Tuesday, April 12, 2005

That's Entertainment

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I used to work in the Television Industry, right smack-dab in the centre of Soho, haven for deluded wannabes, vacuous morally-vacant coke-snorting Nathan Barleys, vicious bastards of every persuasion, people without an ounce of creativity, but enough money to throw at things that they hope we don’t notice.

Of course, I was still a bit too wet-behind-the-ears to realise all this at the time. I was a Runner, just starting out. So, to me, this was My Big Break. I worked for a post-production company on the impossible-to live-off salary of £12,000 a year. I vividly remember my first day on a film shoot. Nothing fancy, but I was popping my Live Action Shoot Cherry, so I was excited. It was a one-day shoot doing the opening titles for a Pop Music Chart Show.

Film Shoots are notoriously long days, and it was a freezing day in the midst of a typically arctic London Winter. I worked directly and closely with the Production Manager on the shoot, who also happened to be both my boss and the Managing Director of the company. Fourteen hours after the working day had begun, the day was over at last. But there was a problem…

For the shoot, we had ordered, paid for and had delivered a “flat”. (In non-industry speak, a “flat” is “scenery consisting of a wooden frame covered with painted canvas; part of a stage setting”. Thanks, dictionary.com!) The flat was huge, and heavy, and thick. It must have been about 10 feet by 10 feet, on solid, unforgiving wood, bright red on one side, bright blue on the other.

After the models, and make-up person, and the director, and the crew had all disappeared home, we realised that the flat was still in the studio. The Studio Manager told us we would have to get rid of the flat, as there was another shoot due to take place the following morning.

But the Production Manager had forgotten to arrange for the flat to be collected, taken away and destroyed. And, anyway, she had dinner plans, and couldn’t possibly do anything about it. “AKA, get rid of it.”

I asked the Studio Manager if he had any thing I could break it down with. Nope.

I went back to my office to see if I could find anything I could break it down with. The only thing I could find was a teeny, tiny hand saw. The kind of saw that would make it difficult to cut through a thick twig.

The Studio Manager told me that he was closing up, so I would have to take the flat out and cut it up in the alleyway. Both my office and the studio shared the same alleyway. It was, of course, an alleyway in Soho. So it reeked. The place was full of shit and piss and puke and blood and discarded food and used condoms. And me, a tiny saw and a massive wooden monstrosity. And it was late and cold. Getting later and colder all the time. And then it started raining.

It took me about three hours in the rain and cold to get it all into small enough pieces to cram into a dustbin. My working day was now over seventeen hours long. And I still had to get myself home.

The last thing I remember was returning to my office to put the saw away. I sat in the kitchen for ten minutes trying to get warm, and I found a bottle of Jack Daniel’s hidden at the back of a cupboard. I poured myself a generous shot, and then I sat and wept. That is the first and only time in my working life that a job has broken me so badly. (Although it was only the first time I would be so horribly demeaned and abused over the next two years in the Heart of the Business. There was plenty more of that to come.)

And it was all for a piss-poor pathetic £12,000 a year.

It’s all seems such a very, very long time ago now. And I’m glad I finally turned my back on it all, and radically changed my career-path. But this is the article that I found that brought it all rushing back. Which just goes to show that Slavery is still alive and well and thriving in the Television Industry. Dammit.


Bonnie_Blue said...

Jesus, for once I actually don't want to make a joke. What a fucking horrendous story - and that article... Shit.

Though, having said that, most of them probably deserve it and I'll be bringing a fuck-off piece of wood to my birthday drinks for you to break down. With your head.


AKA said...

Damn glad that you and Beckett have got your blogging groove back on, Bonnie. It feels like we've got the Band back together...

b umanrightsviolation said...

This kind of abuse, like others, appears to perpetuate itself - the maltreated runner, having climbed the ladder to a proper job, thinks nothing of doing the same to another poor sod because "that's how it's done around here". Good luck to TV Wrap, they've got a long way to go.

"Man hands down misery to man,
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can
Or you'll turn into a bollock-brained slap-inducing coke whore."
- Phillip Larkin (paraphrased)

AKA said...

It does perpetuate itself to an extent, but then you get people like me who just walk away from the TV Industry completely, uninterested in being either the abuser or the abusee. (But then you start to realise that all the enthusiastic, creative people who should be working in Television got squeezed out or walked away becuase of the Corrupt Shitheads.)

Hence, TV is almost entirely lowest-common-denominator crap.

Bert said...

I feel there's a Jack Daniel's theme starting to dominate thsi blog.

AKA said...

I KNOW there's a Jack Daniel's theme dominating this blog.

Jack Daniel's - Breakfast of Champions!