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#1 Sebastien Scandiuzzi

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 07:57 PM

Wanted to get some advice from members who've dealt with having an assistant that you've worked with before but because of one reason or another things 'get weird'. Not because of any particular reason, nothing at least I can put my finger on and anytime I try to bring it up its as though they have no idea what I'm talking about. In general: "when and how do you handle an AC who works in the same 'pool' of people you work with, who is constantly grumpy and moody but won't ever address the reason" is one of my questions, but please read the rest below if you have time. 

 

The above (excluding the last sentence) is only backstory, I'm not seeking advice for the above paragraph, but it is important history. I'm a loyal person and finding a crew that understands 'my language' is a huge part of finding a creative team; no brainer. Attitude is also a huge factor as well, especially with the budgets that I'm working with, while the pool of AC's that are willing to work for a lower rate is large, finding the right one is a long process. 

 

My question has 2 parts.

 

1. Attitude has gotten worse, clients ask me un-prompted if there's something wrong with the 1st AC (not good). However, and depending on which guest or how high up the chain of command the client who made the remark is, if my AC is a good/great and hard working (remember, this is lower budget work 10-15K) I see it as a trade off in my favor. 

 

2. This shoot, the focus for steadi was a disaster and thats also taking into consideration that pulling focus on steadi is tough. We used an analog upgraded to 'digital' Bartech but the WFF kept loosing signal or was late on pulls. We trouble shooted, changed channels, power cycled everything, turned off all cell phones, etc...- did not find anything to fix the issue. The result was the 1st AC took the monitor and followed steadi which meant I also had to also follow looking over their shoulders in tight corners and then watch playback (wasting more time). But even moving closer we still had focus relay issues. As far as other options, we could've taken B CAM's Bartech which didn't have any issues all day but that meant re balancing and we were loosing light quickly. 

 

What I'm looking for as far as advice: what is the 'professional' protocal for situations like this? I was DP/Director on this project and had plenty of other things to troubleshoot but I feel like the way we handled the situation was... sloppy and lazy. The Bartech did start showing issues towards the middle of the shoot but was explained away by the WFF having to go through walls. Point being, In my opinion I would already be thinking about another solution, just in case. 

 

I'd love to know how this situation is handled in a more professional atmosphere (more experienced higher budget)? The many responses when asked what was going on, why is focus continually soft, was a pissed off AC (understandably) who when asked what can we do about it, the answer was a shrug as though there aren't any alternatives and a look of 'what do you expect, I'm just pulling focus on this unit that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, its not my fault'. Am I wrong to assume that actually 'yes' there are plenty of solutions, it is your responsibility (to make sure the WFF works during prep which they had a full day with all gear) and why wasn't this troubleshooted earlier? 

 

For those of you who made it to then end of this post I appreciate it!! Its been great working with this AC and as I wrote, when you find someone who get's your 'language' it makes jobs that much easier and the focus (attention) is where it should be vs having to explain every step, every setup, my personal preferences to a new AC but it feels like all signs are pointing to 'its time to move on'. 

 

Thanks Everyone, apologies on the length!!

 

Sebastien 

 

*grammar edit


Edited by Sebastien Scandiuzzi, 31 May 2017 - 07:59 PM.

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 09:48 PM

As a DP, I rely on the camera department to solve problems like a faulty Bartech or Preston or other wireless issues -- I certainly couldn't troubleshoot that!  If the AC has some faulty gear, then they would either be on the phone or their 2nd would be, to someone they knew who had a replacement, or to a rental house, get something out there ASAP, and in the meanwhile, they'd find some other solution -- maybe the Steadicam move has to be temporarily changed to a dolly move with an old-fashioned follow-focus knob on the camera.  Of course, the Steadicam operator also has some responsibility too if the remote focus device is their own equipment.

 

If the gear can't be fixed, in the meanwhile it is up to the cinematographer and the director to find new ways to shoot, whether or not it is an optimal situation, while the camera crew works on the problem.

