I know a lot of my posts seem like I’m bashing the UK film industry, I’m not. I’m this grumpy in the states too! I swear!
This post is about communication. Definition. About clarity. It’s about relativity.
When I worked as a bike messenger in Manhattan there was nothing more frustrating then going to 150 east 50th street, when in actuality the pick-up was at 115 east 15th street! So when I became a dispatcher I would say to my guys “pick up at one one five east one five street”. Sounded silly, but they always knew what meant. I try to be as concise on a walkie-talkie. I think it’s important for any requests made on walkie to be complete. If you need a “4 x 4″ flag and a c-stand” say just that. There’s nothing more frustrating then someone asking for “a 4 by 4″. Ok, a 4 by 4 what? And then when you bring it on set, they then tell you they need a stand as well. Annoying habit alert: Please don’t blow into the walkie when doing a walkie check! What does that accomplish other than blowing out your fellow crew members ear drums? A simple “walkie check” and wait for a “good check” response will do just fine.
Over here gear is often referred to as small, medium, or large. Like “Bring me in the small steps”. Well, that’s great if you always have three sizes of steps. But what happens if you have a 4′ 6′, 8′ AND a 10′ ladder? The same with flags. Nobody knows the sizes of flags. It causes great confusion when I ask for a “36×24″ flag. (although in the states, for reasons I’m unable to explain, it would be a “24×36″ flag). Yet if I say “Please bring in a medium flag”. They still don’t really know what I mean, ’cause there are at least 4 sizes of flags. Rrrrrggghhh….
I also believe the area where you put your gear should be referred to as a ‘staging area’, not a ‘dump’. If you call it a dump. You treat it like a dump.
Is this all semantics? I suppose so. But it makes for less errors. A manager of a restaurant I worked in (yes I know… I had a few jobs before I found myself on a film set!) had a favourite saying: “communication is the key to success”. I think she was crazy as a box of frogs, but in that case she was right. That and the time she added more red wine to a soup I was making. Man, that really did give it the kick it needed!
Camera left, camera right. Lamp left, lamp right. Upstage, downstage. Learn them. Use them. Trivia: it’s called ‘upstage’ ’cause the back area of the stage was raised so you could see it easily from the audience!
I like to find the points of the compass immediately upon arriving on location, or even in a studio. I worked on a job where the key grip would use the most obscure references for direction. “Hey guys, move that 20 by frame towards catering.” Huh???
It’s so much easier to establish compass points so everyone is on the same page. “I need someone on the north-west 12K, give me a shout when you get there.”
At the same time, I realise that in the states not only does each coast call the same piece of gear something different, each crew does, and so does each country! ‘G’ clamp? ‘C’ clamp! Mafer clamp? Super clamp! Super clamp? ‘K’ clamp! It can go on and on!
On that note; I need a small flag, medium steps a ‘k’ clamp a shotgun and a knuckle!