Saturday, September 17, 2011

Going Out On A School Night

  This post is for all of us who have:

Woke up in our car in crew parking.
Walked out of the bar to a pale blue sky and realized we have to be at work in an hour.
Passed out on the bed, forgotten to set our alarm, gotten a call from the Best Boy asking, "Are you coming to work today?"
Done a sixty foot, balls -out move in the scorching heat with a blinding hangover.

  I'm going to start this topic with my most cringe inducing story. Not too many years ago, I did a movie in Louisiana. The star was Denzel Washington. The whole movie was shot in and around the Shreveport area except for one location: a small town a couple of hours over the Texas line. The company decided to bus the crew there in three private coaches, where they would drop us off at our hotel. As most of you know, any time a film crew gets on any sort of mass transit, be it plane, train, or bus, liquor will flow, and hijinks will follow. As soon as we boarded and staked out our prospective seats, the coolers came open and the crew in general, and the grips and electrics in particular, began to get blitzed. We had Bloody Mary's. We had beer, We had rum. One of the grips had pineapples that he cut in half, added rum and a straw, and passed them out. So we journeyed through the afternoon, blowing off steam and getting ripped. When we got to the hotel, we all got off the bus and began looking for our respective bags. At some point, I noticed Mr. Washington's makeup artist, whom I hadn't yet met. Now this man is just one of those people who carries himself with a lot of class. He's always dressed to the nines. He just exudes dignity. Today, he's chosen an outfit of pure white silk. I, of course, have picked a Bloody Mary as my particular poison and I think you know where this is going. I marched up to this completely unsuspecting man and stuck my hand out to offer a handshake. Bloody Mary, meet white silk. I was mortified. To make a long story short, the next day, after my repeated calls and notes begging forgiveness, he gave me a big hug. To this day when I think about that moment I shudder.
   The film business lends itself to substance abuse like few other careers. You take long nights in crew hotels with a common bar in a strange town for four months, add a group of mostly youngish men and women who have spent the last twelve to fourteen hours on a set, and you've got a recipe for disaster. I've seen marriages end before my eyes. Add per diem into the mix and you can ruin your life and reputation on the company dime. Now I joke around a lot about The Captain, and I do like my liquor drink. Some of my best posts have been with The Captain's guidance. But I learned long ago when to say when. Not because I'm naturally chock full of common sense, but because I've been burned enough times to know not to get loaded and lay down on the stove anymore. So here are some other things I've learned:

Respect the eight hour mark. This is the point where you can go to bed and still get eight hours of sleep before call. Know it ahead of time and adhere to it. Party like there's no tomorrow up to it, then leave.

Know your limits. Listen to the little voice (not the one in your pants).

If you're going on location alone, and you want to stay out of trouble (whatever kind of trouble that may be), take your X Box. It's a lot easier to say no to your friends when you've got twenty more levels of Gears of War waiting on you in your hotel room.

Chasing twentysomething PA's is fun and rewarding when you're under forty. After that it's just creepy.

If they are having the wrap party before shooting is actually completed, DON'T GO. (I have a story for this one involving a DP's lovely daughter, but I won't go into it).

Take a cab. Take a cab. Take a cab.

  I hope this timely Public Service Message comes in handy to those of you not quite old enough to know better.
And now....I believe I'll have a drink.


  1. Anonymous3:21 AM

    Now you HAVE to tell us the story of the DP's daughter:-)

  2. Words of true wisdom, learned the hard way -- which, unfortunately, seems to be the only way. At this point, I think we all have the scars to prove it...

  3. I hate to say, I gave up on wrap parties a long time ago...

  4. I woke up in my hotel room in Mauritius after a wrap party with dry blood all over my pillow and a huge hangover. Went to brush my teeth and saw my whole face encrusted with blood, 2 broken teeth and a lump the size of a small egg on my head.
    No idea what happened to this day.
    Must have been a good party !!
    Oh to be thirty (or even in my thirties) again !!

  5. Stephen- Always leave 'em wanting more.

    Michael- So true.

    Azurgrip- As did I for the most part. I actually just don't go without my wife.

    Gripworks- Wow- great visual. I once woke up on the 18th green of a golf resort, totally alone with no memory of getting there. The cook woke me up as he was going to work at about 5 am. It was a good party. We later had to help the electricians move out of their house because it was destroyed in the process.

  6. Anonymous11:56 AM

    The dolly shots in the great debaters were pretty good for a hungover dolly grip...

  7. I have many similar stories but my favorite will always be the time that the entire company got thrown out of a hotel because we were just simply destroying it as the weeks went on and the owners had just had enough! That's a pretty big chunk of money to walk away from. My last image of that place was walking out to the pass van and seeing three empty kegs floating in the swimming pool.

  8. GHB- great story!
    Anonymous- (I know who you are) It was truly some of my goodest work.