 

Budget is less of an excuse though if the production manager nixed certain common-sense back-ups to save some money, then that was probably not a great idea, lesson learned on everyone's part.

 

The bad attitude is a problem,... though I wasn't there, maybe the AC had some legitimate reasons to be unhappy, however it seems like the attitude was getting in the way, not helping, and certainly your crew represents you to the producers and clients, so if they make you look bad, then you should talk to them, and if that doesn't help, then it is time to work with new people.

 

You do your best to get through the day, or through to lunch, and then you have a serious (but calm, polite) talk about all the equipment and attitude issues and tell that person to solve the problems and fix the attitude if they want to work again with you. And you also back them up when they go to the production manager or line producer to ask for whatever they need to solve the problem.

 

But to me it sounds like your AC was a bit over their head... You can't really use the low budget to justify poor professionalism on a crew member's part because the way to work your way out of low budgets is to maintain standards and deliver results no matter what the budget is.


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#3 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 10:48 PM

I feel like this is two separate issues. With the equipment problem solving issue, it sounds like your ACs did they best they could given their experience and available resources.

Sometimes with wireless devices, things don't work on the day due to issues that don't show up during prep. You can mitigate these things by using better, more reliable equipment like a Preston (which sounds like it was not available due to budget), and by having backups for everything. So if you had another Bartech available then that would have been the next step.

That said, even the best gear will fail sometimes. I had a Preston FIZ3 go down on me once on the last shot of the day. Luckily, the Steadicam op brought his Bartech, and we got the shot. I've also seen a Russian Arm stop working once on a big car commercial where we had shut down the Bay Bridge for filming at dawn. That was an expensive problem, to say the least. Shit happens, as they say. At that point, it's the responsibility of the 1st AD, director, and DP to find something else to shoot.

The poor attitude is a bigger problem, and a pretty common one in my experience. I feel like it usually stems from personal issues and less often from personality conflicts, but whatever the reason it's just not acceptable. I would talk to them alone and give them one chance to fix it. After that, it's time to let them go. And don't date your ACs, makes it a lot worse...
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#4 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 10:50 PM

I couldn't agree more with David. Your AC represents you, your judgment and your ability to lead. Of course I don't know the situation but I do know that inexperience sometimes translates to defensiveness, bad attitude and excuses, perhaps on the part of the AC. He needs to realize that his lack of character could prevent you from getting future work thus affecting his wallet as well.

The only other note I would add is that you, as a department head and boss, need to hire smart and not your friends or let misplaced loyalty drive you to bad choices. Loyalty counts till it becomes a liability to you. If your employee is not able to do his job without your micromanagement and/or concerns, it is on you! You didn't do your first job well and hire smart. There is nobody to blame but yourself. Good luck with this. I wish you all the best...

G
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#5 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 11:06 PM

The AC attitude thing is quite well known I think.. generally ,and in my case too.. it comes from doing the job too long and wanting to shoot.. but not quite having the balls to make that leap..  I was the same and the DP who,s life I was making a pain, took me aside one day.. and said he had been exactly the same and it was a sign to move on to DP ing.. I agreed .. and made the move.. and we remain friends to this day.. maybe your guy needs that nudge forwards too..


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#6 Sebastien Scandiuzzi

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 11:35 PM

I struggled whether or not to post about this and having 4 people respond since I posted is a relief. Thank you I appreciate it. 


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#7 Sebastien Scandiuzzi

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 12:22 AM

As a DP, I rely on the camera department to solve problems like a faulty Bartech or Preston or other wireless issues -- I certainly couldn't troubleshoot that!  If the AC has some faulty gear, then they would either be on the phone or their 2nd would be, to someone they knew who had a replacement, or to a rental house, get something out there ASAP, and in the meanwhile, they'd find some other solution -- maybe the Steadicam move has to be temporarily changed to a dolly move with an old-fashioned follow-focus knob on the camera.  Of course, the Steadicam operator also has some responsibility too if the remote focus device is their own equipment.

