Monday, March 16, 2009

So many changes, so much the same...
  It's rare that I'm not sure whether a lot has happened or not.  You'd think life might be more straight forward.  Most worthy of note, on the subject of me and my world, is winter ending, specifically my most-hated Daylight-"Savings"-Time.  Banished are 4pm sunsets and the borderline seasonal affected disorder no one wants to admit happens.  Good riddance, DST. Stay away longer next time please.  Also gone, less joyously, is Esra's 6 year daytime job at Real Networks, everyone's 401k's and stocks and such and the global ennui that 8 years of presidential mismanagement can sometimes bring.  Work, for me, flutters in & out (mostly out) with a week or three or few days here & there - an uneasy modus operendi to be sure.  
  .....The most recent job was on ABC's Fringe, produced by JJ Abrams of X-Files (and many others) fame.  An old work-friend of Esra hooked me up with an informational interview with the set designer and as timing would have it, their Art Dept PA (production assistant) would be out on Grand Jury duty for 3 weeks, so .. cover for him, I did.  
  .....The job itself was pretty .. pedestrian,  let's say.  It's a union tv show which means that, in the art department at least, any duty that technically should be done by someone in the union, has to be done by a person in the union (and not lil' ol' me, despite how much time or interest I had to spare) - this is all under penalty of someone getting fired so .. actual work for non-union Art PA's on union jobs is usually pretty limited. And so, I got a bit lot more experience being an Art Dept office PA - which I suppose is the same as a regular Art Dept PA... minus all the nonstop driving around picking up and returning stuff, occasional heavy lifting, all the hands on assembly of the various things that'll actually be seen in a show - so basically everything)    
  .....I did a bit of research, I delivered some monster guts 
 to location (my first day on the job, sadly, it was the highlight of my 3 weeks on the show), I made a lot of copies, did a few runs into the city with the art department car but for the most part, I sat in the Art Dept office with the Art Dept coordinator and chatted, surfed the web via iphone and petted the dog belonging to the (married) set designer & art dept coordinator.  The pay on that job was ...humbling but the hours and people were truly some of the best I've seen so far. 9am - 6pm sharp is unheard of for .. well, any position on any job in the entertainment industry.  The Art Dept coordinator was actually a really great mentor in helping me get on the road (finally) to take the test to get into Union 52 (for set dressers in NY) and generally being a fountain of great information on the industry itself.  Coincidentally, a big brouhaha of industry scandal hit the front pages of entertainment consciousness while I was there.  It seems that Governor Patterson hasd not renewed the huge (30%) tax credit that was being given to the entertainment industry to continue bringing tv shows & films, commercials, etc to New York.  Fringe has all but announced that they are moving to Vancouver for their second season (an interesting component to the NAFTA treaty, I found out, is that ABC can bring only the top tier of production people up to Canada (producers, directors, DP, art dir, set designer, set dec, a few others) - whereas a Canadian program coming to the US could bring their entire crew to work legally in the US.. thanks again NAFTA) and many more shows will be leaving New York, not to mention all the new shows that wont ever start here.  We had union and industry reps on set lobbying a government rep to bring word back to Albany that there's thousands of people about to be affected, we'll see how much affect it had by the time NY's yearly budget is pushed through.
   ....aaaaand since Fringe (it's now 2 months since I wrote all the above. oops) .. I've worked on .. not all that much.  I did a Maybelline commercial(s) where I mostly drove two set decorators around NY while they shopped (I helped shop where I could but in NY, parking is something is so randomly regulated, you could park legally for a minute and get a ticket or park illegally for 7 hours and not get one.  You could also swear you parked legally but end up getting towed (oops, sorry Amer's Nxt Top Modl)... long story short, the most effective method for avoiding tickets is someone staying with the car.  There are times when this feels like the worst punishment imaginable, other times I think I have the sweetest job ever - I've chipped away at novels while stressed out coworkers search a dozen stores for the right shade of fuchsia pillow to accent a couch (that may or may not end up being visible in a shot).  
   ....And then there's the other kind of job I do occasionally.. the non-commercial / non-tv/film job.  This time it was an H&M clothing line launch for H&M execs, industry buyers and journalists.  Done in four adjoining rooms of a classy hotel in the meat-packing district, it was, as all events are, a joy not to have to jockey for the one freight elevator with camera crew, grips, lighting, etc.  Having 100 or 200 people working on the same job in the same space gets to be a bit much.  The event jobs are also great for the opportunity to be a little .. well, arty.  I get to paint, sew, maybe do some light construction, carpentry, some light electrical wiring maybe.  There's a bit more respect, all around, for everyone's abilities as equals in set dressing - a problem that has been frustratingly slow-going (on the tv/commercials/film jobs) in working my way up through the art department ranks - petty politics and high school favoritism, ass kissing.. oh it all goes on in the entertainment industry too.   But I digress....
   ....The second part of the job was a party for said same clothing industry people, journalists and .. well, whoever else gets invited to those clothing line launches.  It was to be held aboard a huge old boat, formerly used for riverboat gambling, docked at the South Street Seaport.  A sleek three story number with two elevators, full bars and a dance floor.  With a musical performance by Grace Slick.   Sounds cool, right?   No.  Not right.  The boat, we found out, would not be moving away from the dock during the party (though it would be moving up and down and this way and that - we were all seasick within an hour of working on the load in).   Not only would the boat not be cruising the Hudson or East Rivers but party goers would not be allowed on the many decks to smoke or drink or enjoy the view.   Luckily, I was on shift 1 of 3, meaning I helped finish the set up for the party and then took off with a few others to wrap up the hotel location.  Shifts 2 and 3 were present for the party itself and the wrap up of the boat at 5am (striking everything, putting it all back in our two 14' "cube" trucks) so that shift 1 could come the next day and return everything to the various prop and rental houses where we got the stuff, days before.   And that's how these jobs go.. hurry to load in, wait around while other people do their thing, then load out in a hurry & get everything back to where it came from. All done so you can do all too similar things with a different company, god knows when.
   ....And so the freelance waiting-for-a-phone-call fun begins again.