View from my Office
Ready for Shot
My alarm goes off at 5:45am. I shoot out of bed because although I was super tired after cooking Indian cuisine Sunday night with friends, this Monday morning is going to be busy. I’m producing a sci-fi short film for a friend at 7:00am on top of my normal daily work at a production company.
It’s pretty cool now in the mornings, so I shiver through quick morning prayers. Kettle of water goes to boiling on the stove, sausage cooked yesterday into the oven to heat up, and I dive into a precisely ten minute shower.
Three batches of French pressed coffee later, I have also packed my backpack for the work day (laptop, work binder, work lists, my own breakfast) and Bible study in the evening. The clock reads 6:23 am. So far so good. Then as I take craft services out to the Camry I realize I didn’t account for having to make three trips with all the food, water, coffee, and eating utensils. Whoops! Meanwhile, I’m texting and calling with the director and AD as we make sure everything is good to go and that crew are arriving at our transportation location.
I’m laughing at myself now because I didn’t know when I picked this day to write about that it was going to be such a hectic one. Then again, days like this will be my life for the next few weeks until I fly home for Christmas since our production company is headlong in production for a documentary.
Now it’s 6:35am. I’m pulling out of my apartment complex. I’ll be getting to our pickup location exactly on time to leave for the first shooting location, Mike’s BBQ. En route, the director lets me know the main crew and cast have already headed out to get setting up early. I’ll be picking up five crew/cast members and a load of equipment.
Gemma lets me in at the gate, Phil and Clare direct me around the corner to where Matt waits with the gear, and we load up. Delighted to learn that c-stands actually fit in my trunk, I supervise not spilling the coffee while I field calls from the AD and try to get in touch with our VFX set designer who has not shown up or communicated. From knowing his normal schedule habits, we’re confident he probably stayed up late and is fast asleep. We might need to take a second trip to get him, but in the end we decide we can’t wait for him and don’t have time to come back and get him. Thank goodness this is a forgiving student set, but hopefully in the future he’ll communicate professionally. Otherwise it will harm his reputation in the industry.
We’re off now! After arriving and unloading gear, I supervise breakfast, release forms, and any last minute items the production needs. Since we are on a tight schedule, everyone moves like busy bees and we start shooting at 7:20am. The set lighting looks amazing, cast and crew are delighted with the fresh coffee, and b-roll is confidently interviewing random crew. I watch the first few shots, proud that I am producing this set and working with this team.
8:15am comes all too quickly. As I’m grabbing my backpack, I run into an interview with b-roll. I laugh and reply to his questioning: “Hello, I’m the producer on this set. We’re off to a great start this morning and I’d like to stay, but I’m actually going directly from this set to work in a production office in La Jolla.”
As I drive away, get gas, and head to work, I can’t help but smile. This is a good life. I’m leaving one set in production to go work on another in pre-production. It almost sounds funny to call that work because I’m doing what I want to do, and I know I’m enormously blessed by God so soon out of college. (Three months out of college to be exact.) My daily Rosary en route to work is infused with so much gratitude.
I walk in the office door at precisely 9:34am (I’m still learning to plan ahead for the extra couple minutes it takes on the old, slow elevator). The office is already hopping. It’s our main producer and production manager’s first day back from a shoot in New York City, and we are already moving completely on to pre-production for the international leg of this film. I walk past our financial producer already thirty minutes into a call with the Czech Film Commission, say hi to the two other office assistants, smile at our travel planner Lauren, and ask our production manager how his shoot went. Lauren knows I’ve been up since 5:45am on a shoot of my own and is eager to hear how it went. I whisper the gist to her and then slip into the back office where our main producer is already on a call.
His office is “where it all happens” as the saying goes. I am his producer’s assistant, so I have a desk adjacent to and facing his. That way I can take notes on his calls, organize his papers, look over documents with him, and see his computer when he needs to show me something on it. I open the laptop and start taking notes on the call. He winks at me and I grin back, glad to have him in the office again.
I’m no stenographer, but apparently I take killer notes. All those pages of philosophy and screenwriting notes in school paid off I guess, and now everyone in the office counts on my notes to be forwarded by email after a call. “Not to put extra pressure on you,” says our financial producer as she laughs, “but yes, to put pressure on you. I read those notes and I don’t have to take any myself!”
While this is going on, I am also checking our Christmas book orders. Goodness, we’ve gotten thirty orders of the Christmas packages from the weekend. Sometime today I will be prepping each order to be personalized and signed by the author on Thursday. This involves logging the order info, printing screenshots of the order to rubberband to each set so they don’t get mixed, putting a sticky note in each front cover with the personalization, and keeping track of each set. I also notice that we’ve sold out of one set. That involves a scramble to let our web guy know to stop those orders and make a new set with the inventory we have left.
