Got Swooped On

I had an opportunity. I had a starter gig. It was never perfect because the executive producer did not pay me much and ran everything on a last minute schedule. I worked hard. I also waited many months for the gig as the producer/Chef talent kept delaying  production costing me even more money.

We were supposed to film in January. Actually, there was talk of filming all the way back in September. I had a couple of odd jobs, some weddings, and a few last minute videography gigs. The latter for the chef. Anyway, all the while there was talk of his TV show. So I hung in there with a “I’ll believe it when I see it attitude”. Alas, it did happen. We filmed in February.

He introduced me to the station program manager. I was happy to make that contact. Meanwhile I needed to find two people to work with me. This would create our slim team.

Being an older female film student, I hadn’t worked with a group outside of class. Why do I preface this paragraph with my demographic? Well, young filmmakers are judgmental people, but so is the whole industry. Because technology is always changing, it is thought that younger people have better ideas about how to use it and about what is visually cool. That may be true sometimes, but I was in school with the younger people too.

Anyway, here I was with my gig, that was ramping up. We were airing in March and filming in February. Those of you who have filmed a season of 6 episodes know this is crazy. One week in, I knew it was crazy too. But in the beginning I was nodding yes to everything as I slated myself for the director role. At first the chef said we could film two episodes in one day. This was his third season so I figured he knew. But that was impossible with the time he allowed for shooting.

There are people I should’ve contacted, but didn’t think of until it was too late. So, the guy I did contact was a young guy from my classes who just graduated. Before I reached out to him, I did think he was a bit too much of a “know-it-all” but then I thought I could handle that. He let me know his roommate would also be good. We met and started our pre-production.

They showed up and worked hard the whole time. I was working with the station contacts to understand the format and timing of breaks and content. Later, I find out that I was given wrong information, but will get to that. We figured out the lighting. Through a process of reviewing edits and team meetings we formatted our filming.

But each episode we shot I felt tension because the sound guy, my friend from class, was constantly playing director. Mind you, a cooking show is not rocket science and we would say the same things, talking over each other, which was rediculous. I though he was riduculous, but the chef was watching.

Being a cheap guy he was thinking of how he didn’t need me if the sound guy could direct. I tried to believe that the sound guy was just acting like he did in classes and lacking the professional containment of someone really in the industry. So, at one of our team meetings, I simply asked him to stop interrupting me.

After, which, my crew stopped meeting with me and I realized they were having their own “meetings” in their house. The chef became intolerably rude and demanding so much so that my work quality slid a bit. When I say “slid” what I mean is that he thrust 3 ads on me the very day I was applying the final touches to our first episode to send to the station so much so, that I cared a little less about those last minute ads that were manipulated into my lap. The client didn’t like them. Go figure.

Then our next shoot day, we had a meeting before the shoot and the chef responded to my stern pleas to have all specs for a project upfront, namely about the ads. The chef immediately began to position us against each other by first asking the guys if they knew what I was being paid. I had told them I was making 200/episode and they were making 100/episode on three occasions prior. I knew what the chef was doing and any respect I had for him was rapidly diminishing. I was also worked ragged.

You can probably see where this is going, but the guys took the bait and got really mad at me claiming that I had misled them. Our team, which was already going downhill, sped to the bottom. I wanted out. The chef blamed me for everything when any hiccup happened, and it did because the episode timing was off, the guys took their sides. Strangely, we found out the episode timing was off the second episode, and not the first. The chef had already begun to include the guys in our emails, he also included the guys in our private emails. Those were either my defending my process regarding the ads the clients hated, or me trying to save my ass when anything went wrong. He would suddenly include them so they could read everything.

They took over the 6th episode. I am still hoping to get paid for the 5 I directed. I’ve been cut out of the shared folder and do not have access to my work.

When I look back, I realize that I worked with the wrong people. I also realize that I should’ve stuck to my gut instinct that we needed 4 people on our production team and paid a 4th out of my own salary. Lastly, a lesson I learned was to always ask to read the contract with the station.

But that does not excuse the Chef’s behavior. He was obviously trying to drive me out. I felt that when he came over to my house to do a last minute voice over for the episode intro and instead brought a script for three ads. He also brought a client who was “creating their own ad” to do a voiceover in my diy sound room. When I asked about the 10 second intro, he acted like we’d already talked about it and I had misunderstood.

You only treat someone that ruthlessly when you want them out at the first possible moment.

The two guys who I brought into the scene made comments like “we will work for food” and “that’ll take me only five minutes” enticed the chef to switch me out for them. This is a younger vs older person problem, but I also think sexism was at play.



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