Oct 20, 2012

There's No Place Like Home


I am terribly sorry I have been away from the blogosphere for such a long time. It's really because I had run out of gas...energy...enthusiasm...passion for script supervising. I had gotten so beaten up over the past few years working on projects that all claimed would go somewhere and all landed flat on their ass. I found myself continually working on lower and lower grade projects and with each one feeling more defeated. I could see my career in a downward spiral, I was no longer rising up and playing in the sandbox I had once grown custom to but rather, swirling into a cesspool of work that was in no way professionally satisfying.

So, I left. Walked away. Placed my stopwatch on the counter to collect dust.

The last job I did prior to my departure was an infomercial. Which is cosmically funny because the first job I lied to get on as a scripty was also an infomercial (yes universe, you have a demented sense of humor). We started the project with the obligatory script reading and watched as the no name infomercial "star" began to go all Christian Bale and completely changed the script, throwing production into chaos, making the writer change everything while the AD and I sat and ate chocolate. We had been in this situation before, lived through these tantrums, nothing new. We knew taking notes was futile as this clown would change it again overnight anyway. So, we just sat, grinned at each other and compared notes on the quality of the chocolate crafty had brought in. He thought it had a heady bouquet with a hint of cinnamon, but with a little too much bitterness. I agreed it was a bit sharp, but the texture was velvety and finished well. It would have paired nicely with a glass of port or maybe a bottle of Pinot Noir. Mmmm...Pinot Noir...

 Hm?

Oh! Right, the shoot...

Shoot day: I'm ensconced in my all too familiar spot next to the teleprompter operator, and the "star" begins the day by flipping out at the teleprompter operator. Again nothing new. It's always the crappy actors that seem to yell at the prompter operators. Our operator made a feeble and failed attempt to bark back but the director cut him short. "Don't you dare yell at the talent!" the director screamed. I nodded to myself; yup, another quality production experience is under way.

As we began to shoot, the "star" freaked out over the sound person, the prompter, the live audience, and anyone else unlucky enough to fall into her cross-hairs. Meanwhile our director kept continually yelling at the camera operators terms that were more live stage than film terms so there was a serious break in communication. As this went on and the director revealed his ignorance, I could tell the camera ops were just phoning it in. As was I. What hand was the "star" holding the product in? At what point was the product picked up? I found I no longer cared. Did it really matter? It's an INFOMERCIAL people! Anyone watching is either senile, high, or an insomniac. I sat in that uncomfortable chair for 12 long hours. Taking notes, acting like I cared, and inside my heart ached.

For....

My first love. I remembered those old film days on the big features. Proudly walking on set, feeling the link of Polaroids bouncing against my hip as I passed by the catering truck. I remember the amazing feeling of working a long overnight and how the first glimpses of purple on the horizon meant only 15 minutes more until daylight and wrap. I remember the sweet moments shared between myself and a fellow camera operator as we worked long hours together and bonded over red Twizzlers. I remember being in locations that were far to beautiful to believe and hanging out with actors, some famous, some not, that are but a distant memory now. But most of all the moments I treasured above all else was when I walked up to the monitor, took my place beside the director opened my book and I felt my heart say "home".

I longed for that. That feeling of being at home. The knowledge I am succeeding and not failing. The feeling of peace. People spend their entire lives looking for that thing, that profession, that activity you know you were born to do, and I had found it. I was the luckiest person on earth.  Was.

And as I stared at the crazy infomercial "Star" and listened to the idiot director I realized I had come full circle. Here I was so many years later in the same exact spot where I started with no chance of a second lap around the track. It was a crushing blow. No feeling of "home", no inner peace, just frustration and immense sadness.

When I read Blood Sweat and Tedium's posts they are often so sad and thoughtful, and I believe he got to this point sooner than I. We all know those magical moments that only a film set can produce. They are fleeting, amazing, sadly temporary and I long for them every day.

So, when the infomercial wrapped. I did not pause to say goodbye and thanks to the producer, director and crew as I usually did. I just turned in my notes to production, gave a half-hearted smile and walked out the door not looking back. Done. Finished. Over.

Maybe I had a mid-life crisis? Maybe I just needed a break from the insanity, who knows? So, for those still scripting hang on tight...never let go..and for those just starting out I wish for you the best. And as for me and the blog? Not sure....

9 comments:

Marianna said...

Wow. It's funny. I started out in Production at 19,--moved to L.A. not to be a famous actress, but instead to work on films. And I did. I was 19 working as a PA on a film with real stars!! (Jason Alexander, Kathy Griffin, etc.) and I was a hard worker too. I felt like this was my calling. This was what I wanted.

