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Was I being abused?


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#1 Elliott Yancey

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 05:26 PM

I am just curious as to what is expected from a steadicam operator on set. I recently wrapped a project (a Hip hop video in Atlanta) where the environment was oppressive at best. When I arrived on set, I introduced myself to the DP, I told him my name and he told me to call him "boss!" Seriously, I still don't know his name. I was flying an ARRI 435 with my EFP, a fairly heavy rig, for 6 hours straight. I put the rig on at 2:45 and did not take it off until 8:45! "Boss" kept saying, "just stand here and be a tripod" or "I need you to be a dolly for this shot, very slow and perfectly smooth." He changed lenses almost every take and never let me rebalance. He even at one point had me do a walk and talk with a 135mm lens. I actually pulled it off fairly well, but it was still pretty ridiculous. The first AC had never used a wireless follow focus before, but was still a pompous jerk the whole time. It even got to the point were the DP, instead of telling me how he wanted the shot framed and discussing the move with me like a human being, would just grab the rig and pull me to where ever he wanted me to be! This just felt like abuse to me. I don't really know my rights on set. I am not in the union yet and I have only been operating for six months so I am trying to develop a good reputation. The only positive was that they paid me a great rate upfront. I actually showed up 30 min. early and cashed the check before crew call just to make sure it was good. (these guys are notorious for not paying). What can I do to protect myself from this kind of abuse? Is this normal? How do I assert myself and maintain my integrity on set? What would you guys have done?


Thanks,

Elliott
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#2 Lohengrin Zapiain

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 05:48 PM

That's a question I have asked myself a trillion times...

I guess the best thing to do would be to walk out of set when things get stupid. There should be a point when they have to undesrtand the nature of Steadicam and stop using you as an overpriced tripoid or a bleeding dolly.

But when you are starting in this busisness and building yourself a reputation is very difficult to find a line when you have to stop them. I guess what I'm trying to say is that a big part of our job is politics and dealing with big egos and I don't have a good answer for this question... althought I have been really close to walk from a set a couple of times
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#3 RonBaldwin

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 06:33 PM

Sounds like you were unlucky to be working with a bunch of asshats. You should post their names so others here can beware. I've always found that behaviour to be synonymous with inexperience and insecurity. Don't be afraid to communicate your needs if they don't know them. If they ignore your requests, you might consider leaving. I know it might hurt financially, but if you let them treat you like doo-doo than you are doo-doo to them and they'll just keep it up. Nip it in the bud asap or the beatings will continue.

It doesn't matter what you do in this business -- pa, dp, director -- there's no excuse for treating anyone like that.

rb
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#4 Charles Papert

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 08:55 PM

I've always found that behaviour to be synonymous with inexperience and insecurity.


Amen to that, a thousand-fold. Heed those words of wisdom! (even if they do come from a drunk).
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#5 Rob Vuona SOC

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 09:12 PM

Hey Elliot,
Sorry you got abused on set my brother, but in fact nine times out of ten, as Ron said, those kinds of Directorial decisions come from inexperience and insecurity . . .That kind of thing happened to me once and I very politely exused myself from the set used the producers vehicle to take me and my gear to where my truck was and proceeded to leave with my AC and sound guy. They were so floored that they cut me a new better deal and where very nice after that . . .I know it doesn't always work that way, but dignity and treating someone with respect is way more important.

Sometimes you just gotta say enough and move on.

Ya post the name so the rest of us can be aware . . .

Keep the chin up . . .next time will be better!!
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#6 Elliott Yancey

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 10:05 PM

Thanks guys for all the concern and input. I don't think I will post the names of some of the guys because those of us in Atlanta already know them all to well and it is not like they screwed me over, it was just a complete lack of respect. This was the case with everyone they crossed paths with so I was not being singled out. It was equal opportunity abuse. It was no "Las Vegas" type situation. There are about eight ops in the Atlanta market and I am one of the ones with the least experience. So why did I get the job? Because I was the only one in town who answered the phone when their number came across the caller ID! I kind of knew I would be walking into a tough situation (thus the reason I demanded my money upfront and cashed the check before I unloaded my gear) I had talked to some other ops in town that warned me about this group. I really am just curious how to handle that type of situation in the future. I know I could just walk, but somehow my integrity would not let me. I would like to know how some of you other "Knights of the Green Screen" handle this type of problem without ruining your reputation. I want to be the best op I can be, but my integrity is more important.


Elliott

Edited by Elliott Yancey, 26 June 2007 - 10:07 PM.

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#7 mattmarek

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 10:09 PM

another vote to walk.

if you do want to rough it out, tell the dp you will address him by his name and to let you know verbally when he is going to place his hands on the rig. if they're ok with poor shots due to no balance, fine, but do tell them when you need a 2 minute rest to catch your breath and relieve your muscles.

we've all put up with nightmare shoots, but disrespect is unacceptable.

