Let’s talk about filmmaking
This low budget horror thing I’m working on is a good insight into what it means to be in the film industry out here in LA. My job is Assistant Production Coordinator. It’s a midlevel position, not an entry-level gig, but certainly above a PA -- short for Production Assistant, which do the majority of the grunt work in the film industry. PA’s are above interns (interns do the same things as PA’s, but interns don’t get paid).
Anyway I’m Assistant Production Coordinator. Yippee. That means I get paid $100/day and work 12-14 hours a day. It’s basically minimum wage plus overtime. That’s about half or a third of what someone in my job on a big budget film would make.
Most people get these sorts of jobs because they did well on a previous job. The intern that busts her ass for free will be remembered and become the paid PA on the next show. I’ve never really worked liked that. I’ve straddled the real film world and my own sort of magical independent stuff where I get paid to do the things I want to do.
I got this job because I produced this music video: www.billionairesforbush.com/50billion.php with another producer who has several legitimate films under her belt as a producer. That producer liked working with me and got hired to be the UPM on this horror film. She created this position for me, and literally fought to get me hired. She also fought to hire our friend as a key crewmember.
If I didn’t produce that video and meet this woman, I wouldn’t be working now.
My job has everything and nothing to do with the actual creation of a film. Meaning, I was instrumental in getting the phones and internet working in the production office, and I was a key liasion with a difficult landlord. Without that sort of foundation, we couldn’t put the movie together, but it definitely not the same thing as actually being on set and getting a shot.
There are so many tiny details that go into getting all of the elements to show up at the same time. My boss is called the coordinator, because that’s what she’s doing. She’s lining up the pieces of the puzzle so when the director has a question, or the producer needs to know about something, she can get the answer immediately. She is the conduit through which all information flows.
The film production environment is such that it really pushes you to exclude all else from your life. Since I’ve been working on this gig for the last week or so, my life is changed completely. If I have any personal business that needs to be tended to (like my car which just blew it’s transmission), I must get it done before I show up at 9AM, or after I leave at night (I just got home and it’s after midnight). You’ve got to keep your eye on the ball all of that time, and it’s physically and emotionally draining.
Why? Is it just the paycheck? Not really, I was making about the same on unemployment. It’s about learning about the craft, and loving that I’m around good people that are striving to make the best movie under difficult circumstances.
On the music video, the director asked my producing partner, if our project, producing a high budget, high concept, music video for no money was the hardest thing she’s ever produced. She said that no, every project she’s ever worked is hard. And she’s right. The problems of a show like this horror films are completely different than Nicolas Cage’s new action flick. But just because a film has a huge budget, it doesn’t make the challenges of logistics and human psychology go away. In fact big budget movies may have it worse because they have a huge amount of ego involved.