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"Canned" as in "Fired", not "Canned" as in "Film Stock"


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#1 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 10:10 AM

We're all friends here, right? I like to think of myself as a pretty open person. I always try to help other people on this board, especially fellow AC's. (Holla!)

That being said, I thought I would share an experience which happened to me recently on a low-budget feature a few weeks ago. There are many things to be learned from this and it would be interesting to hear how other people have coped with similar situations.

I got fired. It's the first time this has ever happened to me and because I know it happens to the best of us, I realized that the best thing I can do, instead of beating myself up about it and being like, "Oh My God I'll Never Work In This Town Again!", is to get back up again and learn from it. As lousy as I felt (and awkward) when I walked off the camera truck that night, I knew in the back of my mind that someday it would fall into place as a valuable experience. Most things do.

There were quite a few things that happened to me on this job, as far as mistakes that I made, that seemed totally out of left field for me....stuff I never would've done on better jobs where I felt more comfortable. It was almost scary how fast everything snowballed and how in the eyes of production, what I saw as a few separate issues (some of which were not necessarily my fault), became one BIG issue: me.

I don't think it's as simple as "poop rolls downhill". Although there was a fair amount of that going on at this job too. I was the third loader that this crew had hired- the other two had gotten canned as well. In fact, most of the CREW had gotten fired the first time around- so I was basically called in for re-shoots. The morale of the crew was pretty down...VERY negative. Lots of tension and fighting and really unnecessary pissing contests. Not much money either- I was only making 100 a day.

Usually I probably would've passed on a gig that low, but it was on location in Providence, which I thought would be fun, and since I just got back into the freelancing world, I figured it would be good to swing at every pitch until I'm back in the game and feeling solid again. It's too bad that I got off on the wrong foot! Every day on set I basically felt worse and worse. I would try to smile and be helpful and do the right thing, but the 1st AC and I clashed horribly (she was very interested in telling me how to do my job- I appreciate advice, but it was hard to believe that she trusted me to do things my way), I was very put off by how negative production was, and basically it just made me feel like I was back in high school or something. That same feeling of smiling in your English class and doing the same work as everyone else and somehow still only getting a C because everyone around you made you feel like you sucked at everything. It was pretty bad.

One of my common defense mechanisms is to try and make light of a situation and at least get people to laugh before they start screaming at me. When I feel uncomfortable around people, I turn into a smart-ass. Well on this job, I guess it got me. And that was when I realized, "I can't let a sh*tty crew get to me. I need to do my job to the best of my abilities no matter WHO I'm doing it for."

Next time you end up working with difficult people, try to rise above it as best as you can. Because if you don't, they'll send you home without your changing tent or paycheck, and they probably won't call you again. I know the gear, I love what I do, and I love helping people...but one of my biggest shortcomings as a PERSON not just an AC, is learning how to deal with people who DON'T like me. Well, it's gonna happen. Confrontation is not the way to go...limit yourself in your contact with people like this, and keep your mouth shut until it's over!

Such is my advice for today. Has anyone else ever had similar problems with a bad crew? What did you do about it? I was surprised to find that I hardly ever thought about the "playing well with others" side of the job until this happened. I get really caught up in working in a vacuum and trying to tune the bad stuff out, and I was surprised to find that it got to me. We're not working 9 to 5 with the same people every day- we don't have the luxury of Human Resources. What do you do when it's not the bad budget, bad gear, bad crafty, or bad location...but just a bad crew?
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 10:46 AM

Has anyone else ever had similar problems with a bad crew?


Not so much a bad crew, but I do quite frequently have problems with crews who simply have no real understanding of what I do. Unfortunately this all-too-often leads to the sort of patronisnig attitude you mention, so I do to some extent feel your pain. I was spectacularly thrown off a (to me) very important job a couple of years ago on that basis. You're far from alone and unfortunately I can only predict that it will cost you money in the long term.

Anyway I thought you were in 600, how come you're working for $100/day?

