"20th Century Props will have a webcast auction starting July 28 and ending August 1. The company, which is going out of business, will auction off furniture used on the Golden Girls set, a Golden Girls portrait, a black bar booth that could have been in the Bada Bing club, aliens that may have been in Lost or Area 51 or X-files, or a medical isolation chamber to keep nasty killer viruses in check, and rooms of art deco, even a full size submarine interior will be for sale.”
I’ve written and re-written this opening sentence several times now, because I’m aware of how what I’m about to say might be interpreted, and I am trying my best not to be misunderstood (i.e. come off sounding like huge asshole). So I’ll put it about as gently as I can right now, and say it with as much care and understanding as I can muster: If you have any desire to work in the film industry professionally, treat every job, no matter how small the shoot, friendly the director/producers, or meager the pay, with the same level of respect. Or, as I put it in my first draft of this paragraph, PUT ON SOME REAL SHOES AND GET OFF YOUR ASS YOU LAZY IGNORANT FUCK.
Ahem. Allow me to explain.
I’ve had a plague recently of lazy, poorly trained, or just plain incompetent people working on shoots with me. From the operator who, judging by the footage he shot, must suffer from a mild form of Parkinson’s, to the paid PA who spent more time on his cell phone than on set, to the camera assistant who showed up with sandals and seemed downright allergic to actually performing his paid duties. In the last few months I’ve been ignored, abandoned, second-guessed, and stolen from, experiences I normally only expect while on dates. It’s especially concerning in light of the (I know, I know) current economic situation we’re all facing, especially in the entertainment industry. And yes, internet content still counts as part of the entertainment industry. I suspect people aren’t aware how lucky they are to be working on anything, let alone a “stupid internet” project, as I overheard one crew-member call it.
Much like any business, people who hire you to perform a service are far more likely to remember a bad experience than a pleasurable one, and word of mouth travels fast. One rule of any industry is that everyone knows everyone, and that is especially true in film and television, where one poor choice can dog you for years. People frequently ask me for recommendations when looking for crew, and I will always happily oblige with good names, but I will also warn them of people I’ve had bad experiences with. If you’re a crew-member on a shoot and feel like a project is beneath you, then you should be working that much harder to demonstrate it. Clearly if you deserve to be on another level, and have the skills to advance, someone will eventually notice. However, if you consistently find yourself working on bottom of the barrel projects, perhaps you should be aware that people might not be recommending you for other work.
I do a lot of, shall we say, “pro-bono” video work on the side (Midnight Show sketches included), I often find myself in situations where I have people I don’t know helping out on shoots and working for free. Because they (and I) are not getting paid, I try not to hold them as accountable as I would a person who depends on their job for a livelihood. This is still not a free pass to slack off, however. Often people will volunteer to work on my shoots for free in hopes of me getting them paid work in the future, which is a great way for you to get your foot in the door if you want to crew on bigger projects. However, if we’re setting up for a shot and I walk out to find you drinking a beer with the cast, chances are very slim I’m going to keep your number in my phone, let alone call you to work ever again.
In consideration of these various pet peeves, I’ve put together a small list of things you should probably know before you show up to work on something, regardless of whether I’m directing. These are all fairly standard rules to follow if you’re looking to work on film and television sets. I feel like I’m a pretty easygoing director to work with, follow these simple rules and we’ll get along just fine. All of the items on this list are culled from specific experiences I’ve had in the last two months of shooting videos. If it sounds familiar, you may even be the person I’m talking about.
Don’t wear sandals. Being on a film crew is work. Work shoes should cover your toes. No, you don’t need steel-toed boots, but when part of your job is lugging around 50 lb+ equipment, you’re going to need to have sensible shoes. The only exception to this rule is if you have battle-hardened hobbit feet (Brad, if you’re reading this, feel free to continue wearing sandals, because you work your ass off and your feet look like they could stop bullets. Also, write that down, it might be a cool short).
Don’t disappear. Unless someone has specifically told you to be doing something that requires you to be off set for more than 5 minutes, you should be around. If the AD or Director don’t see your face for longer than that, we’ll assume you are slacking off. If you have to go 10-1, tell someone. Like I said before, if we find you drinking beers with the cast, an image of your face will forever be burned on our retinas as someone to both never hire and also to possibly “forget to brake” if you cross the street in front of our car.
Turn your cell phone off. Unless part of your job requires you have it on, turn it off. Far too many times lately has shooting been held up because someone in camera dept. had to finish a call. Plus, the signals can interfere with the wireless lav mics, and if you screw up sound on an otherwise good take because your roommate called to ask you to Tivo Lost when you get home, you’re probably fired.
