Sunday, September 7, 2008

What to Write. What to Write.

It's Sunday morning and, as I've mentioned before, blog traffic is especially light on weekends, so sometimes I feel like Sunday posts are basically wasted posts. Who's gonna see the damned thing?

The flip side is that I don't have to be anywhere this morning or accomplish anything this morning, so I've got the time to write something amazing, astounding and utterly original. And that would all be fine if I had the first idea what to talk about this morning. I contemplated the possibility of a post about Funny Blue Laws. Idea rejected based on how many other blog posts I found with a simple search for "Funny Blue Laws".

I considered posting more details about the week I just had, but there are outstanding issues that make me want to hold back those details until the week past is...past. (I considered the possibility that the first past in that sentence might have been better expressed as passed. Not sure which it should have been, but I'm sure you'll all tell me.)

I considered posting another War Story about some movie I've worked on but I'd have to search my archives to make sure I wasn't telling a story I've already told. That would take effort I'm not willing to put in at the moment.

I even considered rerunning something from my archives, but I decided I'm not allowed to run to the archives when the blog is still less than a year old. It may not be a law, but I'll obey it anyway. No re-running archival posts on blogs less than one year old. This non-law shall not apply to referring to archival posts when using said archival post as illumination for new content.

I shall now fall back on the blogger's best Ask me about...Post.

Today, I'm inviting questions about the Film Biz. Ask me anything at all. I'll admit that I only have first-hand knowledge about certain parts of the Biz, so I may not have accurate answers for every question you can think of, but I'll try. And since it's Sunday, I may not be faced with all that many questions anyway.

Have at me!


Anne C. said...

In the film biz, which is harder to work with - animals or children?

Nathan said...

Definitely children.

Animals are either trained and will do the things they're trained to do on cue, or at least they'll follow their predictable nature.

A sled-dog will run when you put him in the traces. A bird will fly to the piece of food you place on a tree-limb.

A child will pick his nose and laugh when he's supposed to cry. Children screw up their lines. Children get tired and cranky.

Lastly, there are strict rules about how long you can have a child on set depending on age. (With infants, you get something like 15 minutes.) It's a bitch to schedule kids.

Anonymous said...

Follow-up question: which are harder to work with - children or grown ups? :-) Looking for specific horror stories!

vince said...

A couple of questions:

1. Are things like catering, physical safety at locations, and such stuff part of your job description?

2. Do you have any desire to move up the food chain, say to unit production manager, or a line producer, or something along those lines?

Nathan said...


In keeping with my traditional wish to remain names.

I haven't worked with any children who were at all badly behaved, at least not the ones old enough to know better. Some of their parents, on the other hand, were particularly vile individuals. One mother who was particularly annoying capped off all of her bad behavior by dumping an ashtray in the trash in her kid's trailer without making sure all the butts were out. The trailer burned to the ground overnight.

Another actor was a particular pain in the ass to everyone. We showed up one morning to shoot a scene that included 400 extras and 20 picture cars. There was a standing rule that no-one would have any cameras on set when he was working. One guy, who had been shooting some behind the scenes video, heard this actor being called to set and obediently stopped shooting and went to put the camera back on his truck. Said actor saw the camera (lens facing down with the lens cap on), pitched a fit and immediately went home for the day. We had to shoot the scene over the shoulder of his stand-in so that we didn't waste the day with all of the extras and then we had to add a day of shooting to get his face in his parts of the conversation. On another occasion on the same movie, we had shot all night and were getting the last shot before the sun came up. All this actor had to do for the shot was pretend to be using a crowbar to pry open the front door of an apartment building (the lock was rigged open). He did two takes, both of which looked really cheesy and on the third take, decided he was ready to go home. Instead of prying open the door, he smashed the glass and reached in to "unlock" the door. No glass in the door? That's a wrap.

Guess who had to work 5 more hours to wait for the glass company to come repair the door?

BTW, this actor has worked behind the camera since then and I hear that he's a gem to work with now.

Nathan said...


#1. Safety on set: I need to make sure that the location doesn't have hazardous conditions, (asbestos, lead dust, etc.) or to make sure that any structural problems are dealt with (make areas off limits, have something repaired). There are overlapping areas of who is responsible for set safety. The Key Grip is responsible for making sure all equipment is being used safely. The Stunt Coordinator, the First A.D. and I overlap when it comes to safely doing stunts, (i.e. safety for the stunt players, the crew, and for the public).

