Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How to Get on People's Bad Side

"Go to two."

(NOTE: This was originally titled "How to Suck At Your Job: Indie Film 2nd AD", but in all honesty, I do not know enough to know if this or that member of the production staff is, on whole, doing a bad job. All I can know for sure is how they have done their job as it pertains to me. So, I think things were mishandled, or not handled. I still believe all that, but it is one thing for me to believe it, another for me to splash it as the title of a piece that might come up in a google search for information on the movie.  That was probably uncalled for on my part as my problems were not at all personal, just job performance related.)

So as you know if you are reading this, I am currently filming "Hypothermia", a microbudget monster picture (pronounced correctly only as pick'-shah and only if holding a cigar) that takes place on the lake ice of upstate NY. This will be the fifth talkie I've made with Monsterpants, the fourth with Glass Eye Pix and the first with Dark Sky. Each new endeavor has had perhaps in the ballpark of twice the previous budget. I don't know the real numbers, but I know that "Canniballistic" cost about 8-10 grand on McKenney's credit cards and it is public knowledge that the current production is classified by the Screen Actors Guild as an "ultra low budget" affair, which means a cap of around $270,000 $200,000. What has become clear is that with more money comes more folks who pay themselves more than you to tell you why you can't afford things. I understand that for many if not most of you, hearing a 42 year old man having this epiphany about middle management is akin to watching him find out about Santa Claus, but bear with me, it'll be more fun in a second when I start burning bridges...

When this production started I recieved a call from James McKenney asking me to be sure and return all production calls asap, as we were now working with pros who mistrusted our ragtag, somebody-get-the-grill-lit-so-it's-hot-by-lunch-and-get-Don's-dog-out-of-the-shot style of making movies and we really needed to step up out game and prove we could play on this next-if incrementally so-level. Turns out he needent have worried, as I was never called, or emailed, until a week before shooting began when I sent out an email cc'ing anyone I had an address for, asking about small details such as "Am I still in the cast?","Where exactly is it shooting?","Where am I staying?" and "How do I get there?"
But that is just me, and I am an actor on this job, and if actors are not treated with disdain, something is wrong. I expected to have the Production Assistant told to drop of a box before he drops me off. I mean, actors, we've earned that disdain over a period of centuries. Actual tens of hundreds of years of vanity, hypochondria and sloth.
Such is not the case for the crew. They work for a living. At jobs that cannot be done with a phone and a laptop. There are quite a few on this film, double what we have ever had. I was impressed by that, by what money had brought, only later would I realize the laptop and phone folks had multiplied by five. These crew are doing a great job, often in actual blizzard conditions. They have made it possible to shoot five, seven pages a day, which may mean something to some of you. I include in this group the PAs, a group that can encompass both seemingly masochistic uberworkers and mouth breathing producer's relatives. This shoot has the former.
Which is why when the conductor on the train I am travelling toward the shoot on announced snow would cause a three hour delay in our travel, I emailed the phone and laptop crowd. Not because I was concerned about making it to the set on time-after all, they put me on a 7am train for a scene that will probably start shooting about midnight- but because even an actor can dig down deep enough to find some tiny modicum of respect for the poor PA who would be sitting at the train station in Amsterdam,NY at the scheduled train arrival time, waiting for both a train that was not coming and the terse "Where the hell are you?!" over their radio that absolutely was coming.
The ending writes itself, of course. Fifteen minutes after my train was supposed to arrive I recieved a nervous call from the sweetest of the PAs wondering, umm, you know, um, just making sure you,um, got on the train okay and um, that it left and everything, you know, cause, um, I'm here at the station.....