Tales From the Bottom of the Film Business

Saturday, July 30, 2005

You don’t know me. I’m nobody.

But I’ve shaken hands with Gwyneth Paltrow, Joe Montana and Venus Williams, met Rudolph Giuliani, Henry Kissinger and Run DMC. I've been tickled by Johnny Depp (almost) and put my hands under the tight clothes of a number of supermodels. I’ve been paid to watch murders being committed and people having sex - boy-on-girl, boy-on-boy, girl-on-girl, you name it. I’ve walked through a herd of cows in Central Park, joined a parade carrying a naked teenaged boy up Court Street, and followed a leprechaun around Wall Street.

I work in the film business. I do location sound work on movies, television shows and commercials and for over ten years, I’ve spent my days in a world of strange and unique experiences you couldn’t have anywhere else. But it’s also one where you’re not allowed to be even five minutes late and you’re told exactly how long you get to eat, but nobody has to tell you when your day’s going to end –15, 18, 20 hours, whatever it takes to get the scene, the shot, the proper pronunciation of the word “orangutan” or for the French fry to arrive at the right position with a perfectly-sized and –shaped dollop of ketchup on the end. Because believe it or not, that's show business. It’s a business that encourages promiscuity and breaks up families, fosters drug, alcohol, and cigarette abuse, and has a high incidence of everything from beer guts to knee and back injuries to colon cancer – some say caused by sitting on ballasts generating electricity for 20,000-watt lights, some say by not being allowed enough time during the day to use the toilet. And it's a business where crew people like myself live as close as anyone possibly can to absurd heights of fame and success without actually getting any for ourselves. And I think that's what really kills us. Most of us who work on film crews are aspiring filmmakers just waiting to get The Big Break – even though every year we spend working those hours, not writing or making anything because we're too exhausted to do anything at the end of the day other than drink, smoke, sleep and fuck (most of the time, not even that) just keeps us in oblivion.

Bitter? Maybe. Okay, yes. Okay, sometimes, yes, a lot. The truth is, I don't want to be famous. I'm pretty familiar, by now, with what that can do to people - the need to obsessively preen, freak out, get attention, ignore, glare at, scream at, get fired, seduce and discard, go on and on and on and on and on about oneself - well, you get it. I'd just like to get paid to write and direct films rather than be the slave labor they're referring to when they call to ask you to work on a labor of love, which is often just a labor of greed, or a labor of self-indulgent, masturbational fantasy. Don't get me wrong, I've worked on a lot of good projects, I've been happy to see people achieve their dreams, but at this point, I've got no more stars in my eyes about film work. It's just a job and I'm just a grunt – with a few stories to tell. If you want to hear them, read on.