Thursday, January 04, 2007

Work Ethic

Back from Aspen with lots of stories to tell...soon I promise.

I can share one now, because it was behind the scenes and will never be referenced on air.

First, let me take a moment to sound like your grandfather. When I started in the entertainment industry roughly 14 years ago I was as entry level as you could get - intern. I worked 30 hours a week for free, and still had my whole classload and writing/producing my senior play to contend with. I did every shit job there was: make coffee, photocopies, run errands, get a director's dry cleaning, file, dub tapes etc. When I got my first paying PA job at $75 a day I was over the moon. You know the rest - my story is not unique - paid my dues, worked endless all nighters, made a little more money, earned a little more responsibility etc until I worked my way all the way up to where I am now...the middle.

Show up. Do your job. Don't go home until your job is done. Take it or leave it.

With the self righteous speech behind me I move on to Aspen story #1...

It is common practice when shooting on location to hire local PA's while in town. Not only does it not pay to fly in an entry level PA and house them, but you need locals to drive, know where they are going, run errands etc. It is grunt work, but that is what PA work is and no production can survive without them. Standard rate in LA or NY is $150 a day. Double what I made blah blah years ago, They also get paid for mileage if using their own car etc. When in smaller cities the rate is usually around $100. Makes sense, you don't make as much in Padukah, KY as you do in NY or LA.

So we are shooting in Aspen and we have hired two local PA's. I am pretty sure their names were FUCKHEAD A AND FUCKHEAD B...for reasons that will soon become apparent. Their responsibilities included:

- Driving
- Errands
- Hold batteries and blank tapes for camera operators
- Whatever the fuck else we fucking need...

So we are on our first day of shooting and it would prove to be the lightest shooting day of the trip - mainly indoors, not many company moves etc.

Around 5p we are shooting a scene with the Tweed-Simmons family in the house they are staying when my production manager whispers in my ear, "Our two PA's are outside. They are quitting."

ME: "They won't be back tomorrow?"
PROD. MANAGER: "No, they are leaving NOW."
ME: "Tell them to hold on one sec. I want to talk to them."

In between shots I make my way outside where one PA is sitting in his car. The other is leaning against the driver's door. This conversation is as verbatim as I can remember it.

ME: "So, what's up guys?"
FUCKHEAD A: "Yeah, so, we're gonna take off."
ME: "You're going to take off? Why?"
FUCKHEAD A: "Well, its not like, not really worth our time."
FUCKHEAD B: "Yeah, like, not worth it."
ME: "What's not worth it?"
FUCKHEAD A: "It's just boring dude."
ME: "Boring?"
FUCKHEAD B: "Yeah, we're like way under utilized."
ME: "You are saying you don't have enough to do so you are leaving?"
FH A: "Yeah man."
ME: "In the middle of production?"
FH B (laughing): "Um, yeah."
ME: "Can I ask you guys something?"
FH A: "Oh gimme a break man..."
ME: "No, I want to ask you something. What do you guys do, are you in school? Is production something you guys want to do as a career or is just a day's work?"
FH B: "This is ridiculous..."
ME: "No, I just want to know because in the dozen or so years I have been making TV this is the most unprofessional thing I have ever seen."
FH A: "Dude, you are hardly using us. We're sitting here."
ME: "You are getting paid to sit here. That is what PA's do."
FH B: "I got one camera guy one battery. That's it. Its not worth it."
ME: "So, its not worth it to get paid for a full day for 10 minutes of work? Would you rather me find stupid shit for you to do? If I had you jog around the block a few times, would the job suddenly be worth it? Trust me. I can find shitty stuff for you to do."
FH A: "Not for a hundred bucks a day."
ME: "What do you expect to make? You just said you haven't done anything all day. Should I pay you even more to not do anything."
FH B: "Our rate is $200 a day. Not $100."
ME: "Then why did you agree to a gig for $100 a day?"
FH A: (laughing) "Dude, don't like, try to guilt us into staying."
ME: (laughing) "Oh, there's no fucking way you are staying."
FH A" "I own my own production company. I don't need this."
ME: "Your company must be doing swimmingly if you have to take $100 a day PA gigs."
FH A: "Oh man..."
ME: "Ok, so you own your own company. So let me ask you, professionally. You are in the middle of a shoot, your money is on the line, your reputation is on the line. In the middle of the shoot an employee comes up to you and says, 'I'm bored. This isn't worth my time. I'm gonna go.' As the boss, you are cool with that? Or do you think that is that most unprofessional thing you've ever fucking heard of?"
FH B: "Give me a break."
ME: "No, this guy owns his own company so I just want to get a sense of how he runs his business..."
FH A: "Whatever."
ME: "Yeah, whatever. Bright guy. Ok, so here's the deal. This is a hit, well known show. These don't blow into town very often. You aren't in NY in LA. I would think the chance to have a name show on your credits would be worth it, but your cool with cable access car dealership commecials, so cool I guess. You were going to get $100, which you agreed to, didn't protest, whatever, for handing a cameraman a battery. Instead, you are going to leave because the job is beneath you. So now, you can't put this show on your credits, you've already worked 9 hours, so the day is shot, AND I am not paying you. So you could have held out for two more hours, got your cash, got the credit, and gone. But now you got nothing."
FH A: "Well, if you want to renegotiate we'll consider staying."
ME: "Renogiate? What are you offering me? Two fuckheads with attitude and no work ethic? Hell of a bargain."
FH A: "Whatever."
ME: "Nice working with you. Go home."

I have seen a lot in this business and I still must be the most naive bastard out there because this conversation blew my mind. Man, do you know the amount of times I would have loved to have said, "Yeah so I'm bored, so I'm going to go." Who the fuck thinks like that?

Not people that last long. That's who.

1 comment:

tim said...

These assholes never would have survived MTV Beach House '93. I feel like an old WWII Vet swapping stories with a guy I stormed Iwo Jima with.
Sad thing is, I've noticed the same thing around here too. Youtube ruined these kids. Now get off my lawn before I call the cops you whippersnappers!