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, June 24, 2012

Just Say Yes

"No flies on electric"

Looking back over three and a half decades working below-the-line, a few essential truths remain standing long after the ambient static and detritus has been washed away by the relentless flow of time. Of these, perhaps the most crucial is the value of doing your work in a manner that will make you and your boss look good -- which will then cause him or her to feel smart for hiring you in the first place. Building a reputation as someone who does things right (and thus makes the boss look good) might be the essential survival skill for a freelancer in any department. Those who don't understand this -- or worse, who find a way to make their boss look bad -- are a lot less likely to get a call for the next gig.

Never forget that there are plenty of really good up-and-coming crew people out there hungry for work and eager to have your job.

When I was just a pup, the gaffer who served as my mentor had a mantra: "No flies on electric."* That meant he expected his crew to do their work in a quiet, professional manner, drawing no unnecessary attention to themselves or the department. Cable runs were to be neat, out of the way, and long enough so the genny would cause no problems for the sound department on set. Lamps and accessories were to be staged close enough to minimize delays caused by running back to the truck, but not in a manner that would impede the rest of the crew.** Any issues with production or other departments were addressed and resolved before they could morph into a problem.

He understood that our job was to serve the needs of the DP, and thus the production as a whole, and that an efficient, smoothly-run set lighting crew would make the cameraman -- his boss -- look good.

This may sound like an obvious no-brainer, but I've seen crews who didn't (or couldn't) work that way -- usually because their department head was a jerk -- and having to share a set with them was no fun at all. One bad department can drag the whole show down, but when the entire crew adopts the right approach, the work days unfold with a minimum of drama. It takes extra effort, of course, but we're not there to stare like zombies into cell phones all day or flirt with cute extras; we're there to get the work done.  Besides, running a tight ship makes the entire work day a much more pleasant and positive experience for everyone. Working on a crew with a solid work ethic just feels better, and more important, helps ensure that more work will keep rolling in. When the grip and electric crew handle the problems and challenges that inevitably arise throughout a day of filming without a lot of whining, carping, or undue flapping of elbows, they make their DP look good. When the DP's work goes smoothly, it makes the director's job easier and helps him/her look good. Veteran producers and UPMs understand the effort required to make a set run like a well-oiled machine, and most have worked with enough good and bad crews over the years to appreciate the difference. When your crew's default setting is to do things right, it will be noticed.  But if you fall into the bad habit of slacking off – making a minimal effort just to get through each work day -- that too will be noted, and not in your favor.

During the twenty-odd years I was in a position to hire, I learned the hard way how important it was to have a crew whose primary concern was taking care of business on the job. Those crews made me -- and in the process, my boss -- look good. We all managed to have fun over the course of the day, but the work always came first.

It has to.

To my mind, another essential element is the importance of saying “yes.” Hollywood is famous for being a town that loves to say “no” – no to your brilliant script, no to that role you'd be perfect for, no to your simple desire to work hard and carve out a decent career. But if "no" is a standard reply above-the-line, our task below-the-line is to say yes. Unless a request from a Director, Producer, or UPM represents a serious violation of safety practices, union rules, or is just so stupid as to be counterproductive, our job is to find a way to say yes. Some creative thinking might be required, but that’s a good thing. Those who develop skill at thinking creatively and getting things done are sure to work again.

On my last show, the UPM or his production supervisor would occasionally point out some little thing he or she wanted done on stage: taping down an extension cord, fixing a non-functional work light (usually a job for Local 40), or maybe putting a scoop light in a dark corner or walkway on stage. When busy with departmental work -- lighting the set -- I’d pass these requests on to the Best Boy, but whenever possible I’d just take care of it myself. It didn't matter that whatever they were asking wasn't strictly necessary from a safety standpoint, but if responding to their perceived needs keeps production happy without negatively impacting my real job, why not do it? Our whole crew did that in our own ways, and in turn, production was more inclined to listen when we needed something.

I wasn't always so accommodating. When I first started working as a Best Boy on commercials and low-budget features, I took a hard line with production that often caused a minor misunderstanding to escalate into a me-versus-them confrontation. Coming up through the endlessly abusive world of low-budget, non-union productions left me with a chip on my shoulder, primed to punch back whenever I sensed that a producer, UPM, or coordinator was trying to take advantage of me or my crew. Indeed, there are times when a Best Boy does have to draw the line and throw some elbows, but a little of that goes a long way.  Eventually I learned to be more judicious in choosing my battles -- to bend but not break -- and finally came to embrace the idea that working with production whenever possible can make life on the job a lot less stressful for everyone.***

Film and television is a group effort, and the more oars pulling in the same direction – moving the show foreword through the rough waters that inevitably buffet every production – the better. Anything you can do to make that journey less bruising for everyone involved is worth the effort.  

