As a lighting technician, I’ve worked on some massive productions, with some big “A List” talent. I don’t get star struck, I’m in the industry for the craft – and the pay cheque – not to rub shoulders with movie stars. The only times I really felt “star struck” were working as a stage hand on the “2010 Winter Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies” and doing some lighting calls on “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. On the former, I was working close to Michael J. Fox, and I’m a big fan. On the latter, the Director of Photography, Andrew Lesnie, was the DOP from the “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy.
Growing up. I didn’t really idolize people, it wasn’t in me. Television and film I love, but I never wanted actor’s autographs or to even be in the same room as them. I didn’t want the illusion of the screen to be ruined by meeting the real life people. I felt bad for celebrities, always being judged and having their privacy constantly invaded. As a kid, I never dreamed of working in film at all, it never crossed my mind. I first developed an interest at the age of twenty, after I dropped out of a physics program at the “University of Windsor”. I didn’t know what to do with my life, started to muck around with a video camera, and discovered a love for the art form and all the different ways to visually tell a story.
I’ve worked around a lot of big names, but I usually keep my distance. I’ve chatted with a few television stars, but I leave them to practice their lines, and get into character. One might ask “But Chris, you are also an independent filmmaker, why don’t you pitch your project to some of them?”. Set is a workplace, not a festival or a pitch event, people, including myself, are there to do a job. If you develop a rapport with someone and your project just happens to come up in conversation, that’s fine, but pestering talent for your own purposes is just bad form. I once was rigging a light onto the basket of a lift and a locations PA started to pitch a project of his to me. All I could think was “What is wrong with this guy? My job is potentially dangerous and he’s distracting me. I’m also a lighting tech, I can’t do anything to move his project forward.” That was the last time I remember seeing that guy working on a union show.
I’ve had brief chats with television directors as well, but never to get anything from them. I was once doing a call on an episode of a show where I was outside all day, focussing lights up on scaffolding into the windows of the set. At lunch, I sat down at a table by myself. A man approached me and asked if he could join me. Naturally, I said yes, there was plenty of room. We got to chatting, and he eventually asked me what department I was in. I answered “the lighting department. What department are you in?” He answered “I’m directing this episode”. I admitted that I had been outside all day, and I hadn’t seen a single take shot. I was a bit embarrassed but also amused by the irony. Nice fellow.
I have some funny stories, but I’m not going to name names in a public blog. Those stories are for friends… and the ladies *wink wink*. Honestly, I have more stories to tell about “below the line” crew people than “above the line” talent. There are no “normal people” in our industry and some crew people are just as entertaining as any character you’ll find in a movie.
Yes, I sometimes feel nervous around big talent whose work I admire. I’ve made a few awkward but innocent comments as well. I recently asked a director who was also an “A List” actor, whose past work I love, “Are they rolling?” Then again, he would know better than anyone else. Nice guy, he gave me a straight answer.
I like to stay away from celebrities. There may come a time, I’m hoping, when I’ll be in a position to direct some huge talent, but I still have a lot of work ahead of me. When that time comes, I’ll be the big shot that people are nervous to be around… bwa ha ha ha!
You can learn more about the the author, Chris Griffin, at About Me.