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Workin’ on the Night Shift

This is the same guy who wrote Stand by Me.
Call time is when?!

One of the worst things you can read in next week’s script is, “EXT. [WHEREVER] – NIGHT.”

Say goodbye to your weekend.  Say goodbye to your wife and kids.  Say goodbye to good, old fashioned sunlight.

You see, we can fake a lot of things in television, but when you’ve gotta shoot outside, day is day.  Oh, sure, we can shoot an actor’s close up against a wall and make night look like day by blasting him with HMIs, but making the daytime look like night?  That doesn’t really fly anymore.

So, we shoot outside.  At night.

You might be thinking, “Big deal, one night shift.  So what?”

You gotta look at the whole week.  The AD’s aren’t going to schedule four days of 9:00 AM calls, then make Friday a 6:00 PM call.  No, it’ll be more like 9:00 AM Monday, 11:00 AM Tuesday, 1:00 PM Wednesday, 3:00 PM Thursday, and then 6:00 PM Friday.  If your husband or wife has a regular job, you’re not going to be seeing them from Tuesday on.

‘Course, if you’re single, you obviously can’t go out Friday night (which we now affectionately call “Fraturday”).  Sure, you’ll sleep most of the day Saturday, but don’t go crazy Saturday night– there’s a 6:00 AM call on Monday, and you need to get back on a day schedule.

It’s even worse for the office PA’s.  When you’re on set, you’re at least surrounded by people in the same sleep-deprived zombie state as you.  In the office, the writers go home around six or seven, the rest of office crew is gone by eight, and you’ve got the next ten to fourteen hours to spend some time with your thoughts (or, in my case, blog).  Maybe if you have friends in Australia, they can keep you company via Skype.

On my show, this only happens once every couple of episodes.  I don’t know how the folks on 24 do it.  They’ve got twelve episodes in a row of nothing but night shoots. I’d go batshit if I was their night shift PA.

On the other hand, it’s been a hit show for eight seasons; I’d love that kind of job security.

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17 Responses

  1. Join the USMC. Then you can have work periods of 41 hrs. straight, “night shoots” where you actually get shot at with real bullets. Then you get to return fire.

  2. I worked on a feature a few years ago which began with five weeks of night shoots. It was in the summer, so it was decided to make them all continuous days to make the mostof the short nights. The first week was okay because it was novel. The second week was tougher because we’d started to miss our families and friends. The third, fourth and fifth weeks were hell.

    I really don’t like night shoots when there’s only one full-on night and it’s a 17h00 – 05h00 call. *shudder*

  3. I have to say Night shoots are the most grueling as they really push your nerves as you fight back the body’s natural sleep pattern.

    Getting a 6pm call..oh man..you know its not good, but when you see the end result, and did your best, you feel the rewards.

  4. I’m pleading job category as an excuse for preferring deep nights. If I get to go home by 2:00am, nobody thinks twice about calling me at 6:00am. If they know I was at work until 7:00am, nobody gives me shit for turning off all of the phones until…whenever. Hallelujah!

  5. 12 hour days in sub-zero weather — that hurts. Thankfully, I can’t beat that. I did a few all-night exteriors in the snow, which was bad enough, and one long day with the temp hovering around 8 degrees Fahrenheit. Didn’t much care for that, either.

    Come to think of it, that was in Vermont — which is very near Canada…

  6. Lol… I need to be louder with my sarcasm next time, I think. I would have preferred splits, too.

    I’ve also done 12 hours outside in the pouring rain. Worse, though? 12 hours outside in below zero weather. Gotta love working in Canada.

  7. I agree with Michael, I like working splits. Early morning calls require waaay too much coffee and overnights just plain stink. If every job were a split I’d be a happy camper.

  8. Different strokes for different folks — I’ve worked more than my share of nights over the years, and much prefer “splits” to the movies-’til-dawn misery of working all night long. Working splits, you don’t have to black out the bedroom windows to ward off the daylight or hassle your spouse, kids, or neighbors to be quiet all day long so you can catch a few hours of miserably fitful sleep.

    I did a feature once that started out with three weeks of splits — working noon ’til midnight, which meant we did day exteriors and interiors for the first half of each work day, then switched to full-on night work after lunch. Not only did this break up the monotony of a 12 hour day, but it also allowed the crew to completely avoid rush hour traffic here in LA traffic at both ends of the day — and since the location was 30 miles away, that was important.

    For me, there’s nothing worse than working dusk-til-dawn — except working dusk-’til-dawn outside in the rain. Been there, done that, and don’t want to do it again…

  9. We had four days of 7am calls and then a 7pm call for our night shoot on the last show I did. And then a 2pm rehearsal on Saturday. That was so much fun, I can’t even tell you. Thank god we only had the one.

  10. I’ve always preferred a week of “deep nights” to the model you’re stuck with. Working nights sucks no matter how they schedule it, but at least you get more used to it (and get it over with quicker), if they just schedule it all at one time.

    Splits are the absolute pits.

  11. Ahhhhh Fraturdays, how much can one dislike them. They are one of the most painful parts in this industry. Night shooting is even more tolerable then the later and later call.

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