Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Answer is ‘Yes’ – there is no such word as ‘impossible’

“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 ;).



Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Shh – The importance of production gossip and how to use it

Secrets. Gossip. Water-cooler mumblings. Print-room chatting. High flying dinner talk.

It doesn’t matter where your sources can be found, but make no mistake that a big part of your duties includes staying ontop of everything(!). That includes any information, however big or small, that might be of interest. So take that extra five minutes by the reception desk and have a catch up (read when you find 5 where there’s a small chance the world won’t crumble without your nose pressed to your email/call sheet/planning notes).

Whether it’s knowing months in advance that there’ve been rumblings of re-structuring the bottom floor for a new tenant (noise, lay offs, etc), that the new secretary’s brother in law works at that fabulous lunch place your boss adores and can get reservations when there are none, that Ella from the mail room has a fling with Louie at the Studios (she has a fast track contact when all other lines are busy), or perhaps even some juicy tidbits from that accounts meeting… It doesn’t matter the size of the gossip as long as you know it. It could prove vital at the next staff meeting and will undoubtedly speed up your day-to-day job.

Colin Clarke (Marylin and Me – read the real diary people) didn’t sit outside that office for weeks on end waiting for a job without picking up anything useful. He paid attention to the phone calls, the contacts, the events going on around him privately (fortunately he had parents with movie star connections) and at the office. And he ended up as 3rd AD on a Marilyn Monroe production… Which back then with no experience… Well done!

Let’s talk a little about the legend of the ‘water cooler’. Much like the ‘golf-deals’ this version is where a lot of your moves towards the next career-ladder-step will find their bearing. Now first off, don’t get me wrong… Backed up with nothing but more gossip you’ll run dry faster than you can say ‘Universal Studios’. But matched with hard work that hits the right notes, a ridiculous focus on details and organisation, and some pinches of extreme dedication and heart, and you’ve got a good recipe.

The water cooler is a little bit cliquey, but once you find your niche you’re in. Don’t over share (you want to use this for YOUR advantage, giving a reasonable amount in return, this is not your therapy session!) but make sure to ask the right subtle questions and listen much and often. The tid-bits are the most important (not necessarily if Holly and Mr Mallroy are still humping in the disabled toilet, focus more on how often that one executive pops by for lunch meetings on the second floor where you spend limited time but need much more knowledge, not to mention Mr Executive is scheduled in with YOUR boss in a week and two days! Was he upset about the draft? Really…). More services include finding out the exact spelling of whoever signed in with that ridiculous Russian name from reception, whether those lawyers documents were returned by the courier but not yet picked up, or how to get tickets to that sold-out members only club screening… Done discreetly, politely, and with a sense of mutual loyalty and respect for this give and take and you’ll never NOT benefit.

Just beware of the trasher. She’ll shoot her mouth off whether intentionally or not, mentioning secrets and names (including yours), whispering loudly and even starting accidental rumours. Somehow people will listen, and somehow if you get on the wrong side of a story it won’t benefit you. More importantly people will notice they can’t trust her discretion,get annoyed and after a while and clam up on their own stash of facts. Respect the water cooler code of conduct and everyone walks away a little wiser and looking a little sharper the next time you’re put on the spot for not knowing all the going ons in the universe (because you were meant to, you know that right!! Sleep? No excuses!)

Moving along a bit, and onto the high flying dinner parties…  Don’t expect your boss needs you there. Ever. Not because you got lucky and came along once. No. He/She’s busy. You’re meant to be too. And no, your invite does not get secured by blabbing your mouth off, but showing you’re aware of your surroundings, loyal, and not to mention eager to learn and impressive with your workload and you’re well on your way. As a source of information (the relevant kind, leave Holly and the humping out of it) and a link between the higher ups and the mere mortals you can prove valuable. Prove yourself an asset to and maybe (maybe) you might be entrusted with sitting next to the table while some secrets far above your head are being discussed too (this time, really shut your mouth. No, seriously, the bit on loyalty!).  Don’t become a tatter tattertale. They know you don’t magically know all these tidbits but respect your sources, and hold your cards?

This brings us to a slight side-track, but something worth an important mention. Sources and networks. Your contacts are a golden attachment to your shining CV, and when used right yours to share and nurture. Value your rolodex, build it and maintain the existing contacts.

So what have we learned so far? Keep your ears perked, be loyal and respectful, learn to talk and listen (even the shyest of the shy can get their foot in, it’s just about finding your speciality. The listener, the accidentally present, the advice column, the exchanger, etc). Learn when to use the information, and always (!) protect your sources. And never make enemies here, there is no point, just be respectful and listen loud.

Now, off you go… Did you happen to hear about that amazing new position opening up with a bonus pack and a spot on the next production? Well done ;). Now make us proud!



Tagged , , , ,