We will never see that way (an onset dressers nightmare)

The inspiration for “Anatomy of the tech scout” was the frustration that we,  on the shooting crew, experience on “the day” when everything discussed on the scout, in the production meetings and the call sheet has no bearing upon what we’re shooting.  

I was the production designer on a film in 1990 and it was my first “real” production design gig. I was ambitious and wanted to leave no stone unturned. During the scout for a barber shop I was reading the dialogue and there was a mention of a gun store, i.e.: “in this neighborhood there are plenty of liquor stores and gun stores but no book stores”. I wanted to place a “gun store” sign or dress a “liquor store” sign. There were indeed liquor stores in each direction so  I asked the D.P.  and he said that we would never face west. I assumed that it was because of the time of day and the sun would be backlighting our scene.  I drew up a quick map and asked him to mark and initial where we would see.  He looked at me like I asked him to sell me his daughter.  The UPM pulled me aside and asked me not to do that again. Apparently asking someone to be accountable for the words that emerge from their mouth is a version of blackmail in this business. I had a “GUN STORE” sign painted on the building to the east. 

Of course on the day of the shoot we were looking west and the D.P. Threw me under the bus. I learned a valuable lesson that day (other than D.P.s are assholes). : We will always see the entire world. 

Lesson learned

If directors, producers and directors of photography had to put $200 into a fund every time they said, “We will never see that” and WE DO,    we could fund the bitchenest wrap party ever. 
It’s called a REVERSE! If we have more than one person in a scene we will most likely see the world from both characters points of view. DUH?
As an onset dresser I can’t tell you how many times a production designer or set decorator has told me that we were never supposed to see in that direction as I’m scrambling to dress an area that was omitted on the scout. The entire company is now in a holding pattern as we put together a set that could have been dressed two days ago.  It begs the question, “what happens on the scout”?  “What do you people discuss in the production meeting”?  
Then as we are dressing the set everyone wants to chime in: You know what would be cool? (Yeah, you getting out of the way and letting me do my job)

                                          The other obstacle when faced with improv set dressing is all the opinions.  

                                                Opinions are like children; if they’re not mine, they’re annoying.  

Several times while scrambling on set and correcting what “you people” messed up I’ve asked for help from the AD’s. Not physical labor just get some of these opinions and supervisors out of my way so I can get the job done. My go to is, “WOULD SOMEONE WITH BETTER PEOPLE SKILLS GET THESE [fine people] OUT OF MY WAY SO I CAN DO MY JOB”? (please).  So the lip flappers have been herded back into their respective boxes and we can continue dressing what we were never going to see.  The DP decides to use a lamp that we saw on the other side that we only have one of,  assuring us that we will never see both sides of the room (really, isn’t that how we got here in the first place?). 

Without fail as soon as the area is dressed and we are putting the last set dressing in place, the AD rolls the cameras before we can take a shot for continuity.  

CUT! OK, we got that! Now we need a reverse master. I look in my butt for another lamp and somehow, it’s there!  I clean it off (sometimes) and put it in place. 
The AD usually thanks me for the hustle and I remind him to read “Anatomy of the Scout” again. I would think that those in charge of a $10k/minute production would be little less myopic.  I am fully aware of changes in this business and if you can’t deal with change you are indeed in the wrong business but the next time you’re on a scout and you hear, “We will never see that way” respond with, “you wanna bet?” 


2 thoughts on “We will never see that way (an onset dressers nightmare)

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