* The late, great Jim Bogard

** This was before the advent of head carts, which make proper staging a lot easier.

*** You can't always say yes, of course. Sometimes you end up dealing with an insecure, myopic, bullying egomaniac whose endlessly unreasonable demands leave you no choice but to push back.  That's okay -- life's too short to work for such clowns anyway...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Leap of Faith

                          Should I Stay or Should I Go?*
   When that bird in the hand is no longer worth two in the bush...

While toiling as a Best Boy on a low-budget, non-union, flat-rate feature in Mississippi long ago, one of my juicers gave me a coffee cup embossed with the following quote: “Life’s a bitch and then you die.”  The whole crew had a good laugh, but there was a bitter grain of truth at the bottom of that cup, particularly while working six long, sweaty days each week followed by one very short Sunday off.  Location features are always hard, but wherever you are in your career or on the Industry food chain, this is a tough business -- and for those young people trying to gain a toehold in the biz, it's particularly hard.
I was reminded of this while reading a lively discussion sparked by a recent post from The Anonymous Production Assistant over the question of when to turn down a job at the usual grind (in TAPA's case, working as a PA) and wait for a better opportunity (more money, added responsibility, and another rung up the shit-stained ladder of Hollywood suck-cess) that might – or might not -- materialize.

Is that no-respect, low-paying-but-comfortably-familiar bird in the hand really better than two maybe-yes-maybe-no birds merrily chirping away out there in the smoggy Hollywood bush?

It depends on who you are, your own personal circumstances, and just which dream you're chasing.  Deciding whether to sit tight in whatever tenuously-safe-but-unsatisfying little niche you currently inhabit or make a leap of faith that could help you move up can be a difficult decision -- one that might increase the tension between personal and professional ambitions.  If raising a family is on your agenda, the time may come when you'll have to choose between your professional dreams and hard reality of making a decent living.  This is particularly true for those with big dreams of becoming writers, directors, and/or producers.  There is no real road map or tried-and-proven path to such elusive goals.  You'll just have to wing it and hope for the best... but life out there in that yes/no/maybe void where smiling faces and empty promises are the unbankable coin of the realm isn't going to be easy.  Some people write scripts and take meetings for twenty years with nothing tangible to show for their efforts, while others hit the Hollywood lottery and score with their first serious pitch.  You just never know, and that's the bitch of it.  But unless you’re prepared to remain mired in a rut until you age-out as an utterly miserable 40-something PA twenty years from now – in which case your reluctance to take a risk will have doomed your entire career -- you’ll have to make that leap of faith sometime. There’s just no avoiding it.

Like your Dad always said; "If you don't make your own decisions, they'll get made for you."

Embarking on a Hollywood career has never been for the faint of heart – this isn’t the place for anyone whose default setting is to play it safe. If a secure and predictable career is what you need from life, then you may as well stay home and find some other path far from the chaos of the film and television industry. But those who do come here should be prepared to roll the dice -- and the question isn’t whether you'll have to make that leap of faith, but when.

You've got to be smart about it, though.  If you jump before you’re ready to succeed at that new job, the taint of failure from the subsequent belly-flop can linger in your own head and among those who witness your own personal Hindenburg moment. But if a little fear of failure is healthy -- prodding you to do everything possible in preparing for new opportunities -- too much can paralyze and hold you back. Since most of us experience failure at one point or another (often several times), learning to absorb the lessons and move on is an essential survival skill for every free-lancer. The truth is, most of us who hammered out careers above or below-the-line in Hollywood were able to learn from our failures, emerging smarter, stronger, and better-equipped for the next opportunity.  That may sound like a cliche, but it's true.

The Hollywood road is harder than ever nowadays. With the Industry in the midst of an ongoing digital revolution, the ground beneath our feet is constantly shifting. The old ways don’t always work anymore, requiring fresh approaches across the boards. The resulting churn creates new opportunities, but most brand-newbies fresh from college haven’t had a chance to learn about real-world Hollywood yet, much less how to take advantage of the new and ever-evolving rules of the road.

