The original title of this blog was going to be:
Suffering…for your art!
From time to time, as the opportunity arises…I take on an acting job.
For a few weeks, we have been getting casting notices for a major project that is being filmed in our area. It sounds like it’s a pretty Big Deal. So, I tell my partner “It’d be nice to apply for this (and possibly get hired) and get it at the ground floor (meaning…maybe they’ll use us again.)”
I apply. I get hired. Wow. That is something.
I know the day I will be working, and the city in which I’ll be working. Now, our state is geographically large. And so if you want to be an actor in this state, you make up your mind, “I’ll go where the work is.” That means you better make up your mind, real quick, that you’re gonna have to get in your car, and drive to these gigs. This particular gig was close to my home. Wow. Miracles! For once, I’m not driving Far Away to work.
The day before the gig, someone is trying to get ahold of me. Would I be available to work at 6 am, in another location (of course–this one is much further away!)?
So, I say I’ll do it. That means I’ll have to get up at 3am, in order to roll out to get there. Dressed. Hair and makeup ready. But I am game. I’ll treat this whole thing as a lark. An adventure.
Yeah. It’s early. This’ll be my third day on about 7 collective hours of sleep. But I am an actor. I am in showbusiness. I want to be a part of whatever is going on. So…it’s an adventure. I’ll leave in the middle of the night, and drive to the middle of nowhere, and be an actor for the day.
My call time is 6. I get there at 5am. Sun not even up yet. I kill time outside the set, but go in at 5:30. It’s a field in the middle of nowhere. I park my car. Other people are rolling in. I walk up this lonnnnnggggg driveway and try to find out where I check in.
They direct me to the catering tent…where there is a spread unlike anything I have ever had on acting gigs before: real, amazing food! Carved fresh fruit. Omelet station. Every juice imaginable. Choices. So at 5:30 am, for all this to be ready, what time did catering have to get there and be prepared?
I am used to sets where the extras are kept in a separate area and fed much “lesser” meals than they feed the crew. So for us to be welcome to such food is amazing.
When you are on these gigs, there is a certain way you behave. You do not engage people in conversation. We are all there to work, and ‘bothering’ someone is a disruption. As an extra, you go where you are told. You do what you are told. Either obey instantly…or do not even take the gig.
On this set, as I’m walking up this long driveway, the first person I see greets me and says hello. I say hello back. Another one greets me, then another.
Wow! That does not happen!
This set has the most equipment trucks of any I have ever worked. I’m gonna say probably 20 to 25 trailers and equipment trucks are there.
So, I still don’t know what the project is or what’s going on. They are not allowed to tell us any details. Finally, and not from any official channels, someone tells us what the project is.
And it is a doozy! Much more than I could have imagined. And YES…I want to be in on this, be a part of such a huge thing.
One actor had guested on the current most popular TV show a few weeks ago. One actor is on a show that is on RIGHT NOW. I am watching it on Netflix, right now…and HE IS the reason I am watching this particular show.
This is cool. Trained chefs. Amazing food. Actors that I admire tremendously. Of course, I can be entertained just watching the equipment go by. The setups. The choices they make.
On this scene they are filming cars on a highway, and they have two classic cars there to work with. That is fun!
But they have technical issues. We do not get to work the scene. I understand that. Things happen. But we are in this tent, with access to food, water, bathrooms, and they have ductwork with air conditioning piped in. So, that is pleasant and reasonable.
We got there at six. They have lunch ready before noon. Crew meal time was 1:00, but they let us eat the food that the crew ate – prepared by chefs, all amazing and wonderful and fresh food!
The extras still have not been to set, but at least we have shelter, food, water, provisions and bathrooms.
And after lunch, they start taking it all away. At 1:30, someone came over and said something about “You’ll do xyz paperwork to check out when you leave.”
And that was the last any of the extras heard. For hours. Catering packed up and took the chairs away. We had no shelter, and no access to chairs, baking in that Oklahoma summer sun for hours. No access to food or water. Just there. We all ended up lining up next to a fence, that had some shade.
From 6 to 2, I was having a good day – glad to be a part of something interesting.
From 2pm on….it ceased to be fun.
No shelter. No place to sit. No access to food. No provisions for water. No information.
IT WAS MISERABLE!
I finally went wandering and asked for a granola bar and said that we were baking out there.
Finally about 5:30 I texted the casting assistant (who had hired me, and was not on site), and explained all that and asked what to do. She said that that was unacceptable, and she was going to call them. At about the same time, one of the extras stopped a PA who came over with a handful of water bottles. I said “What about supper and chairs?”
Well, they brought us sandwiches, but still, we are stuck there, with no provisions.
Some of the teamsters had pulled 2 chairs out of a van, and I mean the van seats, and I had a lawnchair in my trunk, which I went to get. But that is not enough for everybody.
In 94* Oklahoma heat, you do not want to get dehydrated. So, up till 2, I kept drinking water and I had a Sprite, just to stay hydrated. So, that means you need to go to the bathroom, A LOT.
Then, they loaded up the bathroom trailer, and took it away.
Stuck: no shelter, most people standing, we had a sandwich, after several hours without – we now have access to water, and no bathroom.
And the extras still haven’t been to set to work.
Later, the PA came over to us, after being made aware of our plight, got some info, and said we can’t leave, because they might still use us in the shot. By now, we are all “over it”.
