Share the work

The longer I stay in Reality, the more phone calls I get for jobs. I turn down at least a couple of jobs every week, and lately have had more and more show offers and less day playing. That makes a blog hard to keep up, but it keeps the lights on, and I love a good work adventure. Something that has been incredibly helpful has been having other people who are good at their job to hand work off to when I’m busy.

My goal isn’t just to do my job and go home. Every day, every job, I want to make sure things are done right. Sometimes that means helping someone who isn’t paying me, who calls me when I’m booked, to find another AC. It’s not just about the paycheck, it’s about doing good work and helping others do the same, and giving someone else, my “competition”, if you will, work does just that. I’ve got 3 or 4 people who I regularly refer, who do the same job as I do.

I know, without a doubt, that if I weren’t the kind of person to go above and beyond regardless of paychecks, I wouldn’t be sitting in Houston right now, my 4th new city in under a month, with a full month of work ahead of me and multiple job offers on the line after that. Do the guys I recommend sometimes get the call back instead of me? Probably – the first person to pop into our head is the last one we worked with. Does that hurt me? Absolutely not.

Everything all goes a little bit better when we treat others well, instead of trying to keep all the work to ourselves.

Now if only there were an easy way to decide which of these next jobs to take….

Randy

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One year in Atlanta

I’ve been in Atlanta just over a year, and have done almost nothing but Reality work. I’ve been on Real Housewives of Atlanta for 2 seasons (pickups on 5, one of two ACs for all of 6), in addition to working R&B Divas, Love and Hip Hop, Elbow Room, Doomsday Castle, and quite a variety of other shows. I’ve also shot commercials, edited a variety of pieces, and generally been busy on higher end productions than I ever could have worked on back in Wisconsin.

 

There have been so many lessons along the way. My AC kit has changed, my grip kit has changed. The way that I watch out for problems around a set has changed. I’ve learned quite a few techniques to make things faster, more efficient, or just plain better. I’ve travelled more than in the past (Mexico a couple of times, Las Vegas, Miami and Savannah were my favorites. Especially Mexico – I’m fluent in Spanish, and having a chance to help keep things moving smoothly, or get us through Customs when the language barrier was an issue, was fantastic.) I’ve met new people, laughed, been to wrap parties, and carried more sand bags up and down stairs than I ever thought possible.

 

Just as important as what has changed is what hasn’t. I want everyone who I work with to want to hire me, so I come on time (Early is on time. On time is late. Late and you should be fired.) and with the tools to do my job. I keep my head up, my eyes open, and make sure my hands are never empty or idle while everyone else is moving gear around. I think about what gear we may need, make sure we’ve got it and that it’s ready to go, and come up with innovative solutions to issues that arise.  I never cease to be amazed by the people who come in hungover thinking they’re just in to collect a check, and don’t ever want to be that guy.

 

At the end of the day, I love my job.  I wasn’t sure, when I moved, that I would. Reality wasn’t my first choice, but I’ve come to love it. Setting up as many as 3 or sometimes 4 locations in a day has been hectic, and I can’t say every day has been fun. (Tip: the only days that I don’t enjoy are the ones when I don’t get fed. Workers who enjoy their jobs work harder. Feed us!) but at the end of the day, I’m incredibly glad to be in Atlanta, working hard 12-hours a day, 6-days a week, to make the best Television I can.

 

As this season of Housewives comes to an end, and so does the year, I look forward to seeing what kinds of trouble… I mean shows… I get into next! It only gets better the longer you’ve been in the game!

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Scheduling

Every day is an adventure, and with those come a LOT of headaches. Gear not working, hungover audio guys, traffic, the occasional Diva (sometimes it’s the producer, sometimes it’s the DP, sometimes it’s talent. Once I even saw a PA who… Well, he didn’t last long), and a thousand other things.

One of the biggest headaches, though, is scheduling. That seems to fit for the people making the schedule (working with a film crew is like wrangling children. And you thought cats were hard…) as well as for those who are trying to work different shows.

Being a day player, and fairly new to town (over three months in Atlanta already?!), I don’t especially expect to work every day. More than half, definitely, and I’ll always work over taking a day off, but wow, talk about a scheduling nightmare.

