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Re: Was I asked a trick Question?

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Richard Blakeslee
Re: Was I asked a trick Question?
on Jul 15, 2008 at 8:23:05 pm

The gaffer’s behavior was rude and strange and uncalled for at best.

I did about 60,16mm, charity stories and CEO messages, for a production company over a six year period. (We finished last year) They were done all around the country (including Hawaii). I probably used 45 to 50 different gaffers -- (crews) (some cities we went to more then once or cities where located close to other cities.) All those different gaffer and 99 percent trouble free -- most were outstanding to say the least. (I brought my AC, and the production company -- with my suggestion at times--the soundperson) I only had one problem in all that time -- and that wasn’t because of arrogance -- it was that he didn’t really know what he was doing and tried to hide that by being, how can I say it? An ass I guess. He just tried to bull he’s way through it. He owned the lighting company and I think he had got into it without near the proper experience and training. He had a great grip working for him and I asked the producers that they hire another grip (they did) and kind of promoted the grip to gaffer. Later he became a gaffer and a good one at that. I used him a few years later on another job.

The only time I had a gaffer cross the line was about 20 or so years ago. We were doing a low budget 35mm PSA for the government. (It was me, my AC, the gaffer, one grip, food stylist and makeup -- we also had a Fisher -- my hands were pretty full)) Again I was on the road. We had a young girl talent -- towards the end of the day I overheard the gaffer say something to her like, ‘don’t worry, someday you’ll be in a real commercial’. I went to the producer/director ( a good friend of mine) and said I was going to fire the guy. He talked me out of it -- only a couple hours to go, we wouldn’t be able to get somebody else, etc. Needless to say I never worked with that guy again. But boy did that eat at me. All the way back to LA I was just fuming. I really wanted to tell him to get the hell off the set. I could never understand why a gaffer would say something like that to the talent. In 40 years I’ve been doing it I’ve never heard such rude behavior before or since. And I don't think that I've ever had a gaffer ask me what focal length I’d be using. It usually goes like this: We have a lot to do, the first setup will be such and such with the dolly and the talent walking in front of this or that (windows, etc.) The next set up is going to be in this room and it’s a teacher and kid together -- maybe something soft, a kino? HMI through a silk? What do you think? We work together and work out what has to be done. I’ve exasperated gaffers at time -- mostly by working to fast or having the director want to get a kid’s (in a documentary type setup) reaction or some special moment was happening. Once in New Orleans, we were working very fast, and the director wanted this shot right ‘now’. So we spun around and got it but like light stand,C stands, sandbags, one steps, etc. were all in the way. Later the gaffer said that if I only could tell him which way the camera was going to be pointed he probably could get it lit for me and keep most of the equipment out of the shot. That cracked me up. He was a good guy. I’m surprised a lot at how hard they work, really helping me with the look, coming up with great ideas, working through lunch at times, etc. And never having a bad thing to say. At the end of the day they’re loading the truck and talking about what shoot they’re going to do tomorrow. Either I’m very lucky or there is a ton of great, personable, talented professional gaffers out there.

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