Feb 9, 2008

Hopeless Optimist

Day one: Int. McMansion with actors, props, product; the whole nine yards. The day was pretty fun. A good crew, happy actors, and the client was on the tolerable side of annoying.

Day two: Int. 2nd McMansion. I was called in at call, which on a load in-day really wasn’t necessary. So I spent a good deal of the morning watching the grips and electrics do their gripy and electricy things.

Once filming began, the day progressed fine until about lunch. Then, I noticed a huddle of the Production Manager, the D.P. and the Camera Assistant (I’m an observer, it’s what I do). Furrowed brows and multiple hand gestures culminating in the camera assistant tearing off like a bat out of hell and not coming back until after lunch.

Now I’m curious…. “Every thing ok?” I ask the camera assistant.
“Yes” he nods, instilling the same level of confidence as Mitt Romney’s campaign manager.

At wrap I do my patented freelancer kiss-up and make sure to say goodbye and thanks to the director, D.P., producer etc. I notice that they are now huddled with the clients in a screening room. Voices are soft and there is an air of “something is very, very wrong.” Still they smile at me and say thanks. But I’m not buying it (again, the observer).

The next day I get a call from the production coordinator. “Are you available Saturday? We need to do a re-shoot of everything we did on day one.” I politely say I am available and ask nothing more. Knowing that she’s busting her ass to pull it all together by Saturday.

Friday night at about 7:00 I get a call from the production manager. “Ah, I just wanted to ask you if you would be willing to work for…free…tomorrow. We’re not sure if the insurance will pay for the day, I mean they probably will, but for now we’re asking the crew to come in for free.” Which I always WANT to say, would you ask your doctor to work for free? Oh, I seem to have jammed this knife blade through my hand, would you sew it up for free? No, I’m not comparing my job to that of a doctor, but you get my drift.

So, I give my pat answer, “Well, as long as everybody else is…”

Yes, she confirms all the crew have signed on to work for free. So, feeling gullible as hell, I accept the deal, knowing full well my pay is going to be karmatic at best.

At the job on Saturday, the whole original crew was there which caused me to choke up a bit thinking about the honor of “our people,” a good bunch, willing to help the man out. That or we’re just so desperate to work and so terribly addicted to the industry that we can’t say no. I choose the first option (observer AND hopeless optimist, that’s me).

At the shoot on Saturday I asked the D.P. what happened. He explained in his best it’s-really-no-big-deal tone of voice (possibly because the crew’s working for free and thus no sense of a monetary loss), that everything we sent to post from day one was blurry, really blurry!

We were filming high-def, and apparently on high-def cameras there is such a thing as a “back focus” who knew! The camera assistant prepped it and it was fine, but somehow as we were filming the back focus went blurry. And strangely enough (and some techno dude will need to explain this to me), it doesn’t show up on the monitor or when the D.P. looks through camera. It looked perfectly sharp in camera on the day.

That’s dumb.

You’d think they’d have some safety measure that flashes in front of the D.P.’s lens…BACK FOCUS IS OFF. But clearly, I’m a script supervisor and know nothing of the complex inner workings of the HD camera.

So, we did a re-do, joked "I feel like I've been here before" and got through the day without any more technical difficulties.

Anyone else experience a production insurance day? And did you get paid?


Casey said...

I can't say I've ever been in your position, but I admire you for doing it for free! Just remember, what goes around comes around. =)

Michael Taylor said...

I had a "weather day" doing a Pepsi commercial on location in Jackson Hole, Wyoming -- we all got paid for the day, and the extra day of filming -- but never for a "production day."

I did a spot for a video game in San Francisco once, where there was some kind of fatal camera problem. The DP did the re-shoot, but since I was back in LA at the time, they didn't ask me to come back for more punishment. I don't think I'd have done if for free, though, since it was a one-off job with a new DP and new clients -- and 400 miles from my normal work zone. Had it been with a regular client -- yeah, I'd probably have sucked it up and done it gratis as an investment in the future. Sometimes you have to give to get...

Scripty said...

Thanks for the comments!