Fast forward to 10 years later. I had given up working on set, the hours the people, the drama----and got into Touring.

Now. At 33. I miss working on films more than anything in this world.

And that "Almost Famous" moment, when you realize "You are home." That is what everyone is seeking.

So here you are trying to get out of doing scripty and I am scratching and pawing trying to get my way back INTO film production, and specifically script supervising.

I think that no matter what the profession is, we all get a little jaded. You take a look around and think "What am I doing!??" But you need to remember what that feeling was when you first got into the game of films.

And sure, working on an infomercial isn't maybe your dream gig. But don't you have to just sit back and LAUGH at the ridiculousness of it all?! Really laugh!?

And, I assume you got paid on this gig right? So take that money and do something great with it. Go somewhere you've always wanted to go. Maybe have a nice dinner with friends. Do something meaningful with the money, and that will help you to feel more meaningful at work.

Think about all those people, those 9-5 ers who hate their jobs so much. Who have never had the experiences you have, who WILL NEVER have the experirences you have. Realize how lucky you are.

Because I am dying to get back on set.

So. Give yourself a little break if you need to. But really just laugh it off and keep eating some great chocolate with the Grips and Electric and just do your job the best you can and don't take it all too seriously. I seem similar to you that I am defined by my job as well. I am what I do.

But you have inspired myself to do the job of scripty, you have inspired tons of other people,---so be grateful that you've accomplished so much already.

JB Bruno said...

How sad and familiar this sounds, and I'm sorry but not surprised to hear it from someone with your insight and dedication.

Production can be like Groundhogs Day, but I can only explain to a producer so many times why pizza is not an acceptable lunch, why we need turnaround.

Yes, I worked low budget in the past, but the skill level involved with film - did any of us say "I work in digital" when asked our profession? - brought with it a people who worked with a certain sense of professionalism. Who would have thought that simpler equipment would bring us down so many pegs.

I sincerely hope things turn around for all of us, but specifically, that you find projects that fire your interest. For me, it took going back to my VERY beginnings and theater to feel alive again.

Marian said...

Personally... I believe if you are desperately searching for that "Home again" feeling you will not find it. When you least expect it, it will come find you!

Take a break like you say you are doing.. But do not give up, never give up! There will always be new films, new projects to sink your teeth into. there might not be much going on at the moment.. but who knows what will happen in the future!

I'm out of the industry at the moment as well. but I don't want to feel defeated! you shouldn't too..

Please keep your head held up high, take advantage of the time you have at the moment, enjoy the finer things in life, spend time with friends, family etc... and you will see that there will be more opportunities out there for you :)
Positive thinking leads to positive outcomes. That's the way of the universe!

lrobhubbard said...

I hear ya, loud & clear... every year, at some point, I get to The Moment - time to pack it all in and get with what the Grown-Ups are doing, and as soon as I say that, somehow another project comes along that makes me want to stick it out another year.

I don't live in any of the 'Industry' areas, and most of the feature work that will come up is laughable. This past summer, I worked on what turned out to the THE WORST project I've ever been involved in. It was hobbled right out of the gate, and whatever I said to the director (whom I knew, personally) didn't matter if it got in the way of his 'vision'.

I got fired - thankfully - off of that; I don't think I could have stood 3 more weeks of just showing up to witness SHIT being filmed - and as things turned out, everything I tried to warn him about happened... the film still isn't finished, and who knows if it'll ever be.

It was my lowest point professionally... fortunately, I had another project that started the month after, with a director I'd worked with several times before... and as horrible as that previous shoot was, this one was WONDERFUL. I'm looking forward to the final product, and my 'retirement' has been put off yet another season.

Even though I don't live in the Industry towns, I'm fortunate to be able to work with a talented few directors here who actually believe in more than just 'churning it out'.

As long as I'm able to work with people like that, I'll stay 'in the Biz'... but on MY terms. Sounds like you're at that point, so do what you need to do to satisfy yourself...

Michael Taylor said...

Glad to see you posting again after such a long layoff -- your voice has been missed here around the industry blog water-cooler.

I'm familiar with the burn-out you've recently experienced. There were at least three or four times over my career when I felt it was over -- that the industry was done with me and I with it.

The question, of course, was what to do next? After becoming accustomed to and comfortable with the unique routines of life on set, it's not so easy to adjust back to a normal workplace.

Another factor is that while we were away making movies, commercials, and television, life in the real working world changed a lot. Jobs that pay reasonably well while offering decent benefits are a lot harder to come by these days, especially for those of us who have been away for so long.

In the end, I never did leave the industry, but adjusted my expectations and adapted to the constantly changing conditions in Hollywood.

