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#1 Rob Featherstone

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 09:53 AM

Hi. This may be a strange question but I thought this forum would be a good place to get some advice.

My wife and I are having a baby sometime in June. This is our first child and one thing I am worried about is working around the due date, as I very much want to be a part of the birth experience.

There must be other daddy dp's out there.

What did you do at that time?

Did you tell your clients your wife was expecting?
Did you have a replacement on a hot standby?

I certainly won't take long travel jobs but it could be awkward runnning out of a studio in the middle of a shoot!

Any creative ideas will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Rob Featherstone
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#2 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 01:58 PM

I have no kids, and I haven't gone through the experience that you are preparing for. But in this type of situation you could bump one of your crew members up (like your gaffer or camera operator). Assuming you trust/ know your guys can handle it while you are gone; it is not a bad solution.

I had some pickup shots for a project I did a while ago that I could only be there for the first part of the day (had another shoot at night - long day), and I just left my gaffer to step up. He did fine.


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#3 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 02:46 PM

You're in for some great times.

I was offered a very lucrative 1 day commercial shoot a couple days before my wife was due. The producer was a friend and frequent collaborator. He asked me what would happen if my wife went into labor the morning of the shoot. I just told him it was extremely unlikely and I would finish the day then go to the hospital (total lie). In reality it was very possible she could have gone into labor but to be honest I couldn't afford to pass on the job.

It worked ok in the end. She didn't go into early labor and even if she had we finished the shoot before lunch and all went home.

Hard to say what I would have done. Depends heavily on who your working with and what you're shooting. I would have been totally comfortable giving my gaffer and 1st AC notes in order to finish the shoot since I work with them all the time.

Congrats by the way!
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#4 Dickson Sorensen

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 02:52 PM

I went through this situation 3 times and played it by ear. Expect the unexpected. If you are having a child you probably can?t afford to turn down work. On the other hand you will have many more jobs than children and shouldn?t miss out on the very important things in life.

Our first child was born when I was an AC. As soon as I arrived at the location the producer came up to me and told me that my wife had called and she was in labor. He said, ?Don?t worry you?ve got plenty of time.? I wanted to leave but he wouldn?t let me go until we finished that afternoon. I was nervous all day long that I would miss it. By the time I got to the hospital she was ready to deliver.

The second baby came the morning after I prepped a night shoot. I stayed up until 2:30am with a plan that I would acclimate myself for the night shoot by sleeping until noon then report for the late afternoon crew call with plenty of sleep to make it through the night and into the next morning. Surprise, after only 1½ hours sleep my wife woke me up at 4:00am in labor. We rushed her to the hospital; she had the baby around 9:00am, I got out of the hospital around 1:00 pm rushed home, picked up my meters and went directly to the location. I shot all night long wrapping around dawn the next morning. I returned home feeling like one of the zombies in ?Night of the Living Dead.?

By the time we had our third child my career had progressed to the point where I had a lot of leverage. I told the client I couldn?t shoot their commercial until the baby came. They waited. The day after delivery I flew to Italy for the shoot and didn?t see my daughter again until she was a month old.

Sometimes it?s hard for people, spouses included, to understand the demands of this business on your time and personal life. You have to set your priorities and not regret the sacrifices you have made. Just remember, as important as each job seems at the time, as the years go by they become a blur. Your family and friends however are forever.
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#5 Rob Featherstone

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 09:05 PM

Hi thanks for the input.

These are really helpful and thoughtful repsonses.

It seems like having an operator or gaffer bump up is the way to go.

-Rob Featherstone
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#6 Mitch Gross

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Posted 01 April 2006 - 03:53 PM

We recently had our second child. There is simply no way I would leave my wife alone at such a time, and I made this clear to my clients. For our first child, I simply did not accept any work for the weeks surrounding her due date. Luckilly I own a camera package that I was able toarrange to rent out to a friend for a week-long shoot that helped pay the bills, but otherwise I strained to save up as much as possible beforehand. Of course as scheduling would have it, I kept a single gig booked. It was a pickup day for a feature from 10 months earlier, ad it was the only day that all the principals would be in New York (even in the US) so we really had to make it happen. And yes, as we were prepping the last setup my wife called that her water had broken. She's a real trooper and got herself a ab to the hospital and I met her after wrapping the shoot, but it was a good way to get the director motivated to complete the day! Everyone was very understanding and they fully knew the situation going in.