Don’t second-guess people above your pay grade. Don’t get me wrong, I like creative input. I think suggestions and the free flow of ideas, even bad ones, makes for better end product, and I’m fine with anyone on set making suggestions at the appropriate time. However, if I’ve just spent an hour lighting a scene and white-balancing your camera because you were off doing god knows what, and you saunter in with actors on set waiting for YOU, and then you have the nerve to say it looks a little off and “are you sure it’s right” while everyone else is ready to go, well…I can’t be held responsible for the bodily harm I may or may not inflict upon you.
Go the extra mile. I think the number one thing that tells me whether a person will be good at their job or is worth hiring again or promoting is their attention to detail. Far too many times do I have to push people to make the extra effort on something that they should have just decided to do themselves. There is simply no excuse for doing things half-assed, no matter what medium the end product is destined for. In the last few months I have had far too many people use the excuse of “well, it’s going straight to video, so who cares,” or “fuck it, it’s for the internet,” as a way of doing shoddy work. Always do as good and complete a job as possible. For every project you work on, treat it like your name is going to be on it, because IT IS, and you never know who will see it.
And really, that’s about it. It’s not hugely complicated, and most of these rules apply to all jobs out there, not just film and television work. Like I said, I’m not really angry, more just annoyed at people who take opportunity or work for granted. Hopefully some of this advice can help you. It was certainly cathartic to write it all out.
Great advice. The shoes thing is a huge thing with me and Cat. When PAs (especially PAs who are girls) arrive on set wearing flats or dainty clothing, we’re like “Are you for real? Do you have any idea what you’re going to do today?” And by the end of the day, you can count on these girls being pissed off, cranky, and tired. It’s not just girls who are like that, but it’s anyone who isn’t wearing the right shoes or clothing for the work they’re supposed to do.
Usually, Cat and I pick on other girls because, and I hate to say this, but it’s true, it makes us look bad. Especially with people who’ve never worked with us before. If some girl on set is being “_______”, we have to prove ourselves that we’re not like that. It sucks, but that’s the sort of handicap we have to work with sometimes.
Fortunately though, when people who know us well see this kind of behavior, they’re like, “We’re so glad that you’re here.”
What kind of intern comes to work with fucking walking pneumonia or whatever it is that you have? I know you want to show the company you’re dedicated, but let’s get everyone in the office sick while you’re at it. Your phlegmy cough can be heard down the hallway.
You fell asleep in the building’s lobby (for over an hour) where people actually meet to discuss projects. The head of production found you and woke you up. And you finished the editor’s kleenex box and didn’t offer to replace it. And you touched my laptop with your snotty fingers.
And you brought work from your other internship and were caught working on that. Not professional, man.
This doesn’t look good for you. Some people have complained about your behavior…when you’re working in an industry that puts as much value on what others think about you than on the good work that you do, this doesn’t look good. This doesn’t bode well. Get your act together, man, maybe see a doctor (you said you had that cough for weeks), and rest up. We’ve got a shoot in two weeks, and you need to be good to go.
“Apparently, [redacted] is no longer one of our directors. She back-stabbed [our executive producer]. I don’t know the whole story…Anyway, the company she’s now working for called to ask for all her reels! [The producer] said, ‘Fuck them’ and just told me to collect all her dvds and reels and burn them in the parking lot.”—the editor at my internship. Now that’s what I call “fucking done professionally”.
“Quentin does this on his sets and I started doing it on ‘Hostel’. Have some really good music ready between set-ups and rock out to it with crew. They’ll get the shot set up faster. It’s amazing how much a crew can get done in one AC/DC song.”—Eli Roth.
“To me, the perfect film is as though it were unwinding behind your eyes, and your eyes were projecting it themselves, so that you were seeing what you wished to see. Film is like thought. It’s the closest to thought process of any art.”—
A Q&A with Stefan G. Bucher, the film’s logo designer and typographer.
"We went with Univers Light Condensed. It’s just about as simple as you can get, and even though it’s a modern font it soaks up Tarsem’s take on Deco and Art Nouveau. It feels much more period appropriate to my eye than actual fonts from that time, which would come off as cliché. The same goes for the title itself, which is a heavily modified version of Univers. As for the swooshes, they were inspired by the Indian’s sword, but I think it’s obvious that I’m also a great admirer of Margo Chase and Marian Bantjes, whose swirly magnificence is always floating around in my head."
Zodiac with commentary by Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Brad Fischer (producer), James Vanderbilt (screenwriter and producer), and James Ellroy (another screenwriter and had nothing to do with the film—kind of annoying in the track) is QUALITY.