Monday, August 20, 2007

Work Boring You To Tears? Me, Too...


I can truthfully say that I work in the entertainment industry, though I am not as of yet an bona fide entertainer. I do draw comics and I do work FT as a production assistant on independent films, but I don't get enough acting gigs or work as a director to claim entertainer status. Much of my time is taken up by trying to earn/save money by temping at various organizations, mostly as an executive assistant (which is by no means as important as it sounds.) Uusally I am entering data into an archaic or obsolete archive database, or sorting files, occasionally faxing, blah-blah-blah...

And that is the problem. Office jobs like these are blah-blah-blah. As a PA (production assistant), I'm more-often-than-not driving throughout the city, picking up or delivering film equipment or staff to and from location or the production headquarters. Sometimes, I drive a production unit on tech scouts. I've built a very good reputation as a hard worker and sharp driver, not to mention resourceful; which is always important as a PA.

The drawbacks to PAing is that the work can be infrequent; depending on who is involved, you might spend weeks between productions before you get called on. Then you have to worry about not only not only how much you get paid (I no longer work for free, unless it's a short-term favor for a friend), but when. I worked on a production that was so loosely organized, when the film wrapped (completed all principal photography), the crew waited for nearly two months before they received their final paychecks. Apparently there was some litigation involved; in particular regarding an incident in which one of the PAs absconded with a passenger van:

After I had finished some extra errands for the production office, I returned my unit truck to the lot we had rented the trucks from. The passenger van that was also used by our production was right next to my truck. The next day, I received a call, asking if I knew where that particular van was. I wouldn't know, I was driving a truck all day, and it was still there when I came back with the truck. I had walked back to the nearest subway station to get home. I asked the person who called me to let me know when the van turned up, knowing that if the van wasn't found, I would not only not get paid, but I would also be regarded as a suspect, unfair as it all was.

Naturally, the van didn't show up and no one received their last checks. It was a bad time for this to happen, as I was counting on that check to help pay the rent. Desperately, I reached out to my temp agency for work, and fortunately I landed in a temp job the next day. I was working as a data-entry specialist for a non-profit education company for an indeterminate amount of time for decent money; enough to pay the bills at least.

This assignment turned out to be different in two ways: It didn't involve what the agency told me; I was doing more than data entry. I was also trafficking and proofreading documents that ended up being used in sales-pitches to various school districts. On top of that, in two weeks I was training someone else to do the same thing. This guy, as it turned out, was a stand-up comedian, also temping while doing gigs in his off-time. We talked about the entertainment industry, exchanged numbers and became friends. He gave me a number to his agent, who turned out to be the same agent I was dealing with in regards to getting involved in voiceovers. Funny!

The other thing about this assignment was the overtime. Wow. My supervisor asked me early on if I would be willing to work overtime, and for how long. I gave him the smart answer: "I'll work as long as you need me." He was rather pleased by that, I should say, because I ended up regualrly working at least twenty hours of overtime per week. Which, by the way, made my check look very interesting.

I suppose I can say I made the work interesting. I imagined myself being a project manager, procuring, investigating, redesigning and approving documents, while supervising others. There was a third temp involved for two weeks, but his slow work pace and disinterest in the project ended with his being told that the project was over, which was a humane way of saying, "you're fired." I had hoped he would turn it around before this happend, as the boss asked for my input on this, but I soon saw that it wouldn't happen and reluctantly agreed. I did manage to argue successfuly for him to finish out the week, something I had not been allowed to do in a previous assignment and left me in dire straits. I promised never to allow that to happen to me or anyone else.

I eventually received a call from a producer I had worked for to come work on a new film production. I was eager to join, but I needed to finish the project I was currently working on. Fortunately, it worked out; we completed the bigger portion of the project that my supervisor had hired us for, and I was able to go on to my new gig without a hitch.

As it turned out, I had to wait another week, as the director had accidently busted his arm demonstrating a stunt he had wanted to film.

Months have gone by, and so have several other gigs I worked on, and here I am temping again. Had I waited, I would have ended up on another film gig, but I decided I needed a break from even that. The last gig I completed had been somewhat of a struggle, but since the people involved were very nice, I stuck with it and did some favors for them afterwards. But the dog days were approaching, so I decided to answer the temp agency's call for a long-term assignment at the same place I temped with them before, for even more-decent money.

As soon as that assignment started, I received three calls for film gigs. Funny, when you're starting out, you're starving, but when you get a few of them under your belt, they all come at once. And, in regard to this current asignment, I wonder why I didn't really take them. Is it that the work is boring, or have I become bored with the work?

However, in light of the funky weather and other recent events (my landlord is fending of foreclosure on his house, which includes my apartment), I have to consider myself lucky to have steady work. And, according to my newest supervisor, there might be some overtime involved in the very-near future... whaddya think of that? >;)

1 comment:

Chyll Will said...

One thing I forgot to mention: The van that had disappeared later turned up abandoned in New Jersey. The producer I was working with again told me and another PA who was also from that set that the PA who had the van had taken it from the lot in Queens and went joyriding during the night, then dumped it on the side of the road near the NJ Turnpike. The van was completely totalled.

The production had to wade through a whole conglomeration of legal red tape before they finally sent out our last paychecks. I was missing a day's pay, but by the time I tried to contact them, they'd left Dodge in a hurry. Oh well, I more than made up for it on my other projects!