P
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#3 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 12:19 PM

I guess I've been lucky, I've never had a bad crew (major knock on wood!). Any major issues that have occurred within the camera dept. have mainly either been the result of Production f***ing up and sticking their noses in our truck, or just bad organization in general (which usually gets cleared up after the 1st day).

I 1st'd a modestly well budgeted feature once, it was a two camera shoot with the F900R and we started off shooting deep in the Redwoods in the worst conditions I'd ever experienced. Naturally, there were problems, production was running behind schedule and "camera" was not what was holding things back. But Production needed a skapegoat. I was the head of the department and I had less years/credits to my name than the Operator and B cam AC, so naturally I was the first to get canned. I learned TONS from the experience, but I also knew that I didn't have to beat myself up about it and have actually worked more AFTER that gig than ever before.

I think the main thing you gotta do, is just keep working, as you did. Hunker down, gird up your loins, put your nose to the grindstone and work through any drama that may occur. Otherwise, I'm sorry to say, one should find something else in the industry to do (not at all directed to you Annie, I'm generalizing). I will add though, it is AWESOME to have former camera people in the production office. They feel your pain.
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#4 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 12:40 PM

The union doesn't set rates for individual members . . .

Annie:

It takes courage to make an "I was fired" post here. For that, my hat goes off to you. I think we all have been fired at some point or another, or will anyway. The best thing one can do is not to dwell on it, but try to learn from the situation. By what you say, that show was very hard on all crew members, not just you. All shows are crazy, yes. But there are some that just SUCK! There are many ways to do the job and personality conflicts will always arise. That is one of the reasons I don't do many features anymore: Too long a slog to be dealing with butts 14-18 hrs a day. But there are people who enjoy the punishment, and I have a lot of respect for them. I simply couldn't do it, I get disgruntled pronto and things go down hill faster.

What do you do when confronted with a bad crew? Personally I walk away as soon as I realize my life / career is not benefiting from the experience. I much rather be the guy who walked away than the guy who got into a fist fight with someone. Some people stay put and don't let the bad crew get the best out of them, but I just go. I ain't trying to prove nothing to anyone (not even myself) when it comes to my misery tolerance.

There is a movie called Fired! (http://www.firedthemovie.com/), that is very illustrating of this common phenomenon in modern life.

Cheers!

S

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 13 September 2008 - 12:44 PM.

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#5 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 01:51 PM

. . . unless it is a union show. And on a union show rates depends on budget, area standards, and a whole bunch of red tape only BA's understand.
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#6 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 02:09 PM

depend
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#7 Richard Boddington

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 04:08 PM

My guess is you'll join the long ranks of "thanks for firing me" people out there. Smart and intelligent people like your self always do.

R,
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#8 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 04:29 PM

I got fired during prep for a 35mm student film, because the producer convinced the director that I didn't have enough experience operating a geared head. My answer was that since we couldn't afford both a geared head and a fluid head we wouldn't even have a geared head on the job, so it wasn't an issue. Then she explained that she had lots of experience making films and that big 35mm cameras work only on geared heads ...

Well, I made more money getting fired than if I had shot the damn film.
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#9 Darryl Richard Humber

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 04:46 PM

The fact that you mentioned that they had already gone through a couple of other loaders says something about production or the AC more than it does about you. If I'm offered a position on something and they've already gone through more than one dolly grip, I generally turn it down unless I know the operator or DP. Forget it and move on. They're a bunch of jagoffs.
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#10 David Calson

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 07:04 PM

I'm a green filmmaker, and I hear all too often about impolite, aggresively mean people (especially in the union), I just wonder where there this disrespect comes from and why it's concenttrated so much in the film industry, albeit I'm sure deadlines and expectations are a main culprit.
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#11 Darryl Richard Humber

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 08:19 PM

I'm a green filmmaker, and I hear all too often about impolite, aggresively mean people (especially in the union), I just wonder where there this disrespect comes from and why it's concenttrated so much in the film industry, albeit I'm sure deadlines and expectations are a main culprit.


