I once was a production assistant on a high-budget shoot in Dorchester, MA. ESPN outsourced the shoot to a medium-sized production company from LA who were flown out for the week. I got the call to work on the shoot after numerous of my friends turned the gig down. At $200 a day, I was curious as to why no one had accepted the gig. Five minutes into the first day of shooting, I understood why. In the film world, it’s expected that you’re going to get shit on as a P.A. It’s understood that you’re going to run into some testy film people who will make your life hell. This particular testy film person made my life, not a living hell, but a living fuck-this-I’d-rather-be-in-hell. He was the evil bastard twin of Steven Spielberg – except patronizing, cold, and outrageously angry. He would start the day by yelling at me to grab him a diet Red Bull, talk shit about my through the walkie-talkie to the other crew members during lunch, and end the day by called me “Andrew.”
Before I made the move from my home in Boston to the the great unknown in New York, I set up a bunch of interviews in the city and became increasingly disappointed after each one. There was the interview at a bespoke dating agency, where I would be paid (very little) to essentially play the role of Hitch to socially-awkward millionaires. There was the cupcake shop, which I would eventually become employed at and thoroughly enjoy. Then there was Bob, the self-proclaimed theatre legend, who needed an assistant to help him with writing and social media. Bob and I met four times. FOUR TIMES for interviews. He would take me to expensive little bars in Hell’s Kitchen, grill me about early American theatre, and consistently ask me to dress in a suit. After the last interview, he sent a follow-up email saying I got the job, but asking in a very courteous manner if I would mind working for free. Nope’d the fuck right out of that one. And no — he didn’t pick up the tab during the “interviews” at the bar and no, he never wore a suit.
I look back at my time in college and laugh at all the unpaid bullshit internships I so graciously accepted. I could write a whole spiel about my distaste for the great American scam that is the unpaid internship, but I digress. I started interning at this animation company during my junior year of college. I wasn’t completely unqualified, I had a knack for writing, and my goal was to eventually become an employee. My entire task for the three months I was there consisted of the following:
1. Show my CEO how to use her iPhone.
2. Search through her Rolodex and gather contacts for the company’s Christmas party.
3. Clean the kitchen.
4. Put together a Christmas party invitation.
So, to be clear, there was no writing…no editing…nothing creative. I was often reprimanded for taking sick days (which ended up being, maybe, two total) and given a size XXL t-shirt on my last day. I’m not an XXL. And no, I wasn’t invited to the Christmas party.
I personally think one can gauge how bad a person is by their impact on you. This woman wasn’t a bad person on the outside…or even really the inside. She was a loving wife and mother, an environmental enthusiast, a Prius owner, and my next door neighbor. She was far from awful, just utterly clueless. I made the huge — incredibly huge — mistake of telling her I was interested in filmmaking, which lead to her asking me if I could help her film a small PSA for YouTube. I mistakenly obliged, thinking it would take an hour or two. She was running for city council or the school board or president of the United States, I can’t remember. What started as a small project ended a nearly month long endeavor. She would come over my house and watch me edit the thirty second long spot, asking the most basic kinds of question that an eight-year-old could learn from Google, like “Can you make it fade out at the end?!” Her constant nagging and shrewish demeanor became the object of my unhappiness during that month and I would find every reason to not go outside out of fear of running into her. Eventually, I finished the PSA and I think she won…or lost. I can’t remember.
God, there aren’t enough quotation marks in the entire world to emphasize how shitty of a photographer this woman was. So, I’ve been perusing Craigslist for years. When I was younger and more strapped for cash, I would accept any gig that came my way. Enter: “Wedding Photographer Looking For Videographer” I knew, through friends and family, that people made a lot of money filming weddings and promptly sent my email. The first red flag should’ve been the speed in which she responded back to me, but I didn’t know that meant you were an unsuccessful prick back then. I meet this woman in her enormous house an hour outside the city and she tells me she works from home and is interested in becoming a photographer. Suddenly, it dawns on me. Her husband is rich, pays for all her shit, she’s consistently discontent in her boring life and needs a hobby. I got roped into her hobby. She sends me off with a Bollywood movie and tells me to take notes on a particular scene. We end up shooting, not a wedding, but an “engagement short film” which consists of a confused would-be bride and groom walking around the park. She pulls me aside and asks me if I remember the scene from the Bollywood movie. I tell her I do.
“Perfect,” she says, “Film the rest of the video like that.” So I do. Not inspired by the scene, but an exact shot-by-shot recreation of the scene. Later, as she’s breathing over my shoulder during the edit, she berates me and asks me why the scene I shot doesn’t exactly match the scene from the Bollywood movie.
I desperately try, over and over, to explain that it would be impossible to shoot a perfect replica of what she wanted because:
a. I’m not a famous Bollywood cameraman
b. The camera she supplied me with probably cost $100 at BestBuy
c. We were shooting in Boston, not fucking Taj Mahal.
She paid me a mere $50 (kids, don’t do anything for $50), asked me if I would mind shooting the next video for $25 because, as she said, it’ll only take an hour or two. I promptly closed my computer, deleted her from my phone, and peaced the fuck out. Sometimes, at night, I still watch the Bollywood movie she leant me out of spite…just kidding, I threw it out.