I think another factor is the sheer glut of degree-holding wannabes desperate to get a break and start their own Industry careers.  A quick Google search of "film schools" turned up an astonishingly long list world-wide, with at least 180 private or public school film programs in the United States alone.  When I was in college, USC, UCLA, and NYU were the Big Three, and although there were certainly many smaller serious film schools at the time, I can't believe there was anything close to 180.  Back then -- spurred to an extent by the electrifying effect Easy Rider had on youth culture -- studying film was only just beginning to become popular in schools, but wasn't yet viewed as a practical career choice by so many young people lacking any family connections to the biz.  Many of the small crop of film school grads were able to get their professional start with Roger Corman or one the other small, low-budget feature production companies around at the time, most of which are long gone. 

With all those those film schools pumping out a flood of eager young graduates every year -- each hoping to succeed in an industry that can't possibly absorb them all -- it's no wonder so many smart, highly-educated young people have a hard time landing a paid entry-level job as a Production Assistant.  I was neither highly-educated nor particularly smart, but due to more favorable conditions (read: less competition) at the time, my own stint working for free only lasted a few weeks.  Nowadays, I hear of young people taking job after job working for nothing in their effort to get started, and many of these kids arrived in Hollywood dragging the ball-and-chain of big, fat student loans.

This is not a sustainable situation, which means something, somewhere, will have to give.

Unless Hollywood enjoys a dramatic upsurge in local production, the only way the pressure will ease is through a shift on the other end of the supply/demand equation. I suspect that may happen as the impractical reality of going deeply into debt for a film degree begins to sink in among the undergrad ranks. Incurring a huge debt load for medical school is one thing (a doctor can always get a job), but you’d better be one supremely talented whiz kid to justify borrowing a hundred thousand dollars for a degree in film. Rolling the dice on a career in Hollywood – above or below-the-line – is a path that should be taken only by those who see no other viable options in life.

Those recent grads now trying to make the best of a bad situation might be better off avoiding Hollywood altogether in going to where the jobs really are – and there’s a ton of television and feature production happening in the southeast these days. That spells opportunity. It won’t be easy, but breaking into this business has always been hard, and that’s not about to change. If Hollywood turns into a dead-end for you, then you might have to make adjustments in your expectations and career strategies.  As a piece in the LA Times recently pointed out, some Hollywood dreamers have had to go very far away to make their cinematic dreams come true, but that's been the story of humankind since we first marched out of  Africa -- when things don't work out here, we pack up and go somewhere else to roll the dice.

The best and brightest (along with the most-determined and best-connected) usually find a way to succeed in Hollywood and beyond, but not every Industry wannabe has all of that going for him-or-her.  The rest will need to keep their minds open and their eyes on all potential options -- and be ready to make the leap of faith when their time comes.

I don't mean to discourage brand-new film school grads. Indeed, I wish you all the best of luck as you prepare to enter the glittering charnel house of Hollywood.  Although life sometimes will be a bitch, and you certainly will wind up dead in the end, there's a lot of work to do and fun to be had in the meantime -- and if things aren't working out here, then maybe you should follow that soft southern breeze towards opportunity.

Go south, young grad, go south...

* With apologies to The Clash

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Midweek Musings

             Another welcome addition...
After reading another recent post by Gavin Polone -- this one on the perils of the big Hollywood ego -- I've become a fan. I know only two other sources of such truth-telling above-the-line, Rob Long's weekly Martini Shot commentaries on KCRW, and Kurt Sutter’s blog. Rob takes a wry but sober stance towards his end of the biz (writing and producing multi-camera shows), while Kurt Sutter's unvarnished soul-baring reveals him to be a troubled creative soul engaged in a constant battle with his own personal demons -- and all that while enduring the pain and joys of being the showrunner for "Sons of Anarchy," and wading through the relentless tsunami of bullshit Hollywood generates each and every day.

One isn't better than the others -- all are fascinating in their own way -- but Gavin Polone's calm, informed  dissection of our Industry is a welcome addition to the ranks.

For reasons I do not understand, Blogger, NY Magazine, or my own digital incompetence will not allow me to embed a direct link to that Hollywood Ego post -- so you can cut-and-paste the following URL to get there...

.... or just click here and scroll down to uncover a treasure trove of Polone's posts.  Not coincidentally, that same link now resides under my Industry Blogroll for future reference -- yours and mine.


