Filmmaking isn’t always fun. Sometimes it can suck — and suck pretty hard.
But those are big picture items and the truth is, it’s the little things that annoy us the most.
So when I read a post at Dollygrippery succinctly titled “Things That Suck,” it clicked with me. Even though I’ve never been a dolly grip, I connected with the list of small troubles that quickly add up. And my mind raced with things that I, as a camera assistant, have to deal with that suck.
Let’s just say it didn’t take me long to come up with 50 of them.
50 Things That Suck
1. Rush Hour Call Times. Where I live, the only difference between an 8 AM call and a 9 AM call is the extra hour I sit in traffic. I still have to wake up and leave at the same time.
3. Directors who joke about soft focus. Unless we’ve worked together before, I don’t usually find this funny. If anything, it makes me paranoid.
4. DP’s who start toying with gear. Technically you’re my boss, true, but the camera and its accessories are my domain. Let me lift the filters because last time you got a print on it and the 2nd AC had to go back to the cart and clean it.
6. Being yelled at about video village. Yeah I know it’s not up right now. That’s because I’m fetching a lens, swapping a filter, and then sticking the camera up to eye level. I could patch you in right now, but you’d only see my out-of-focus disgruntled face in the frame anyway.
7. Pulling focus wide open.
8. Pulling focus without marks.
9. Pulling focus in general. Unless the lens is an 18mm at T 8.0. (Just kidding, it can be fun…)
10. Logging camera reports as the only AC. I’ll write what I can, but I can’t promise it’ll be legible.
11. Actors who miss their mark inconsistently. It’s one thing if you miss your mark by an inch every time – I can deal with that. But 1 foot on Take 3 and 3 inches on Take 4; I can’t keep up!
12. Hearing “Second Sticks.” You waste film, the crew knows you messed up, and it’s stressful to reorient yourself.
13. Pizza for lunch.
14. Forced call times
15. Not having a camera cart.
16. Watching the camera you bolted on a jib or crane swing for the first time. That feeling of overwhelming “What if…” is like the worst nightmare you’ve ever had.
17. Call times that go from sunset to sunrise.
18. Booting a RED camera. Like Forrest Gump said, “you’re never know what you’re gonna get.”
19. Sharing a witness monitor with a director or DP.
20. Being blamed for in-camera sound issues. If the camera reads a clean test signal from the sound mixer, it’s not my job to do anything else.
21. Producers who don’t understand your job. You hired me and have no idea what I do? Then don’t try to tell me what to do.
22. Soft lens cases or bags.
23. Pushing a magliner with the fixed wheels in the wrong direction. Getting in an elevator has never been so hard.
24. Locations without a freight elevator.
25. Moving car scenes. Even with a process trailer, the whole affair is claustrophobic and difficult. Being inside the car is another bag of worms.
26. Last-minute lens changes. There go all my marks.
27. Screw-on DSLR filters. It’s like putting a USB stick into your computer — you never get the threading right on the first attempt.
28. Follow-focus play. Off by a few millimeters on follow focus = off by a few feet of DOF.
29. Waiting for call sheets to be emailed before you go to sleep. Waking up at 9 AM with a pushed call to 12 PM sucks.
30. Parking tickets from DC because they ignored signs explaining production’s permit to park. True story — location manager had to write 30 letters on the crew’s behalf to get the fines dropped.
31. Producers who take your liquor to serve at the wrap party.
32. Couch “accommodations.” I’m not picky, but if I’m working for free for more than week, a hotel room or a bed would be nice!
33. Forgetting to charge batteries overnight. A mistake that catches up to you very quickly.
34. Doorway dollies.
35. Using a whip. The feedback just isn’t the same as having your hand on the FF or lens.
36. Putting the camera on the operator’s shoulder too early. That’s right — lift it up and down a few more times before we’re actually ready to roll.
37. Shooting in-camera sound. So many cables, so much hassle.
38. AD’s who care more about being liked than sticking to a schedule. At the time, everyone may look annoyed, but they’ll be happy when you send them home after 12 hours instead of 17.
39. Being told “you’re fired at the end of the day!” on the last day of a shoot. It was funny when I was on my first shoot — then it got old real quick.
40. Extras who decimate craft services. I guess if I had nothing to do for most of the day, I would ravage crafty too.
41. Directors who call “action!” before you can get comfortable after slating. In a creaky wooden house, it gets real uncomfortable, real fast.
42. Having no air conditioning because it interferes with the sound.
43. Airplanes during room tone.
44. Best Boys who act like jerks when you need power for a monitor/computer/charger. Would you rather me just jack in somewhere and not tell you about it?
