Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #15: Jasper Gray
To young Jasper,
This is some advice for your first day on a film set. Because you don't know yet that you even work in advertising. You'll learn that eventually, but not today. You don't even know who those stylish people are behind the video-assist monitor or what they are doing. Although I will say it's good to get to know them as most of them will turn out to be pleasant company and good to have a drink with. And after all they did come up with the idea in the first place and are really the reason we are all here. But that's way too much for now and we can get to that much, much later.
So first things first...
Get to set early. Seriously. Not right on time and definitely not late. Double check your call time, the map to location, and your calculation of the time it takes to get there, but especially your alarm clock. This is going to be a tough one for you, I know. But you will have to learn quickly because if you show up late you won't get get hired again and your film career will be short lived. So take this seriously and I promise it will make you a better person. Or at least a better prepared one — which is almost the same thing.
Shut the fuck up. At least at first. No one is going to want to hear about your student film, your experience gained shooting your student film or your shot by shot breakdown of Hitchcock's Vertigo. You are working with professionals who have more experience than you can imagine and sometimes you have to shut your mouth to open your eyes and learn and this is definitely one of those times. There is no way that you can impress them with what you think you know. But through a willingness to learn and by busting your ass you can at least earn their respect. Maybe, just maybe during lunch someone will want to know about your student film award or why Tippi Hedren wore a green dress but probably not. This is also going to be hard for you. But soon you will learn not only how, but why.
Now that is out of the way….
Absorb everything. The fascination you feel right now will be your greatest asset. It will drive you to learn about every aspect of filmmaking. It will give you the enthusiasm and energy to make a career in the filmmaking. When you don't yet have the experience, the connections or the know-how, this is what will drive you through.
You are going to work with hundreds of crews, thousands of people, all over the world. And every new day on set you will have to prove yourself all over again. Some people are going to yell and scream, some people are going to test you, tell you what you can't do, even try to demean you (hey — it's the film business, and sometimes it's like that). Smile politely and then work to prove them wrong.
But more people will take you under their wing and mentor you. Sometimes this will go beyond filmmaking, some will also be your mentors and role models in life. Repay these people with the utmost loyalty, and when the time comes follow their example.
And when the Prop Master asks you to separate the best cornflakes from a case of cornflakes boxes do this with pride and whatever cornflake wrangling skill you can muster. Make sure those 'hero' flakes are set and ready for their close-up when the time comes and that you have even more triple A+ flakes in reserve. Try to realize that one day you may need someone to do something like this for you, and if they half-ass it then it's your shot that could suffer from shitty looking cornflakes. And if that's too abstract then just do your best because you want to get hired back and because everyone on the crew gives their very best work even on something that seems completely trivial.
And through all of this make sure that you enjoy yourself. Because you've just stumbled into what could possibly be the greatest job in the world.
Oh, and yes, that table full of snacks, you can help yourself — just try not to overdo it.
To read the entire 2013 'On My First Day of Advertising' series, click this.