It's spring-cleaning time here at BST, so I moved a few inactive blogs -- and if you haven't posted in two, three, or four years, I consider your blog inactive -- to a new blogroll over on the right side of the page named (drumroll please), Inactive but Interesting. 

Yeah, I know -- such an appalling lack of imagination.  Really, I should be ashamed... but I'm not.  In any event, these are blogs I like and looked forward to reading while they were actively posting, but  now they've gone into hibernation.  The material therein is too good to lose, so rather than dump them, I created a new repository.  There's lots of great stuff in there for readers who haven't bothered to check them out.

I keep the door open to these hibernating blogs because every now and then I need to clear my head with a 480 volt arc-flash blast of smart, funny, cynical truth-telling about life in Hollywood – and that’s when I go back to re-read something like Bee Season (not the movie), or Snakes on the Motherfucking Catwalk... and there's a lot more where those two gems came from.  But unless somebody shines a light on these darkened treasure troves, they'll slip into the trackless wasteland of cyber-space. 

After all, lighting is my job.

There are many reasons to stop writing a blog.  Posting anything coherent on a regular basis is an incredible time-suck -- a black hole into which hours of one's life and creative energy vanish, and at a certain point it no longer seems worth the effort.  There's no money in it and damned little objective satisfaction beyond the occasional comment or e-mail response... but I suppose it's a dirty job, and someone's gotta do it. Besides, there is a degree of highly-subjective satisfaction in telling a story as best you can.  It's never good enough, of course, but that's writing.

  Still, the time eventually comes to pull the plug on everything in life, and one of these days this space will join those other inactive blogs, a cold, dark cinder drifting through the void.  Not today, though.  I'll keep slogging through the swamps of Hollywood until the red light flashes and it's time to stop.  Meanwhile, do yourself a favor and take a stroll through some of those Interesting but Inactive blogs. 

You just might be glad you did...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Sit-Com on Location

The mighty Robosaurus roars...

It’s 6:30 a.m. as the crew, trucks, and a large crowd of extras assembles in the big asphalt bowl of the Irwindale Speedway. A heavy gray gloom hangs low overhead as Southern California’s springtime marine layer blankets everything from coastal Santa Monica to the outskirts of the so-called “Inland Empire” under a dank cloak of ocean fog.  A long, bleary-eyed drive through the pre-dawn dark brought each of us to this location, but an unspoken question hangs in the mist above:

What the hell are we doing here?

As everyone familiar with the multi-camera world knows, the natural habitat of such shows is a sound stage, not the great outdoors at the mercy of Mother Nature. But here we are halfway to nowhere amid the vast urban deserts east of LA, at a bankrupt racecourse named for a nearby flyspeck of a town best known for playing the sucker twenty years ago to Al Davis and his Raiders football team -- an exercise in small-town hubris that cost the people of Irwindale ten million dollars. We’ve gathered in this bleak wasteland of endless freeways and immense gravel pits to do a full days filming on a multi-camera pilot for one of the major broadcast networks.  Although the bulk of the pilot will be shot back on stage at the studio, today we’re working under the wide-open skies of Southern California.

There's a long list of logistical reasons why multi-camera shows are filmed in the snug, weather-tight confines of a studio sound stage, but the primary rationale is budgetary -- shooting this type of show on stage is much cheaper.  Location filming can be a very expensive endeavor, and since sit-coms are all about comedic family drama of one sort or another, much of every show takes place in the same apartment, condo, or suburban home.  Most sit-coms need a living room, dining room, and kitchen set, and if the show takes place in the suburbs, a front door/front porch is often included with those permanent sets. "Swing sets" -- temporary sets needed for a particular episode (a garage, back yard, bowling ally, or whatever the script requires) -- can be quickly added, dressed, and lit on stage without the complications and craziness of location scouting, honey wagons, crew parking, transpo, equipment trucks, sound issues, security, and buying off the neighbors that comes with turning a real-world location into a usable film set.  Plus, most multi-camera shows are shot in front of a live studio audience, and there's really no practical way to do that on location. 

