Me looking thrilled.
You know when you watch some behind-the-scenes thing for a movie or TV show and they have the guy with the slate who goes, “Scene 201 – take 1!” and then claps the sticks? For years, I was that guy.
To an outsider, it would seem like an easy job, but clapping the slate is the only thing people see. In truth, like most jobs in the film biz, it was earned by the right mix of diligent persistence, busting my ass, and seized opportunity. Everyone says that they want to be in the “industry” but most lack the tenacity to keep at it through the coffee-getting years.
People say they work 70 hours a week, but when you examine their days, there’s a lot off sitting on their asses, “social networking,” and just plain lies. Film production budgets are based on 12 hour work days(or longer). Since they’re renting the studio, trucks, generators, cameras, and lighting equipment, they’re going to squeeze out every drop of the work day. This means REAL 70 hour weeks on your feet the whole time(every day is behind schedule), 9 hour turnarounds(when you leave work, you have to be back there 9 hours later), and shitloads of money. All the overtime works out to a nice check on Friday and since you’ve been on set all week, you haven’t spent a dime.
When I was a hungry youth, after years of doing other union film crafts, someone finally gave me a shot in the camera department. I knew a producer on a kids’ TV show that was crewing up. The city was busy, so even though I lacked experience in the field, they were willing to hire me. This also meant that I would be working with a 5th-string camera crew instead of the normal first-call guys. I was eager to learn, but circumstances made learning difficult. There’s not much information you can soak in when the people who surround you are terrible at what they do. My immediate boss was this 67 year-old Camera Assistant named Sal. Before he got the call for the kids’ show, he probably worked 30 or so days a year. Now we’d be working together for six months straight. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would continue for 3 seasons until the show was canceled.
In between the seasons, I would work on “real” movies, TV shows, and commercials. Sal would sit on his ass and eat berries while waiting for the phone to ring. I learned my trade by absorbing knowledge from Hollywood’s best cameramen. Sal had stopped learning decades ago. Still, when Seasons 2 and 3 rolled around, I returned to my position with Sal as my immediate boss. I paid my dues for years and it killed me to work for an idiot. He became the charity case of the TV show. Everyone would cut him some slack because he was old, slow, and dressed like a buffoon. They thought his wacky style was endearing. I thought he was a fucking moron.
Allow me to describe this dude to you. Five feet three inches, curly grayish hair, terrible groaner-style dad jokes. He bought the shittiest loudest clothes he could find from a thrift store which included those Zubaz weightlifting pants and terrible sun visors. When not working, he lived a pauper’s life in his crappy house in a neighborhood where junkies and prostitutes always hit him up for money. He bragged about his above-ground pool which I am certain he skinny-dipped in daily. After lunch, he would floss his teeth openly on set and he would put the used floss in a toolbox attached to the camera dolly. He was impatient, yet demanded patience from everyone else. Now that the show has been canceled(years ago), he probably works 8 days a year.
When I started to contribute to my Roth IRA, he told me I should invest in “art.” This is advice from a broke man in his 70s. I recently found out that his retirement plan was some prints he bought from a mildly famous photographer. They are worth nothing. Good job, Sal. The schadenfreude I experience by watching his folly puzzles me. Normally, I don’t like to watch people do poorly, but something about this fool’s behavior gives me the smiles. He is the antithesis of a Hollywood cameraman. The regular camera guy is clever and professional, sharply dressed, iphone in pocket, expensive glasses or sunnies, and cool sneakers. This elderly buffoon was awarded the position of a lifetime because no one was available. Good intentions kept him employed for years.
Now that time has passed, I’ll share with you a record of his badness. These pictures were not taken on “fun days” at work. This is his everyday attire. Think about how you would dress to walk into a job interview. Now, think about how you dress to would walk into a job interview if you were trying to to NOT get the job at all costs.
Now to flip the script with a solid red shirt. Zubaz all day.
Flossing his disgusting teeth on set.
I call this look “Professor Terrible.”.
Swirly shit looking like a Trapper Keeper.
You can never go wrong with something classic like Kanji weightlifting pants.
Or Navajo prints.
Passed the fuck out in the middle of set while on the clock.
Profile shot of him sleeping to get a new perspective.
Zubaz with Thai elephant cap.
Wiz Khalifa wrote a song about him called “Yellow and Yellow.”