Is it all worth it? @ia_Stories, and other concerns. (5 replies and 8 comments)
Hey all, I am having a bit of anxiety about putting both feet into this industry. I moved to NYC a few months ago and have been lucky to work on a few gigs. But looking at my experiences, and my future, I am worried about what a life of film making may entail.
12-16 hour days 5-6 days a week, sometimes local, sometimes out of state/abroad, how does one maintain any sort of balance? Divorce seems rife in this industry.
Additionally, there can be so much abuse that occurs on set. I’ve worked on a set where someone was threatening to shoot actors/crew, but they kept on filming. I’ve been yelled at for quickly taking a bite to eat because I felt like I was going to pass out. Was told that I was “replaceable meat” and that I had no right to say no to things I felt uncomfortable doing (such as filling generators with gas while they are running.)
I know things are looking to change for the better with the looming IATSE strike authorization and with @ia_stories bringing out a lot of the harsher elements of the industry. But I am still worried. I’ve seen the Haskell Wexler documentary “Who Needs Sleep”, and it seems like this has been a problem for decades.
A big part of me really wants to be in this industry! I feel like I excel in it, and it excites me. I love cinematography. I just also want to be a great partner, parent, and have a life.
So, I am curious to hear about other people’s experiences with this industry. What makes it worth it for you all? And for those that don’t find it to be, why?
I sympathize with you as you point out a very real dilemma to anyone who cares about their work. Nothing you say comes as a surprise. Haskell, Conrad and many others worked hard to change practices in the work place with, sadly, little real result. People talk the talk but .....
Is it all worth it? I have been extremely lucky so, for me, it has certainly been worth it. With the right team alongside you there can be few better places to be than on a film set.
I am surprised you were asked to fill a generator whilst running. It was quite safe to do so if it was diesel but gasoline is definitely a No! All depends where the tank was but anyway why was it not filled up before starting, they know how much juice it uses per day so who was responsible for that. Eating on the job is debatable, providing it is done between takes but there are meal breaks, did you not eat when the others eat, that one seems strange to me, depends on what you were eating at the time. This does sound like a small operation where everyone has to overlap other people’s duties and just ‘muck’ in when you have to, nothing wrong with that imo providing you don’t step on other people’s toes. Working long hours is normal that’s what it’s all about, it about team work, helping each other out to get the job done. Everybody is fighting the weather and time which is everybody’s enemy.
I think you probably knew that before you applied for the job, perhaps they didn’t explain that properly. If you are looking for a peaceful life with you family then filming is not for you, your relationship with your wife will always be under strain, she is the one who has to bend and adapt to your working pattern not the other way round. You should really consult with her about it, she is also the mother of your child so you have to consider them first. Could you not find a job that fits in with your present lifestyle then everyone would be happy. Don’t jeopardise what you have just to fulfil a “whim”.
Roger... you have just summarized why I left working as a locations scout/manager back in the early 90's. First on the set, last off. second baby on the way. My goal was to write in any case. which I am doing now that kids are grown and I have plenty of life experience and stories to tell.
That said, there is always the option of doing only commercials as camera. Tough competition there these days, but great pay and no 45 day shoots. A friend of mine went from freelance photojournalist to doing lots of work for Amazon. He stays close to home and family most of the time. No insane long days for weeks at a time and plenty of good money.
I always thought that editor would have been good until I had coffee with an amigo who has worked on a number of features. He told me he is doing only documentaries (with a major feature director) these days. Tired of cutting horror/vampire stuff and no more jaunts away from home to Hawaii or wherever the production is located.
I totally support the 12 on/12 off move by the way. I have seen way too much crew abuse - my locations work was in Arizona - a right to work state, so i appreciate the value of the union.
bottom line - kids grow up wayyy too fast, family is more important than an impressive IMDB and life is just too damn short.
