onions are trifling as fuck though especially in cooked food bc you can’t really see them so you think ur good but then you feel that crunch when ur chewing and then ur life is over
You’re right. In the union world, 12 hours is not norm for turnaround (although it’s often a goal). But there’s things that compensate that. Overtime, for example… better wages… the promise of benefits… weekends off… compensation for 6th day… meal penalties… etc.
We’re lucky if we see OT on the indie scale. So 12 on/12 off is definitely a goal because many non-union crew will stop at 12 on a show if they consistently go over 12. You’re working for free after 12 hours and many productions don’t put a cap on how long the days are. I’ve been a crew member on days that went 16+ hours several days in a row and by the end of that week, half the crew was threatening to quit.
These ARE things production can control. It’s up to producers and directors and their ADs to provide a work environment that’s safe. One long day here and there, or long days at the end of a week happen and most people, even on the indie level, are ok with that as long as they know going into it. Sometimes you have to shoot out an actor, sometimes you have to shoot out a location or a certain piece of equipment. Sometimes weather happens and everything gets delayed. These are all legit reasons to go long and crews (and cast) are usually ok with these reasons. But there are many shows on the indie level that disrespect the time of their crews and force many long days over and over again without much rhyme or reason.
There’s a difference between a production being “tough”(like the one I worked this fall where the logistics were very difficult and it took LOTS of planning to make the days run remotely smooth) and ridiculous (like the one I worked where the director couldn’t make up his mind about anything and the producer didn’t care and a car crashed on set, almost killing half the crew in the process, because of the director’s unchecked behavior - on top of days constantly going over 12 with no OT or second meal to speak of while out in the middle of nowhere). Tough is normal. Our jobs are difficult. We, as production people, should do what we can to not make that worse and make it a pleasant experience for everyone.
Currently I’m set PAing on a rather large production. Ok, the largest production I’ve ever worked on. It’s nice to step out of ADing indie features for a moment and just watch and learn (and stand for 16 hours a day telling everyone when we’re rolling).
One of the things I’ve been able to really observe since I’m not running around in the thick of it all is all the many ways crew and cast members piss off the ADs. This seems to be a universal gripe list, at least for where I’m currently situated on the Third Coast.
Some of these may be done intentionally, because let’s be honest, the ADs walk around as large moving targets for crew to hunt down with every complaint they can come up with. But some of these you may not even realize you’re doing. Regardless of intent, these are the things you guys do to us that pisses us off.
10. Loiter on the set after lunch is called/not get into the lunch line in a timely fashion.
You may not understand why it’s so important for us to usher you to the mess hall, but we have an obligation to make sure we’re not wasting a single minute of the day. Unless you tell us not to count you towards Last Man, please hold off on lengthy errands until after you’ve gone through the lunch line.
9. Talk down to or ignore the PAs.
Ok, we get it. They can be annoying sometimes. And a lot of PAs are quite green to the production world. You were once that person. Maybe you were lucky and jumped right into your preferred position pretty quickly, but there’s an old saying about being polite since everyone is fighting a hard fight. Take this to heart when dealing with the PAs. They were there before you were and they will be there after you’ve signed out. They put up with a lot of bullshit and sometimes they’re already assigned to a particular task or lookout they can’t step away from. They are either chastised from you or the 1st AD and they’d rather be chastised by the 1st AD. Give them some benefit of the doubt, don’t assume they know absolutely nothing, and just try to be polite, compassionate, and patient when requesting the services of one.
8. Talk over the walkie when rolling.
OMG. Did you not hear the announcement over the walkie of “roll sound”? Or how about the fifteen PAs yelling it right next to your taco cart? Please please please stay off the walkie during rolling. That’s a guaranteed way to make a patient 1st AD lose his/her shit the moment cut is called.
7. Ask the 1st AD why something is scheduled the way it is.
This happens all the time. All the time. No matter how awesome the schedule is. There’s always one crew member who wants to smugly ask the 1st AD why a location isn’t being shot out all at once or why they’re not shooting out by angle. Any 1st AD worth their weight would be scheduling to shoot out locations/angles/special equipment altogether. It’s just not that simple. There’s so much that goes into scheduling that most crew members never even think about. Unless your 1st is a total rookie or just a D-string only called in for microbudgets or absolute total fucking emergencies, don’t assume the 1st didn’t already try to schedule out these things together. Our job is to make the best schedule we can with the elements we have. That is not your job. Or else you’d be 1sting. Your department head will have made suggestions to the schedule during pre-pro and will be constantly working to make sure the 1st AD is keeping their department’s needs in mind when making scheduling changes. You wouldn’t like it if I was constantly asking why you were rigging a lighting set up a certain way or picking a certain color scheme for the set, please don’t do the same to me.