Today I pass off the daily orders to Tyler to package and mail because as soon as this first call is done, the main producer and I are headlong into another foreign call with our line producer in Prague. Different versions of budgets, contracts, and communication print outs lie in organized chaos around the desk as they hash out the details for making this shoot happen. After that it’s a call with the director and then the writer and director. There are two Skype interviews with potential locations managers in Munich, but the first one is a no hire and the second one gets moved to Tuesday because we have a sudden call with our other director. The production manager and I have to share a laugh because our producer dislikes the no hire so much, and then we join with him in hoping that Christian tomorrow will be better.
Suddenly, we realize that it is already one o’clock and we haven’t ordered lunch yet. Dani goes to pick it up and we eat with 15 minutes to spare before another call with the Czech bank and our US bank rep.
After that, the main producer and I finally sit back to two minutes and laugh at how fast the day is moving. “Are you scared of me yet?” he asks and I shake my head. “I love this,” I tell him. “I love being busy and I’m learning so much amazing stuff.” He gets excited. “Just wait until we get to the information gold.” He geeks out for a minute as we explore the database that all major film companies use to track what’s coming out when. (We’re in the middle of locking a release date for our current film.)
Later in the afternoon there comes a point when I am taking notes, printing order slips, writing things on his to do list, and following his brainstorming arc when he stops, looks at me, and laughs. In that exact instant my brain is momentarily overwhelmed from firing so hard on all cylinders and I can tell from the look on his face that my expression must be a priceless mix of intensity, enjoyment, challenge, and rush. “Are you okay?” he asks. I grin, “Yes, just give me 30 seconds to catch up on all that.” It is amazing working with him.
At some point, Lauren slips in to tell me she just accepted another job at a financial company where she will be moving up. I am sad that she is going to leave because we connect so well, but I am also happy for her because this job at DML Films has prepared her to move up in the world. Our main producer says pretty much the same thing, although he also says, “Lauren, you’re going to make dad cry. We’re going to miss you a lot.” We have this thing at work that the main producer and the financial producer are our “work parents” and we are all their kids. They watch out for us like that too which makes it even better.
Also in the afternoon we have an office meeting where the main producer and production manager catch us up on the New York shoot. We dive into the logistics of wrapping up that shoot, managing Christmas orders, locking down budgets and insurance for Europe, prepping for another set of interviews early December, and a sudden huge meeting with a major studio in LA that our main producer has at the end of the week. Dani and Tyler are put to scouting location options and wrapping New York stuff with our financial producer who is also working on all the accounts as well and doing the million other things that only she knows how to do. The Christmas orders are my arena. That leaves the production manager and I to prep with our main producer for his studio meeting. Before we split we also make a list of everything that we need to do for travel arrangements for November/December. Since she is leaving, Lauren will also be training Dani and Tyler on how to handle travel. I’ll be stepping in as well since she already showed it to me, but I’ll be doing more on our main producer’s end and getting them info since I’ll be mainly needed in his office.
Our main producer and I begin to wrap up the day by catching a call with an important person we will be interviewing soon. We leave messages for a couple others on the east coast that they will get tomorrow. Then it is 5:29pm. We’ve already figured out that I will stay until 7:30pm on Tuesday and Thursday to help prep for the huge meeting coming up, so today I’m out the door in a rush for Bible study with my group at JPCU. Our main producer bumps fists with me and tells me its a good thing I’m going to Bible Study to pray for everything going on. I leave happily on a burst of energy.
On my way to campus, I stop by the student housing at Latitude to pick up craft services from the morning shoot. I pop open the gate with my hand (yes, the student complex is that secure) and wait on Gemma’s brother to unlock her townhouse so we can grab the stuff. Then I’m off to the Student Life Center.
Tonight its only four of us with the campus ministry leader Chase. Half of us are so tired we keep dying from spontaneous laughter, but reading through the Gospel of Mark settles us a bit. We’re at the discourse of the end times right before the Passion narrative. Yours truly suddenly wonders at the fact that the discourse focuses a lot on natural events while nowadays the culture seems to focus on man-made apocalypses. We discuss how the end times also refer to our personal end times and what will happen at the end of our own lives. In that light, we realize the importance of making sure we ourselves don’t slide little by little into dangerous ways as the various sects of Pharisees did until we don’t know the bad choices we are making.
The sci-fi short film shoot went well, except for that fact that the restaurant manager needed everyone out an hour earlier than planned to mop the floors. That has an easy fix though—we shoot two hours of pickups on a third Monday. The director Joseph and I have already been messaging about it and have it under our control.
I head home with a full heart, a tired mind, and a peaceful feeling of blessedness. Obstacles come and go, some harder to surmount than others. However, if I rise up to take them in step I realize that as long as I am working hard and walking one step at a time in the path that shows before me, I will be exactly where God needs me to be when He opens enormous doors.