“No, I’m sorry.” are not words you should get associated to.
It’s a well known fact no production, however smooth running, is flawless. Things will go wrong, details will be overlooked, technical equipment will break at vital moments (despite rigorous testing). The only thing you can do in these instances is be prepared, and know that you did everything necessary and beyond to minimise the risks before.
When you get asked to do something, however ridiculous or far fetched (get the camera down from three hours north in the next half an hour, sushi lunches prepared by Michelin star chefs, the direct mobile number to that famous NFL player) you nod and say you’ll get it sorted. Because you will be asked, and a lot of the times it won’t be possible. That’s where some tweaking of the services comes into play.
Firstly, though, the time-frame. One of the top five pieces of advise I was given when starting out in the industry included how to estimate the time it’ll take you to finish a task. When your boss asks, calculate the realistic time, double that, and there you have it. If you finish it earlier than expected, well done you. If you run into serious trouble on the way and need the full amount of double-time, you’re still within your promised slot and everyone can happily stick to their schedules.
Secondly, when you do run into trouble and realise you won’t be able to get the requested result. Think outside the box. Sushi lunch by the Michelin-starrer can’t be done? Offer the assistant chef (aka the protege – talk him up), a take away version from the best japanese restaurant (send another assistant to get it if necessary, don’t trust their delivery men!), or an alternative course by another equally qualified chef.
The camera from up north? Hire in the kit locally, same quality and a promise to send the bill to whoever left it up north (or if it’s just a whim request from up high, recalculate the budget and make it work, even if you cut your coffee supply for a month).
The phone number? Go back… Find his junior club/high school/whatever. A coach that knew him well perhaps? Work your way forward, blagging whatever needs to be blagged. Can you get in touch with a parent? A friend? Anyone close enough to guarantee a message (not the PA of his boss, that message will not be getting you anywhere cause, well, bigger fish and panic already happening over there).
The bottom line is, nothing’s impossible. You just find YOUR way of solving it. If there isn’t one, you pave it. Just don’t ever turn back to your boss saying it can’t be done. You put your head up high, make sure you let them know this is a difficult task and that they can’t expect miracles, and then hand them the next best thing which, to them, will seem much like magic after all.
They may be demanding, but bosses are rarely stupid. They know full well the pressures and ridiculousness of the to-do lists you’re stuck with. Enjoy it, love the responsibility, show them you’re determined, use some charm (girls and boys, this applies to both of you, a kind word and some chit chat to remind the people on the other side of the line you’re both just as busy and struggling always helps), and voila.
Remember to cover your back. Double check, google, make sure the batteries are charged yada yada. Make long lists and tick them off, tedious as it may seem you will get tired and forget and a tick box can save your ass. Don’t. Miss. On the details! Very important. And smile, and shrug your shoulders at that miracle. What? You can do that in your sleep!!
They won’t forget the favour, or the smile. And they’ll learn to trust you.
Off you go, show them what you’ve got ;).