6. Panic over the walkie.
I’m going to preface this first by saying that I am totally guilty of this too. And it sucks when I find myself doing this. My 2nd will usually call me out on this when it happens (which, thankfully has been less and less with my experience building). But man is hearing a screeching freaking out voice the worst over the walkie. The absolute worst. I know when I’m doing it, I’m pissing off the entire set because when it’s done to me, that person is pissing off the entire set. It’s a shitty snake-eating-its-own-tail scenario, so let’s all try to check ourselves on this behavior and keep the screeching/panic over the walkie to a minimum.
5. Getting annoyed with us or our PAs when we request ETAs.
The “it’ll get done when it gets done” mentality is not the best way to answer an AD who’s clearly pressed for time and trying to give the director an accurate assessment of how long a shot’s going to take. Sometimes, we are asking this because either you or your department is notorious for giving out unrealistic ETAs on tasks or we’re trying to determine whether or not the task you’re doing is worth the time it’s going to take. Sometimes, a director is willing to compromise or get rid of altogether a request they’ve made on a particular department based simply on how long the task will take. Paired with the fear of losing shots due to long set up times, a director often requests ETAs to feel secure about their requests on a particular department. Also, how many times have you told an AD that it would be 5 minutes and then 10 minutes later, you are still telling us it’ll be 5 minutes? Don’t do that. Then we’ll REALLY be on your ass about ETAs.
4. Not settling down when it’s time to settle down.
We don’t like sounding like your parents telling you to go to sleep on a school night and you don’t like being treated like a 10 year old with a curfew. So why the hell do we get the stink eye when we ask you all to settle down for a shot? We give plenty of warnings (usually) and have a whole process of calling roll developed so you know when it’s time to be quiet. Carrying on conversations/making loud noises/answering your cellphone/stomping towards crafty while we’re trying to quiet folks down during rolling is a surefire way to make the PAs feel like shit and the ADs request a word with your department head. Be respectful of the set. We don’t want to go all Kubrick and shoot 130 takes of a shot because you can’t keep still. And yes, we can totally hear you whispering on the mics. You’re not a sound person, so don’t assume their mics aren’t picking up your potato chip bag rustling or your desperate attempt to wrap out a 4 ott cable to get a one minute head start on wrap out. Just be quiet when we’re rolling. It’s just common sense.
3. Telling us you’re ready when you’re clearly not.
This is something DPs like to do. And I’ll never understand it. We get the shit end of the stick for being the folks to tell you it’s time to stop tweaking and start shooting. But nothing annoys me more than telling me you’re ready to shoot and then clearly not being done with whatever you’ve assigned your team to do. Even worse, waiting until the last possible second to make a tweak that ends up killing another 5 minutes. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready. That’s fine, but you make yourself look bad whenever you say you’re ready to shoot and they’re clearly still working.
2. Ignoring the call sheet.
The call sheet is a wonderful invention some genius came up with many moons ago to ensure ADs of future generations would not have to spend every night of a production answering basic production questions from 100+ crew members and god knows how many cast members. The call sheet is the most handy dandy thing you’ll be handed all day and there’s a lot of sweat, tears, and even some blood that goes into creating one every day. So when you can’t be bothered to look at the info on the callsheet to know what time your call is, what scenes we’re doing, where we are filming the next day, etc. etc… that’s like killing a piece of our souls. Every time you stop and ask an AD about information that’s on the sheet you’re holding in your hands, god kills a kitten. No joke.
3. Not listening to anything we’ve called out, announced, or personally discussed.
You’d think this wouldn’t happen on a professional production. You’d think people were pretty clear that when the 1st AD is calling out information, they would stop, shut the fuck up for a second, and listen to what’s happening next/safety announcement/scene announcement/etc. And yet, there’s always a couple who walk right by when you’re talking to the crew about the shot and those few will inevitably ask you (usually in a flustered and slightly annoyed way), “what way are we looking?/What shot are we on?/What scene number is this?/Dude, I didn’t hear about having that ready!/Insert other inane questions and statements that can be prevented by listening to the 1st AD here.” Yes, there are some ADs that are pretty bad at announcing what’s going on and yes, there are times when we don’t even know what’s going on. But 9 times out of 10, when information doesn’t get passed down the line, it starts with a crew member who simply just zoned out during the 1st AD’s announcement. Our jobs are hard enough, please try to stop for a second and listen to what we’re saying. It’ll often save you a shit ton of time and help keep you somewhat sane in this crazy industry.
