Positives and Negatives about working in Motion Pictures
I started a new job today. It’s not that much different from my old job: assistant editor on another comedy series, except this one is for NetFlix. We (my editor and I) start working remotely then switch to in-person after the producers return from filming overseas. We’re only doing three episodes and will run from June to September.
Something I like about this business is the regular change of projects. I get bored and frustrated very quickly going to the same place, doing the same thing, over and over*. In this industry each new job is something familiar, often with people I already know, but the details change.
Another positive thing about motion picture work is small structured teams. For example, TV editorial teams are often an editor and an assistant, with 2 or 3 teams on a series along with post production staff. It might be 9 or 10 people altogether in post production. Then producers and directors come and go. But there’s a structured chain of command, with defined responsibilities, so you’re unlikely to get into conflicts, step on somebody’s toes, or have to fight for territory.
Even in on-set work, like a movie with a crew of 100+ people, everything is very structured and responsibilities are well defined. People work mostly in small teams, there may only be a handful in your department, and you may be the expert in your field.
A down side is looking for a new job every six to nine months. I’ve reached a point in LA where I have enough contacts to keep working regularly with people I like. (Well, for the last few years, at least.) Cycling through jobs means you’re more likely to end up with people who already like you, and can gracefully avoid those you don’t. And it helps that cycling through jobs is “normal” in this business, since I rarely last long at any one thing.
Time off between jobs can be a blessing or a curse. If it’s a short break, and I have something else lined up, then it’s like an extended vacation. Otherwise, after a couple of weeks it stops being a holiday and is just being out of work. Not knowing where the next job (and money) is coming from can be stressful and a buzz-kill. Apart from the pandemic shut down, the longest I’ve been out of work since I moved to LA is eight weeks. That got a bit nerve-racking but is, on the whole, pretty good. We would sometimes joke that “I am available for the rest of time”.
Bullies and abusive behavior are notorious in this industry, but a lot have been culled lately due to the #MeToo movement, and a general shift in power and attitudes. Of course there are still egotists and crazy people. There’s a lot of time pressure and performance pressure, but if you are working with good people everyone has an interest in your success, since their success also depends on it. I’ve had a few crazies and maniacs and liars but the majority of people have been helpful and professional, and those are the ones I’ll try to work with again.
Something else I have an opportunity to do with this change of job is change my routines. My doctor has recommended going on a Keto diet, and more exercise. Actually, it’s all about the big three – sleep, diet and exercise. With the new job it’s like hitting a reset button, so we’ll see if I can just reorganize myself and work on my general health for a while. Although I would like to add “more writing” to that mix as well. I have an issue with getting stuck in food routines, where I am eating out of habit whether I need to or not. Now’s a chance to recalibrate.
A general positive thing about movies and TV is it is an oddball industry. There are a lot of unusual people, and being a little different is almost expected. If people know they can trust you, you can get away with a lot of quirks.
This has worked for me for two decades now.
* Fun ASD note: If I do the same thing for too long, I start to feel trapped and paranoid. Once I have solved the practical problems in the job it gradually drives me crazy to repeat the same thing over and over. I over-analyze the politics and relationships, usually to no purpose. It works much better to push the reset button every so often, so there’s not the opportunity to obsess.