Being a producer is kind of like being a medic in a battlefield. You have to know a little bit about everything, you never have the appropriate tools on hand to fix what needs to get fixed, you are constantly bombarded with incoming flak, and you are always in triage mode. Money is hemorrhaging, egos are collapsing, tachycardia is endemic and no one has slept is 48 hours. Oh to be sure, no one is really going to die. At least I know that. But the clients? The agency people? The photographers? The crew? We are all operating in a hyped up reality whereby careers are given just 24 hours to survive. And the odds are not good for survival. Not now. Those days are long gone. Everyone’s job is on the line, everyone is expendable, and everyone is understaffed and overworked. It is a new cut-throat business model, where the laws of physics and real reality are challenged at every step.
In Productionlandia, it is true: we live in an altered reality; the normal rules of everyday life don’t apply. The well-equipped producer needs something else in their McGyver bag of tricks. Something that really gives them an edge. You’ve seen Heroes? I am not talking about the mundane things like reading minds or seeing the future. I mean really cool shit, like making magic hour last for 3 hours, or a dawn that starts at 10am. What about coffee that contains 100% of the recommended daily allowance of nutrients? Or shoot catering that doesn’t make you fat? Or 2 hours of sleep could be expanded into 8? Or a magic chest that spits out money just for overages? What if I could change gravity to avoid excess weight charges? Now that would be cool!
In Productionlandia, with Production Chick super powers, I could be able to control things that normal mortals can’t. In real reality, we all understand the basic concepts of airplane ticket pricing when we are planning our personal vacations. But in Productionlandia, that insidious rubric of advance purchases or fares based on seat availability or delays for thunderstorms, de-icing, terrorist threats or lost luggage are just not acceptable for our tight budgets. What if I had real JUICE with the airlines! What if I could always get bulkhead seats or choose my fare or buy business class tickets for the price of coach or get airlines to pay ME for delays, bad service or inconvenient layovers? That would be a really cool super power to have.
How about the weather? In Productionlandia, weather could be fun. Little me, without my crystal ball and my Red-Bat-Phone-Direct line to God, is actually expected to KNOW when it will rain, snow, sleet or hail. Not content to just gather information from the publicly published weather report, I could actually know that when Sam Champion tells us in his weather report there is a 60% chance of rain, he really means: “yes it will rain on top of Bear Mountain at 1:05pm for 25 minutes, and then clear up just as you finish lunch.”
Once I was in an airport in a far away land. We were looking for snow and thanks to global warming, finding snow-capped peaks in summertime just isn’t what it used to be. We had 2 location options. Neither perfect, and weather was a concern. Google Earth Satellite showed an approaching storm. Which one? Where should we shoot? At 6pm, as I approached the ticket counter guy at the airport, with all 10 passports in my hand, I turned to everyone and asked: “So, did we decide yet if we are flying to the city in the north or the south yet?” How awesome would it have been to control the cloud cover and the snow?
Take traffic as an example: I was once trapped behind a car fire on the Brooklyn Bridge. Stuck. Not moving. Impending fireball blowing back at me. In a panic, I called my client. “I am going to be late,” I tell her. She was not happy. She didn’t really believe me until I pointed out the 15 news helicopters circling above the Brooklyn Bridge. In my bright orange ski jacket, that I bought just for this purpose, I got out of my taxi and started directing cars backwards off the bridge, 3 hours later I finally made it to the shoot. It would have been so much easier if I could have made the taxi fly across the bridge.
Imagine if even offensive odors were within my realm of control. Once, we were shooting in a cow field. It was this incredible, magical farm that had been in the same family for 4 generations. And many more generations of cows, I imagine. The day before the shoot I got a call that someone at the agency wanted to change the location. Ok. I breathed in slowly. (I am ok with last minute changes.)
“Why?” I ask.
“Because of the smell.”
“The smell of cow!”
“But we, are shooting a cow pasture.”
“Well, then, please ask the farmer to clean up all the cow shit from the pasture.”
I brought a bunch of scented candles and incense, but wouldn’t it have been better if I could change the smell of cow dung to something dreamy like lilacs and jasmine?
Or how about the time we were shooting a baseball field in New Orleans. It was springtime. The field was a lovely shade of green in all of our scout photos. The night before the shoot there was a freak late frost. When we arrived… you guessed it. The field was BROWN. 40 gallons of green latex paint later…. A green grass wand or a warming power would have also done the trick.
But I do have some really great tricks up my sleeve. I have these weather guys who can track an approaching storm down to the minute. They once gave me a two minute warning to leave a beach before we all got electrocuted and they were EXACTLY right. And I do have a miracle-working travel agent, Jeff Himmel. I think he may have super powers for the magic he has worked over the years. And of course, I have an incredible crew who don’t seem to need to eat or sleep for days on end. And I can’t forget the photographers, who can magically expand time and shoot 15 shots in 1 day. And even the agency and their clients seem to have super powers. This year, when confronted with 2 acts of God: the earthquake in Chile and the volcano in Iceland, they didn’t complain. Not a peep.
Maybe I should get a cape and a little spandex outfit for everyone on every shoot?