Please take heed of these things and try to be understanding when dealing with your AD team. Even making small steps to acknowledge when you’re exhibiting these habits and then trying to fix this behavior will make your ADs ten times more grateful and willing to help you out when the time comes that you need their help (and you will).
And before you all get pissy about this… my next article will be able the things ADs do that annoy the piss out of crew members. We’re certainly no strangers to fucking it all up.
Until next time, happy filming and READ YOUR DAMN CALLSHEETS!
I’d demand that the production hire another 2nd and relocate the original person or name them an associate producer for bringing in the location. That is totally ridiculous that they hired the 2nd ahead of the 1st and never ends up working out. Also, you NEED a real 2nd. I can’t emphasize this enough. I get really frustrated with productions that don’t shell out for legit 2nd ADs. I don’t have the time to train people on a position that needs experience and finess to work out properly.
If the production refuses to hire a real 2nd, this could be indicative of bigger problems within the production itself… use caution.
It’s weird. In Texas, I see a lot of female ADs. like a LOT. DGA and non-union. Maybe it’s a Texas woman thing? I’m from New England, though, so that negates that. I understand this is uncommon outside of my small portion of the world. I’ve actually worked with a female producer who said I was the first female 1st AD she had ever hired and she works regularly in LA.
I think maybe a lot of women in the industry see producing as a means of getting ahead as opposed to positions such as ADing or UPM or hell, even directing. Producers are the most powerful people in the industry and many women who get into filmmaking in general exhibit the alpha female mentality. Producing satisfies that mentality while also being creatively rewarding at the same time. You are both a power player AND you get to enjoy the glitz and glam of it all if your film succeeds. ADs and UPMs hardly ever get recognized for their work -both technical and creative- which steers many folks - especially women - away from these positions. Lots of hard work with very little physical reward.
Personally, I don’t care for the monetary elements of producing, which keeps me away from being a regular producer most times. I love ADing because I was always the bossy girl on the playground who loves being involved with everything and everyone all at once - and having control of it. The reward comes from facilitation for me, but I know thats not how a lot of people work.
I’m sure there’s some amazing theses being written as we speak about this subject.
Exactly how you did it. They may get annoyed, but they have a job to do. And producers will get more annoyed when the days aren’t getting done because the director is chatting more than directing. Your job as 1st AD is to help create an environment for the director to direct. And sometimes that includes directing the director to direct. Keep them on task - politely of course - and they’ll be all smiles when they watch the dailies.
There’s no established rate for 1st ADs outside of the DGA. We kind of make our own rates based on our living situation/quality of living we’d like to maintain. I have a standard that I care not to discuss here, but then I also have a friend only rate and also a special rate for out of town shows, very difficult shows, or shows in which I’m working way more hours than normal.
Ok, with minors, it gets a little hairy. 15 year olds are rated on an 8 hour work day, INCLUDING travel to and from the set. And they can’t work past 10PM on a weeknight (although there’s a lot of verbal agreement with parents here in which many kids indeed do stay past 10PM any night). You’re going to want to plan around the 15 year old’s schedule the most.
As for crew, for an indie/non-union, a 12 hour day is pretty standard. BUT this should include travel to and from set as well as set up and wrap out time. This can also be very difficult when you’ve got 5 pages to shoot out in a remote area of your state that takes 3 hours to get to. Every situation is different. Do what’s best and safest for the crew. You dont want them working a 16 hour day and then having to drive home an hour in pitch dark. That can be dangerous for everyone.
DP is above, ADs are below.
I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a full-fledged article here. I’ve been insanely busy and unable to really process what I’ve been dealing with. It’s all been good work recently and that’s part of what is driving this article. Most of the features I’ve AD’d in the past two years have made strong social commentary and respected the subjects and the cultures they describe. I’ve been fiercely proud of these films, which range in various social topics and are dealt in many different ways. Not only are these films beautiful, entertaining, and tell a great story… they also have a message, not just a personal one, but a powerful worldly message worth discussing. These films were not afraid to make people uncomfortable while also being great films. Well rounded cinema, I like to call it.
Going a few years back, however, I’m particularly disturbed by one project I AD’d that was a total clusterfuck on all ends. I won’t say names since it won’t do anything except cause more unnecessary damage. However, this is a project that has plagued me and almost ruined my career due to the carelessness and callousness of many many people. It has recently dawned on me why this film still angers me to think about outside of the normal bitterness left over from a fantastically failed production. This particular film not only was a disaster on the production level, it also was exploitative as hell on a total non-fun level.
