While the first week of Assassinaut went well, we have many challenges ahead of us and so it’s an important time for me to evaluate my job performance so far.
Part of becoming better at anything you do is being critical about it. That doesn’t necessarily mean being negative, but it does mean being honest and assessing where your weaknesses lie.
Here’s five ways I think I can do better moving forward:
1. Learn the Story
I should read the script. I meant to before I left home for the shoot, but never did. I meant to sometime during week 1, but have been busy writing posts.
I should really know the story.
This manifested itself on day 3 when, during a table conversation, a two-shot between actors was setup and I was asked to rack focus between them on their lines. I knew the lines sort-of, but take 1 was a terrible botch job of missed focus pulls. Take 2 I got better. By take 3, I felt like I could nail it.
And then there was no take 3.
I felt like I had let the director and the director of photography (DP) down even though I was assured it was about the “moments” and that between the two takes there was enough to cut with. Still, had I read the script, I could’ve anticipated my focus pulls better and delivered even better takes.
2. Address Shortcomings Openly
Being 1st Assistant Camera means you’re in charge of the logistics and managerial duties of the camera department. That involves keeping track of equipment and delegating tasks appropriately to your crew. In this case, the crew is small – me, my 2nd AC, and a DIT – so there’s not much delegating, but there are areas in which I trust my 2nd AC to take care of while I tend to things like the camera.
Not only on this shoot so far, but on recent shoots, I’ve found that when a 2nd AC doesn’t take care of something that needs to be done, I often do it myself since I’m used to crewing as the only camera assistant.
I need to address these shortcomings more openly, however, and tell the 2nd AC when something wasn’t done that needs to be or what I think he could be doing better. For instance:
- After I was told only the camera was left to grab, I found our battery chargers
- On one shot, the monitor was not hooked up even though we were close to rolling
- Sometimes I have to ask for a lens several times before it’s brought to me
None of these are terrible offenses, so it’s easy to say, “whatever” and move on to deal with the other things you’re handling, but it’s not doing me any favors and it’s not doing him any favors. We’ll work better as a team when we can address these shortcomings openly and he’ll improve as a 2nd AC when I give him that feedback.
(And I know he’s reading this now, so consider this the first batch of feedback, Will!)
3. Speed Up and Get Faster
For whatever reason, two of the Kowa Anamorphic lenses were working with (the 75mm and the 100mm) give me a hard time when mounting them on the camera and I need to be faster about it.
In general, I need to be faster. I know I can be faster, too. There are so many little things:
- Screwing the head tie-down in
- Changing lenses
- Lifting filters
- Grabbing marks
- Reconfiguring the rig for handheld
As the production ramps up, my speed needs to as well.
4. Be Less Reckless
Though I need to be faster, it should go hand-in-hand with being less reckless. It’s not like I’m throwing the camera around, but there were a few moments where I felt I could’ve been more careful.
In one case, we went to open the spreaders on the sticks and I hadn’t grabbed enough weight on the camera so it came down hard. In another instance, I didn’t disconnect the BNC cable and started walking away with the camera causing the cable to pull dangerously taut.
Speed is important, but caution is paramount. It doesn’t matter how fast you get the camera setup if you destroy something in the process.
5. Pack Lightly
We’re heading into a week full of outdoor shoots that are inaccessible by car and with our camera cart. That means we need to pack lightly. Both in my personal and professional life I’m guilty of being a pack rat and throwing things in my bags because “you never know.”
But with these locations coming up, it’s going to be crucial that we pair down the camera package as much as possible. That means I don’t need both the Cinebag toolbags I brought along. It means being judicious about which tools I really need and being comfortable leaving some behind. It means being smart about which cases to bring that can fit the most and packing them efficiently.
Doing all of that will make our lives easier for week 2 and allow the camera department to work best in the remote locations.
Week 2: Earning Our Stripes
For week 2, we’re filming an interior today (Monday) and then we’re in tall, tall grass and hot, humid weather for the rest of the week. This will be our first full week and in difficult conditions. I’m nervous, but ready. After all, there’s nothing I can do to stop the train from steaming forward.
As long as I can improve on the five areas listed above, I believe we’re in a great position to kick-ass for days 4 through 8. The first half-week went well, but it presented minimal challenges – now we have to earn our stripes.
As I always say when the DP asks me if I’m ready: “I’m ready as I’ll ever be.”