Feb 7, 2010

I'm Only Human

When I started this blog I thought, "this will be an easy gig." I'll write about all the crazy directors I encounter. For example, the director who had Numerophobia. A certain number had to be marked with ** instead of the actual number on the slate. I figured more like him would come along every day.

As of late however, I have only had pleasant set experiences. Don't get me wrong, working with nice directors is much more conducive to my mental health. It just makes for really lame blog posts.

Although my last job contained a noticeable lack of directorial madness, it did possess a healthy dose of production chaos. The talent got sick, the equipment was delayed and we were down pretty much until a couple hours after lunch. There was no freak out by anyone. The director just relaxed and kicked back. And as the producer caught me up on the continual chaos happening around us I commented that he was amazingly calm too and he replied, "There's nothing else I can do, and stressing out about it won't help." I don't have to tell you that hitting the sane director/producer exacta is pretty much the harmonic convergence of film. He told me to cool my heels till at least after lunch. This meant I had five hours to kill.

Now, I must explain to you a little bit about how I work. To me it's a bit of a game. I rev myself up before a shoot, so I come in ready to work with a fully charged brain, as I did on this particular job. But then, (cue the needle scratching record sound) due to the production shut down I had to grind to an immediate halt.

To kill time I did the typical crew mingle...first I sat down with my favorite camera assistant, and we talked about his new girlfriend and my hopes and dreams for my film. Then just like at a party, you find the next crew person to mingle with. A wardrobe stylist came over and talked about her new boyfriend, then after her a grip sauntered over and complained about how this shoot may now run long, and he had plans with his kids and so on until my brain was no longer firing on all cylinders. It had pretty much turned into tapioca from all the idle chit-chat. I don't remember what we had for lunch, but it may as well have been turkey and stuffing. I was ready for a nap.

Then, just as the camera assistant and I began our after-lunch conversation about his upcoming vacation, he was suddenly called to begin taking marks.


Have you ever had one of those dreams when you're running through quicksand or moving in slow-motion? It was like that. I could feel fog hovering around my brain. I was struggling for lucidity, but I thought to myself, "I've done this for so many years, most of the job is like second nature to me. I can do this." I stood by the monitor and we began our day. The first set up went well, a few hiccups with technical issues but par for the course with all the other things going awry.

I still felt foggy but was clicking along. Then the lead talent complained about the size of the pants he was wearing. The wardrobe chick ran in and answered happily that she had the next size up and would be happy to change him. Producer nodded and said talent walked off stage to be re-fit.

Now, every scripty wannabe should pay attention to the following pro tip. Whenever an actor leaves the set to eat, pee, change, grab craft service, scratch something, etc., you always need to check them over when they come back to set. For some unknown reason the actors will decide to add some article of clothing/take one off/ change their jewelery/ you name it. Before you know it they are a walking continuity error.

So, our lead actor came back on set, and I looked him over. Since my brain was still closed to incoming flights, I decided that everything was OK. Then, about 7 takes into the scene the agency guy noticed the actor didn't have his belt on. D'OH! So the wardrobe chick stopped flirting with a grip long enough to run and grab said unworn belt and placed it back on the actor.

Now, every scripty at some point in their careers has missed something. You're only human. In this situation, in the overall scheme of things it really wasn't a big deal. Most of the shots of the actor were mediums and close ups, only a few wides, and since we'd only done a few takes, we'd have plenty to match up with the belt on.

After that scene we had a break between set ups. I sat down in my chair feeling like crap and began to watch the camera assistant work. I found myself remembering the time he screwed up the camera back focus on a job to the point we had to do a full day of re-shoots, and then he blurred into the many other camera assistants I have worked with that have blown a shot here and there, or the producers who have screwed up a deal or two, or the actor that can't remember their lines to save their lives, or the key grip that messed up an equipment order. We're all human.

As the clarity came back to my eyes I found my camera assistant looking back at me and smiling. All was well in the world. In the grand scheme of things I have made far more saves than errors, and that's about all anyone can hope for.

** A big thanks to Total Film for listing Script Goddess in the article 600 Movie Blogs You Might Have Missed


Sam said...

This is a really good post. I've definitely felt that stress too. I remember one time I missed some coverage shots crossing the line and we had to go back and reshoot them all. I felt awwwwwful, especially because we had already been shooting sixteen hours (I know!) and everyone just wanted to go home. But everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and what's important is learning from them! That's what I have to tell myself, anyways.

Scripty said...

Hi Sam and thanks for the comment! Sorry to hear about your 16 hour day and re-shoots! YIKES! You are right what's important is learning from our mistakes...hopefully! :)

Devon Ellington said...

When I worked wardrobe, it was always MY job to make sure the actor didn't play "switch the necktie" or "lose the vest" or something else, not the scripty's job. The scripty has enough to do!

Like you, I rev up and like to hit the ground running, and then get into a rhythm of the day, even if it's chaotic. But when I have to sit around and sit around and sit around and the focus dissipates . . .

Right there with you.

Glad you've had some good directors and producers lately -- sets a much better tone for the project, doesn't it?

Scripty said...

Thanks Devon! I suspect if the wardrobe chick on the job hadn't been flirting with the grip, she may have noticed the belt missing! I can't tell you how much I love Wardrobe and Hair and Make-up that stay on set and pay attention! This would be the difference between feature and commercial work, more often than not, on commercials vanity like to hang out and chat, knit, read magazines, hide in the back, so I'm always paying attention to their work. I always know when an experienced feature vanity shows up on set, they are right at the monitor, and stay on set! And I breathe a sigh of relief!

B.J. said...

Yes! Very well written post, I can absolutely relate to sitting down and feeling bad after having missed something, an beating yourself up. It's so true that we're all human, and everyone makes mistakes. And it's mostly us script supervisors that have to catch other peoples mistakes...

Scripty said...

Very True B.J., Very True!

Ashley said...

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Great blog by the way!

Scripty said...

Hey Ashley, thanks for the tip. When they have their product up and running have them send me an e-mail..I'd like to see up front pricing on the fees and examples of the reports. Also you may want to have them spell check their web page "For now, this is not an available option without an inviation." um, invitation..:) I'm always interested in new products. Thanks for stopping by the blog.