But every now and then the writers go a little stir-crazy in their little room upstairs -- they get a wild hair and dream up a scene that really can’t be shot on stage at a reasonable cost -- and that's when we go out on location. The writer’s job is to surf the waves of imagination in their quest to create a compelling script, but given that writing is an indoor gig, most television writers are utterly clueless as to what location filming actually entails. For them, a day of shooting out in the real world is like a field trip back in grade school -- a chance to escape the classroom and play in the sun. That's understandable, I suppose, since any opportunity to flee the trapped-in-an-elevator claustrophobia of the writers room doubtless sounds like a great idea at the time, but taking a multi-camera crew on location often results in a Grade A cluster-fuck. Ask any veteran lighting crew what happens when you roll four electronic cameras and their indoor camera crews off stage into the great outdoors, and watch the eyes roll. Every juicer and grip I know has served his-or-her time on location shoots (decades, for most of us), where we all learned the hard way just how challenging a day of location filming can be. That's why the producers hire us – to use our hard-earned skills to help turn the writer’s dreams into on-screen reality, no matter how silly it all might seem at the moment. And although the scenes we shoot on location usually end up working pretty well when edited into the rest of the show, it's equally true that you can’t know what you don’t know -- and most writers have no idea what forces they’ve unleashed when taking a multi-camera show on the road.

Fortunately for this pilot, the grip and electric crew were veterans one and all. With better than a hundred and fifty years of professional experience among the set lighting crew alone, we wouldn't be flummoxed by the sudden transition from stage to location.  Indeed, it promised to be an unusually entertaining day, since the scene on the call sheet involved a cinematic face-off between the legendary Robosaurus -- a huge fire-breathing, automobile-crunching mechanical dinosaur that has been delighting crowds at automotive events across the country for the past two decades – and a DeLorean-on-steroids Monster Truck.

Silly, but fun.  What more can you ask from a day of work?

It was the usual location-grind from dawn ‘til dusk -- softening, bouncing, augmenting, and chasing the constantly moving sun to maintain consistent lighting on the action while dealing with a few equipment failures and gusting winds as the day wore on -- but in the end the director and producers were happy, and after two more long days shooting on stage, this pilot was in the can. Once we'd wrapped the show – a task accomplished by working all the way through Easter weekend -- our job was done, and the rest was up to the post-production crew.*

With our old show on indefinite hiatus (never a good sign), this crew needs to catch a new wave somewhere, somehow, and we were all very hopeful this pilot would get picked up. Being a major broadcast network production, a pick-up would mean starting work in mid-July on a show with the potential to carry us all through the fall and winter into next spring – a job paying full union scale rather than the odious cable rate we’ve been saddled with all year long.  The prospects seemed good, too, since the network had been willing to invest so much money in this one... but the Gods of Hollywood play by their own set of rules, and the results are not always kind. As the upfronts in New York closed out, our pilot was not among the lucky new shows on the 2012 fall lineup. 

Like a weekend in Las Vegas, pilot season is always a roll of the dice that deals many more losers than winners, and once again those dice ran cold for me and my crew.  So we close the door on this one and move on, looking ahead towards an uncertain spring and summer.  But such is the nature of the Hollywood beast.  Being a free-lancer in the film/television biz means always having your thumb out, looking to hitch another ride to the next town down the road.  There are no promises or guarantees of any kind -- nothing but a check in the mail and a little faith that something else will come along soon enough.

That's not much to hang a hat on, but it'll have to do. 

* With another show due to begin work on our stage the following Monday, there was no choice but to work through the weekend.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Another Giant Gone

Photo courtesy of the LA Times

I awoke this morning to the radio announcing that Ray Bradbury had left this earthly realm and moved on to the next dimension. A quiet and thoughtful man, Bradbury was never one to toot his own very shiny horn, but his impact on our culture and technology cannot be overstated. Dreams precede and shape reality, and Ray Bradbury was a man who dreamed big.

I only met him once, a long time ago, on a memorable day very early in my Hollywood adventure – an event I wrote about in honor of his 90th birthday. I can't put it any better now than I did then.  In an era of blaring hype and raucous self-promotion, Ray Bradbury flew under the mainstream social radar, but his writing spoke loud and clear.  A genial and cerebral literary giant who once walked among us is now gone, leaving some very big footprints. He was one of a kind, an American original, and I doubt we'll see his like again.

Thanks, Ray, for everything.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Voice of Sanity

From the Belly of the Beast

                    Gavin Polone lays his cards on the table

A gaffer friend posted an interesting link on Facebook a while back, about the time Peggy Archer included the same link in one of her recent posts. Ordinarily I'd leave it at that -- I'd rather not dig up soil that's been freshly tilled by another Industry blogger – but this issue is too important to leave alone, so I'll join the chorus directing your attention to the words of veteran producer Gavin Polone, who laid down his thoughts as to why so many productions abuse their crews with absurdly long working hours these days.