45. No kit rental fee.
46. Setting backfocus yourself. On set. In the morning. An hour before roll.
47. Six day weeks.
48. Sitting on a half-apple box.
49. Calling the rental house in an emergency and getting a voicemail. Even worse is trying to download a camera’s manual with only one bar of signal.
50. Never being sent your DVD copy of the film. Of all the projects that promised me a copy of the finished movie, only one has followed through.
50 Things That Don’t Suck
For as much as we crew love to bitch about our work, we also realize how lucky we are to have an opportunity to work in the film industry. We put up with long hours, mean producers, and low rates just to get a taste of the Hollywood dream.
And — just like the things that suck — it’s the little moments that make our below-the-line ball-bustings worthwhile.
Here’s 50 of such things that make you stop and think, “I love my job.”
1. Watching from beside the camera. Whether it’s watching an amazing performance or grips move heavy stuff, it’s nice to watch from the sidelines.
2. A dolly grip who never misses a mark. Or who helps you get yours. (This one’s for you, D!)
3. Pretty actresses or handsome actors in skimpy costumes. It’s not my fault I have to watch the monitor for my job!
4. One take wonders.
5. Getting to take the camera where the rest of the crew aren’t allowed. Like inside the octagon with Wanderlei Silva.
6. Second meal. It helps take the sting off extended hours.
7. Shooting B-Roll. No pressure. No actors. All fun.
8. Open-bar wrap parties.
9. Meeting celebrities. It’s not so much I get star-struck as I enjoy the awesome stories they share.
10. Hot breakfast. Omelette > Muffin > Granola bar.
11. Getting repaid for favors. Whether it’s repaid in money or repaid in favors, cashing in is sweet.
12. When talent sees your tape measure and holds it up to their eyes for your mark.
13. Crew t-shirts. It doesn’t matter how hard a shoot has been, SWAG always eases the tension.
14. Compliments from production about your work ethic. Nobody below the line works for praise, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy when we’re noticed for how hard we’ve been busting our ass.
15. Grips who keep an apple box on standby for the camera.
16. Courtesy flags on a hot day.
18. When the DP lets you compose the shot. Whether it’s B-Roll or you just got it right when you set down the camera, it’s nice to know you put your creative touch on a project.
19. That moment at the end of a funny scene when everyone busts out laughing. It’s a nice reminder that filmmaking doesn’t have to be so serious all the damn time.
20. Doing your best work with people you know. There’s no pressure to deliver, but everyone is operating on their A game.
22. Getting goosebumps from a performance.
23. Improvising a rack focus. The DP didn’t ask for it, but it felt right and turns out it was right.
24. Being the first to play with a new camera.
26. Talent who aren’t afraid to go out with crew after wrap.
27. Music on set during setups/wrap-outs.
28. Electricians who give me a few stingers to “live” with camera.
29. Watching a finished film and nothing is out-of-focus. You can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
30. Asking camera PA’s to find the bag of T-Stops. Never gets old!
31. Slow motion dolly shots. Satisfying to shoot, satisfying to watch.
32. Having your “weekend” in the middle of the week.
33. 10 hour days.
34. Having a producer tell you, “When I call back and ask for your rate, make sure you give me your full rate and I’ll be able to pay it.” That’s what happens when you work enough low-budget stuff with said producer.
35. Spending the first 4 hours of a day watching G&E do their thing. It only takes 30 minutes max to get a camera ready and, after that, well, you can’t just leave it by itself!
36. When a DP rescues your impossible focus pull by doing it themselves.
38. DP’s and directors who make sure you have focus marks before they’re ready to roll.
37. Tax write-offs for camera gear.
39. The ARRI Alexa’s menu UI. It’s miles ahead of anyone else in the game.
40. Cutting a take JUST before the camera rolls out on film / data.
41. Getting a gig from a DP for the 2nd time. It’s confirmation that you did a great job for them.
42. Family friends who “are into film” who are actually legitimate filmmakers/crew. Anybody can be into film with a camcorder and iMovie, but a legit contact in the industry is a bit more rare.
44. Women on set. Sometimes film crews are too manly. It’s good for everyone’s sanity to have females around in every department.
45. Extra expendables you get to walkaway with.
46. Walkies. You never realize how much it helps having walkies until you don’t.
48. The first time you saw your name listed on IMDB.
50. You — for reading all the way through this list! See something not listed here? Things that suck, things that don’t, things you wish would happen more — please share in the comments!