You wait hours before you’re finally at the front of the line. But, really, you’ve been waiting longer than that — days, weeks, months even — just for this.
As you begin to realize the moment has arrived, your hands begin to tremble and your stomach starts to sing. You aren’t normally like this, but this time it’s different. It’s special because you want it more than anyone and you’d do anything to make it happen.
So you pick up the phone and you call the producer back, dialing each number slowly to delay the inevitable, but ready to pull out all the stops to help you actually get the gig.
Before you know it, the phone is ringing and it’s like you’re strapped in to a rollercoaster — one you’ve never been on before, one built to scare the hell out of you.
You’re Locked In, Being Pulled Up the Lift Hill
Hearing the chains of the lift hill steadily cranking the coaster cars along the track is always an adrenaline trigger.
But as scary as the lift hill is, it’s a relatively calm time on the coaster. It’s relaxing (as long as you don’t look down), it’s slow, and it’s predictable. You can’t stop the click-click, but at this point in the ride you’re optimistic and ready.
When trying to land a film gig, climbing the lift hill is akin to the initial phone call or negotiations with whomever is hiring you. The conversation is fairly relaxed, not too many hard hitting questions come out, and you’re ready and willing to do whatever.
At this point in the lifetime of landing the film gig, you and the other person are feeling each other out — like you may talk to another rider on a rollercoaster — trying to gauge your levels of experience and whether they’re one of the right people to work for.
And when you hang up the phone, you’re usually pretty optimistic. The project seems to have legs, the material is interesting, and they were genuinely impressed and willing to have you on board. You’re lulled into thinking, “Hey this isn’t so bad! And look at the view from here!”
Now, You’re at the Top of the Drop
The “clank” sound is your cue things are about to get serious — a friendly reminder that you’re not on a ferris wheel or a gondola to see the view, you’re on a massive thrill ride about to plummet into the ground.
And before you even have time to consider how high you are, you’re being hurdled at an incredible rate straight down towards the Earth.
Your vision tunnels because you can only focus on what’s ahead and you’re screaming out of fear because your body won’t let you have any other reaction.
It’s the same feeling you get when you sit down to talk with the person about their film project and they give you unfortunate news: delays, funding issues, they might be going with a different director of photography (DP) and, thus, a different you.
Suddenly, you question everything. Why did I call them again? How is this fair? Is the show ever going to happen?
As you reach the bottom of the drop, even though you know better, there’s that tiny voice echoing in your head bringing up the possibility that you might hit the ground.
And there’s nothing you can do about it.
Suddenly, the Track Smooths and You’re Heading Up
Only a split-second from the ground, you’re shoved into your seat as the track catches the car and throws it back into the air for the second hill on the ride.
You laugh and scream, amazed and impressed at the death-defying trip you just took from above the trees to under them again. Even if you aren’t scared of roller coasters, there is an instinctual relief of “I survived it.”
In terms of landing that film crew job, this is when things get back on track (pun not only intended, but applied with severity).
The DP you work for is going to be the one they go with. The funding issues have been resolved by a miracle investment. The production is delayed by a week, but no more.
It’s relieving to you because, barring a complete failure of the production to come through, you’re 98% sure you’re on board and can start planning the necessary pre-production elements. You get to help build a camera package, order expendables, and maybe even hire the rest of your department.
This is when you realize that the lift hill and subsequent first drop were worth it to help you get to where you are now.
You Travel Through the Loops and Enjoy the Ride
Now, without the distractions of screaming towards the Earth, you can relish the ride.
You go through a huge loop inversion and see the world upside down for a moment.
You turn left, then right, then left again all while traveling faster than highway speeds.
You corkscrew and barrel roll and spin and twist and turn until you’ve lost any sense of gravity — and you love it.
Some of the unexpected inversions surprise you, but you’re able to take them in stride (mostly because you have to).
In essence, you fall in love with the rollercoaster, just as you fall in love with the film industry before a job. All the opportunities lie ahead of you and you enjoy every loop, corkscrew, and turn of the process each more than the last.
Sure, camera packages get modified, scripts get rewritten, and people come and go from the project, but you’re already locked in and know you won’t be falling out. So you can let the changes lead to new opportunities.
The project takes on a life of its own and you’re excited to just have a seat on the ride.
Finally, the End Brakes Stab at the Car
…and you’re stopped. The ride itself is quiet, but the car is full of buzz and laughter from the thrill you experienced.
You take inventory of yourself — fix your hair, adjust your hat, and plain smile because you made it back in one piece.
It’s like the night before production begins and you’re organizing your toolkit, making sure everything is in order and you’re ready to go.
The ride has come to stop and is slowly moving into the station. You know you’ll have to get out and move on and you’re more than happy to. You’re ready to start work and kick ass — to feel invincible on day one. You’ve gone through the drops, dips, turns, and loops and now you can handle anything.
So you get off the ride, you look for the next tallest coaster in the park and you say, “That one’s next!”
Because while getting the job is certainly like a roller coaster, it’s production that will have the biggest drops, the scariest loops, and truly make you fear for your life. This was just a warmup.