From my perspective, the biggest problem script supervisors face is that they work alone, with no support structure. As a department of one, you don't have anybody to lean on or network with on set. If I'm unemployed, I can call other juicers, best boys, and gaffers and maybe pick up some work rigging, wrapping, or as an additional hand on a particularly busy shoot.

But with fifteen years under your belt, you have some serious skills to offer. I hope you can find a way to get back in on productions that do not insult yourself or your intelligence.

Above all, I really hope you keep posting, if only to chronicle your efforts at rekindling the passion that led you into this industry in the first place. You're not the first to hit The Wall, nor will you be the last. Your voice is important -- and there aren't many who write about our industry as well as you.

Welcome back...

Freya said...

I've been working in the TV and filmbusiness for 23 years now and I know your feeling very well. Although I work in Europe, it seems like our job has the same difficulties all over the world. And as it was said by Michael Taylor, script supervisors work alone. You have the pleasures of the job, but the difficult parts, you are bearing alone.
Almost 8 years ago I was fed up with all those people who thought the light was coming directly out of them. Right at that time I got an offer from a filmschool to assist the filmdirectors departement. I've worked there for almost 6 years, glad to work with young enthousiastic students. But after all, it was not the real stuff, not knowing the joy of doing it all yourself.
Tired of 'the business' I crashed and stayed home for a year, tried to find out what to do, what I wanted. But, as you know, script supervising is an addiction and I couldn't find the kind of independance and more important the satisfaction I had before.
And then I got a call from a director I worked with 10 years ago. It has been an exhausting, difficult year, with two kids who had to become independant a little sooner than planned, but god, what a wonderful year! I found my third, fourth (whatever) breath and I know again that this is what I like the most. But, after all those years I realise that the people you work with, the satisfaction and friendship you get from them is the most important treasure you can get. So, never give up, but just slow down now and then! (but surely keep writing your blog, so we don't feel so lonely)

Alex said...

This made my heart melt. I know this feeling so well. Don't give up! x

Devon Ellington said...

One of the reasons I chucked my life in NYC on B'way and in film/television production was that I was losing the passion for it.

I've been living on Cape Cod for the past few years, writing full time. While it is sometimes financially a struggle, I am much happier, the quality of both work and life is better, and I'm still doing creative work -- but work that I love.

My hours aren't defined by people I don't respect.

Don't get me wrong -- I loved most of my theatre and television situations. But the good ones were harder and harder to come by.

Thinking of you and wishing you well.

CyclingInformationist said...

I've commented before how I felt you and I were working parallel lives! Your set experiences were mirror images of mine! And today I thought I would drop in and see how you were doing and I saw your last post.

I - just like you - lost my passion for script supervising. For me it became a slog. I noticed I was becoming more and more cynical. These feelings didn't appear suddenly. It was a slow process. The moment that told me it was time to leave? I was on a commercial and it was dragging. Nothing was working that day. Problems with lighting, with the camera, the client was upset because "the frog wouldn't wear a hat" - yes it was an animal shoot. "why won't he wear a hat, your storyboard has him wearing a hat" (eye roll) the storyboard is what was approved I want the frog to wear a hat". And I thought "I'm wasting my time sitting here in this dark studio staring at a tiny monitor. And then the client (sitting next to me)turns to tell me how much he hates script supervisors because they're opinionated." Seriously? Do I need that?

I agree with what Michael Taylor said. The fact that we are "alone", very little support system on set. And jobs have changed outside of the business. When I was trying to decide whether to stay or go I really had to take a long look at my skill set, and ask myself "what do you want to do?" It took time to do that soul searching.

I didn't leave full stop. I "transitioned" out of the business - because it IS HARD to leave the business. There's something about it. It's like a vortex that sucks you in and it can be invigorating but also sickening.

I found a part-time job - actually several, I was "testing" them out. I tried media transcription, note taking at a college for students with disabilities, working for a lawyer - while still taking the odd freelance film/tv job.

And then I figured it out. I figured out what I wanted to do and I went back to school. I think that was the hardest part, figuring out WHAT TO DO.

It took 4 years to "get out" of the business. But I did it. It was a difficult decision but also the best decision for me. Because I found my passion again!

I LOVE my new job! There's something to be said about working regular hours and most importantly: I feel respected. My colleagues actually seem interested in my opinion! AND I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile - I'm a very small cog in a medical research machine - but I feel valued. And I'm curious about the world again. I am on a journey towards life-long learning and I LOVE IT!

I hope you find your passion in whatever you choose to do. Script supervising skills can be translated into other fields.

I do enjoy your posts! And I hope you continue to post about your journey :)