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Sunday, June 14, 2015
Day Player Chronicles -- Part Two
The first thing a day-player needs to know is that he/she only gets a call when a crew needs help. Either one of the core crew is unavailable for some reason (out sick, or having taken a more lucrative temporary gig), or else the crew is facing an unusually heavy work load.
The second thing a day-player has to understand is that he's there to fill the gaps and serve the needs of others. The core members already have their established roles on set, and although they'll do whatever's required to keep the machine moving forward, their first responsibilities are the priority tasks -- whatever the gaffer needs done right NOW. The day player may join them on the front lines as needed, but his/her job is usually to do everything else: help the Best Boy wrap and return equipment, run and drop cable from up high with the dimmer operator, power up the practical fixtures on set, or work as the "floor man" preparing lights, stirrup hangars, and other equipment for the core crew hanging lamps up in their man-lifts.
Having become accustomed to working as a member of the core crew for so long -- a front-line juicer going up the ladder or jumping into the man-lift first -- shifting to the mindset of a day player required an adjustment.
As I was recently reminded, call times aren't always friendly to a day-player. The show I worked on a few weeks ago brought me in again to work their first day back from hiatus (all the Best Boy could promise was one day), because that week's episode was big enough that their three core juicers needed some help. Their usual call time on Mondays is usually around 3 p.m, and they rarely work much past 9*, but our call for this very busy day was 6 p.m., with the promise of working well past midnight. Had I booked another job with an early morning call the following day, I'd be looking at very little sleep.
There was no other job, since things are slow in town right now, but this illustrates the curse of the day-player, who toils at the whim of forces that are beyond his control and utterly unconcerned that he might have to report for work on another show the following morning on only three or four hours sleep. I've been in that position too many times over the course of my career, and don't plan to do it again. It's just not worth the money. That's one reason I view day-playing as a last resort, and much prefer to be a member of the core crew.
But beggars can't be choosers, so we do what we have to do.**
As it turned out, the BB got the okay to bring me in the next day (and a blessedly short day it was), so all was well. The check for two days is a lot more satisfying than one solitary day, and the gaffer assured me that I'd be back in a couple of weeks.
But a funny thing happened on the way to assuming my new role in Hollywood as a day-player (and my plans to write a series of posts chronicling that transition) -- the phone did ring after all, and I'm no longer day-playing. A gaffer I've known for very long time called to say he was starting a cable sit-com show very soon, and would I like a slot on his crew?
Is the Bear a Catholic? Does a pope shit in the woods?
We've been rigging the stage and exterior sets for a week now, pushing the very big rock up the very steep hill at (miracle of miracles) full union scale. It was one ass-kicker of a week for me, but I managed to get through the worst of it without embarrassing myself. The next few weeks won't be easy -- working on a very crowded stage (the proverbial ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag) with an entirely new crew will require yet another adjustment. It never ceases to amaze me how in a town where everybody seems to know everybody else, I can still -- after all these years -- run into a crew of total strangers. But such is Hollywood, where the intense nature of the work means they won't remain strangers for long.
The only downside thus far are that it's a kid's show (the scripts for which tend to be mind-numbingly simplistic), we'll be doing a fair amount of night exteriors (never fun, those), and none of the episodes will shoot in front of a live audience. We'll follow the usual three lighting days/two filming days schedule, but rather than a block-and-pre-shoot day followed by the audience shoot, we'll just grind out the sit-com sausage shot-by-shot over the course of two full days. This schedule falls somewhere between a standard audience-shoot sit-com and a"hybrid" multi-cam -- which rehearse and light for two days, then shoots for three days with no audience.
Hybrid shows have become more common in the past few years, especially for shows that require a fair amount of location filming or employ more time-consuming special effects than a normal sit-com, and although this isn't a true hybrid, I'll miss those audience shows for a number of reasons. But if this show is less than ideal, it sure as hell beats unemployment, which is to say I will not look this gift horse in the mouth.
Hey, I'm lucky to have a job at all, and besides, nothing's perfect in this veil of tears we call life. All I have to do is show up on time and do the work to the best of my ability -- which is pretty much my default setting at this point. I don't know how to work any other way. The silver lining is that we'll have three juicers on the core crew, where most of the crews I've worked on only had two. We should be able to spread the work load so that none of us suffer undue abuse.
That's the plan, anyway. It remains to be seen what will happen when "the plan" meets reality, because it may well turn out there's a reason we have three juicers. And in that case, I'll doubtless have plenty to bitch about -- the stuff of future blog posts.
* And that, my little droogies, is one of the many reasons I work in the multi-camera world.
** Except for episodics -- no way am I going back to those...