Craft Service and Catering used to be the Location Manager's responsibility, but the UPM has taken that on over the years. I used to hate being responsible for dealing with the food. Pleasing 100 or more people every day is mostly impossible and I love being able to point a finger to someone else when the whining starts.

#2. I definitely aspire to UPM and/or Producer (I've done both on smaller/lower budget productions). With the variety of responsibilities a Location Manager has, I think it's the best training for those jobs. On the other hand, responsibility for the catering would fall back into my lap. :(

Nathan said...

Rhetorical or not, I'm here to serve.


You're welcome.

Nathan said...




Anonymous said...

How about production assistants? Office and location. Do you interact with them? Boss them around? Ignore them?

This is for research on a real work-in-progress, not just me being a smart-ass. :-)

Nathan said...


All of the above.

A P.A. is, by definition, fairly new to the biz. While there are "experienced" P.A.'s, (those trying to get enough days to qualify as an Assistant Director in the DGA), there are also a lot of kids working on their first jobs. I have 5 Locations P.A.'s working for me right now. I interact with them; I boss them around; I ignore them. (The ones I ignore are the clueless ones that I haven't bothered to replace yet.)

The Office P.A.'s (at least on this show), are amazing. They come up with anything you ask them for about ten minutes after you ask them for it. This is not usual. The Set P.A.'s are the normal mixed bag ranging from one who will be selling aluminum siding next year to another who I'm sure I'll be working for by 2010.

If you have specific questions, my email is linked on my profile. Ask away (as many times as you like).

Anonymous said...

You know, I've never done one of those "ask me anything" posts because my life is seriously uneventful. I'd get questions like:

"Can you explain earned value?"
"At what age did you have the sex talk with your boys?"
"What's the best part about being married to a lawyer?"

Anyway... hmmm:

What percentage of your time are you working a production vs. not? Do you ever have a hard time finding work that you'd like to do?

Do you and Anon GF ever have work conflicts, as to location, timing, brutal hours or conflict of interest?

What do you like best and least about your profession?

Lulu and Teufel: pick a favorite. ;)

Nathan said...

What percentage of your time are you working a production vs. not? Do you ever have a hard time finding work that you'd like to do?

Sadly, I spend a whole lot of time working on perfecting the dent in my couch. I've never turned down a job based on the script sucking...only because they couldn't afford me or couldn't afford what I knew it would cost to do the job. Choosing between jobs I'd like to do is a luxury I've never achieved.

Do you and Anon GF ever have work conflicts, as to location, timing, brutal hours or conflict of interest?

We worked together for a while and then decided it wasn't such a good idea anymore. If that's not the question you were asking, then, no, no conflict. I don't think either of us resent the other working long hours when that happens, but we both worry when the other is working too long. The drive home without enough sleep can be brutal.

What do you like best and least about your profession?

I like that every day is different. I hate that every day is pretty much the same. I may elaborate on that some time in the future.

Lulu and Teufel: pick a favorite. ;)

LuLu. No, Teufel. No LuLu. No, definitely Teufel. Uh, I love my little kitty children equally?

mattw said...

Even though you said you don't have the luxury of turning down work, are you well known/respected enough to not have to fight too hard to get a job you want?

Nathan said...

Matt, I've never gotten a job I tried to chase down. I still try to chase them down because otherwise I'd feel like a total sloth during downtime, but I've never actually gotten a job that way.

The way it works is that someone calls me and I'll probably have to interview for the job. They'll usually meet at least 2 or 3 people. If I was going to turn down the job, it would probably happen before I bother to interview, based on budget and pay.

I've gotten scripts that were pieces of shit, but nothing that I'd refuse to take part in because of content. I'd rather work on a good movie, but if I'm available and you want to pay my rate to make a piece of shit, then I'm your man!

Random Michelle K said...

Are there any movies that you would refuse to take part in because of content?

Nathan said...

I'm sure there is such a thing, but I haven't seen it. Odds are, though, that it would be so "out there" that it would be something being shot as an Independent with no money and that I'd have turned it down before ever seeing a script.

mattw said...

Have you ever had a job that you were sad to see completed, or are you always ready to move on once the film is complete?