I don’t want to wait until I am in trouble, so after 7pm, I asked, “What do we do about a bathroom?” I mean, I can get in my car and drive 10 miles to the nearest town, but that means, going down the long driveway and getting on the highway – where they have traffic blocked for filming, and disrupting all that.
Oh…they have a bathroom trailer down at the highway, where they are filming.
It’s too far to walk. I say I can drive my car down there, but I wonder if that disrupts filming? They get a runner to take us there in a van.
As I am coming out of the women’s room, I step down onto the ground, and the star is there. Waiting.
He was the nicest gentleman you’d ever want to meet. They tried to get him to go in line ahead of people and he would not do it. I said, “But you’re working, you go on ahead.”
So, I broke that rule, which is…”don’t bother the stars when they are working.”
The van takes us back to our fence where are standing.
By now, and it is starting to get dark, they come in from the highway. They haven’t used us, and the equipment guys are packing up. We aren’t going to act that day.
From 6am (actually 5am-since I am early) to 2pm, I was fine. After 2pm, it was NOT FUN ANYMORE.
Still, we stand around, when the equipment is being trucked out and we are obviously not going to be used anymore. I go ask, “what do we need to do to check out and leave?”
“You can’t leave yet, not until we get permission.”
The person who had filled out our paperwork got his box and left. Still we are stuck there, no shelter, no provisions, no chairs, no bathroom.
They finally say, “Such and such person will check you out and it’s probably going to be another 25 minutes.”
No shelter. No chairs. No food. No provisions. No bathrooms.
I have HAD ENOUGH!!!!!!
I gather my things, and I left. 8pm. Most of the crew is gone. We were not going to be used in the scene. Still they treat us like chattel without providing the basic necessities of life…..
and I walk.
I got my things, put them in my car, and left.
I wanted to be a part of this experience. But not like that.
I know that things happen. They had major technical difficulties. They were supposed to have this shot and be done by early afternoon. Things happen – beyond their control. I understand that.
They hired extras to play a role and play a part, and we didn’t get to do that. I am okay with that. Up till 2pm, when we still had provisions, I was okay with it. I was there to work, and if I didn’t get to, I am disappointed, but you roll with it.
After 2pm, to be stuck there, without basic human needs being met…That is not acceptable.
It was a miserable day – for everyone. I cannot imagine the brutality of working a crew job. Hours upon hours upon hours with a hugely physical job, in the brutal heat. It didn’t seem to bother any of them to not have a bathroom, but perhaps they had access to a trailer with a bathroom. They knew where craft services was, and could go get water, but no one had made that provision to us.
I soooo felt for the stars. In fact, I was worried about them, out in that relentless heat. Dehydration is not something you want to mess with. Sunstroke. Heatstroke.
I kept texting my partner throughout the day, and it went from “Wish you were here!” to “this is horrible…I’m glad you are not here.”
But later, on the phone, after I had left, I said, “We will never treat people like this! Not on our set!!!!”
What is the takeaway here? I didn’t check out on their paperwork. Do I get paid? I have no idea? Do I only get the base rate they offered, or since we had sooo much overtime, do they honor it?
Have I created a ‘black mark’ on my record with the casting office? I don’t know.
In the Oklahoma film industry, and I have a whole lot of experience there, this is not the norm. Yes, there will be bad days. There will be delays. I understand that.
But in the film industry in general – why are these working conditions tolerated? The crew acted like this was not unusual. I heard, more than once, “In New York, this is normal…”
It is normal to force people to work for hours on end, without basic human provisions?
What kind of industry is this? In every other industry, there are guides and limitations to what you can do to people? I mean…even truck drivers have limitations on the hours they can work at their jobs.
Why is the film industry the only industry lobbying to make people work MORE hours? Without having access to basic provisions like water and bathrooms.
Was it last year, or the year before, when the crew member on the Longmire set worked something like 20 hours, got in a vehicle, fell asleep at the wheel and died in a car wreck?
At that time, there was a lobbying effort called something like 12 and 12. 12 hours on. 12 hours off.
One crew member told me she had worked (I think not on this gig, but a previous one) 20 hours a day, been given 5 hours to sleep and get up and work another 20.
We have labor laws in this country. That is an unsafe working environment, under any circumstances.
It doesn’t take but just a little effort to treat people right.
What is the takeaway here?
All I know is….after getting up at 2:45 am (on less than 4 hours sleep), and driving a whole lotta miles to get to a gig, that I arrived at before dawn….then sat there, on the clock for 14 hours – without working, and I still have a very long drive ahead of me (by then…one of the other extras came by and saw me, and asked “Are you okay?” and I answered…I am worried about being safe enough to drive home.) … when I have baked in the sun all afternoon and gotten dehydrated…
By now – I am worried enough about my health to behave in an unprofessional manner. Yes, I walked out without permission. But if I am concerned enough to worry about my safety to even get home…is it worth it?
Both my mom and my business partner said, “LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU ARE HOME SAFE!”
Is it worth it?
I have had one other acting gig where it was this brutal. And on that one, we were indoors, had chairs, and had water – all day.
14 hours out there. 8 good hours. Then it went downhill. No basic provisions for the rest.
No it’s not worth it. I do not want to work for these people again.