Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Job

I was sweating as I took the call, and not just because I was in my AC-deprived car. I had pulled over the moment I saw it was a number I didn't recognize. 90% of the time that means it's a job. It was.

Not only a job, the Job.

Yes, one of my grip acquaintances had recommended me for an industrial shoot at a wholesale grocery up in Sacramento. As a grip/juicer.

I felt like doing cartwheels. I'd had my eye on G/E for some time.

"Sacramento, huh? Shouldn't be a problem, I'm located halfway between Sacramento and San Francisco..."
"No no, we need LOCALS"

Ugh, I hate that. People who hire crews up here are rarely from here. They don't know the area at all. And unless they have a map in front of them, I might as well be saying I live in Middle Earth.

"Nononono, I'm reaaaally close, and if it helps I went to school there, I know the area, I have friends I can stay with-"
"Okay then....so what's your rate?"

Oh. Uhhhhhh.....


Well...if I generally get paid $125/day as a PA...

"I'm sorry, did you say you are a PA? Because that's not what we're looking for..."
  
Oh shit, did I say that out loud?

"Nononono, ha ha, I used to be a PA, but I've been gripping since last summer, it's just I haven't been asked to name my dayrate in a while..."

Not quite the truth, but close.

In fact, I was taking this call while on a run for a production I was PA-ing on.

Anyways, I settled on $250 a day. As soon as I hung up I wanted to slap myself. I felt like I had lowballed myself. Turns out it was exactly what the production was willing to pay, because the other 2 guys I'd be working with were getting the same rate. I felt a little better.

Also the production was much smaller and the days much shorter than I was led to believe. A 3 person shooting crew came up from LA, there were 4 of us locals, and we never used more than 4 lights. 3 divalite Chinese knockoffs and a 1.2k HMI PAR.

The summer heatwave was in full force, and Sacramento generally gets 20-30 degrees hotter than the Bay. Fortunately we shot 90% of it inside, including scenes in the giant walk-in refrigerated room. I did not hate that at all.

The LA shooting crew were pretty easygoing. I think I only mildly annoyed one of them once, when I moved the HMI but neglected to wind the feeder cable up, leaving it trailing behind. Dumb.

The premise of the shoot was that it was some sort of promotional video for investors. "But," the director said, "Once they have the footage they can do what they want." In other words, it might end up recut and repurposed as a commercial or something else. Cause why hire another crew to shoot new footage?

I spent the downtime chatting with the other 2 grip/juicers (griptricians?) While none of us knew each other before then, after a few stories being swapped we discovered we all had mutual acquaintances.

It's a small world up here, and if it's getting smaller, I must be doing something right.

***

Anyways...I hope this is the first of many G/E jobs. I've gripped before, certainly, but it's always been on low budget shoots where I was essentially a grip-in-name-only production assistant, wearing multiple hats, being paid PA wages, or not being paid at all.

This is the first time it's been, well, pretty legit.


1 comment:

  1. Congratulations. I know -- well, I remember -- how it felt when I got my first real job as a grip (not a PA anymore), and it was euphoria. That was nearly 35 years ago, but you don't forget such moments.

    You did a smart thing in going down to that rental house (your previous post), and networking with your fellow grip-tricians on that job in Sacto. A lot of jobs come from referrals from other work-bots -- the "Oh, I know a guy who's good" kind of thing. And don't worry about low-balling yourself. Clearly your instincts were spot-on -- you came up with the exact right figure -- but even if you'd named a lower rate, the most important things right now are to get experience on the job, become familiar with the equipment and how it works, and build a good reputation in the Bay Area film community. The money will come in time, so don't worry about that. Concentrate on becoming really good at the grip-electric arts. There's a lot of crossover between grip and electric. I started out as a grip, and know several gaffers who started out in gripland, along with at least one DP -- the infamous Shane Hurlbutt, target of Christian Bale's endless tirade on Terminator 4. Someday you might have to choose between the two -- grip and electric -- but right now you need to learn it all.

    You're doing well, right on track. Keep it up.

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