Polone has been all the way around the Hollywood block, having served as a manager, agent and producer, and thus knows firsthand the realities of working above-the-line. I did some rigging and a little first-unit work on “Tell Me You Love Me,” a one-season-and-out flop he produced for HBO a few years back.  Although I never met the man, I subsequently tuned in for a couple of brief, lively, and informative sit-downs he did with KCRW’s “The Business,” where he came across as a hard-driving but singularly individualistic man -- and as one of his assistants revealed to the world a while back, not without his strangely eccentric and power-hungry side. Still, he's no apologist for a Hollywood production system that has gone totally out of whack. Polone is neither a fool nor a working-class hero – he won't bite the hand that keeps him so well fed – but at least he’s willing to tell it like it is.  In an industry that exists amid a thick atmospheric soup of triple-distilled, 200 proof bullshit twenty-four hours a day, such candor is as rare as it is refreshing.

Most industry veterans (myself included) feel that working abusively long days on set is in equal measures counterproductive and stupid. I didn't mind working so long when I was younger -- those fourteen-and-more hour days meant fatter paychecks, and I was anxious to prove myself back in those days -- but it's a very different story now.   At this point, any work day over twelve hours is just too god-damned long. Although the occasional fourteen-to-sixteen hour day is unavoidable -- sometimes an actor or location has a limited window of availability, which forces everyone to suck it up and push harder – such long days should be a rare exception rather than the rule.

Like every other Hollywood lifer, I’ve put in more than a few 24 hour-plus days on set, and although there were always reasons why this happened, there was rarely a valid excuse. As anybody who has toiled such long hours knows, every worker’s efficiency fades considerably after a certain point, and it only gets worse as the hours mount up. I know too well how heavy my feet and brain become past the fourteenth hour, when I'm making more money but delivering a lot less productivity. One of Gavin Polone’s frequent employers is HBO, the cable network primarily responsible for the much-abused sweetheart deal with the IATSE allowing cable shows to push their shooting crews fifteen hours every day – that’s fourteen worked hours plus a one hour lunch -- before the fiscal hammer of double-time finally drops. One typical Monday on “Tell Me You Love Me,” we started at 6:00 a.m. on a dark, icy street in Van Nuys, then made three full company moves for a total of four separate locations before wrapping at 10:00 p.m. As a day-player, I was done for the week, but the rest of the crew worked a similar schedule the next four days deep into Fraterday – and they did it for the 20% under-scale curse of cable rate.

According to Polone the producer, such abusive daily scheduling is out of his hands.  In today's Hollywood, apparently even the line producer can't "pull the plug" on a long day, but must adhere to a schedule imposed from above by desk-jockeys who neither know nor care about those who do the heavy-lifting essential to every production.  Given the corporate takeover of the film and television business over the past few years, he's probably right about that.  Still, the Industry would do well to listen when a veteran producer admits in print that many productions could ease the daily grind and provide a much more humane working environment simply by adding a day per episode to the shooting schedule -- a change that would send the crew home after twelve hours rather than beating them up for a full fourteen or more -- without costing the production much (if anything) at all. Otherwise, there will inevitably be more unnecessary deaths, more lawsuits, and more trouble for the Industry as a whole.

As he put it in the conclusion to his blog post:

“Productivity lessens later in the day and the costs are significantly more after twelve hours. At hour sixteen, you’re paying people double, and sometimes more, and probably getting 75 percent effectiveness. There are many complex issues involved with managing the process of filmmaking, and there are usually two reasonable sides to those arguments. But when it comes to excessive hours on film sets, I don’t really see the side that advocates for unrestricted work time. It is time to change this: Twelve hours of work and a twelve-hour turnaround should be mandated and instituted immediately on all film and television productions, period.”

I couldn't agree more, and for that last sentence alone, Polone has my full support. If you're in the biz, you really ought to read his complete post.  As you'll learn when you do -- and if you listen to those two KCRW podcasts -- he's an interesting, thoughtful guy who's a long way from your garden-variety producer.*  Whatever his faults – and being a flawed sinner myself, I certainly won’t cast the first stone -- he’s on the right side of this issue.

I just wish more producers would see the light as Polone so clearly has, because until that happens, episodic television crews will continue to be tied to the whipping post of abusive hours.

And that sucks.

* You can listen to the podcasts here and here.