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-   -   Do the pros ever screw the pooch? (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/techniques-independent-production/3866-do-pros-ever-screw-pooch.html)

Josh Bass September 24th, 2002 01:40 AM

Do the pros ever screw the pooch?
I was just curious. Let's same I'm. . .uh. . .Spielberg's DP/cameraman. We're on the set of Minority Report 2: Majority Report, and it's shot where some men with rocket packs on their backs are flying past the camera, which is supposed to pan to follow them. But oh! I pan to slow and lose the rocket men (or some situation that applies; you get the point)! Does Spielberg kill me? Do things along this line ever happen?

I noticed in "Signs" there was an aerial shot near the beginning of the film showing the so called signs, and it was quite shaky, to my eye.

Ram Nagarajan September 24th, 2002 02:07 AM

The answer is: Absolutely, yes! Pros screw up all the time; but when THE FINAL take happens, it's usually so good that you wouldn't dream there were lots of bad takes which ended up on the cutting floor.
You can get a few samples in the films which use outtakes and NGs for their end credit titles (the easiest place to see these would be on Jackie Chan films, because they invariably use the stunts-gone-bad for their end titles; but check out Peter Sellers' 'Being There', or the more recent 'Bowfinger).
Having said that, though, being a pro means you sometimes gotta get it right in one take: Try going through Sidney Lumet's 'Making Movies' for an up-close-and-real look at what goes into Hollywood movei-making. There, he discusses a shot set in the Paris Gare du Nord for Murder on the Orient Express: The camera is pointing down along the length of the train, and as the train pulls out, the camera pans with it, catching the Orient Express logo on the carriage side as it sweeps past, to end up facing a full 180 degrees the other way - and craning up for a perpective shot of the train pulling out of the station in a single move. They lit the shot all night starting 5 PM the previous evening - they only had the staion for one night - and ended up taking the shot at 5AM the next morning. The sun was coming up as they rolled cameras, so they had only the one shot: By the time the train reversed and they set up again, the night would be gone....And they got it right and with perfect focus first time round!
Gives me nightmares to think what the operator went through knowing it was all up to him!

Josh Bass September 24th, 2002 02:19 AM

I always heard it was one of those "if you screw up, you'll never work in this town again kind of deals."

Rob Lohman September 24th, 2002 03:47 AM

Then there probably wouldn't be much people left (there are
*a lot* of screwups... especially if you see what movies Hollywood
sometimes produces)... there would be alot of job openings :)

Josh Bass September 24th, 2002 04:01 AM

How bout that. News to me. We're talking crew here too. . .not just actors and such, right?

Rob Lohman September 24th, 2002 04:13 AM

Definitely Josh!! Crew are only people too! Everyone makes

Ram Nagarajan September 24th, 2002 09:02 AM

Josh, very much so: I've worked with directors who are extremely good at what they do, but who sometimes treat their actors as if they were robots - expecting them to hit movement marks on the floor with precision, take after take, even as they emote brilliantly. They squeeze the actors completely dry - not to mention the crew, who in the meantime, have to get their camera/sound operations equally perfect take after take!
There's a lot of scope for error in the most minor of shoots, not to mention a full scale shoot with a 100 people on the floor.
If you ever get to see a typical Indian commercial movie, try imagining the number of people involved in a musical number where there are 200 people IN FRAME! And we're not even considering crowd control problems here! :-)

Jay Gladwell September 24th, 2002 01:11 PM

Josh, I know a production manager that worked for Speilberg. He said the man is a perfectionist. Yes, his pushes the cast and crew hard, but he pushes himself harder than anyone--the sign of a "leader."

Yes, people make mistakes, like the one you asked about. That's why there's more than one take. However, if anyone on Speilberg's crew proved they can't cut it, they are cut loose (and rightly so)!

Many directors, like Speilberg, work with the same people from project to project on the set to avoid such surprises/mistakes.

When in film school, the head of our department was a retired producer. He produced the Willie Nelson Gary Busey movie "Barbarosa" with Gary Busey. He told us about the prop man--they were out miles and miles away from their home base. He brought the wrong gun for the period. The morning's shooting was wasted. The prop man was fired on the spot. In this business, you can't afford such mistakes. This particular prop man proved he wasn't paying attention to detail and it cost the production company tens of thousands of dollars for his "oversight." That is markedly different from the situation you described.

