Next Monday and Tuesday, we do our Tech Scouts in order to be ready to start shooting on Tuesday, September 2nd. A Tech Scout is where every department head on the movie (Sound Mixer, Gaffer, Key Grip, etc. about 20 people), goes to see every location we're using for the movie. The Director or the 1st A.D. walks everybody through what we'll be shooting there, any time constraints, etc. Then each department head walks over and figures out what they'll need to get the job done. Electric may need a day to pre-rig. Grip may tell me they need a crane on the street. I'll get notes from every department telling me stuff I need to arrange for them to be able to do their jobs.
It is most helpful to have all of your locations lined up before going on the Tech Scout. I don't. I'm missing a couple of key locations...one of them because we've changed what the location needs to be and at another time where the location needed to be. I don't feel bad about this one. We'll soldier on and find it in the next couple of days. The other is a location that, quite frankly, I would have figured we'd have a bazzillion choices for. Not so much. What's out there is Ugly, Ugly, Ugly. And the place we need, has to be modern, but warm and inviting. I'm seeing a lot of them that look like the courtroom from Judgment at Nurenburg. Not so much with the modern, warm and inviting.
And then, today, I get an email from the facility manager at one of our locations telling me that our filming request has been denied. I'll be honest. My radar was tweaking a few weeks ago that maybe these folks didn't get it. They were upset over how many times we were visiting (three) and wanted the details about what we wanted to do there. I tried to explain that it took three visits just to choose a place. (First I send out scouts to lots of places. Then we narrow things down from the photos and the Production Designer and I go visit the shortlist. Finally, we'll take the Director to only 2 or 3 choices. He'll decide on that scout and I'll get enough information about what he wants to do there to put together a letter detailing what we want.) And usually the person who will show us around a potential site has the knowledge or authority (or both), to tell us if we're looking at something that just isn't feasible. This place was sending us around with a Security Guard (who we paid for and who got lost on his own facility).
I'm trying to get my foot back into the door, but we're looking at some of the places we didn't originally choose. Losing a location at this point really sucks.
I'm also having trouble with staff. I may have mentioned that I hired one scout a few weeks ago. (His business card says "Location Manager"). This kid was clueless. I've showed you before how we photograph locations with "pans". That's just the standard way everyone does it. It shows you geography. Clueless-boy said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah...I'll shoot pans." Turns out he didn't know what pans are. He kind of shot a bunch of singles that would have been the components of a pan, but since he didn't have any software to stitch them together, that was pretty useless. I let him go after 4 fruitless days of trying to teach him (and giving him the software). He sent me a passive/aggressive email "thanking" me for the learning experience and then proceeding to tell me about the fifty or so commercials that have been very happy with his work. Asshole! (Footnote: He filled in all of his paperwork wrong and won't be paid until he comes in and corrects it. He filled in his "kit rental" form perfectly. This is fine, but he's not eligible for a kit rental.)
I had another guy who just didn't show up to work yesterday. For the first hour or so, I just thought the train from New Jersey was fucked up. Then I started to get concerned. I had left a couple of messages on voice mail by then. I'm friends with his brother (who I couldn't get on his phone), so I sent an email around 11:30 am saying I was concerned and did he know any other way to reach his brother. I kept trying to call him, but not wanting to freak anyone out, I held off on calling his "In Case of Emergency Number" (his parents) until around 4:00pm. I was ready to send someone to his apartment and get the Super to open the door. I was assuming that he must be lying in a coma somewhere...or some other awful thing. His father called me back about a half-hour later to tell me he was fine and would be contacting me himself shortly. It's been about 30 hours since that call, and in spite of a couple of messages from me, he still hasn't called to explain himself.
Here's the thing. I had no idea this guy was unhappy. No idea at all. In fact, the last conversation I recall having with him at the end of Friday was to tell him that the shots he had re-done of a location were much better and to let him know the one thing more he could do to make them perfect. Even if I had known he was unhappy, it would have never occurred to me that he'd do something as completely unprofessional as to just not come to work and to refuse to answer his phone. No, someone who doesn't come to work and doesn't answer their phone must be lying in a ditch somewhere. I didn't even start to get pissed until about 7:00 last night.
Now, I'm really pissed.
Last bitch. Next time you watch a movie, look for the shot on the front of a newspaper of one of the characters, or the family photos with the characters on the walls, or the shot of the drivers license with the characters picture on it. Those photos have to be shot before you can shoot the scene that includes the photo. (Duh!) We usually have a still photographer do a lot of these in the days leading up to the first day of filming so the Art Department has time to produce whatever the shots are needed for. Remember I showed you my office a few weeks ago? It turns out that my office's size, and lack of windows makes it perfect to do the stills shoots. So my boss wants me to turn it over to the Stills Guy for the last three days of Pre-production. Yeah, that's a great idea. When I'm cranking at 100 miles per hour trying to get ready for day one; when I've got my entire staff assembled; when I've got all of our supplies being bought (and they have to go somewhere), that's when I'll just break up my happy little group, move into a bunch of smaller offices where I have to go down the hall to talk to any of my people and have everything lined up just hunky-dory for day one of shooting.
I may be more pissed off now than I was when I started this post.