Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's All About Saving Money and Trying to Get Smarter in the AM

I feel so grown up. I also feel like an advocate for the newspaper industry.

Save the Pages! Save the Pages! Now don't you yell at me because I am supporting newsprint on paper. If you drop a newspaper it doesn't crack.

Just a few minutes ago I ordered home delivery of the New York Times...7 days a's going to happen. There will be a party on my doorstep every morning as all the news from around the world arrives in a cute little bundle.

Whenever money gets tight the first thing I have always done is cut out my walk to the corner for a copy of the paper. A NYT costs just over 2 bucks in Chicago and that adds up each week. Buying the Sunday edition often felt like a guilty pleasure. That all changes now. Seven days a week costs about as much as 1 Sunday edition and 1 weekday purchase. By changing my habits, I am saving money and doing more to halt the ever-dwindling remnants of gray matter. Reading words on paper is much more pleasing to me than staring at monitor.

Ordering home delivery does feel a bit like a luxury purchase. I guess I can write it off on my taxes because I am still entertaining thoughts of trying to add the term "writer" to my job description. Hell, I'll take the term "laborer" on my job description right now! However, today I am a newspaper advocate. I'll do what I can to help the industry. Newspapers can be beneficial. Computer monitors that can lead to Facebook or Farmville or Ebay can be harmful. The thought of seeing a library full of Kindles or Ipads is disconcerting, but if everyone has some kind of "pad" will there even be a need for libraries? I'd hate to be an encyclopedia salesman right now...

Monday, April 11, 2011

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Several years ago I was walking around the rainy set of a big-budget feature with a Rigging Gaffer out of New York. We both walked in silence. I was quiet because I didn't want to bother Richie; Richie was quiet because he was trying to find a new way to run power around a little park by the Memorial Bridge. The original rig was already laid out, but since the directors had changed their minds and camera angle...again, there was more double work yet to be done. The movie was "Burn After Reading" and the Coen brothers were at the helm. Now I have always liked the Coen brothers work but I sure did witness some indecisiveness while lugging cable around their set.

The Coen brothers were quite tame, compared to other directors I have worked for and heard about, when it came to changing everything around. They were no Ridley Scott or Michael Bay who seemingly care nothing about the work the below-the-line crew put forth as directed in order to achieve the shot(s) scheduled for that particular day and time. The lack of efficiency one can experience employed on a movie set can be maddening. I have bitched myself out of working for several crews because I cannot stand to be penalized due to a lack of preparation. It's like being asked to help someone move and you show up and they have not even finished packing the boxes. To me it is frustrating as hell. Yes, on movie sets you get well paid when a bad director is at the helm; however, to me it is not worth the money. Chaos may mean cash, but I cannot let go of my anger toward some idiot getting paid a few million bucks to not know what he or she wants when they arrive on set. I often wonder how many positive results directors put in the finished version of a film after those frenetic shoots? On several occasions I have heard a DP mutter "they will never be able to use that" after film or HD cameras (which is a whole other blog to be tackled at a later date) have rolled in the 15th or 16th hour...

Sidney Lumet was well known for sticking to the notes he gave out on his scout. I learned this from Richie on "Burn After Reading." He told me stories about how he would go on scouts with Mr. Lumet and he would point at a spot and say the camera will go "there" and we will shoot "that way" and "that way." Eight months later Mr. Lumet shows up on set and the camera went "there" and he shot "that way" and "that way." Richie said it was incredible to watch him work because he knew exactly what he wanted. There was no indecisiveness on one of Sidney Lumet's sets. And I think that is really cool.

How could you not know exactly what you wanted to shoot on a film? I have dreamt about making storyboards with an artist so the crew shows up on one of my sets and the day is done within 10-12 hours. On my set everybody knew exactly what their job was and there were barbecues at the end of every shooting day because people had plenty of time to handle their other responsibilities. One of the first bits of advice I got on the first film I ever worked on was: "remember, Basil, you're not curing cancer here; you are just making a motion picture so don't go thinking you are doing something that great." Keeping people from walking through a scene on Morris Street in Oxford was definitely not some cock-of-the-walk task, but it was a hell of a lot of fun.

Working on good sets with good people is one of the most wonderful experiences in the world. Too bad there are not enough of those to go around to the masses that work in production. I don't know who the first producer was to cave in and start letting directors get away with not being prepared, but I guess that person did not care much for cost effectiveness. Said producer started a plague within the industry. ON my set things will be different! There will be preparedness, efficiency, and plenty of 10oz Budweisers for everyone!! RIP Mr. Lumet, your style, although I never knew thee, will be greatly missed.