The film business is a business. There are impolite people in every business, unfortunately. Having said that, most people in this business (I've been in it 20 years) are the nicest, most polite, willing to accept people I've ever met, at least in the realm of technicians, DPs, crafts etc. Most of the time, when I've observed some disrespect, it's toward someone who hasn't taken the time to learn their craft trying to do something they don't know how to do correctly.
When I, and most people, started out we started at the bottom. That means you get yelled at. A lot. It comes with the territory and helps you learn what not to do. This business is also unlike every other business in the amount of deadlines, expectations, money and variety of people skilled at many different things who are thrown together for a short very high pressure amount of time. When you're in this situation, there simply is very little time for people who are difficult to get along with. The work and hours are hard enough as it is without dealing with difficult people.
The union makes no difference how you are treated, unless you're doing something like scabbing a job.

Don't believe all the old cliches you hear about people in the business. When I first moved to LA, I had a lifetime of stories about gang shootings, pimps, and a**holes. I expected it to be that way. (and that was after having been in the business for 15 years and being friends with a lot of people from there). Instead, I met some of my best friends and have rarely had a crossed word with anyone here.

You have to have a certain amount of thick skin to be in this job. A lot of times when I've heard about someone who was "disrespectful" toward someone it turned out that they deserved it.
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#12 Will Earl

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 08:53 PM

One of the things I got out of film school (well TV school to be more precise) was kind of how to get along (put up) with people in a production environment.

That said I've only really had one major clash with another person working on a film - my pleads for trying to work on a better solution to a specific task got interpreted as unjust criticism and so I received a rather hostile and personal attack on myself and my ability to do the job. Moral of this particular story is don't write nasty emails and 'cc' the producers in an effort to help your cause if the person your attacking is better at counting to ten before hitting the send button and instead rewrites their response in a more professional manner.

Um... in this case I was the one better at counting to ten.

Edited by Will Earl, 13 September 2008 - 08:56 PM.

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#13 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 10:24 PM

I've never been fired myself (knock on wood), but was "let go" as the DP was fired so the crew got swept out....

Beyond that, I did choose to leave a show after two weeks because it was becoming a no-win situation. The DP was a hack and did everything in his power to sabotage me (I was First AC). Whether it was on purpose or because he didn't know any better, I don't know. And it didn't matter. All that counted was that I wasn't able to do my job to the best of my abilities so I realized that his choices were insurmountable for me.

I was nice and let the UPM know that I couldn't continue and gave her about a week to find a replacement. I was the nice one because the entire Electric Department walked without warning the following day! :)

I felt bad about "abandoning" something I had committed to, but a wise and more experienced AC explained that "they need you more than you need them." If you know you're good but others refuse to allow you to work to your potential, you not coming to work the next day is their loss, not yours. Some people are miserable and they aren't satisfied until everyone else around them is miserable too. Life's too short to waste valuable time with that sort.
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#14 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 10:32 PM

Well it's funny that some people in this thread mentioned the union...because I kept thinking, "Man if this was a union job, things would be different" i.e. I probably wouldn't have gotten fired...or, on the flip side, if I HAD, it would've been WAY worse for me. So I guess I lucked out in a way. I'm not surprised that this job I was on kinda blew up in everybody's faces, not just mine. Go figure that the night before, I almost quit, but decided to stick with it because I don't like quitting (damn my work ethic!).

As much as I unfortunately became part of the problem, I feel like this production became their own worst enemy as time went on...and it's too bad. I'm more of an advocate of personal responsibility than anyone on that crew might think, and it frustrates me that the more I tried to smile, the more it seems like they tried to wipe it off my face. In fact, I pretty much gave up on trying to prevail in the face of such awkward, hostile conditions- and that was when they got me! :insert dramatic music:

When I'm not working, I read a lot of books about Buddhism and try to learn from them, to strengthen my own values and my own mind so that stuff like this doesn't get to me as much. It kinda sucks when it feels like it's not working...like no matter what I do to try and hold my own, other people just drag me right down. The kind of people who I'd avoid in daily life if I could- but then when you're stuck with them on a film set, what are you supposed to do then? Half of what that 1st AC told me about why I got fired, I pretty much already knew. I should have just left the job when things started to get bad. I come down hard enough on myself, that I don't need other people coming down even harder. I think what bugs me the most about this situation, is that my attempt at a helpful, easy-going, cheerful attitude, was completely misinterpreted as goofing off and not giving a poop.