Just because you’re held for a day doesn’t mean you’re booked. It means that that company now has right of first refusal on your day – if someone else calls and you want to work with them, you need to clear it with the first company. They, on the other hand, can cancel on you until 24 hours before the shoot (depending on the company and your relationship, etc). Now, if someone else calls you can ask them to confirm for you, since now you’re turning down other work for their shoot, so you have some leverage to keep your day booked.

That all being the case, I regularly get held for shoots that then get cancelled, get dates changed, or have budget cuts and need to get rid of people. That’s part of the business, and you have to plan for it.

I also get called for several different jobs for the same day, so losing a few days here and there isn’t a big deal. It’s just annoying. I’ve worked 6+ shows in the last couple of weeks, and had days that as many as three shows called to ask about my availability for… That I then ended up not working because they changed their schedules last-minute. I’ve also had weeks where almost every day gets booked, but never until the night before.

Once you book a show that lasts a little longer, it’s easier, though you’re completely at the mercy of the show. Until then, day playing, it’s nothing but a mess. Hopefully, as mine has been, a busy mess, where the biggest question is “will I get a day off this week?”.

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Downtime? Prep something

Film, TV and the like end up having a lot of hurry up and wait. Rush to get 6 cameras out the door in the morning. Wait in the van for 45 minutes before you can leave for location. Rush to location. Wait outside because talent won’t let you in yet.

A lot of those times, you can either spend over at crafty or joking around with the guys and girls on crew… Or you can find something productive to do.

Go through your kit. What did you loan out that never came back? Are you short a couple of things? Make a list so you can pick them up. I end up needing to refresh every time I give someone my backup stash of c47s, and most times that I hand out BNC barrel connectors. Maybe a PA took the last of your two inch white gaff tape. Make a note to get some more.

If you’re waiting around by cameras, can you double-check settings, backfocus, and the like? Prep GoPros that you’re going to need later? Or just make sure you’ve got tapes labelled for all of your cameras, an extra with each operator, and spares on you? All of those often happen in the heat of battle, but if there’s downtime, it’s nice to be ready to go.

If you’re at location and waiting to get in, do you have lights that you know you’re going to take in that you could prep? Can you make sure you’ve got gels ready to go if you expect to use certain ones?

Look around and make sure things are as ready as possible.

At the very least, your day will be a little easier. There’s a good chance, though, that if you’re always ready to go, you’ll quickly become the go-to guy when someone needs a person.

As an example, today I worked with 2 new PAs. One had a backpack with a clipboard and other miscellaneous gear. His Ibuprofen came in handy for the audio guys (why is it always audio???). He stayed close to set, and tried to keep his eyes and ears open. The other came without gear, ran off with my tape roll for 2 hours, and was nearly impossible to find when we needed someone.

Guess which I recommended for another job, and which won’t be called back for this show?

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Read your call sheet!

A few nights ago I received a text: “Call time 10AM at the PO”. Ok, I haven’t seen a call sheet yet, but I can work with that. 10 it is.

3 hours later the call sheet came in. Luckily I woke up in the middle of the night and checked it, because call time was actually 9:30, so my normal 15-minutes early would have been 15-minutes late.

Often emails are sent with a “Call time is X time tomorrow!” but my call time is half an hour earlier… And often the PAs are in even earlier than that.

Some call sheets even have a header at the top. Cameras call time: X. Often mine matches. Sometimes for days on end. Then there will be a day that it doesn’t… So you’d best check your time. Plan to be early, and if there are discrepancies (only 15 minutes to load out?!) make a call, and get it moved up. I’ll gladly show up early, but if its just bad scheduling that makes me have to, I’d best get paid for it.

Other things you should watch: weather. Ever see them plan a b-roll day when it’s raining? Those aren’t fun. It’s also smart to know about extra gear, where you’re headed, or what time lunch is. Who might you not know who is on the call sheet? As a day player, that’s especially important – I’m with a different crew every day, and it’s super helpful to know the name of the DP, other ACs, EPs, Audio, and especially talent. The more you look over on your call sheet, the more prepared you can be to do your job right and get called back the next day.

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