 

  • If the gear can't be fixed, in the meanwhile it is up to the cinematographer and the director to find new ways to shoot, whether or not it is an optimal situation, while the camera crew works on the problem. 

 

  • Thanks David, this is exactly the type of answer I was looking for. I didn't consider another option, my mind was stuck in "how much longer is this going to take and how can we fix it" I should've already been considering other options. 

 

Budget is less of an excuse though if the production manager nixed certain common-sense back-ups to save some money, then that was probably not a great idea, lesson learned on everyone's part.

 

  • The bad attitude is a problem,... though I wasn't there, maybe the AC had some legitimate reasons to be unhappy, however it seems like the attitude was getting in the way, not helping, and certainly your crew represents you to the producers and clients, so if they make you look bad, then you should talk to them, and if that doesn't help, then it is time to work with new people. And yes, "lesson learned"! 

 

  • "Maybe the AC had legitimate reasons to be unhappy" absolutely, and I would've been open to discuss them, I invited the conversation. However, after I had given them multiple opportunities to express themselves, the answer was always "I'm fine" or something similar. Anyways, the bigger take away is the representation of my crew and myself to the clients, which is ultimately my responsibility for hiring them. 

 

You do your best to get through the day, or through to lunch, and then you have a serious (but calm, polite) talk about all the equipment and attitude issues and tell that person to solve the problems and fix the attitude if they want to work again with you. And you also back them up when they go to the production manager or line producer to ask for whatever they need to solve the problem.

 

  • You can't really use the low budget to justify poor professionalism on a crew member's part because the way to work your way out of low budgets is to maintain standards and deliver results no matter what the budget is.

 

  • Agreed, I think that is the more perplexing part- a bad attitude serves no one, especially you. My 'mantra' for any project big or small is attitude, effort and arrive prepared; all elements I have control over. It makes zero sense to me when people have bad attitudes, you're actively working against yourself. I was 14 when I started working in the film industry during the early 90s on horrible action b movies like: Red Snow, (because it had snowboarders and guns); Prototype X29A (what happened to Prototype X28Z?); A.P.E.X. (Advanced Prototype EXploration units... ugh) in and around LA and even though the quality was bad, everyone worked their ass off and for the most part had good attitudes. Nobody thought working for minimum pay on Red Snow would immediately launch their career but they did know it was a stepping stone in the right direction. I don't know what happened to a lot of the guys working on those films but I do know, if you had a bad attitude there were at least 5 people you could call and they'd be there in 15mins to take your place. 

Thanks for your response David, as always, well informed and helpful.

Edited for grammar/formatting


Edited by Sebastien Scandiuzzi, 01 June 2017 - 12:32 AM.

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#8 Sebastien Scandiuzzi

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 12:31 AM

I couldn't agree more with David. Your AC represents you, your judgment and your ability to lead. Of course I don't know the situation but I do know that inexperience sometimes translates to defensiveness, bad attitude and excuses, perhaps on the part of the AC. He needs to realize that his lack of character could prevent you from getting future work thus affecting his wallet as well.

  • The only other note I would add is that you, as a department head and boss, need to hire smart and not your friends or let misplaced loyalty drive you to bad choices. Loyalty counts till it becomes a liability to you. If your employee is not able to do his job without your micromanagement and/or concerns, it is on you! You didn't do your first job well and hire smart. There is nobody to blame but yourself. Good luck with this. I wish you all the best...

 

  • Thank you Gregory, I'm learning quickly that loyalty and idealism is a double edged sword. And true, the responsibility ultimately was/is mine. No excuses there, I did know that this AC's attitude was becoming problematic but hopped things had changed. 

G


Edited by Sebastien Scandiuzzi, 01 June 2017 - 12:32 AM.