Edited by mattmarek, 26 June 2007 - 10:13 PM.

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#8 Dan Coplan

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 10:17 PM

Speaking of reputation, by allowing them to abuse you, you develop the reputation that you're a guy that will allow it. I understand how it's a tough call how to deal with a situation like this, especially as a new operator that wants the experience and wants to be seen as a guy who can show up and work with the challenges.

I probably would have found someone with some degree of authority that I thought might listen to me, like the AD or line producer and explain that the DP's behavior is only hurting the product in hopes that they might alter their attitude. Beyond that, I agree with everyone else. Sometimes you just gotta walk.

Dan
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#9 RonBaldwin

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 10:28 PM

I've always found that behaviour to be synonymous with inexperience and insecurity.


Amen to that, a thousand-fold. Heed those words of wisdom! (even if they do come from a drunk).



if you don't want to walk...a few shots on the camera truck will make the day go by easier. And Charles, I'm rarely hammered (or for that matter pissed, tipsy, pickeld, buzzed, trashed, hooped, ripped, sauced, snockered, wrecked, plastered, smashed, wiggy, blasted, souced, Merle Haggard, BJ'd or blootered) while on the clock, so I hardly qualify as a drunk.
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#10 Lohengrin Zapiain

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 12:56 AM

Isn't that cold beer in the camera truck at the end of the day one of the biggest reasons why we got into this busisness?
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#11 Brandon Thompson

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 08:37 AM

Elliot,
I was on a set monday shooting a low budget music video and the dir/dp was very green, I don't think he had ever worked with a "real" steadicam. He also thought it was a good idea to grab the rig and yank me around. I just asked him politely not to grab the rig and if he would just tell me what he wanted I could make it happen. As for being in the rig as long as you were, wow. I would like to hear from the other veteran ops. I haven't been on a set that big yet, but I ask for breaks on the indie sets and usually get them when I need them.
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#12 Ramon Engle

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 09:51 AM

Elliott, welcome to the music video world in Atlanta! You will never get the respect from low rent inexperienced DP/Directors who intimidate unless you demand it up front. You gauge your own tolerances as far as time in the rig. You shoot 2 or 3 shots and need a break then ask for one. If they get nasty then take a break anyway. Use your judgement. If you are tired then let the AD know you need a break. If you don't like being handled then politely do what Brandon does: Have them tell you what they want and you will give it too them.
Think of the intimadators as dogs, if you show weakness they will take advantage. Be confident in what you can do and the respect you deserve. No body needs to put their hands on you unless its for saftey reasons or you just like it.
Atlanta has propogated a low ball Music Video market that continues to crawl along despite abuse and non paying production companies. It will continue as long as we allow it. So don't.
Frankly I think you should name the "Boss". I think the ops in the ATL would like to know what they are getting into if this person is on the job. I know I would.

Ramon Engle





Brandon, I'm in Vail playing Lax. I'll have your batteries next week. Sorry for the delay...............................again.
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#13 nealnorton

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Posted 28 June 2007 - 06:34 AM

I don't like people grabbing the steadicam, or me for that matter. On occasion I have put on the Antlers when a grabber is around. It really gets their attention when I accidently smack the weight into their temple.

I have found that bully's are pretty insecure and use bad behavior to cover how inept they feel. I start by completely ignoring them - literally act like I can't hear them. If that dosen't work, I attack. If they don't back down - bye, bye. I have only walked off once and the guy was stoned so nothing would work.

Neal
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#14 JobScholtze

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Posted 28 June 2007 - 01:28 PM

If the grab my rig, i point the lens to the moon. And if the say, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING, i stay as calm as i can and say back to them, sorry man, but thats YOU doing that. You destroy the balance. Works every time
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#15 Dan Ayers

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Posted 28 June 2007 - 11:27 PM

I just get very sarcastic with these types of people. My favorite was with this one director who I think answered one of those ads in the back of People magazine that says "If you watch TV you could become a director" We were on Hollywood Blvd at 3 a.m. and she decided to start grabbing my post (don't go there) and I politely stated that "On professional productions we refer to the movement of the camera as pan or tilt!" She stopped from then on. She may have hated me but I didn't have to leave the set or quit! I guess it's different to look them in the eye and slam them with a smartass comment that they of course don't think is them, but I have looked at directors in the eye and said "Don't touch the rig!!!!" That worked too, but is was accompanied with the look that I would break their hand the next time.
Has anyone offered to put the rig on the offending person when they did this, stating that if they were going to do it, then wear it?
Dan
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