One of my favorite things about working in film and TV is how everyone is saying thank you all time.
Even when people are fucking shit up.
That’s a thing people do, especially on set. I don’t know what it’s like in other industries but I'm going to guess that one ever gets their work totally wrecked and then thanks their co-worker for wrecking it. Maybe on The Office- but that should tell you something. It should tell you it’s ridiculous.
I like saying thank you because when I say it, I mean it, and feeling thankful feels pretty good. On some sets, when things are in the middle of chaos and everything is coming down to the final second, someone helping can elicit the kind of “thank you” that is more like an “I love you!”
When I was a kid I learned that I should say “please” and “thank you.” It wasn’t a hard and fast rule, it wasn’t like I had thanked kids for picking on me. When the girl sitting behind me in second grade English class stabbed me in the back, literally, with a sharpened #2 pencil, I definitely did not say thank you; fuck that. I distinctly remember one older girl making fun of me when I was six and my family (pre-divorce) was vacationing in the Catskills. My dad was in the field, cleaning a fish he had just caught, and he chopped off the head, stuck it on a tree branch and told me that the next time this girl bothers me that I should point to said branch and tell her, “You see that? That’s your brain.”
But on most other occasions a thank you is important, especially if you are asking someone for something, and especially if you NEED that something.
That’s the real horror about working with fish-heads, and you’ll find them in every school, job, city, life. No one is exempt from fish-heads. The problem is when you have to rely on them and they are walking around with their brains stuck on the end of a twig.
I remember being on one set one day where the Background PA was about to lose it. I remember having the “I learn something new every day” moment and that day I learned that PAs always say thank you, even when what they really mean isn’t “thank you for all your great work” but “thanks for not fucking this whole day up any more than it already has been.” Or, on this one particular day where there were about three hundred BG, it sounded more like, “Thank you for not doing something completely insane like punching each other in the face or setting cameras on fire or jumping off the roof. Thanks for still being here and bearing with us even though you are miserable and starving to the point of cannibalistic desires because we are late breaking for lunch. Thank you for talking on set even after I constantly have asked you, pleaded with you to be quiet. Thank you for not arriving on time or hair and makeup ready, for being a total asshole, bitch, and/or general pain in my butt. You are making my life hell and I hate you all so much but thanks everybody! Keep up the good work! Thank you background friends! I get paid $150 bucks a day after spending a small fortune going to film school and all I got was this stupid swag shirt. If I’m lucky I’ll rise up the ranks and become a 2nd AD by the time I’m middle aged so that I can continue to deal with all of you until we all die. But first I’ll join the union so I can get medical insurance and afford all the Xanex and Klonopin I’ll desperately need to continue working with you monsters! I’ll have gray hair by my mid-thirties and no hair by forty but thank you! Thank you so much for all you do! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
I recently visited a lawyer’s office to complete some paperwork on my apartment. “Fill this out. Give me that form. Sign these. I don’t need that one, take it off the table.”
I was so creepingly close to saying “You mean take it off the table, PLEASE?”
But I stopped myself. I think that means I’m maturing but it could just be that I wanted to see what else would come out of this rude-ass mouth. Once you talk back, the game changes, and I find people’s rudeness to be much more intriguing and authentic when I’m not adding fuel.
He didn’t say much else. The paperwork got done, very efficiently and with speed, so whatever roughness, curtness, felt okay. Actually, it felt better than okay and the reason is that it was is because this lawyer was smart. That’s the thing- it’s like the song goes, “If your gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough.” You also need to be nice. It’s one thing to be a little bit of an asshole, it’s a totally different thing to be a dumb asshole. Between the two, as long as stupidity doesn’t lead to critical physical or mental injury and doesn’t harm the work, then I think I’ll take the nice over the smart; I don’t like assholes. Dumb is like a moist cupcake with shitty frosting, but an asshole, unless they are a genius (in which case much is tolerated and even forgiven) is like a delicious cupcake that gives you food poisoning after you eat it. It’s just not worth it.
At this moment, I'm packing my backpack for my trip to Ireland a day early because I worry that I'll be so threadbare by the time I actually get to go that I'll forget my passport at home. We all have our "I'm an idiot!" moments but I try to avoid mine when I can. It's not always possible, but it's always worth trying.
As always, thank you for reading. Please be safe on set. Don't do anything stupid.