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#9 Sebastien Scandiuzzi

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 01:29 AM

I feel like this is two separate issues. With the equipment problem solving issue, it sounds like your ACs did they best they could given their experience and available resources.

  • Sometimes with wireless devices, things don't work on the day due to issues that don't show up during prep. You can mitigate these things by using better, more reliable equipment like a Preston (which sounds like it was not available due to budget), and by having backups for everything. So if you had another Bartech available then that would have been the next step.

 

  • Good point about renting better equipment (I would've but the producers single proecess is to save money but because of this incident I can use it as a great example of why rentinga a backup, at the very least for the Bartech is vital) The other lesson was renting from a true rental house versus a friend. My 'friend' doesn't have mulitple Prestons's lying around and able to ship them overnight or drive over, again my mistake.
  • Ok, dumb question here, will rental houses give a discount for 'backup' devices (I'm sure rental houses have different rules for different customers but for more general customers)

That said, even the best gear will fail sometimes. I had a Preston FIZ3 go down on me once on the last shot of the day. Luckily, the Steadicam op brought his Bartech, and we got the shot. I've also seen a Russian Arm stop working once on a big car commercial where we had shut down the Bay Bridge for filming at dawn. That was an expensive problem, to say the least. poop happens, as they say. At that point, it's the responsibility of the 1st AD, director, and DP to find something else to shoot.

  • The poor attitude is a bigger problem, and a pretty common one in my experience. I feel like it usually stems from personal issues and less often from personality conflicts, but whatever the reason it's just not acceptable. I would talk to them alone and give them one chance to fix it. After that, it's time to let them go. And don't date your ACs, makes it a lot worse...

 

  • I agree about attitude. If it's a common one in your experience, to have poor attitude, I'm assuming you have your go to 'crew' but when you need hire outside your crew circle, do you find you're having this conversation more often then not?
  • And when having those discussions (to give them 'one more chance') aside from being polite and considerate, is there a strategy that works well for you? I'd rate myself a C for assertiveness, A for polite and diplomatic but a D on having the conversation in the first place! I just assume they're smart enough to know they're causing a scene, being a distraction and they'll work it out on their own- stupid of me. I'm also nervous that whomever I let go will then spread a bad reputation- again, silly and out of my control but I'm not as established so I do think some of my nervousness is justified. *some*, definitely need to work on that. 
  • But back to strategy, are there a few 'signs' you've learned over the years that help spot (besides the obvious, shitty attitude, grunts and 'uggggh's when asked to do something, etc...) I usually go by referral from other DP's I really like and then start calling rental houses and lastly post something on FB. But if there are some telltale signs that perk your radar, I'd love to hear them. 

Thanks Satsuki I appreciate the response. 


Edited by Sebastien Scandiuzzi, 01 June 2017 - 01:29 AM.

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#10 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 05:27 AM

If you've approached the person and asked, then you've done all you can.

 

What very frequently happens is that it's blindingly obvious what the problem is and nobody is willing or able to do anything about it, which is very difficult. Politics can serve to silence people and there is a need for very great care and asking in the right way.

 

It's also possible this AC has personal-life problems that they don't want to share, which is fair enough, but shouldn't provoke this situation. Perhaps a more in-depth taking-aside and chat is in order, perhaps over dinner or something, if you really feel like being a social worker. It isn't your problem to do that, but if you feasibly can, you might be doing someone a favour.

 

P


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#11 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 01:23 PM

I feel it's a common issue especially because I started as an AC and got to see lot of my peers, young and old, working. I think most young people especially have had this issue at some point or another - it's a maturation process, really. I call it the 'three year burn out cycle' - as people get comfortable and busy, they begin to take the work for granted and sometimes need to be reminded how much their attitude matters. Seems to happen every three years or so. It might take them losing few clients to realize what they are doing to themselves.

Maybe it's different in a larger market where you are constantly working with new crew, but in a small market where everyone knows each other, I find this to be the case.