For our second child I tried to again clear my schedule but I had two looming one-day shoots that had to happen. One was again a situation where it was the only day all the people would be together for several months, and the other was a waiting game for some snow on the ground. The snowfall (the largest in NY history) landed just two days before we were due to go into the hospital for a scheduled c-section. Had to drive out to Jersey & back in a horrible storm, but we made our day and the client paid me big because of it. The other shoot came just four days after the birth and I had a relative in town who could help my recovering wife with the newborn and our two year old for the day. It was a corporate gig so I knew it would only be a 9-5 deal, and I had a backup DP lined up in case I couldn't make it.

Things may be different in various social circuits or cultures, but there is no way I could have flown out of the country on a job the day after my wife gave birth. The time when she really needed me was not so much on the day (she was surrounded by doctors & nurses) but during the following days when i was her support system. My wife is a tough cookie who was up and walking just a few days later, but there are some women who are unable to walk for up to six weeks after a c-section. That is the time when the husband really needs to be around, at least in my book. This is not a value judgement against anyone else out there, simply the relationship that my wife & I share.

What was important for me as a DP was to be brutally honest with my clients about the situation. For the recent snow shoot, the client fully understood that once the baby came it would be very unlikely that I would be available to shoot until after there would be no more snow for the season. My side of the bargain was that no matter how rough the weather (short of endangerment), I would get the shots for her. Similarly for both the recent corporate gig and the feature re-shoot, the clients understood that the odds were against the labor happening at the same time as the shoots. But if it did my family came first. I had contingencies linedup in all situations, even having contacted other DPs with their own gear to whom I could toss the job should I have to pull out. And I was up front and honest with the clients which I think was appreciated by all.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 April 2006 - 07:01 PM

I don't have children so this hasn't been an issue, but after the death (from cancer) of a beloved pet dog a few months ago, issues of mortality and sickness have weighed heavily on my mind lately, and I dread the day when I will have to deal with some unfortunate family-related news or emergency situation while on a film shoot out-of-town, or deal any personal health issues and how it can affect my career and relationships. On my first feature film back in 1992, my father suffered a stroke, at the same age my grandfather and great-grandfather died of strokes. But luckily in his case, it was very minor and he recovered completely. But at some point in your life, you are reminded that the time you spend on this planet with the ones you love is limited.

In the case of my beagle, I had been gone in New Mexico for three months doing "The Astronaut Farmer" and had been home for a few weeks when one day she just collapsed at home -- I came home and found her groggy, nearly-passed out on the floor. I thought she had had a stroke, but it turned out to be a reoccurence of an old cancer (for which she had surgery), and unknown to us, it had spread to her organs. Yet she was in fine health every day until one moment when she suffered massive internal bleeding from the cancer. She was 12-years-old, and I recall walking her one morning just before she died, wondering how many more years I had with her. Turned out I only had a few weeks more with her.
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#8 Travis Cline

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Posted 01 April 2006 - 07:38 PM

There is an advantage we have in this industry over people with more rigid jobs(at least in the US, since maternity leave is ridiculous here). We can leave and be with our families when we need to. Often we feel like we have to take jobs because we need the money or we want to get hired in the future, but when hard things come, whether to us or our families, we can leave. Last year my wife's father died and her mother was all alone, plus they llive in Russia. My wife needed to go help her mom for a couple of months and she needed me with her for support and such. Because I'm freelance I was able to pick up and leave within a few days. Also, my wife is an editor so she was able to do the same thing. Fortunately it occured around Christmas time, but I still missed alot of work I would have had if I'd stayed, but I would never regret missing work to help my family, especially my wife. They mean much more than any film.

Travis

Edited by travisclinedp, 01 April 2006 - 07:39 PM.

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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 April 2006 - 08:17 PM

Hi,

On the other hand, I have twice had to end relationships because my inability to be flexible with work ("I'm shooting a documentary two days a month for the next year" or "no we can't move away from London"). There does come a point where you have to stop being unfair to people.

I think confirmed batchelorhood beckons. As if I'd have any choice with this face!

Phil
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