Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Do the Right Thing

(Note: since the post went up amid the fuzzy-headed alcohol fumes early Sunday morning, a reader informed me that Dave Chameides is not an actor, but a steadicam operator working out of New York.)

It's late Saturday night -- Sunday morning, to be precise -- and I've just returned from a dinner with old friends.  Lots of wine, lots of good food, lots of great conversation.  Maybe too much wine, methinks -- the keyboard will not cooperate right now, nor will the Advil I just downed fend off the hangover that will come with the dawn.

Fly now, pay later: it's the American Way.

But I had my fun and I'll take my lumps tomorrow -- okay, today -- which is Oscar Day, a big deal in this town.  Not to me, but to many others. So I logged on to Facebook before hitting the sack, and there I found the following post.  I have no idea who Dave Chameides is -- an actor, apparently -- but maybe he should reconsider his career path and become a writer.  I've read many appeals over the past few days urging the Academy to honor Sarah Jones in the Oscar ceremony Sunday night, but this extraordinarily eloquent plea is right up there with the best of them: one actor speaking to the rest of his fellow thespians, urging them to do the right thing tomorrow night -- wear a black ribbon, and if lucky enough to be called up on stage, say a few words for Sarah and for the rest of us who toil below decks every day to make those who work in the glare of the hot lights look their best.

It really does take a village to make a movie, television show, commercial, or music video -- all of us working together to create the finished product.  But right now, those of us who do the hard, dirty work are feeling a bit raw.  One of our own paid the ultimate price for someone else's error in judgement -- some above-the-line fool who decided to take a chance and hope everything worked out.   It didn't work out -- things went catastrophically wrong -- and if there's any justice in this world (a doubtful proposition), that person or persons will be called to account ... but in the meantime, the actors who participate in the Oscar ceremony Sunday night will earn some credit from the below-the-line community by doing the right thing during the show.

And if they don't?  Then fuck them, each and every one.

They may not remember, but we will not forget.

And to Dave Chameides -- whoever you are -- thanks.

To all my actor friends;
Tomorrow night, you, and/or your friends are going to be heading to the Oscars and all those great parties before and after to bask in the spotlight and get some really great free swag (yeah, we know you dig it just like the rest of us). I know that you've been seeing all the Slates for Sarah stuff and all the requests for you to wear a black ribbon on the red carpet, and you may be asking yourself why.

Chances are you didn't know her right? I mean you're not callous, but this is your night and you should enjoy it. And besides, she's certainly gotten a fair amount of attention already, what's one little ribbon going to do?

Well, I'll give you my two cents as to why you should wear a ribbon tomorrow night and hopefully you'll take it to heart, do so, and pass this post onto all your other friends.

You should wear a black ribbon not because you knew Sarah Jones, but because you know a thousand people who could have been Sarah Jones. Think about your sets. How many of these young kids get there long before you do and stay there long after you leave? When you're out in the rain and head into the trailer to warm up, how many of them stay out in the slop, setting up the next shot, and do it without a gripe but with a goofy smile on their faces? How many of those kids do you know, and how many of them do you stop and say "How are you doing, and thanks for all your help today"? And I don't hold it against you, after all you and I are friends and good friends at that. I don't think you're a bad person for not asking because there are a lot of us and only one of you and sometimes it seems like everyone wants a piece of you. But here's the deal.

We're not doing so well today. Because we lost one of our own. Even those who didn't know Sarah, we are hurting. Why? Because in every department, there's a Sarah. A young kid, busting his or her butt to make us look good, to make you look good, to make themselves look good. And they'll forge a river, climb a building, or cross a desert for all of us because they love what they do and they are happy to do it. They'll eat cold pizza in the rain at midnight and then jump right back in to set up that last shot, because they are professionals and they are proud.

It's a job of course, and we get paid, and there are perks, and we are tough. But right now we are hurting and we could use a little thank you, or more specifically, a little gesture that would be a big thank you.

Tomorrow as you are getting all dressed up, pop a small black ribbon on, and let us know that you care. That's all. Not much. A token to say some kid you didn't know lost her life way too young, and for the sake of your crew - the folks who wrapped at 2 AM long after you were in bed Friday night, the folks who will be there at 7 AM monday long before you get up - you need to let them know that you care. Wear that ribbon and if some reporter asks you why say "For Sarah Jones, because no one should ever die making a movie."

It's really not a lot to ask and in fact, will be a crazy classy move on your part and karmically worth some serious points. This is about speaking up. We need you in this push for better safety and this is where it starts, by keeping this issue front and center. And if you think it's not about you, well, you're wrong. An actor was supposed to be out on those tracks at some point, so safe sets aren't just about the crew, they are about all of us. The only difference between Sarah's fate and someone else's, was timing.

My two cents. Here's to hoping that you'll take my thoughts and wear a little token to thank one of your own. And moreso, to a change in the system where we never have to show up at a function wearing a ribbon for you. Because at the end of the day, a falling c-stand, an unpermitted train trestle, or a car traveling fast with a bald tire, doesn't care how much money you make or what side of the call sheet you are on. We are all in this together and we all need to have each others backs. Tomorrow night, have ours.

For Sarah, for us, for you, please consider making your voice heard tomorrow night.

Enjoy and if you are up for something, good luck. (And if you win, feel free to remember Sarah from the podium, and remember to thank your mom).

Be Well. Be Strong. Be Safe. Speak Up.

Dave Chameides


D said...

Nicely done even when impaired, Mike. You're absolutely right when you use "raw" to describe how most of us are feeling about this. Usually, we take being pulled through knotholes with a grain of salt and cash the check. This terrible event is the hot pinpoint of sunlight through a magnifying glass of years of callous neglect and often abuse.
Speaking of actors and their influence....where was William Hurt on this? In my experience, even less than A-list actors can pull the plug on dodgy scenarios such as the one on live railroad tracks in Georgia. Was he also misled? If so, I haven't heard anything regarding his subsequent outrage....nothing at all from him. If he wasn't misled...knew the peril that existed....does he not understand the planetary gravity that stars like him bring to a situation? Unfortunately....perhaps unwittingly, he made that set SEEM SAFE just by being there....tacit approval. He, no doubt, had a PR blanket thrown over him lickety split...didn't have to shop for one like Randall Miller. He, no doubt, will work it out.
It's a lesson to us all about which way we should look when appraising a situation. Do we look to Academy Members for advice, knowledge, security ....solace? Better to look to ourselves....our coworkers...our collected common sense, and never forget.

Brent Weichsel said...

Dave Chameides is a Stedicam Operator who works in the NYC area. I've worked with him he is a great stand up guy.

Michael Taylor said...

Don --

You make a good point about Mr. Hurt, who seems to be maintaining radio silence and remaining a safe distance from this benighted production. And yeah, we now know that it really is on us to make sure we're all safe.

Brent --

Thanks for clearing that up. I'll put a note in the post.