Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Letting It Go

  I once had a camera operator ask me how many takes before I start to sweat. I honestly have no idea what my answer was. At the time we were both under the thumb of a particularly dictatorial DP (think Captain Bligh, or Humphrey Bogart's character in The Cain Mutiny). This guy just couldn't be pleased and alternated takes between screaming at him, and screaming at me, a peculiarly ineffective leadership style. It does bring up a topic for a post, though: letting go of your mistakes.
  This was always a hard one for me. I tend to beat myself up for mistakes. I will hang on to them way too long if I allow it. It's in these times that the words of a great old DP come back to me, "D, sometimes you just have to say f*#@k  'em."
  In a lot of ways you have to be like a quarterback. Sooner or later, you're going to throw an interception. You may even throw one that results in the other team running it back for a touchdown. But you have to let it go. The next play is a brand new one and you can't be effective with the memory of that spectacularly bad pass weighing you down. This is one of the reasons I always say that TV is the best training ground for a Dolly Grip. It's fast and there's little room for mistakes. If you don't get it by the third take, you don't get it. If you consistently don't get it by the third take (unless it's an extremely technical move of some kind, with a three-axis Lambda, a 360 degree pan and three booms while crawling on the floor to stay out of reflection) they are probably going to start looking for another Dolly Grip. Lucky for me (heh heh) I've been doing mostly TV for the past three years. And I enjoyed it. It was a challenge every day, and it taught me that the previous fifteen years of big fancy features had made me soft. I didn't get three rehearsals and six takes to get a shot in a two page day. I got to lay a dance floor, get the master and most of one side in two or three takes, while mentally working out where and how much floor I would need for the other side as we worked our way through a seven page day. And I learned that if I made a mistake to let it go. Luckily, most of my mistakes were in execution, not in setup, which would have taken a lot longer to correct. Sometimes you'll miss a boom or have a bad sitdown, but it takes a long time to re- lay a floor because you calculated wrong, or forgot which side the eyeline was on and just didn't lay enough. But every now and then that will happen, and when it does you will feel like a complete dumbass. Let it go.
   The truth is, most mistakes are quickly forgiven, unless you're working for a jackass like we were. Usually, you are your own worst enemy. It's easy to let the pressure get to you. Unlike most other departments, you've got at least four people depending on you (focus puller, camera operator, DP, director). Learn to let it go.


Nathan said...

OK. I'm dying to know.

If I go ahead and send that emaile to f*#@k, who gets it?

D said...

Honestly Nathan, for some reason it made itself a link. I'm curious to know myself.

The Grip Works said...

I just hate working with DP's or operators who are like that. It just makes the job unnecessarily unpleasant, especially because it is at least 12 hours in a day that you need to take this BS.
I worked for a condescending prick on a movie I did last year. We shot in Thailand, Greece and Turkey. there were 15 shoot days left, (of 114) and this guy just woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day, and was just digging into me and the gaffer.
We had a GF 9 crane built on platforms on cliffs hanging over the Aegean sea.
It just got to me, and at lunch time I walked upto him, handed him my tool belt and said "You do it" and I left set took a taxi to the pier and went scuba diving.
He met me later that evening at the hotel and apologised.
I was shocked. I fully expected to be fired, which I would have preferred I think.
Turns out he was just nervous about being left in the hands of the Greek grips, who spoke almost no english. Never worked with him again - mutual i think.

Wick said...

D, another great post.

Live TV really teaches you you to let go in a hurry. If you miss a mark or a move, or a chance at a better shot, everybody on the crew sees it live, as does everybody watching the show. Worrying about it or obsessing about it means you'll miss the next one coming up too.


D said...

Thanks Wick. You are of course correct.
Sanjay- Great story! I hope to do something similar one day. The older I get the more likely it is!

gillard said...

I bet there must be a lot of these stories about working with a screamer. But if you ever get to that point where you want to quit cause the DP is an idiot. Ask him, "did a dolly grip once F@#k your wife". I used that one. Only once. I continued, "because that's the way your treating me". The look on his face was priceless. He left me alone and actually we hit it off after that. Glad it worked out the way it did. Sure it could have went the other way. Just be prepared to leave cause it just ain't worth dealing with dicks!