Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Secondary Careers

My husband has recently launched his career in the film industry, reminding me of the days (wow, now ten years ago!) when I took a screenwriting class at college and thought the silver screen was my ticket to success.

My dismal ability to write compelling dialog combined with my love of prose soon turned me back to novels, and I've been happily writing stories (and learning a lot) since.

However, in light of my husband's changing career path, I wanted to learn a bit about what he was getting into. Thus, I borrowed What I Really Want to do on Set in Hollywood from him and started reading.

The idea was to gain insight into the positions that appeal to my husband, but instead I found myself imagining myself in each role. While he was fond of the technical positions, as well as director and producer, I found myself leaning toward two very distinct and different jobs.

Script Supervisor - These are the people in charge of story continuity. Since movies are shot out of order, it's very important to have someone in charge of keeping it all looking like it was actually shot chronologically, or the way the audience views it. The script supervisor is in charge of everything from ensuring that the actors' hair is the same length throughout the production to the dialog matching the script to keeping track of which hand the actor picked an item up with. This also includes timing scenes to make sure the movie isn't running longer or shorter than desired (I'd get to have a stopwatch!). So when you see something wrong in a movie (an actor with a full glass of water one second and an empty glass the next), the script supervisor is the one who should have caught the mistake.

An example of one S.S.'s tracking sheet.
This is one of the top most stressful jobs on the set. It requires copious amounts of organization, the ability to maintain the director's vision and work closely with the director to keep the scenes perfect, detailed note taking, an eagle eye for detail, and a wellspring of energy to keep intense focus on minute details for twelve-plus-hour days.

That sounds...addictive. There's an intellectual high from being on like that constantly, every day, from the beginning of the project to the end. All those details to maintain in your head, in your notes, all the people looking to you for guidance and instruction. It would be an incredible rush. And then, unlike many high-paced, high-demanding jobs, the project would end in approximately twelve weeks, and you could take a breather. Take a few weeks off, take a vacation, take a few months if you need it, then get back to work on a brand-new project.

The other position that appealed to me could not be more opposite - Crafts Service.

This department is in charge of refreshments and snacks. It's not the caterer that does the sit-down lunch. It's the person in charge of keeping the coffee and sodas flowing for the long days of shooting. This person orders pre-made meals, like sandwiches or fruit platters, from other companies (with money provided by the movie's budget for your department), then sets them out for consumption as walking meals for the crew. If I were to do this full time, I'd purchase a truck with a fridge, sink, and microwave (a roughly $100,000 investment) and drive to the locations myself.

It is, by far, the least stressful job on set. Basically, you're catering to people who are stressed, and you get to make their lives better by having the nourishment that keeps them going. I wouldn't have to learn how to make food (not my strong suit) or prepare meals for 100+ people at a time. I would have to learn how to make coffee, but I've known ten-year-olds with that skill, so I'm sure I could pick it up.

The other appeal: crafts service makes more in twelve weeks than I do in fifty-two.

My husband thinks it's amusing that I desire to spend time in each of these careers. I partially agree with him—the crafts services job is much like my fantasy of owning a restaurant: It sounds good on paper but would be a nightmare in reality. But I would make a damn fine script supervisor, and I could see a lot of personal satisfaction in that position.

For now, though, I'll stick to writing novels and, just maybe, translate a novel into a screenplay and see if it could shine on the silver screen.

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