objected that it was raining, there was no guardrail, and this was stupidly, obviously dangerous.

“That’s okay,” she replied.  “PAs are replaceable.”

See what I mean?  A bitch.

Now, if I was in earshot at the time, I probably would have quit and told her what I really thought about her.  Aaaand, five minutes later, I would have regretted my decision, because I would have then had to find a new job.

Thankfully, I wasn’t there.  The PAs who were kept much cooler heads.  They simply refused to do anything for her.

Not that they told her this.

“Can I get a coffee?” would be met with, “I’m getting something for the EP, but I’ll be right back with that.”  And, of course, she’d never return.

If she asked to speak with someone, a PA would grab his walkie mike and radio, “Hey, does anyone have eyes on so-and-so?”  But he wouldn’t push the transmit button.

It took her a couple days, but she eventually realized that no PA would do anything for her.  She was nice to the PAs for the rest of the shoot.  Not that this changed anyone’s opinion of her.

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10 Responses

  1. A quick note about replaceability. You are probably more replaceable then you might think.

    In California workers compensation means employees get medical care for on the job injuries “in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee’s right to sue his or her employer for the tort of negligence” per wikipedia.

    Most employers also carry a second type of insurance that protects them at another level for screwing workers comp up (part of an employment practices binder).

    From the directors standpoint, as long as he doesn’t force you up there physically, but simply orders you to *as part of your job* and you comply, you are basically replaceable.

    What about the insurance company though who has to pay for your death? From the insurance companies standpoint, the maximum death benefit is capped at $160K if you have 3 dependents who rely on you (the worst case allowed). This is actually a trivial cost to the insurance companies who have million dollar liability cases if someone finds something in their food. So covering someone getting killed is not a huge expense to them either.

    Finally, one potential problem for the director is that if an an employer repeatedly kills people they face a modest increase in their workers comp premiums. For this and some other similar reasons companies / production folks setup a LLC for each film, so in effect each film is a “new” employer (even if they hire the same director), and get what is called the unrated pricing on their insurance.

    People sometimes wonder why it makes sense to start a new company for each film. Now you know 🙂

    Nowhere else can you basically kill people by ordering them onto a slippery rainy roof with no rails, have them die and leave their family screwed and have zero repercussions. We’ve got to rely on the directors conscience in this case.

    I work on the “business” side of business hence my depressing comments, apologies in advance.

  2. I’m trying to decide which story is better, the one about the time they gave the 1st A.D. a radio and didn’t hand them out to anyone else?

    Or the time I heard a producer tell an actor he could do his own stunt if they could figure out a way to schedule it for his last day on set.

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