Thanks for replying Roger, I really appreciate it. I hope that change does come about, and maybe Haskall, Conrad, and others have made it easier for others to speak out about these conditions. I can imagine that plenty of the shoots you have worked on have been so worth it. The best days on sets I bet outweigh so much, if not all of the negatives I have mentioned. I still don't know how people manage any sort of family, I guess getting to a financial spot to take time off between shots may be how. But either way, thanks for the input Roger!
It was a Tier 1 movie, so yeah a bit rag tag at times. There was crafty but it was salmon that had been sitting in the sun for far too long since my crew wasn't able to get there for breakfast. The workplace violations they did (filling live generators were just one of so many) seemed more out of unpreparedness than a tight situation. I really don't mind an abnormal lifestyle and schedule, that is a big part of why I want to work in film, for the experience. But the inhumanity of it at times is what bothers me so much, at times seemingly killing ourselves to make a film/show possible doesn't seem right.
You make a great point that so much of the weight will be on my partner. It doesn't make it easier that she has narcolepsy and often times can't get through a day normally because she is so tired and has to sleep (which presents a problem of taking care of kids solo while I'm away for long periods of time.) She is very supportive and is currently down for the weird lifestyle ahead, but yeah, a lot to think about.
I appreciate the thoughts.
I think you have to have a real drive to do this stuff. I've been at the bottom of the filmmaking food chain for years now and I've had some pretty low moments but I just can't imagine giving it all up and going in for something considered to be more conventional.
It's not all doom and gloom but I think the passion can make you look back on the lower moments as learning experiences or something.
Yeah, I definitely have noticed that the passion has to be there to put up with all the BS haha. Even though I have only been in the business for a few months I have seen some pretty extraordinary things that I would have only dreamed of being able to experience before.
Thanks for the input Craig.
I'm sure there is satisfaction in shooting commercials and not only from the financial side of the work. Myself, I could never find that satisfaction and would not work in film in any other area than in drama.
As for eating on set. I have to say that, in my experience, is a common practice. We ate lunch on the run every day of the '1917' shoot as we were on a consecutive 10 hours. A 10 hour 'deal' is quite common, although it is less common for the day to be really as short as 10 hours. Some years ago I was, to politely put it, 'criticized' by a producer for insisting the camera crew take a 15 minute meal break after working 11 hours straight. That 15 minutes I insisted on was taken during a company move and we went on to shoot for a total of 23 hours that 'day' without any sanctioned meal break.
Oh! And filling a generator whilst it is running sounds like a bad idea. But I have to add that I am guilty of the same when I fill the tank for my outboard motor without turning it off.
That’s the “skippers” job filling up. All you have to do is buckle up and wait for the dinner bell. Life can be sweet on a luxury yacht, so they tell me.
Yeah, going into this industry I share the same sentiment about commercials. Narrative work has always been where my passions lie, and it would be a hard transition for me to go away from that.
That is wild that you had a 23 hour day without any meal break. That is awful that the producer didn't allow even a 15 minute break. Things need to change for sure.
The french hours that a lot of productions are implementing seem to be both a blessing and a curse, and for certain crew members (script supervisor) I've heard it can be near impossible to get food at times because of their need to be on set.
Thanks again for the thoughts Roger, I really do appreciate it!
Doubly hard with COVID restrictions where we couldn't eat on set, so with French Hours, no meal break and no ability to eat on set while working either!
I don't believe in "French hours" because I have yet to experience a 10 hour day when in that situation. Production is patting themselves on the back and really don't like it when I point out that this week we've done 13hrs, 16hrs, 12hrs, 14hrs and 18hrs (always on a Friday!) - which doesn't look to me like "10 hour days". If we're going to do those hours anyway, why not have a break mid day to gather your strength? Mind you, true 10 hour days sound like heaven to me - I've just never seen it happen!
Yes, it is primarily financial pressure that leads to long days but also a creative desire. I am guilty as much as anyone when shooting exteriors. If the light is good I want to keep shooting rather than break a scene for lunch and came back to find different weather conditions. However, day after day of long hours can not only be dangerous and counterproductive but they can also lead to a lower standard of work.