First I wanna just say that for the entirety of my blog up until this very post I was living at home. Yep, me, a 26 year old college grad forced to move back in with his parents. I talk to many people who claim it was their first gig ever that got the ball rolling for them, and a year later they're a mainstay on all the major film and tv productions that come through town. Me, I spent 4 years toiling in unpaid indies and low-paid reality, with numerous false starts along the way. I still check the local crew gigs section on the list of Craig everyday. I will be forever grateful to my parents who gave me the opportunity to pursue my dream without a single word of discouragement or even a suggestion that I should maybe get a day job until my prospects improved. My first year out of college, when I decided I wanted to do this and nothing else, I worked a grand total of 3 days. The next year I wanna say I worked at least 30 -- 20 of which were unpaid. The next year probably at least 6 weeks. Lately I've been measuring my workload in months. It's been a difficult road, but I'm getting there.
Last March I mentioned how I got a PA gig with a local production company (which shall remain nameless) that produces a number of scripted cable shows. I said it was my dream job. I actually used that term! I guess I was just blinded by the awesomeness of 8 solid weeks of work. Don't get me wrong, it worked out - and then some. A month later they geared up for another show and I was back - 8 more weeks, and this time I was in Art Department. I hit it off with the Art guys and early this year I came back again for another 8 weeks, as Prop Master.
In all likelihood they'll be asking me back August through October.
...and I'm thinking of saying no.
Here's why. The hard truth is, the productions are garbage. I kinda glossed over it I guess, or maybe I just had my rose-tinted glasses on, when I called it "scripted TV."
They're semi-scripted. Okay, it's a reenactment show. Fine, it's goddamn murder porn - yes, South Park made an episode ripping my livelihood to shreds. So yeah, for the past year I've been doing those wonderful true-crime recreation docudrama things that air on Discovery and TLC and have names like Sex Sent Me to the ER and Southern Fried Homicide.
Dream job. Right.
Okay, I love the crew, we're like family. Great people, we work fast together, and the only time tempers flare is when somebody tries to debate the 2nd Amendment with our Gaffer. But at the same time, the shot-callers at the office run us ragged, we work out of shitty Enterprise rental trucks that production re-rents each season (even though they could have purchased a whole fleet by this point). I injured my knee because the shitty 5-ton's lift gate kept dying every 20 minutes so I just took to jumping off the back of the truck if I needed to run something to set quickly. In Art Department we didn't even have a cart to carry our stuff with. We hand carried bins and crates to and from set. It becomes stressful and maddening quickly. It made absolutely no sense that production wouldn't pony up just the little extra dough for a cart to make our lives 100% easier and the day go considerably faster. (They eventually did. On week 7 of 8.)
We also shoot episodes back to back. Which means there is zero time between the last shot of one episode on Friday and the first of the next the following Monday. That meant on Monday we have to find the time (on top of what we are currently shooting) to empty the truck of last week's props and set dressing and load in the current week's.
I can't imagine this is the standard practice. You need things like prep days (weeks?). And swing crews? And maybe you're not sharing a truck with 3 departments? Right?
So anyways, I'm probably gonna get the invite to do props again next month. And I'm not entirely sure I want to. Besides the obvious financial benefit to 3 months of work, I just seriously doubt that sticking with this group is gonna advance my career in any way. If anything, it'll just result in more work with the same production company and on the same level of productions. I've already given a year to the company and it hasn't opened any doors really. And I'm not sure I want to spin this wheel again.