Monday, 10 February 2014

Why I Work in Film

Photograph by Tony Lee, Save BC Film PSA Shoot February 2013
“Do you love it?”
I looked away. 
“That’s a lot of time to be spent doing something you don’t love,” she added, reading into the blank look on my face.
I tried to explain. It’s hard to explain. 
There’s something about film that turns my crank. The big cameras. The circus (hair, make-up and wardrobe trailers). Working with over 100 people everyday. 
Each path we choose in life takes us somewhere. Eventually. I know that.
Somewhere in film there’s a creative fit for me. I believe that. It has yet to come to me. But I keep looking.
In this business, it’s who you know. Someone will refer you to someone. 
That’s how it works.
The biz first came to me in 1989. A friend suggested I contact a Director she knew working in TV commercials. Based on her recommendation, he hired me to work as his assistant. 
I was hooked.
Soon after I worked on the set of the feature film Bird on a Wire. Here’s where I met my first stars; Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn.
We’re all people. Real people. I treated them as such.
Eventually I took an office job on the TV Series MacGyver.
That was before computers and cellular phones. 
I answered the telephone, paged producers, photocopied scripts – different colours for different versions, and fed the office staff. I was Craft Service. These days, in the biz it’s known as “Crafty.”
We had writers, editors, production staff and accounting working in the office. There were a lot of folks to feed.
The day began at 7am and usually ended around 7pm. 
It was never dull. I was always busy. 
This I loved.
I left the biz a year and a bit after to help my brother in a start-up. Later got pregnant and married, moved to the Island. Got a diploma in photojournalism and worked in news in TV as there was no film work there.
Years later I move back to the mainland and crept back in. Only to start at the bottom again. To get back in the Union.
Nowadays I stand around at a lock-up. Preventing noise during a roll or someone walking through the shot during a take. 
The days often last 12-15 hours, sometimes more.
My feet develop calluses in places not seen before. 
When I roll out of bed, depending on the day before, it’s either slow or fast.
I pick up garbage. I use a butt sweep. I hide in dark places. 
Film is dirty. We create a lot of garbage. Some shows recycle, most do not.
There’s always food. Too much food. 

No one goes hungry.
So much gets thrown away. So much waste. No desire to change it seems.
Unions dictate our rates. Mine is the Director’s Guild of Canada. I get paid for 15 hours. I’m given nine hours of turnaround. 
Other unions get more.
This translates into a minimum 75 hour work week with 45 hours of downtime. 
Compared to someone who works say 9am-5pm, their work week is 40 hours with 80 hours of downtime. This includes sleep.
So why do so many of us do it? Is it for the money?
For some, probably.
A Production Assistant’s wage translates to $10 an hour. Add on all the Union deductions, Income Tax, etc., we slip by.
So what is it about film that I love? 
Well, we’re a breed of people not afraid of hard work or sleep deprivation. Dedicated to the craft. With strength and stamina to keep going, no matter what. 
Obviously, we love the movies.
Someone has to.
We keep making them.


J. Michael Lyffe said...

Happened to cross your path by serendipitous accident. Great stroke of luck. Keep tapping that keyboard and hang in there!!

Anonymous said...

Hey, i like your blog, (and your boat). You dont blog often enough though for someone as independent as you are. You'd make a good writer. Robb from Wyoming. on facebook

It's What I Like to DO said...

Oh my gosh thank you SO much!
You're the inspiration I needed to hear.
I've been so swamped working in film and consequently I left my true calling. I LOVE to write and MISS it!
Am attempting to recreate my life so I can update my blog and write more often again.
I used to write everyday.
Thank you thank you thank you!!