Our show’s ad revenues are way down (actually, it’s not just us – advertisers seem to think that since no one’s currently buying anything there’s no reason to waste money on ads), so the powers that be are on a drastic cost cutting mission. Since they can’t cut from the top (where, of course, much of the waste is), they have to cut from the bottom.
Than means slashing equipment orders and manpower from the dirty toolbelt people.
To be fair, since we have very large sets (which require a lot of lights and a shitload of cable to power said lights) our weekly equipment total (all of the equipment is rented, not purchased), is eye-popping and from what I’m told about twice what any other show on the lot is costing, so now the set lighting department has earned a big red target (although I’m sure other departments are feeling the pinch as well).
This week, our insert unit, which usually has a small-ish crew, got slashed down to two – just me and the gaffer. Normally, unless it’s a day exterior, we need at least three people (gaffer and two) to work even a small set efficiently. Even two lights take forever to set up when one person is running back and forth from the set to the staging area. We usually do a relay thing where one person stays on the set all the time (so the gaffer’s not alone) and everyone else runs things into him (or her). It works well, and we usually move pretty quickly on lighting setups but with just me running around like the proverbial headless chicken, we lit slower than usual. Luckily, everyone had been cut down to the bone, so everyone understood and all of us helped each other out all day.
Of course, since there were only two of us, we had to move from one stage to another (pushing carts into the trailer takes two people – thankfully our driver, who is a great guy, helped me out) and got into a big lighting set up which required the help of our lot best boy (who never ever works set) and the first unit best boy, who also normally never ever works the set. The grips got an extra guy from first unit as well because they were undermanned as well.
The grips also had to help us with some of our ‘big heads’ which are very heavy and require three people to pull them off the stands.
One of these people pulling heads off stands was the gaffer, who normally never ever even thinks about touching a light. That’s why we’re there. He (or she) tells us what to do and we do it. Some gaffers are ‘touchier’ than others and just like to tweak lights (a gaffer with gloves is a dead giveaway that he or she is a fiddler and that I don’t have to freak out when I see them handling lights), but none of them really should be deheading big lamps or pulling cable.
Somehow, we got through the day without any major meltdowns.
The next day we had a full crew which was very nice – I could actually go to the toilet without worrying about my boss being on set alone.
Normally we bitch about long days, but since it’s so slow right now we’re all counting up the hours and hoping for delays to squeeze a few extra dollars out of the days we’re getting. When we thought we might have an 8 hour day, we were all sad. Having the day run about 11 hours was nice.