Monday, February 23, 2015

This Gun for Hire - Part 2 - The "Real" Job

"Seize the day. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart."   -  Erma Bombeck*

Even as I was making the transition from freelancer, some things would remain the same, and some old habits would die hard.

Part of my job still involved handling finances,  something my ex-wife would find amusing. The irony that someone who was never very good at handling his own finances could track a film's finances was never lost on her.

Yet, here I was at a "real job;" the type of job my mother always (not-so-secretly) wished I would get, and the type my ex was sure I never would.

Technically,  I reported to the new president of the company,  who we will call Mark, because he reminded me of someone who thought of himself as a Mark Cuban-like entrepreneur.

I should explain.

First, I need to put the times in context. It was the turn of the Century, and all you heard was that 'content is king.' In many ways that, from my admittedly limited and brief perspective,  was one of the problems at Shooting Gallery. They were near the end of an era where they were "incubating " projects, including web series.  A lot of folks with an idea and not much more were given free rent, free access to equipment, phones,  etc. The idea was they would develop content that Shooting Gallery could later sell and reap the profit. In theory, it could have worked. After all, they had helped develop successes such a You Can Count on Me and Slingblade.

Of course, it's never that easy. In reality, at this point, only the production and post-production division was making money, and that was, from what I could tell, in large part due to Dave Tuttle's stewardship. Although Dave was second to Mark in title, it was in title only. Mark's successes came in other fields, and, from what I could tell, he was brought in only because he brought with him an infusion of cash.

The financial reporting I did came from within,  and from the other cities where Gun For Hire had expanded to Toronto, LA, Vancouver and Miami.  Only New York's Gun for Hire division seemed to be making money, which was part of the problem.

Still, in the beginning, things didn't seem to be that bad. In my early days in theater and film, I had temped to pay the bills, and I was always surprised at how much money big companies threw away as opposed to the low budget projects I worked on, so I just chalked some things up to the sins of largess.

The more mundane part of my job was as facilities manager - things like making sure the custodial help had enough cleaner. Not all that exciting,  but I knew it needed to be even done, and it wasn't that hard.

The upside was some client contact. Our biggest client that was still shooting was a film called Changing Lanes with. Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson.  Like a guy on the romantic rebound who still pines for his ex when with the new lover, I gravitated to spending some time with the line producer,  but no so much as to be a nuisance.  It worked for both of us, as I made sure he was always happy, which, after all, was part of my job.

Remember we were in two buildings that were in prime real estate in downtown Manhattan - 609 Greenwich Street and 110 Leroy Street, which is where my office was located, I spent a lot of time going back and forth, probably a remnant of my former jobs,  wanting to be hands on.

Another remnant of my old freelance production work was staying until the job was done. While  I always preach to coordinators not to burn themselves out and leave at some point because you could never finish everything,  I still slept better if all of my financials were done.

One night,  Dave was leaving a little late and I was still working.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

I pointed out I didn't want to leave without getting my financials done, even though they weren't really due for another day and a half.

He chuckled.

"You've got to get used to your new life, brother.** There will be time to do that tomorrow.  Go home."

As a former line producer, he knew exactly what I was doing.  I eventually changed my routine to include leaving pretty much on time, with the exception of always asking Dave if he needed anything if he was working late.

Those were the good days. For the first time since my days at the political research company, I was soon going to have my health care paid by my company. Sweet.

I could not have known then how quickly they would come to an end.

*More Titanic references to come.

**Of course, all these years later, I am paraphrasing from memory. I do remember him saying something like "brother." More on this in the next article.

The Village Voice did a great article with a lot of research, as did a documentary. All of my articles on this are based from my perspective which, while from the inside, did not include access to interviews or conversations with key ;players like Larry Meistrich, nor was I in on meetings where key financial decisions were made..  

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