Sunday, December 13, 2009

Prep Days

We're about to start our third week (in a split, no less) and the first one was pretty tough. What made it tougher was the lack of enough prep. I got one day. One (10 hour) day to prep two dollies and make sure all the parts were there, set up all my carts, make sure I have all my little doohickeys that I need, and put an unfamiliar dolly through it's paces. My B Camera Dolly Grip came in on his day off just to help check in the PeeWee and that helped. But after he left, it was just me. Thankfully, he had already gone through all the lumber and track earlier, so that part was done, but by the time I left Chapman and got back to the stage, there was scant time left to go through it all, prep sliders, change out wheels, and all the other little things that make Day One go so much smoother. On top of this was one really big poke in the eye- I didn't like my dolly. And it was the only one in the shop. There were over 70 something other Hustlers already rented out and I had the last one. The problem-by now a familiar one to my readers- no feather in time on the "up." The amount I had to crack the arm before it was already moving too fast was way too small and unless I cracked it painnnfullly slowly- it just started with a tiny hard start. So, the tech (who's always gone above and beyond for me) tore it down and tried to tweak it and succeeded in getting it much closer to acceptable, but I was still doubtful. The fact is, they just didn't have anything left, and my order was called in later than anyone else's. Now let me say first of all, that Chapman has ALWAYS done whatever it takes to make me happy. They've flown techs in to backwoods Mississippi in the middle of the night and torn a dolly apart on the tailgate at lunch to make the arm right. I think this was a case of not enough prep, and a last minute approval.
 I then stood around the shop while waiting on approval to add on a 3' camera offset....for two hours. So, once that was done, I left and went to the stage to try and get done what I could.
  Once the shooting started, I realized the arm wasn't going to cut it. I had to think about every boom up I did and conciously micro manage the start to keep it from jumping- a killer on the timing. After a quick phone call, a new valve was brought in and installed and now the arm is sweeet. Anyway, this all got me thinking of the importance of prep days and what problems can arise from not having enough time just to make everything right. Features are usually no problem. They generally give at least two days and I've had as much as a week before. But a crappy half day after standing around at the shop all morning just left me in a really pissy mood all week as I tried to remember where things were and trade out things I didn't need while trying to get an uncooperative arm to work right.
I know, I should be thankful I'm working, and I am. I just don't like being shortchanged and disorganized the first day.
 A year or so ago, I posted a list of things to look out for when checking out a dolly. I would like to hear some of the things you all look for on prep days.


D Eckler said...

Shoulda just rolled the Hustler from the last movie on over! That arm was like butter!

Kevin C. said...

Hey D I've been reading your posts for a while now but this my first time commenting. I actually had to request a second prep day on my last show so I could have enough time at Chapman to make sure all the parts worked with the dolly correctly. Then once i got it to stage roll the dolly around on the set floors to make sure there were no flat spots in the tires (Which has happend more than once). It would be great if they had an area at Chapman that you could check the tires there. Transpo loves having to make a second trip over (To Chapman) just to exchange a couple of tires.

Kevin C.

D said...

Hi Kevin thanks for the comments. I generally have a transpo run to Chapman a couple of weeks in anyway to swap out things I don't like or send back things I see that I won't need. I see it as part of the process.

GHB said...

Ah the prep day. The bane of my existence. I loved this post because this year I only got one - eight - hour prep day for the beginning of the first season of a new television show. That means cutting dance floor for three stages and this time I'm switching from the softer Sentra to the heavier ABS. Not my call, but there are bigger battles to fight. The problem with the ABS is that you have to re-cut three out of four of the edges to make them usable. What a nightmare. The slightest slip of the blade and the piece won't match the others and it's back to the saw. This is not a quick process if you want it done right and now, five weeks into the show, whenever there's a big hand-held scene the B-Dolly grip and I go to an empty stage, bust out the router and go back to work. Two days of prep would have fixed this, but I didn't get them. So I cut what I could and then went off to Chapman to get the dollies. Since my time was running out on my day I just picked up the dollies and the parts and hoped for the best. I had to get back to cut more floor. Now as a result of shortened prep, I have two dollies that were unchecked at the shop, parts that were unchecked and a lot of half cut dance floor. Good times!! So again, five weeks into the show I'm finding bugs in the dollies and parts and still cutting floor. But I'm sure the studio would have gone bankrupt by giving me one extra day to prep a show that will shoot for nine months and many years to come. The key grip promises to fix this issue in the future. I hope he can. I'd hate to bankrupt a studio in the process of just trying to do my job correctly and efficiently.

D said...

Story of my life dude. The want more and more while giving less and less, and the fact is, a lot of UPMs are so inexperienced (or just stupid) that they don't realize that the time you spend replacing parts, swapping out bad dollies, or holding up a shot to get a bad part to work costs more in the long run than just giving us the time we need. Films aren't made by filmakers anymore. They're made by glorified accountants with no more idea what goes on on set than a first year film student. It's a shame and a continuing frustration. Having said that,Good luck on your show! I see w're all in the same boat.