Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Quick, Look Busy!

At some point between wrap on Tuesday and call time on Wednesday, our boss got spoken to by lot management about us not looking busy enough.

It’s important to make it clear that the problem was not our not working fast enough or doing good work (what we’ve done so far looks great, and we got a compliment from the CEO himself on how nice everything looked), but that we weren’t giving the appearance of being productive worker bees as the important people sped past us in their cars on the way through the security gate.

We’ve actually been working pretty quickly, but every so often we have to stop for a few moments to a) stand up straight b) think for a moment c) untangle lights or d) have a sip of water.

Apparently all these things are completely unacceptable, and we must be moving at all times or memos are sent and threatening phone calls are made.

I should probably note that moving around more than absolutely necessary is something that all of us, after years of having to conserve one’s energy throughout long days, have learned not to do. Repeatedly picking things up and putting them down in order to justify the crew size to the bean counters just means I’m going to run out to gas right when it’s time to load the truck at the end of the night.

All these memos and calls (this is just the latest volley in the ‘crack the whip on the dirty laborers’ round of memos*) have been hard on my boss, who is a terrific guy and doesn’t deserve to have this kind of shit heaped on his head when he is, in fact, doing a pretty bang-up job.

After I protested that for once in my life I was actually working and not just running out the clock, my boss sighed and said “Look, just make them think they’re getting their money’s worth – make sure they see some kind of activity as they pass by. If they see you just standing there they think you’re goofing off.”

“Don’t they see the lights? Isn’t it obvious that we’re making progress?”

My boss, who is very diplomatic, just said “Well, you know how these people are”.

Good point.

Unfortunately, I do know how these people are. It’s just that usually, they have no idea what exactly it is that I do (they just have some vague idea that my carrying weird looking equipment into and out of the set prevents them from standing in the doorways), so they can’t normally tell if I’m really working or just filling my down time by fucking off while I get off my feet (“I’m very, very busy here. If I don’t get these widgets organized by size and color, we won’t be ready to light the next set”).

This time, it’s different. Everyone knows how to do holiday lights, right? We’ll never get away with blatantly staged busyness when people actually know what we’re doing, will we?

Apparently, we will.

Whenever an overpriced luxury sedan would pull out of the executive parking lot, one of us would yell “Incoming!” and we’d all start trying to look busy – fiddling with lights, moving things from one pile to another, crouching down and standing up again. At one point, my partner just started waving his arms around as the cars drove by.

“C’mon, man.. No one’s going to fall for that. You look like a crazy person.”

“Oh, please. They can’t tell what I’m doing. They just see movement. You know how these people are.”

I guess it worked, since my boss didn’t get any angry phone calls last night.

*What the fuck is it with the memos? I’m not used to this – I’m used to insane people screaming and throwing things, which is easier to cope with than a seemingly endless round of passive-aggressive memos. In times like this, I remember exactly why I decided to bypass corporate America.

Filed under: Work

November 2006
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"If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." -Anne Lamott

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