I run into this much less as a DP now. But I also work way less, so that's probably part of it. And as the older crew that I knew start to retire or move to different markets, and I'm working with younger crew who didn't know me as an AC, I'm sure that will all change too. It does make it easier to have the conversation when your crew are not your close friends as well.

Bad signs - being late, not replying to work texts and calls in a timely manner, persistent grumpiness, complaining, procrastinating, sloppy or lazy work. Also prioritizing play over booked work, like partying hard the night before, etc. That's all pretty obvious.

Good signs - always being early, always paying attention and coming up with solutions, thinking ahead and taking initiative, staying organized, staying positive, knowing when to keep their mouth shut, etc. Often, my crew and I will share a tight-lipped smile at particularly trying moments on set, and then I know we are good.

As far as letting people go, I think they would appreciate it more if you were straight with them and let them know you have a problem with their behavior. I know that's a difficult discussion to have, I'm not great at it either. But there will be fewer hard feelings than if you just fire somebody with no explanation at all.

Most of the time, a person may not be conscious of their behavior, and you can help them fix it. But if they have actual contempt for you or the project (which can happen on a tough grueling shoot sometimes), then obviously that's not a fixable issue and you need to part ways ASAP.
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#12 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 07:32 PM

Three year burn out cycle???  I'm in big trouble at 38 years of focus pulling!!!  :wacko:  :blink:  :lol:

 

G


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#13 Igor Trajkovski

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 03:38 AM

I'm in big trouble at 38 years of focus pulling!!!  :wacko:  :blink:  :lol:

 

G

 

As one acting/mime/adventurer professor shared a story:

In India he met a person who never left the street he was living in.
He asked him why.

 

"I've found my place" - replied the calm man.

...

So, it seems you have "found your place". :)


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#14 bradley hayman

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 08:23 AM

I hope he doesn't read this thread


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#15 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 09:12 AM

If he does, I hope he takes it as the impersonal request for advice it is, and uses that information positively.


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#16 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 09:57 AM

 

 

I'd love to know how this situation is handled in a more professional atmosphere (more experienced higher budget)? The many responses when asked what was going on, why is focus continually soft, was a pissed off AC (understandably) who when asked what can we do about it, the answer was a shrug as though there aren't any alternatives and a look of 'what do you expect, I'm just pulling focus on this unit that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, its not my fault'. Am I wrong to assume that actually 'yes' there are plenty of solutions, it is your responsibility (to make sure the WFF works during prep which they had a full day with all gear) and why wasn't this troubleshooted earlier? 

 

For those of you who made it to then end of this post I appreciate it!! Its been great working with this AC and as I wrote, when you find someone who get's your 'language' it makes jobs that much easier and the focus (attention) is where it should be vs having to explain every step, every setup, my personal preferences to a new AC but it feels like all signs are pointing to 'its time to move on'. 

 

Thanks Everyone, apologies on the length!!

 

Sebastien 

 

*grammar edit

I've had two experiences with fantastic 1st A.C.'s and their personalities were so drastically different.  One was oscar the grouch, the other was a basket of rainbows no matter what the conditions or gear we were working with.  Both were awesome at what they did.

 

I asked the grouchy A.C. early on during our first feature together if something was wrong and he replied everything was fine.  He seemed genuinely confused that I was even concerned.   Puzzled, I just chalked it up to his personality and never took anything he said or did personally and we got along great.

 

However I did have to explain to the director on one feature we did that he was actually just "like that" and not really upset at anyone or anything.  It takes getting used to when you get a grouch and you may want to prep the crew not to worry about him or her.  Cause in his case he never directed anger at anybody in particular so he never pissed anyone off directly. It was odd but everyone has their quirks.   In a way, having a grouch on set can make everyone else really nice.  It's like when the tension is super high and someone explodes inappropriately and it kind of can mellow out the whole crew for the rest of the day.  

