Friday, January 17, 2014

The Unattainable - Part 6 - Done and Done

"I don't throw darts at a board. I bet on sure things. Read Sun Tzu. The Art of War. Every battle is won before it is ever fought." - Gordon Gekko, Wall Street

You know all the movie quotes about the business world. Gekko in Wall Street and Blake (Alec Baldwin) in Glengarry Glen Ross both generate enough to fill a semester at Wharton's*.

"Greed is good."
"Always be closing"
"It's all about bucks, kid. The rest is conversation."
"Get them to sign on the line which is dotted"
"Lunch is for wimps."

Ok, the last one I might agree with, as I tend not to eat lunch when I'm working.

As for the others, and the million other quotes that have come from the generations of business people since the 80s who think that success in business is somehow a religion in need of scripture, the quotes are over-simplifications that are annoying as hell, the adult version of childhood sing-song nonsense that sound good but mean nothing.

The remnants of an age when we glorified yuppies who had built nothing and, as Carl Fox says in Wall Street, don't understand:

"Stop going for the easy buck and start producing something with your life. Create, instead of living off the buying and selling of others."

That's why we got into the arts, isn't it? There really are no easy bucks here for most, regardless of where you are in the chain.  For crew, there's a lot of heavy lifting and standing around in weather that is too hot or too cold. For production. there is too much of your time in development that you never get paid for, and working for a back end that often feels like a kick in another kind of back end.

For actors, there's waiting tables and spending more on headshots and acting coaches than you make in a year when you start.

For all, there are long hours.

For people like me, then, macho-sounding business quotes are like nails on a chalkboard.

Why, then, did I start the overuse of the phrase "Done and done" on this shoot? Why would I?

As line producer, approving things (or not) is part of the routine. From check requests to crew invoices to call sheets, you are constantly signing off on things.

In the beginning, especially with a production coordinator I had not worked with before, you look each thing over very carefully, make sure you are the one approving and not letting others make the decision, and make sure your POC knows why you are approving.

Then, the routine kicks in. They know what you are going to approve or not approve, for the most part. The conversations become shorter, the review quicker. You develop a short-hand.

Finally, our short-hand got shortened to "Done and done."

"We need to order toner."

You get past the point where you need to ask if we really need more toner or if they think what we have will last.

"It's 4AM and there is no train and the PA wants to know if they can take a cab to the truck rental house and pick up the personnel (15 passenger) van that is picking up crew in an hour?"

No, I'm going to save the few bucks on the cab and let the half the crew get to set late and start the entire day behind. Of course, let them take a cab.

With a thousand little decisions like this, you begin to delegate, but form still says you need to approve, and for those few times when you decide you will not approve - and they will come up - things still need to be run by you.

Hence, we still need the approval process. The question still needs to be asked, but the answer need not be as long.

Done and done.

Pretty soon, it became a catch-phrase in the office, with my POC using it often,when she wasn't mimicking the whistle that is the notification on my Samsung devices for messages, and driving my assistant and the APOC to distraction!

My APOC got into the act as well. "As Papa Bear says, done and done."

I've never used this regularly before, and I still don't know why I started to here. Fact is that I did, and it was, yes, done and done.

Having devoted a well-deserved entire post to my script supervisor, it is only fair to mention here how great my small but effective office staff was on this movie.

Megan, my coordinator, was actually my boss on a reality show. She worked 24/7, as we all did, on the internet and phone most of her days off, while also taking classes, and got an A! The role-reversal is actually one of the things I love about this business - my mentor, Stan's last gig was as my production manager. It never bothered him, and I would be honored if my last gig was working for one of my proteges (or hopefully Megan again!), which would not surprise me in the least. They are so damn smart.

I can be stuck in my ways at times, and Megan was incredibly flexible, while not being afraid to offer possible different solutions. That she remained chipper to my sometimes droll demeanor made the office a better place.

Me and my Megan, according to one crew member

(Yes, I used the picture before in this series - still thought it made sense here. Don't make me shoot you!)

Early on, I warned her about burning out the APOC and the producer's assistant. yet it was she who had to remind me at times to let them go home when I needed just one more thing.  For all the amazing things she did - and there were many - the way she watched out for the office staff really made me happy, showed that she kept human beings in perspective with the job.

Tasha was our APOC. Bright and hard-working, there was never a complaint when she had to re-do the sides she had already started, or whether "do this right now it's a priority" became "oh, we have a run for you and forget what you're doing" two minutes later. Though working for an insanely low salary, she, too, had the pride in her work to not only be online on her days off, but more than once came in to solve a problem on a day off - once solving a rather huge problem that no one else could have at that moment.

Aalika was the producer's assistant, and while working for all the producers, did most of her work for me. This is a position I use on every shoot. It's really hard, as it basically means all the stuff that falls through the cracks falls on the person in that position, and, in her case, much of this was responsibility for things she had never done.

This meant I had needed to take time to show her things, but, as the running joke became in the office, actually getting my undivided attention sometimes seemed like it would require a super-power. Somewhere half sentence, my phone would ring, an email would hit, someone would come into the office looking for me. On set, someone would be calling for me on the walkie.

There would be Aalika, knowing I would soon be asking her if something was done which I had not given her the complete information on. To say she was patient was an understatement, yet she filled so many tasks that were so important that it's hard to know what we would have done without her.

Here would be a good time to point out the help of a usual suspect who I know will be in the position to hire me soon, Maura. A young woman who just recently described herself as a "twisted carebear" Maura was my coordinator, my UPM and my 2nd AD on other jobs, and has since gone on to run bigger offices. She is a detail whiz - details are not my strong point  and she was endlessly helpful the few days she worked, taking that time with Aalika, who was the person on this shoot who found herself handling the dreaded SAG paperwork, and, as far as we know, did not take anyone's life in retaliation. That is, when Maura was not giving them tips on how not to let me steal their pens.

With that, I am going to move on from this shoot, at least in this blog. Principle photography is over, and while additional photography is planned, it's time to close this chapter. This is one I definitely cannot wait to see at the screening.

Until then, we are, done.  And done.

Left to right. Aalika, Tasha, Me, Courtney (our wonderful producer) and Megan in our home. Always nice to be surrounded by this many smart, beautiful women.

*Wharton's School of Business - one of the top business schools

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