photo credit: Ashraful Kadir
If you’re planning on a long career in film, I’m convinced you have to learn to deal with the unexpected. Whether that means get by without a piece of gear, without an extra crew member, or even without your own health.
Ideally we would all be able to show up on set 110% everyday, but it’s just not the case.
Some days you show up on set and instead of being psyched that you’re making a movie, you’re annoyed that you had to show up to your “job.”
And that’s the crux of it all.
The Long Days Get Longer
I was standing on the set of a short film in the throes of a scene that was taking 1 hour to shoot and should’ve only taken 20 minutes. After a tense few moments of waiting, my 2nd assistant camera (AC) finally came back with the news:
“He said to keep on limping by.”
I hung my head in frustration.
My 2nd AC had just returned from calling a rental house about some equipment that we needed replaced. That was their answer to us.
I knew it was going to be a long day.
In reality, every shoot day has the chance to be a long day. There’s never any guarantee that everything will go according to plan and it rarely ever does.
The day that an entire shoot goes perfectly without one hiccup is the day I think I will quit camera assisting so that I can leave while I’m on top.
Something always goes wrong or awry or slightly different than planned.
When I was told to “keep on limping by,” we had two memory cards and one hard drive fail us on the RED camera.
Months later when I write this, I can’t help but think that many of my days on set have been defined by that simple phrase.
No Glamor in Hollywood
It was the first and only time that I’ve succumbed physically to the labors of the job. I started to get pimples from stress, I had heavy bags under my eyes, and 10 days into the shoot I ended up becoming sick.
But I was on location, thousands of miles away from home, on a shoot that was well behind schedule. There was nobody to fill in for me, so I had to go to work.
Eventually I got better, but the director of photography (DP) got sick. And then, like the great circle of life, he got me sick again (it’s the whole issue of us standing really close to each other near the camera).
The entire shoot was hard, but not in a technical sense. It was hard mentally, emotionally and physically. There were genuinely days on that shoot where I hated that I had to show up. There were days where I thought I had made a mistake about my career.
But, still, every morning I would wake up, take an obnoxiously long shower, and limp on by.
In film school, you hear a lot of talk about the magic of Hollywood and the glamor of film. But the truth is that sometimes making a movie is just about getting things done.
Sometimes making a movie is one long race where everyone shows up at the finish line “limping on by.”
Surviving the Industry
You get to be part of a huge collaboration of individuals towards one creative goal — a finished movie.
But sometimes, you aren’t making a movie and instead you’re working a job.
There will be days that are tough and brutal and you won’t be able to hit them with a full stride. Instead, you have to make sure you can fall back, adapt, and limp on by impressively until the job is done.
Learn to be OK with that and punch through it and you will survive this industry.