Josh Bass September 25th, 2002 03:29 AM

I see. So it seems it's the little ones you can get away with.

Robert Knecht Schmidt September 25th, 2002 11:19 AM

Indeed--generally it's negligence/incompetence that results in getting fired--not human error.

Also, it depends how desperate a production is. A $100 million Bruckheimer picture would pinkslip anyone less than a department head in a heartbeat, but a low budget indepedent film might put up with an incapable first assistant director for the duration of the shoot, just because finding somebody else to fill the slot would divert the producer from more important tasks.

In Hollywood, as in business management, the Peter Principle reigns. The Peter Principle states that in a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his or her level of incompetence. In management, this means repeated promotion up to the level at which one can't perform his or her job adequately any more. (Whether he or she remains above this threshold--the active corollary of the Peter Principle--is determined by the acumen of the leader at the top of the hierarchy!) This happens in Hollywood too; a really good set dresser might eventually become a production designer, but won't hold the position long if he or she doesn't pass muster. So, one might say, being fired is all but an eventuality--and invaluable as a learning experience.

"If you don't know where you're going, you will probably end up somewhere else." --Laurence Johnston Peter, who formulated the Peter Principle in the 1970s.

Josh Bass September 25th, 2002 11:44 AM

Yeah but what about how once you're fired they call all your prospective future employers and bad mouth you. . .so that you have to clean the bathrooms at McDonalds?

Charles Papert September 26th, 2002 12:23 AM

Hi guys. Fun topic--I could write a book on what I have seen and experienced on this subject working in Hollywood.

Some very valid points made here with which I concur; that moment by moment human errors will not generally get you fired (there are sad exceptions however), and negligence is more likely to get you fired (and almost as sad, some truly inept people manage to hang on to their jobs). Also true that firings are more likely to happen in a high budget situation than an indie.

One thing is common; and that if someone is to be pink-slipped, the production will often go to great lengths to avoid telling them the straight story. No-one wants to take the responsibility (perhaps to keep the former employee from making a scene) so amazing lies are told so that no-one looks like the bad guy. Ugh.

Ram--yeah, I would be a bit fluttery as the operator on that shot you described, knowing it was a one-take deal. That's part of the fun of working in the movies though--it's a daily challenge! Performing a 180 degree pan on a rideable crane (such as would have been used for "Murder on the Orient Express) is particularly snarky, since you are panning via handwheel the entire turret containing yourself and the camera assistant plus 100+ lbs of camera--it's a lot of inertia and takes a lot of strength to bring to a clean stop. These days we're more likely to use remote heads which eliminate this sort of problem.

As far as mistakes made by actors rather than crew; generally speaking the actors are afforded much more tolerance to screw up and need another take! And as far as actors hitting their marks, well, some are better than others for sure. TV veterans tend to be the best, because in episodic production there isn't as much time for multiple takes for technical reasons, so the shots have to line up nicely from the get-go. I've been working with Heather Locklear this week, and I am blown away by her technical ability. The gal hits her marks like clockwork and takes whatever obscure blocking notes I throw at her with grace and style (and she's very nice and utterly smokin', to boot!) Conversely, I've worked with some big names who can't hit their marks or remember their lines to save their lives--but it apparently hasn't affected their careers much!

Josh, as far as anyone calling around, most producers don't have the time to be spiteful. However, word can get around and some have a hard time living down this stuff. It really sucks if you have taken the bad rap for someone else's screw up. I've been there, hate that.

Michel Brewer September 26th, 2002 10:19 AM

not quite the same but....

ENG aint film, work for a news net and we "screw the pooch" all the time. Some highlights for me have been a coworker now nicknamed "blue boy" who forgot to wb. This was during a all imprtant live shot after we (about 12 of us) had waited outside a couthouse for a few weeks. Another time we were all eating when the action happened saw breaking news from a local who didnt decide to eat, and ended up running back to the scene after the fact, and my most memorable experience not dialing up IFB on the right phone which resulted in a hour long show being these two celebrities staring into the camera and going "what I cant hear you", while exchanging puzzled looks, I got it right but that was about halfway through the show..........considering the cost our employer put out of sat. time, crews, trucks, lodging, etc it led to rather upsetting discussions when we got back; but thanks to forgiving bureau chfs. most of us still have our jobs :)

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