 

I will say that the other guy who was always super positive and nice and friendly was also great and that kind of positive vibe tends to be contagious among the crew so it's great when someone projects it.  At the end of the day, I couldn't tell the difference in their work.  Both were always tack sharp and I'd hire either again.


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#17 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 03 June 2017 - 01:01 AM

Three year burn out cycle???  I'm in big trouble at 38 years of focus pulling!!!  :wacko:  :blink:  :lol:
 G


Well then you must be overdue, Greg! :)

Just speaking for myself, I felt like I needed an attitude adjustment and re-appraisal of my goals about that often. After settling into a groove for a few years, I would find myself wondering whether I was on the right track, or if my long term goals had shifted. The cycle of work/waiting to work became routine and I would contemplate moving to another city, or taking on different kinds of work, or just disappearing for a year to travel. I was still passionate about filmmaking, but something was definitely missing. I wondered if this was all there was going to be.

I suppose that might seem overdramatic, but I think it's a pretty common feeling for a lot of people in most walks of life. The eventual attitude adjustment would come from accepting that the situation wasn't going to change unless I did something about it. Again, about every three years or so. I've noticed this happen to quite a few of my friends in film production as well. But that's just my opinion.
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#18 Sebastien Scandiuzzi

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Posted 04 June 2017 - 09:57 PM

If he does, I hope he takes it as the impersonal request for advice it is, and uses that information positively.


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#19 Simon Wyss

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 03:35 AM

Movies are technics. Wireless focus control plus steadicam plus walking or running about is asking for trouble. It can work, no question, but it didn’t. What you were in need of is not psychotherapy but a technical mind. Someone who can reset to simpler and manual mode. Someone who can ask: how else is this doable? As David said, back to dolly and direct focus adjustment.

 

I am perfectly aware of the fact that reasons are there to justify the setup, to justify each single component. Antonioni once hung the camera from a crane, had a window grate sawn in halves, placed back together, only to balance the rolling camera through the grate out and around a building, the famous ending of Professione: Reporter. Was it necessary?

 

Less can be more. Often more is more. I sense the conflict between the conceptual and the executing people, between abstract and physical work. To want something and to be able to make it happen


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#20 Sebastien Scandiuzzi

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 12:31 AM

=

It's also possible this AC has personal-life problems that they don't want to share, which is fair enough, but shouldn't provoke this situation. Perhaps a more in-depth taking-aside and chat is in order, perhaps over dinner or something, if you really feel like being a social worker. It isn't your problem to do that, but if you feasibly can, you might be doing someone a favour.

 

P

 

 

Thank you, good thoughts and comments. That is part of the dilemma, I do and have reached out (not only during work time) to try and figure out if there is something going on that they can then clue me into what their triggers might be onset so I can avoid them when possible. Their work is worth the extra effort on my part. If they want to talk about their situation more deeply I have/will listen sincerely but I fear this could lead down a tricky business/personal 'hole' that could make matters worse.

 

My personality is similar in that I easily confuse people who don't know me. I have a severe resting face so people who don't know me think I'm mad or angry, it's their issue and I don't let it interfere with my work. But that doesn't mean I'm without responsibility, especially if I'm aware of the effect on others. I do my best when there's an opportunity to talk to someone I haven't met yet to give them my full attention and hopefully dissolve any presumptions. I don't spend much time on trying to convince them if the person after the first encounter continues to make unfounded assumptions- I've done what I can do, I move on. Point being that I'm aware of the effect it has on others and to ignore this effect is irresponsible and ignorant, one would be extremely dim to not be aware of their deportment and its effect on moral. I think that is the overarching theme, the effect on moral.

 

That being said, if there is a way to fix it, I'm happy to try especially if the outcome is positive, if not I completely understand and wish them well. But the writing has and is on the wall "time to move on". Thank you all for your thoughts, very much appreciated. 


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Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Aerial Filmworks

Willys Widgets

CineTape

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FJS International, LLC

The Slider

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rebotnix Technologies