Here’s the generic premise: horror film based on the tragic after-effects of post-Katrina New Orleans. Post-Katrina New Orleans. This in and of itself is rich with social commentary and stories to tell and yet, the story told here had nothing to say. It was simply exploiting a totally shitty situation without a single nod of respect towards the people who lived through it (and are still living through it) and the environment in which the film plays.
I’ll never forget the day we all stood in the 9th Ward scouting for locations. People on porches nearby stared at us, a group of mostly white folks from out of state (and clearly so), talking about how amazing the area was for filming. I felt grossed out then and I feel really grossed out about it now. The 9th Ward is still essentially a third world country. The smell of mold still hangs in the air. Xs are still spray painted on buildings indicating the date searched and the number of dead found. The look of despair on the locals’ faces is not an act given by a director, but a real emotion these people face everyday.
I cried that night. I cried pretty much everyday on that show. But that particular session was just an empathetic release. I couldn’t imagine having to go through that. And when I thought about how we as a nation dealt with Katrina, it just made me cry even more.
Shooting a horror film there was like a final kick in the remaining teeth. And I was at the helm of that.
Part of it was my fault for taking on a project as such. I had no idea we’d even go that far as to shoot in the 9th Ward. When it came down to it, I actually sent a B-Unit to film those shots and stayed downtown filming in the French Quarter because I simply couldn’t face going back there and rolling footage for something that would absolutely do nothing to raise awareness of the situation. In the end, there we were, a bunch of privileged white kids who have never experienced anything even remotely as traumatic shooting a film that practically laughs at everyone in that situation.
It was fucked up. It’s still fucked up.
But we can do something about this. We can do better. We can make better movies.
As we step forward into a media fueled future, we need to understand how powerful our jobs are as storytellers. Storytelling has shaped every society since the dawn of time, carrying along morals and traditions and new ideas. Whenever we put the pen to the paper and start building our new characters and plotlines, we’re also potentially shaping the minds of millions through our story. We may not save human lives and find the cure for cancer, but we do help create stories that will live on until we destroy the earth or the sun destroys the earth. Don’t believe me? How long have people been using the Bible as a means of moral storytelling? Or how about Aesop’s fables?
We need to make more films that say something. There’s millions of empty popcorn flicks that take culturally rich situations and people and do absolutely nothing with them. There are so many filmmakers who float through their careers without actually saying a damn word and that’s a shame. We hold in our hands one of the most powerful tools storytelling has ever seen and we squander it on a daily basis. Stop doing this. If someone invests in your movie, make that movie count. There’s many who will just throw it away for you, be the one person who actually says something that sticks.
I sometimes wish I had the stomach to write a story based in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. By all means, it is a fantastic storytelling platform. You could make commentary on everything from urban development to race to class to patriotism to survivalism. The people who still remain there and the people who fled from there all have much to say about it and putting any one of those stories into a fictional narrative would open up so many people to what has happened/is happening down there. We have many documentaries but hardly any narratives that people could grab onto and share with their friends and families. We need to be using these places not for mindless generic plotlines, but for crafting modern fables people can share through the future generations.
I challenge each and every one of you reading this to say more with your projects. I challenge myself to say more with my projects. Ignore the glitz and glamor of production value and named actors and luxurious locations… the core of filmmaking is telling a story. If you don’t have a real story to tell, all the realistic blood and gore means jackshit. Spend your money and time saying something and the rest will fall into place.
When we haven’t quite perfected a camera move and the first AD is hassling me to buy the last take.
Fuck that you’re not. We’re done when I say moving on. Which is now. Not my fault your AC can’t keep focus. Plan an easier move next time. NEW DEAL!
I’ve definitely been on narrative film sets where we’ve had rained out days that we’ve had to make up somewhere else in the schedule, but I’ve not worked on a commercial that was rained out. Also, I work in Austin which has 300 days of sunshine a year (although it is positively POURING outside right now!). As for weather insurance, I feel like that question is better geared towards a producer or a UPM. I’ve never personally dealt with any sort of weather insurance and I’m not sure if general liability covers weather damage (I’m pretty sure it does). Good luck!
OMG IT'S A FILM PRODUCTION BLOG
Assistant Directors don't always yell. Sometimes we write about stuff. Because I'm a workaholic, I sometimes feel the need to document the things I see and the questions that are raised while going through the most insane process of making a director's dreams come true. About me: My name is Michelle. I am a (currently) non-union First Assistant Director working out of Austin, TX. I hope to one day join the DGA and direct my own scripts on the side, but until that time comes... Got questions? Comments? Complaints? A project you want me to AD? (I'm cheap!) Email me at - email@example.com You can also find me on the good ol' twitter - twitter.com/m0thra
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