Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Find a Door and Stand In It

Ever been to Vegas? There is a phenomenon that goes on there that I like to call the "moving block." It consists of crowds of tourists walking slowly through the casinos in throngs that take up the entire walkway as they stare about slackjawed. It is maddening. This phenomenon has a similar effect seen in film companies sometimes. Usually it shows up in one of two groups: extras, or directors and actors (there is a subgroup consisting of hair, makeup, and wardrobe and actors that I'll just assume is part of the larger groups for brevity's sake.) We've all been there. The 1st AD yells "Grip and electric's set!" then instead of actually making this so, the director decides to have a motivation conference with actors in the center of the room. Or, the extras wander aimlessly in clusters of befuddled wonderment at the frantic energy exploding around them. They seem to be deaf to calls of "Move or bleed," "Free dental work," or the ever popular, "Get the ##$& out of the way!" They'll even watch you, dumbstruck as you close in on them with a ten foot steel piece of track, wide eyed, yet unmoving as you approach.
After a couple of minutes (and a close call or two) I go to the 1st AD, who's merrily recounting some bit of tomfoolery with his 2nd and ask him to please remove the unnecessary personnel from the set. This usually works as he suddenly snaps awake and realizes that this is eating into his schedule. Unbelievably, there have been times when even this didn't work, at which point I start proclaiming loudly, "Double time's coming guys, this can take as long as you want it to." When this doesn't work, I simply go to my Key and explain the situation and tell him that I'll be sitting down on set until I have room to work without killing/maiming anyone with a piece of track. He will smile and nod. I'll pick a conspicuous place to sit down and invariably the 1st will spot me and ask if I'm laying track. I'll tell him I'm not doing anything until I have room to do it safely. This has always worked.
To me, apart from a safety issue, it's a matter of respect. When the actors and director are doing their thing I'm quiet, respectful and professional. I give them room to work. We should expect the same from them. Can you imagine who would get the boot if you happened to brain some actor in the head with an 8 footer because they were in your workspace?
Another favorite of mine is when the PA won't let you back on set. They've been told to guard the door and I've just run out to grab something and suddenly there's this 22 year old bruiser bodily stopping me (let me preface this by saying that PA's have a very difficult job and we'll all be working for them one day. I'm not talking about the veterans who are our best friends, but the newbies who haven't taken the time to learn to distinguish between the operator or dolly grip and the wandering extra) I try to explain nicely that I have to actually move the dolly during the shot and this has no effect. Depending on my mood, and what hour we're into, I'll give them a dismissive wave and brush them aside, or yell (I'm not proud of this one, but after 18 hours on day 5 you should know who everyone is).

Anyway, this is one thing that has driven me nuts for years so I thought I'd bring it up.


Anonymous said...

Here here!!


"Why don't producers ever get hurt during an earthquake?"
"Because they're always standing in the fuckin' doorway!"

Anonymous said...

story of my life!!! Don't come to this side of the earth... the extra's will give you free advise in how to's ...


Anonymous said...

I can't stand it when people stand in the doorways to talk to eachother, or in major artery's of the set. Just like you said, they see you coming, with gear, and they are deer in headlights.

Fuckin ridiculous...I've made a cognitive effort to never stand in an artery if I am not doing something.

Anonymous said...

Nowadays i can't stand P.A.s or other pople standing in my way, but when I actually started in the Business, some 16 Years ago, I did this:

I was a totally new kid on the Block, just employed by friends who started a Blocking Service.
I worked on a major movie (by german standards) as a Blocker (Traffic and Set).

The First Day somebody put me in Front of a Big metal sheet Gate and told me to let NOBODY through after the Gate is closed. After Playing Linebacker the Years before I took that order serious!

So I Blocked that door for a while as suddenly the main actor stood in front of me and wanted to pass the just closed gate. I told him to wait until they opened that door again. He begged me and said they need him inside, to no avail (I think my gameday face made him give up). Finally he took the other route around the building to the Backdoor into the Set (Instead of 10m, this took him 200m).
After I saw the actor running away I thought maybe I did the wrong thing but it was too late...

Luckyly for me nobody was really angry about it, it was a big laugh at the Tailgate Beer hangaround at Wrap.

Some years later I met that actor again and we laughed alot about my blocking technique...

Greetz Dan