Sunny, humid, and we were in farm country. The warm weather would bring me down at the start. Reminders of long dead things. That was a few weeks ago. Rolling in to the parking area at around 3pm, dirt road and tall grass, barns and the sounds of horses. Having city people and their trucks of equipment all over must of looked strange if not that most “country” people are just transplants from suburbia. Have a horse and a few chickens does not make one rural.
It was a nice set up we had. Camera, electric and grips all next to each other. Production base camp just a few feet away. Craft services ready with food. The only downside was that the actual set was about 500 meters down the tiny side road with a rocky shoulder. Hundreds of pounds of equipment per department would need to be transferred by cart. That would take hours. The property owner of our set, or someone else with a slice of power, didn’t want the big transport trailers all over the grass. Understandable, but we were making a movie. Its a dirty job. Its a destructive job.
My department, camera department, was kind of fucked. Extremely expensive equipment, time sensitive setups and absolutely no transport to set. That would mean pushing our carts down the road. Luckily, the key (boss) grip lent us a pickup. In 5 minutes, we had all our equipment on. The pickup only had 2 seats though and there was 5 people being transported. The key grip, the 2nd AC (same as the last story) and myself jumped in the back. I sat on one of our carts, supporting my balance on the edge of the pickup’s bed. With the largest Red Bull money can buy in my hand, we set off down the dirt road and on to the asphalt.
All that was missing was the Dixie horn and a shotgun
The resident crazy ass transpo driver was behind the wheel. I nearly fell off when he turned down the driveway to set, but all that came out of my mouth was a “WHOOOOO!” You don’t get to sit on the line between fun and a cracked skull very often. Not an hour later, all the tech trucks were brought to set, parked down in one of the suburbia farm’s fields in a crescent moon. All we needed was a bonfire (we already had the beer) and the long weekend would of started.
Movie making is having huge amounts of stress in a very small amount of time. When something goes wrong, it can tank your reputation and respect in the industry if its not fixed. Getting used to different directors and their needs is frustrating, but a must. The previous one was always on our ass to move faster and faster. This one has a need to take his time, which removes the constant aggravation of “MUST SHOOT! MUST SHOOT!”, but the day will never end early. You can make a movie cheap and fast, fast and good or cheap and good. You can only get to pick one, and they all come with heart-pumping, head-sweating moments of “Oh shit.”
At lunch, most of the crew hung out at their trucks. The key grip, a farm-bred heart of gold, was shooting the shit with his guys when one of the props guys pulled out a toy he got a Wal-Mart: a foam-dart sniper rifle. The country boy, not to say no to having a little fun. He asked how it worked, grabbed a few darts, and by the red glowing light of the electric’s truck, walked up the ramp with the biggest grin. A few moments later, the pop of the gun followed by a “what the fuck!?!?” and the howl of laughter by everyone in our fireless camp. He came back out, loaded another dart and spotted one of his guys having a smoke by the front of the truck. The gun raised, he disappeared into the black. POP! “What?!?!” and more laughter. It was then I realized that I had found a brotherhood. Factions by departments, but in the end, we technicians and creative souls are part of a tiny brotherhood. Our experiences are singular. Our personalities unique. For every ten thousand farm-boys like the key grip, there may be five who can solve on set mechanical problems like him. For every 100 000 want to be photographer, the head of my department may be the only one who can set up lighting in lightning speed, making what could be a shitty movie look amazing.
As I drove home, sun rising over the lake, I smiled. Happy things are getting better, cleaner, in my life. Directions found and ambition focused. It may not have been the dream I had at 22, with a new life and a new wife and the world before me, but its a better dream. A dream for myself; my skills, my will and my wants.
I pulled in to A&W at 6am, hoping to having a well-deserved burger. The root beer came first and it tasted like victory. Soon, freshly made, I could smell the salt and the oils of meat and potato. I was hungry for something other than craft service, catered lunch and what I could find at home. As the chubby, dour looking employee handed me the bag with my food, she said “Be very, very careful.” in reference to the fries.
I drove off, laughing, eating a dangerous fry. Is that what we must be scared of now? Hot meals?
If she only knew what I did in the last 15 hours, she may give up telling shill people to watch out for reheated, freeze-dried food.