Man...I just hope they pay me! :lol:
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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 11:01 PM

I find most people on a film shoot to be pleasant to each other, but on the other hand, the mood and tone of a set is created from the top down, from how the director, producer, DP, and AD treat each other and the people below them. If they are professional, smart, courteous, organized, etc. it's amazing how pleasant the whole shoot can be except for the occasional bad sort (annoying crew member or actor) that comes into the mix now and then.

The main impediment to that pleasant working environment has mainly been due to schedule -- at some point when working a row of 14-hour, 16-hour days in tough physical environments, even the best of people will snap at each other. I had a director say something unpleasant to me after one such long day and he spent the next few days apologizing... but it was hard to blame him considering how exhausted we all were.

We were at the end of a 16-hour work day in a hot humid set and we had set-up this thirty-foot dolly move to cover a master shot as someone walks towards someone giving this dramatic speech, the camera backing up with the actor. We shot the first version on a 27mm lens and then had to do a close-up of the same move on a 50mm lens. It was the last shot of a long day and when I put the 50mm lens on the camera, I discovered that it didn't become a close-up until the actor stepped up to the lens after the first few lines of dialogue.

Not wanting to take ten more minutes to add more track to our shot, level it on uneven ground, etc., I told the director "well, they don't get into a close-up until this line but it's at the beginning of the scene when you'd probably be on the wider coverage..." and he loudly snapped back in front of the whole crew "Don't tell me how I'm going to cut this scene, I want to option of having a close-up from the very beginning!"

So I quietly went over and had the crew add more track, even though now we were beyond the 16-hour mark of the working day.

Later the director said his comment was completely uncalled for because he knew I was under pressure to finish up the day quickly. But he was also right in that I was essentially editing the sequence in my mind to know what we needed and didn't need, because we had time limitations, but I was limiting his options by doing that. But I also knew that he was simply tired because he never had been snippy at me like that in the previous five weeks of working together.

This is one of the problems with these working conditions, they bring out the worst in the best people. And that sucks, frankly, it's one aspect I hate about film production, how it puts pressure on people until they break and become the worst version of themselves. Of course, that pressure sometimes brings out the best version of themselves as well. It's an extreme environment at times, but I don't really see the point of all that pressure -- it's not like we are rescuing earthquake victims or defending the country in time of war or working in an emergency ward of a hospital after a major accident has occurred, etc. -- we're just making a damn movie! So why all the pressure, the long hours, the stress... just to make a piece of entertainment?
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#16 David Calson

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 11:23 PM

So why all the pressure, the long hours, the stress... just to make a piece of entertainment?


AMEN!
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#17 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 11:59 PM

We're just making a damn movie!


LOL!

I am going to have to quote you on that one!

This is one of the problems with these working conditions, they bring out the worst in the best people. And that sucks, frankly, it's one aspect I hate about film production, how it puts pressure on people until they break and become the worst version of themselves.


Very true, I always think about this when I get on a production a month before principal photography. Everyone is so nice to each other and we are all best friends. A week later, people who were very nice just yesterday now start getting an edge, until the nice cordial person you knew a month ago is now a red eyed monster yelling at you because things are not ready and principal photography STARTS TOMORROW!!

I find most people on a film shoot to be pleasant to each other, but on the other hand, the mood and tone of a set is created from the top down, from how the director, producer, DP, and AD treat each other and the people below them. If they are professional, smart, courteous, organized, etc. it's amazing how pleasant the whole shoot can be except for the occasional bad sort (annoying crew member or actor) that comes into the mix now and then.


Couldn't have dreamed of saying it better.
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#18 Michele Peterson

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Posted 14 September 2008 - 09:01 AM

I was working for a company in staff position when my boss turned very passive aggressive (she was never very reasonable or realistic in things to being with, like saying I only had 2 days to deposit my paycheck because they can't possibly keep a checkbook/accounting with 2 producers accessing one account!). Some of it was very blatant, like my name being crossed off production reports for shoots I did and then the report left on my desk for me to find.

