I’ll start of by mentioning that I love it when I get a little note in the envelope with my paycheck. “Thanks Steve” is always so gratifying.
Trooper – it is a foul horrible four letter word. I would appreciate it if I was never called that again. Just recently while buying nuts at the “nut box” the counter person entreated me to try the silvered (slivered?) Almonds. I don’t like Almonds, so I declined – “They’re Spanish and don’t taste like Almonds” said she. Okay I thought, couldn’t hurt me. Then she said “Be a Trooper” I swear I damn near walked out, without buying anything.
Maybe being a trooper was a noble thing once. Someone who wouldn’t give up no matter what happened, the rain, the snow, someone who would keep going on and do what they promised no matter what. How noble, and admirable, except that what are you doing it for? National safety, to protect a loved one? No, just to help make someone’s dream of making a movie. Wow. Let me tell you – it’s a movie, and no movie is worth someone’s life. So what is the great important ideal that you are sacrificing yourself for? Being a trooper for making someone else’s movie – it isn’t good.
What is with the idea that being a trooper is valued? Really, my experience is that I’m working a job, and for whatever reason I’m being asked to work longer than promised, or suddenly things that I was promised haven’t appeared. “Gee you are such a trooper for doing this”. Yeah right, you lied, and I’m helping you out, I’m extending myself, and what’s my reward? The next time “oh gee the rate is lower, but you already worked for cheaper,” or “you don’t have as much crew as promised and you killed yourself to make it work last time, and you did so why do you need crew? So this time I’ll start off by paying you less, or giving you less gear than you need.”
TROOPER = Schmuck. It is not alright for me to help you out and have you insult me. You want to show me appreciation for my going above and beyond. Next time reward me by PAYING me more. Thanks are nice, but show me some actual love, and not just lip service. Say thanks, say you appreciate how much I’ve done, but don’t call me a trooper. Troopers are idiots, schmucks who bend over, get boinked, and smile happily for the pleasure of being screwed.
Once upon a time, a producer tried to hire me on a 12 hour flat. So I said what happens after 12? He said it won’t go over 12. We danced for a bit. You see I really hate walking off a shoot. I commit to a shoot, a job, I’m there. I expect that everyone else will do their jobs. So when I commit, I commit. That is no reason to take advantage of my responsibility. So this guy says 12 hour flat, and no overtime after 12 – which is already way longer than a work day ought to be – and I say, okay, so after 12 hours, the day is over, you’ll pay me and I’ll leave. The guy says, no no no – there is no overtime it is a flat, but it won’t go over 12. My haggle is this, so if it won’t go over 12, you can promise me ANY amount of overtime – he wouldn’t go for it. Of course not – he knew it would be longer than 12 hours, which is why he wanted a flat (remember a flat day is 24 hours long) and if I was to leave after the first 12 hours – then I would be the one causing problems, and he would feel justified to blame me, and not pay me. Who needs that crap? I could have gone onto the job and been a “Trooper” – but what for? For someone who is either unprepared for their job, or is purposely trying to screw over crew?
On the other hand, I don’t want a “Trooper” working for me. Motivated, passionate, dedicated, willing to go beyond – all this is great, and wonderful in a crew. But being a “trooper” so gung-ho you’ll do anything, any job, any two, or three jobs, enough. Years ago I shot additional photography on an indie feature – Under Hellgate Bridge – Directed by Michael Sergio. I talked with the director about the Production Assistants – because I felt they were going WAY beyond. He told me, he loved his PAs, they were great, but he wished they would just do their job, and stop jumping in to do EVERY job.
It’s a business, and requires professionalism, and frankly in the end, that is more valuable than being a “trooper” Professionals go above and beyond, but not every second of the day. That in the end is counter productive. I’ve seen a union electric set me a “lenser” when the grip wasn’t around. He didn’t jump in to do it, he gave the grip lots of time, to do it, and when the grip couldn’t because they were overwhelmed by other work, the gaffer stepped in just before we rolled film, to set the flag, so the shot wasn’t ruined. If he becomes a “trooper” and just jumps in before it is absolutely necessary – then what happens, he’s not doing what he has to do, chaos ensues, and it actually slows down production.
Yeah great the PA who is supposed to be doing one job jumps in and does another, but in the end it doesn’t help. It hinders and makes the whole process inefficient and confused. Being a “Trooper” is a bad thing, bad to be one, and bad to be thought of as one. Be thought of as dedicated, and know your job, and a hard worker. Don’t be known as someone willing to be taken advantage of, or someone who doesn’t know their job.
I work hard, I work smart, I’m an asset to productions and I put in the extra effort. Just say thanks, but no matter what, please don’t call me a trooper.
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