Monday, October 02, 2006

What's Cookin'?

Imagine you're a chef. You've got your kitchen set up the way you want it. You know where everything is and you easily and effortlessly whip up whatever is requested.

Now, imagine you walk into an unfamiliar kitchen. You don't know where things are. You can guess about some stuff, but there's a big difference. Perhaps this kitchen measures in metrics while you're used to the US standards.

Now, imagine you're working with a high-strung Maitre'D, who wants you to prepare dishes you've never heard of.

Welcome to my Saturday.

The Smugtown Soccer Club was in the championship game for their league this weekend; and one of the national sports networks was in town to cover it. I was hired as a freelancer. The director had a reputation as a 'screamer.' He wasn't necessarily a bad director; he knew what he needed, and kept all the information he needed to track together, and runs a pretty tight ship. But he had a bit of a problem with communication. He had his way of doing things, and he'd been doing them in a certain way for well over a decade. So much so, that he had developed a nomenclature for things that was fairly unique; words and phrases that were a 'shorthand' of sorts, and if I worked with him on a regular basis, I probably would learn it.

But I didn't have a regular basis. I had this one game.

Furthermore, I was working with equipment I had only a slight familiarity with, and with controllers I had never used before. The picture on the right shows you what I was working with. I was in charge of all of that. Again, it wasn't anything I couldn't familiarize myself with, but I didn't have the innate knowledge of their operation, any more than I knew what a 'front end loaded with a trailer' meant.*

I had to deal with this guy for nine hours.

I wasn't the only one. We had a mostly local crew; rock-solid people who knew what they were doing, who could think on their feet and also follow directions. But again, they didn't know this guy.

One of his idiosyncracies was to continue to tell a camera operator to do something they were already doing. When I direct (and when most people I've worked with direct), once you give a camera operator a direction, and you see the guy's got the shot you want, you shut up until you want the shot changed. Not this guy.

Here's a pretty-close-to-verbatim episode from Saturday night.
"Camera four, I need a two shot." (The operator of the camera marked as number four dutifully sets up the two shot, which is two people standing side-by-side, usually in an interview or some sort of discussion situation).

"Ready four, take four." (these are commands to the camera operator, to let him know that he's about to make his camera 'live' or on-air, as well as to the Technical Director, who presets the camera two button on his switcher, and then 'takes,' or puts that particular video source on air.)

So far, so good. If he had stopped there, no problems. But he didn't.

"Camera four, you're on a two shot. Two shot, camera four." (I can see the camera operator, thinking. I thought I was already on a two shot. Is this what he really wants? The camera starts to waver a little; he starts to zoom out a little)

"Camera four, what the hell are you doing? Two shot camera four!!" (Now the camera person starts to panic, and jerks back to the original framing)

"JESUS CHRIST!! WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?? YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION CAMERA FOUR!! I GOTTA BE ABLE TO COUNT ON YOU!! (Yeah, well if you'd just shut up when you get what you want, we'd all get through the evening without perforated eardrums.)

And so it went.

By the end of the broadcast, I had a throbbing headache and a paycheck that was more than double my normal fee. It wasn't worth it.

"I'm busy that day," I told the guy who hired me for this gig.

"What day?" he asked.

"Whenever he comes back into town."


*If you must know, what it meant was edit a pre-produced graphics opening in front of the video package I needed to create, and put a similar package on the end, with a freeze frame and a music track that continued for about a minute longer than we would actually need. You may not understand what I just wrote, but anyone working in televison certainly would. A far smaller subset would know both.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a freak.

just what every crew needs, is a director yammering endlessly in their ears in this way...


2:17 AM  
Blogger Colleen said...

what an a-hole

shame you cant take him down like the salad wench

9:27 AM  
Blogger Madame X said...

He liked hearing himself talk.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Heidi the Hick said...

And nobody tells him off? Like, after the gig?

Jethro's got some stories but generally he's worked with producers that are pretty cool. When they're not, it makes a 10 hour session reeeeeally long.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Your tv-lingo is almost as weird as Colleen's scrap-lingo. Not quite. Both are very entertaining when you don't have a clue what's going on. Then curiosity gets the better of me, and I read your footnotes. :)

10:51 PM  

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