‘Across America, assholes abound’
Wm.C. Roman 1971
‘Especially in show business…’
John L., 2015
Recently, I heard a fellow DGA brother tell film students a great insight into our business. When he was a young 2nd Assistant Director he was talking with his 1st AD about another AD they would hire for the production staff. The 1st made it clear who they should hire—but noted– they are not the best person available for the job, they are the best person for the job who can work well with us.
The 2nd learned a very important lesson. The no asshole policy. Getting along as a team, especially when things get difficult is the key to a success. (my blog on ‘Casting the Crew’ at johnlroman.com)
Sadly, in the world of Hollywood most of the assholes tend to be Producers, Directors, Agents, Executives, etc. The ABL—Above the Line. Lots of opportunity to create hostile, mean and unhappy sets.
The BTL– Below the Line is the crew. They can be artistic and temperamental, but rarely have the power to torture people on an entire show of staff, cast and crew.
Truly– to avoid being an asshole producer, it starts with who you work for. Once you become a producer you need to work with people who have very clear no asshole policies. Even if you are producing a show, if the people above you are assholes, it is hard to avoid being tainted by them.
I have been lucky enough (and sought) to work for Executive Producers who had such policies. Sometimes the policies could not extend to the Studio. There are many great and talented people at the studio. But, it is also a place where assholes go to die. So, many dangers lurk there. But if you are connected to your EP’s, then a united front always keeps assholes at bay.
A word about the difficult artist–Just because an actor or director, etc. is difficult that does not automatically make them an asshole. In pursuit of great work, sometimes Artists snap at the very people they need to help them. Your guidance as a Producer will be used defray the difficulties of the Artist. The key job of the Producer is to support the artists.
My EP’s would always support me in my efforts to hire people we liked (or hope we would) that could also deliver the work.
Really, the only other thing is to treat your crew as the professionals you expect them to be–
Make good deals, but do not cheat crew in a quest to save a few dollars on a kit rental or some such thing. Studios have policies that must be followed, but if you do not give a crewmember the deal that works or that they think is fair, you will eventually pay for such a cheat. Even if the crewmember does not get what they hoped for, they must leave your office feeling like they got a fair deal. Those are the people who will be loyal and work hard for you.
Don’t micro manage. Set goals.
Set the tone of the work. Don’t nitpick.
Reinforce the goal daily.
Be cranky when the crew fucks up. But do not be vindictive. Punishments must be equal for all.
Fire quickly and remove bad apples before trouble starts. Dragging your feet on crew changes is big trouble brewing.
Don’t shit down and suck up. Be evenhanded with all. The PA who spilled your latte does not know the pressure you are under. Just the pressure they are under.
Also, you cannot be shitty to assistants and PA’s. Or dismissive. Take the time to explain what you want. Those kids working in your office and on your sets are such sharp young people, they will surprise you with their ideas and efforts.
Expect good work and deliver your end of it. The crew will amaze you with their abilities.
Don’t set the crew up to fail. If you want them to take the hill, give them the soldiers and bullets to do it.
That’s it. That’s the secrets I know.
The rest is hanging out at the monitor and watching TV.
And– don’t be an asshole…