About a year ago a young and stressed makeup artist approached me on the second to last day of a short. She looked simply harassed and terribly unhappy with what was at the time her first or second outing on a film set. She hadn’t expected the days to be so long, for them to be so stop start, for such early calls or simply the occasional intensity and pace of the job.
‘No one understands,’ she lamented. ‘My day’s not over at wrap time. When I get home I need to clean my brushes.’
I had no choice but to nod politely and comfort the woman, she was very sweet and she really had worked hard. The reality of the situation is however the same for everyone. On low budget shoots it’s not unusual for the gaffer to undertake a two hour Panalux run in the morning, then work a twelve hour day and not mention it once. Or for the art department to put in extra hours at the beginning of the day to finish set dressing. DIT stay late to transfer and back up rushes on location. The director, DP and AD will usually run through things quickly for the next day. The list goes on.
For myself, I regularly don’t have a second AD so there’s sending out the call sheet out, and writing up the next one. That can take hours. As well as getting sides together, finalizing the running order of the shot list if there have been any changes (and there often are) and there’s usually a quick update for the producer or PM in there as well. All in all, once I’m home I’ll often have two or three hours work before I can even think about bed. For the record, how much time spent prepping for the next day is often directly linked to how early or late I was brought on a project and the strength of the pre-production period. This is a prime example of why preparation is all and trust me, no one really wants to be on set with a tired and stressed AD who is getting four hours sleep a night trying to lock elements which should have been sorted weeks ago. Aside from the grumpiness factor, it’s genuinely dangerous.
Looking after your kit is important, it’s your livelihood. I’m sure cleaning the makeup brushes is time consuming and probably does go unrecognised by the rest of the crew, but so do their time sacrifices. No one’s day truly finishes at wrap time and sometimes that really sucks. Working in film is an all-encompassing job and you don’t really have the option of going to the theatre after work, or even popping down the pub for last orders. The sad reality is that if you get to spend an hour with your partner at the end of the day you count yourself lucky.