It all stemmed from me asking my boss for raise. I knew she didn't have the authority to grant me it, but I went to her first out of respect. She then told me to wait until the new year and she'd set up a meeting with the exec producer/president for me to talk to him about it. As I later found out from another employee, she told me to wait and then went to the exec and asked for a huge raise/bonuses for herself and threated to quit if she didn't get it. Well, the exec threatend her that he would just give her job to me, so she decided to try to make i look like she did everything (which I assume, is why my name got crossed of the production report). It was all pretty stupid, because I wouldn't have wanted or taken that jobs anyway.

As this was all happening, I made up my mind to quit and gave notice and said I would remain on as staff until they found my replacement, but then remain with the company as a freelance camera op. But still my boss kept pulling BS like saying I wasn't allowed to take other freelance jobs unless I could still guarantee them that I would work whenever they wanted me. Even though they never guaranteed me days (as I was freelance). I was freelance for them to hire me only when they needed, but not freelance (in their diluted minds) to take another job when they didn't have enough work for me! After over a month, and all the replacements for my staff position, wouldn't take their offers (they saw the truth a lot faster than I did), I was getting sick of the adding BS and ended up quit all together one night when they called me at 9pm the night before for a shoot in San Bernadino (from LA) at 8am the day and weren't paying OT for the holiday.

Of course, they tried to bad mouth me, and tell people I was only an intern with Per Diem (because I started out a couple YEARS before as an intern). But that was also because they got caught for not paying taxes on their employees, not paying unemployment insurance, and not paying OT, so they tried to lie about people's jobs to get out of that.

It taught me that 1) I don't want a production office job again and 2) any time I see red flags, get out right away, it's only going to get worse.

Edited by Michele Peterson, 14 September 2008 - 09:03 AM.

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#19 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 14 September 2008 - 09:35 AM

Seriously..they should have just shut down production after firing practically the whole crew the first time around, given things a few weeks or even months to cool off, and THEN picked up shooting. It's obvious to me now, looking back on it, that everyone calling the shots on this gig was still too damn bitter about the trainwreck that happened the previous week.
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#20 K Borowski

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Posted 14 September 2008 - 02:04 PM

I don't think it's as simple as "poop rolls downhill". Although there was a fair amount of that going on at this job too. I was the third loader that this crew had hired- the other two had gotten canned as well. In fact, most of the CREW had gotten fired the first time around- so I was basically called in for re-shoots. The morale of the crew was pretty down...VERY negative. Lots of tension and fighting and really unnecessary pissing contests. Not much money either- I was only making 100 a day.

Usually I probably would've passed on a gig that low, but it was on location in Providence, which I thought would be fun, and since I just got back into the freelancing world, I figured it would be good to swing at every pitch until I'm back in the game and feeling solid again. It's too bad that I got off on the wrong foot! Every day on set I basically felt worse and worse. I would try to smile and be helpful and do the right thing, but the 1st AC and I clashed horribly (she was very interested in telling me how to do my job- I appreciate advice, but it was hard to believe that she trusted me to do things my way), I was very put off by how negative production was, and basically it just made me feel like I was back in high school or something. That same feeling of smiling in your English class and doing the same work as everyone else and somehow still only getting a C because everyone around you made you feel like you sucked at everything. It was pretty bad.

One of my common defense mechanisms is to try and make light of a situation and at least get people to laugh before they start screaming at me. When I feel uncomfortable around people, I turn into a smart-ass. Well on this job, I guess it got me. And that was when I realized, "I can't let a sh*tty crew get to me. I need to do my job to the best of my abilities no matter WHO I'm doing it for."


Hey Annie! Good to see you back on the board. Sorry to hear your time away from here was not worthwhile. I'd misload all their film for them and then quit ;-) Seriously though, what you are describing does *not* sound like your fault in any way. Maybe you did let on set pressure hurt your performance to some extent. But we all do, it's human. Even people that normally thrive on pressure can get to the point where the pressure is too much. It's like watering a plant. It needs water, but too much can kill it.

