Hey, Look At Those Smoke Signals….

May 18, 2011 at 6:03 am Leave a comment

Lately, it seems that people will not call and talk directly with anyone on the phone if they can email or text them instead. I know that this is within the realm of normalcy, but it’s getting to be such a daily experience that I’m beginning to suspect it’s a movement. I find that when I send my location sound mixer resume to a film production office for an upcoming project, even though my phone number is prominent on the top of first page, whoever is in charge of responding to such things will send me an email with no other contact information for them asking for my rate, to which I’m forced to respond back to them via email, saying that “it depends on a lot of details, could you please call me so we can quickly sort them out?”, or sometimes I will request a phone number from them for me to be able to call them back.

Waiting for a call from some heel?

When I have no choice except to continue this exchange via email or text, the conversation then pingpongs back and forth with more questions from them, responded to by more answers from me that in turn generate more questions from them, maybe you’re starting to get the picture?

Me, keeping my balls in the air

Did you ever see a scene in an old western movie where an Indian had a campfire that he covered over with green plants and then he intermittently waved a blanket over the top of it to create puffs of smoke that somehow, someone else far away was able to translate into a statement, one that they in turn would then reply to using a similar technique. To me, that’s about the same as trying to do my business via email, only maybe a little more organic.

Kemo Sabe, smoke signal say heap bad news coming our way!

If only the people I deal with in production offices were to pick up a phone and call, we could get things completely worked out in a few minutes, and the conversation might go  like this: Yes, I do have a rate but there are factors that may affect my rate. Some of the details that I need to know are; how many days will you be shooting in total (they tell me), where will you be shooting (they tell me), how many hours a day do we plan on working (they tell me), what kind of camera will you be shooting with so I know what, if any special equipment I’ll need to bring along (they tell me), will we be shooting days or nights (they tell me), and most importantly, what do you actually have in your budget (eh, maybe they tell me) for sound?  So basically we could be done in just a few minutes and I’d be able to give them a rate for their production, and either we haggle back and forth a bit and reach a deal, or we would go off on our different ways, scored as “no harm, no foul”.

The producer told me it was a student film….

Those are the sort of questions that help me to shape an answer, an answer that would take at least 20 to 30 back and forth emails or texts to get to and very likely still not be resolved in a day. I don’t have (no smoke signal pun intended) a blanket rate as I want to factor in my comfort level. You could bank on the fact that I’m going to be more expensive if you’re shooting in Montana in the winter than I will be if you’re planning on shooting at the same time of year in Hawaii. Further, I’m going to want to get paid a lot more if you have a first time director, no matter how many student competitions and festivals they’ve won. Further, you’d have to again at least double that rate if you also have an award winning film school graduate director of photography, since I know the on set hours will be endless as they will tweak and re-tweak their lights on every shot as they work on building their demo reel, ignoring everyone else on the crew that are working on a flat rate.

As an afterthought, I’ve noticed over the past few years that there are very few projects that I work on that actually have a true director of photography, most are just video camera owners or operators that were hired because they own a camera, the kind of people who will show up for work for free or very cheap with their camera, looking to build the aforementioned reel. It should be noted they also do not ask for an additional camera rental cost or require equipment insurance to be paid for by the producer, nor charge to pick up or return the camera. And once again, most of the producers that I work for would be hard pressed to be able to produce a shadow on a sunny day, but I digress…..

And don’t even get me started on the cast they plan on using, I’ve done more than enough (and that would be one) films or t.v. shows with, in my opinion, dangerous psychotics like Gary Busey, Teri Hatcher, Shannen Doherty, Marjoe Gortner, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Debra Messing, William Devane, Kirstie Alley, and so many more, enough for this lifetime. It’s not that I’m averse to working with loons, in fact over the years I’ve worked with Alan Alda, Michael Ironside, Ron Perlman, Penny Marshall, Bronson Pinchot, Ray Sharkey, Cloris Leachman, Robin Williams, Sean Young, Tim Allen, Brad Davis, David Carradine, and such, all my kind of loons of one sort or another. Again, in my opinion, they are all somewhat batshit crazy folks, but all brilliant and an absolute pleasure to work with. Simply put, I enjoy watching true genius at work, psychotic or otherwise, and despise the posers who are famous for being famous or having worked on something that was great, not because but in spite of their presence on the set.

“Loons” and “True Genius” in one photo

Now, if you were to call me to work on a production that featured Dana Delaney or Marlee Matlin in a lead role you’d find that I’m far easier to negotiate with. And going back a paragraph to the subject of loons, if you were to add Tina Fey, Illeana Douglas, or Judy Tenuta to the mix, I’d bring my own lunch and provide my own craft services. Yeah, I roll that way.

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N.B., The ownership of any and all photos, opinions, and/ or quotes above (including those of mine) belong to the material’s creator(s). Credit is given when it’s known, but because success usually has a million parents and failure is an orphan, blame will not be so attributed. 

Feel free to ignore any ads that are shown below, I don’t choose them and (sadly) I don’t make a penny off any of them.

P.S., check back for occasional updates and rewrites….

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