Sunday, December 12, 2010

Knowing When To Say No...

The other day, I had to do something that makes my stomach twist into knots so painful that I want to vomit. I had to say no to a job offer. It's not something a poor guy like me likes to say very often, but sometimes I find it necessary. Just because a job pays, doesn't mean it is worth it.

Let me take a step back and preface this by telling you that I am not above doing any job. I haven't made a name for myself by any means, and I don't think that I am some big-shot because I've worked some cool gigs over the last year. I'm still at Grunt level and I'm OK with that. What I am not OK with, is people trying (In my view) to take advantage of me and be slightly unethical about the way they operate.

Things started in their typical way. I replied to a job listing that was seeking, "PAs (Production Assistants) and Shooters." It also said that it was for a major cable network show, so I thought I would take a stab at it hoping to get the "shooter" position, but not bothered by getting a PA spot if it was a paid position. The woman who replied to my emails was nice and understood that I had to work and said I could call her the next day for more information about the show and the job. At this point everything seemed hunky-dory. She had told me in her email that they were looking for two PAs and that both would help with "logistics" (which is a fancy word for driving the crew and equipment places and going on coffee runs), getting release forms signed, taking still pictures, and helping the DP with equipment and maybe running a second camera. All typical PA jobs, though the camera work would be a plus since it is usually done by the DP or a second camera operator, but it's not unheard of for a PA to shoot b-roll or get a second angle.

When I finally spoke with the woman on the phone, that's when things started to get iffy. It turns out the show was a new reality series about people who are getting married, but under strange circumstances. On the episode they wanted me to work, the couple was trying to get married before the nine-month-pregnant bride popped out her kid. It sounded interesting, and I have shot a lot of weddings, so it still sounded right up my alley at this point. However, she started to tell me more details about the work. There were the "logistics" of course, but then she told me about getting releases. In television production, everyone who appears on screen has to sign a release form saying that it is OK for you to film them and that you can basically do whatever you want with the footage afterwards. If you miss someone and they decide they don't like the show or what you did with their footage, they can sue you in court... Production companies don't like to go to court. So, you might be asking, "What's the big deal?" Well, for starters, they planned on shooting a wedding... with 200 GUESTS!!! That's an hour of answering the same stupid questions about the forms, getting them all filed away, then catching ever straggler who wanders into the wedding/reception late and getting them on file. Is that a rediculous number of releases to get? Probably not, but throw helping the DP and taking stills on top of that and things start to get hectic.

Next was the still pictures. Often production companies will have a PA take still photos around the set and later use them for promotional material on websites or numerous other things. This actually peaked my interest because I want to add more photography work to my resume over the next year. However, it also turned into my biggest objection to the job. I was informed that they needed a PA who was capable of taking pictures that, "...weren't too dark or too blurry..." because they were also going to be the couple's reception pictures. Being a wedding videographer and knowing how much wedding photos cost, I couldn't let myself be part of a production company putting such an important task in the hands of a PA being paid $100 (to do this and six other jobs). That's something that should be the sole focus of one individual throughout the day, not something that a grunt PA has to squeeze in with their other tasks. Needless to say, once I heard that, I just felt dirty about the whole thing and told her that I would have to pass on the job.

As I said earlier, nothing makes my stomach turn like saying no to experience and money, but I'd like to think that the decision I made saved me from working a job I would regret doing in the long run. Then again, there is the possibility that they find someone with even less experience than me to do the job and they end up doing horrible work. Either way, I don't have to work on New Years Eve now, so that's a plus. Maybe I'll be able to drink away my memory of the whole mess and get it off my conscience.

Think I made the wrong decision? Ever had to turn down a job you thought, at first, would be great for you? Tell me all about it in the comments below.

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