Decision-making is always 20/20 in hindsight, but working on a production where most of the original crew had already been fired was a warning sign. Not to say one should always turn down productions that fire a chunk of their crew, but especially since you had to travel a good deal out of the way, I would've tried to get in touch with someone who was fired on the crew.

As for using humor as a defense mechanism, there isn't anything wrong with that. A lot of people, maybe more than 50% do. But we have to accept the fact that in this industry and in many others, some people are as dumb as a box of fu**ing rocks, pardon my French.

Some people are fu**ing dumb, know it, and get angry or feel threatened by you not because they feel they are incompotent, but because they realize you are more talented than they are and are afraid/jealous of you for it. Probalby not what happened to you, but definitely what happened to Michelle.

I'm not going to say where, but about four years back I was working a high-stress job, trying to save up money. Anyway, it was a very manual blue-collar job, and one of the guys I was working for habitually gets angry at me for basically thinking too much. I have a PhD and a Masters degree set of parents, so obviously I've inherited their propensities with both numbers and the English language, and a brand of sarcastic humor that some people, unfortuntately, don't take as humor.

Basically, my one boss was furious at me for keeping track of a count by writing Roman Numerals instead of arabic ones. "What's that X for".

"Ten."

"Use real numbers here, none of that garbage."

This in spite of the fact that the count was for my benefit only, I reported the count to him. No one else had to read the numbers. Several other times he's gotten angry at my initiative. We had a measuring tape that I was using and he said it was out of calibration. I got it recalibrated and bring it back to him and tell him the tape is fine, maybe he should get his checked out, not trying to be a smart-ass, but because the guy in teh calibration office told me that is what we should do, bring the other tape measure in. He responds by taking my measuring tape, breaking the tip off, and throwing it away, a fu**ing perfectly good $20 tape measure. Here is what he says: "THIS IS IN CENTIMETERS. WE USE MILLIMETERS HERE." Now, I realize that a lot of people don't share my propensity for numbers, but I've told this to people that never finished high school and they got it.

Besides the fact that I have the ability to multiply and divide by ten in my head, I was measuring the damned part in inches anyway and converting to mm in my head.


Sorry, that was probalby too much of an explanatory segueway. In any case, ultimately, this is a matter of you not having enough confidence in yourself. I have the same problem. You have to double and triple-check to make sure you've done things right on a job like this, always be on guard, and if someone accuses you of something, don't be cocky or arrogant, but be sure of yourself and never take blame for something you shouldn't. Because, unfortunately, the dumber someone is, the more of an inante, animal instinctive ability they have to sense insecurity, and exploit it. They sense weakness and turn people that aren't on their toes into scapegoats, often for their own problems.

As for getting paid, I know you. You are a consumate professional, very passionate about the work that she does. And you tell those SOBs that they sure as fu** better give them your money or you'll pull out a Rich Boddington, and sue them. Honestly, a little bit of spirits helps before making a phone call such as this. I would never sue anybody, unless they exploited me in the manner you describe. They used you and discarded you. Get paid for the whole shoot and the full day the last day you worked, even if you went home early. Travel expenses, meals, maybe even compensation for the time commitment and other jobs you could have taken, are all in order. Get paid for every minute that you worked, every mile past the reasonable limit (what is it 30?) that you traveled past what was agreed on any extra errand you had to run outside of the job description, you are entitled to money for. Anything you had to buy in terms of expendables, bill them for!

They were confident in being butts, even though they were obviously an incompotent production from what you describe. They were so confident they made you a scapegoat. You're in the right. You should be even more confident than they are. At the very least you deserve this pay, as you don't have anything to show for this job in way of references. Get your money!

Hope this helps put things back into perspective for you. Sometimes people who have no business calling the shots or making decisions can still do a number on your morale. Take this one step further and warn people about this production so they can't do the same thing they did to you to others.

Edited by Karl Borowski, 14 September 2008 - 02:07 PM.

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