I’ve always been a little miffed at the film industry’s walled garden of secret practices and inaccessible work. For whatever reason, learning what actually happens on a film set is tough to do for the masses.
That’s why I share so much of my own knowledge on this site, because I believe in the collaborative medium of film and that the more minds contributing the better.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as open with their experiences as I am.
The Two Types of Crew Members
The longer you stay in the industry, the quicker you realize there exist two types of veteran crew members. You see them on set, you eat with them at lunch, and depending on which type you get, you’re lucky to work for them.
Let’s call them Type A and Type B (creative, I know). In almost every way, type A and type B are similar: they look the same, they dress the same, and they have the same work ethic. They’re usually scruffy people who have put their time into the Hollywood machine, spending years playing hurry up and wait.
The difference between the two comes in their views on passing on their knowledge. If you were to ask them about teaching the next generation of crew, here’s how they would respond:
Type A would say, “I’ve worked my ass off to get to this point. I’ve put in the time, the years, the sweat and I’m not going to give you all the secrets that I worked hard for.”
Type B would say, “I’ve worked my ass off to get to this point. I’ve put in the time, the years, the sweat and today I’m going to show you how I did it so you can become better at what you do.”
In my experience, the type A’s are much more likely to be impatient and assume you know everything, even as a newbie. The type B’s tend to acknowledge everyone starts somewhere and are willing (to an extent) to give you the benefit of the doubt.
What Seems Obvious Isn’t Always So
I had an encounter with a type A on another website not long ago in which they commented that one of my articles on this site was “so obvious” and he didn’t get the point of it. He thought anybody who needed to read it would have no common sense as a camera assistant.
This kind of thinking is why many struggle to start out in film in the first place
As a student, when I found out there was a guy on set whose sole job was to adjust the focus of a lens, it blew my mind. I didn’t even know what a camera assistant was at the time and I doubt I’m the only one who lives through that experience.
It’s not that I had no common sense, or was stupid, I simply had never been in a position where that issue was brought up to me. There’s a lot of stuff that seems obvious when you read the books, when you work the jobs, and when you crew with pros.
It seems obvious that you put a sandbag on a C-stand to keep it from tipping over, but I watch grip PA’s rush to set a stand without grabbing any dirt all the time.
It seems obvious that on longer lenses you have to stand further away to slate, but I’m constantly working with new 2nd AC’s who assume in front of camera = in frame.
There are so many issues on set you aren’t aware of until you experience them yourself or are told how to deal with them ahead of time. It’s crucial to remember that, at some point, you too had none of the answers and all of the questions.
So my challenge to you is to ask which type are you going to be?
Will you be type A and contribute to the walled garden thinking? Or will you be type B and reach down to help pull somebody else up?