the worst first day

the worst first day

hey friends,

in light of certain recent events, I was reminded of something that happened to me way back in 2004. during my 1st year in Los Angeles I wrote in my journal nearly everyday – so this account of a really, really bad first day was written soon after it happened.

hope you enjoy it!

[start journal entry]

I like the post work I’ve been doing, especially doing rough cuts of feature films. Even making dubs and digitizing are preferable to humping sandbags, making copies, or any of the other “entry level” jobs I could be doing. And frankly, that I have too much skill for those. I can do assistant editing. I’ve been editing since I was a sophomore in high school…how many people can say that? And I’ve had my own personal editing system longer than most of my peers have been interested in filmmaking.

I’ve been hustling, trying to get enough work to get by without taking jobs beneath my ability. Why should I make coffee and deliver tapes for an assistant editor when I could be editing? Why should I sell myself short? (Rent, Debt, Health insurance…pssshaw “luxuries” really.) So I worked as an extra, put in time at the newsstand, emailed my contacts and searched internet job boards…looking for that assistant editing job that would pay me what I was worth. And hopefully let me pay back my schools, my Parents, and my Uncle Visa. One day there was an ad for a place that was close. Real close. I looked it up and it was only 4 blocks away! Perfect. No commute would mean I get two hours a day back. And it sounded like a job that would pay well.

I emailed them and they sounded interested. But the editor, James was out of town and kept saying “we’ll meet when I get back.” But we never did. So one day I decided to go there and talk to him. Unscheduled and unannounced.

It worked. He didn’t see me then, but without an interview they offered me work. That day and it turned out to “one of those days.”

The first thing you should know is that the editing software I primarily use is Final Cut Pro (FCP). The software for this job was AVID. And while I’m familiar with the application, I’m not nearly as proficient. And it came to light fairly quickly. The first thing James asked me to do was to make a music cue sheet. Which I’ve never done. Then he asked me to make an EDL. Which I’ve never done on an AVID. But I’ve done it on FCP and how different can it be? So I started to work on it and for some reason the audio tracks did not have all the events that they should have. There was probably 30 audio clips and only 2 were showing up in the EDL. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. James said to forget about it and drive down to Co.3 and pick up our dailies. He said they were on the Southwest corner of Olympic and Lincoln. They were on the Northeast corner. Because of the freeway, traffic signals, and one-way streets it took me about 10 minutes to negotiate around and get going in the direction that would allow me to turn into the building.

I finally made it into the parking lot, parked and found the Vault. They had all the materials we needed, plus a DAT tape. I knew that this wasn’t on the list and I didn’t have James’ number in my phone, so I couldn’t call him. I decided that we didn’t need it. He didn’t mention it and there wasn’t a DAT machine at his office. I drove back and told James. “You didn’t get it? Why not?” was his response. “Uh, ‘cause you didn’t tell me to and we don’t have a DAT.” “Well there might be sound problems, so we could give it to the audio guys. You should have called.” He was right, I should have called. I said I could go back down there and get it. But first I would need to start digitizing. I checked my notes and started patching the system. I had it all set up just like Stryker showed me, but I couldn’t get the AVID to recognize the deck. After trying a few different things and then I had to ask for help. The way he fixed it was a way I knew, but I wasn’t thinking in the correct order of operations. I did the levels, started to digitize and then left for Co.3

This time, I knew right where to go. No unnecessary driving around. I parked and headed for the stair well. Both doors to the 3rd floor were locked. Both doors to the 2nd floor were locked. I found myself at the 1st floor exit to the street which was also locked. “Great” I thought “I’m going to be stuck in the stairwell and maybe if I’m lucky enough to get cell phone reception, the fire department will be able to let me out.” I headed up the steps and, to my relief the door I entered thru was unlocked. A quick elevator ride later I was at the Vault counter telling the bleach blonde spiky haired kid hat he was right, I did need the DAT. “Oh man, the guy from NFL network took that.” Uh. What? “Yeah he left a while ago.” But I lucked out, this kid was a good worker. I didn’t have to ask him to, he just naturally called the guy up and found out where he was and where the tape had gone. He told the NFL guy that I was going to come and pick it up. Then he printed out MapQuest directions for me. Wow. That was the sort of service was refreshing. A quick drive to Culver City and I had the wayward tape.

I made it back to the office and finished capturing the footage. There were some timecode breaks, but I dealt with those no problem. Then I split up the footage. Once again, no problem. I even figured out how to link clips. It was shot 2 camera and some of the audio wasn’t transferred for both shots. So I matched “in points” on the slate clap and then told the machine to “autosync” then selected the correct audio tracks, tested it, and repeated.

That went fine. Then I had to make a DVD and VHS for him. Well, Stryker didn’t show me how to make a DVD, but we did talk about importing from VHS. But I couldn’t figure out how to monitor the VHS and or get audio to the VHS. James was watching and I got a little flustered. After a while he said to forget it. He just wanted to make sure I knew how to do it for next week. Of course about 10 minutes after he left I figured it out. The problem was that there were two ways to import the audio, but only one of the way of exporting. It turns out that you have to swap the cables when you want to switch from importing to exporting. Also there is no way of monitoring what you are recording on the VHS without stopping, re-patching and playing the tape back – a pretty poor patching design.

So I got that figured out and was hanging out waiting for Stryker to call me back to teach me about burning DVDs. I tried to get the EDL to shape up, but I still couldn’t figure it out…one more thing to ask Stryker when he called me. Which he never did.

After work Lori called me and I got the work equivalent of “the talk.” I got fired. Although in a nice, we want you to come back sort of way. I did feel a little overwhelmed by the situation and I explained that I was really solid editorially, but my technical knowledge of AVID was just not as high as it was in FCP. I said that it was too bad they hadn’t interviewed me, because that would have come up. She said that James really liked me, but he had new clients coming in that week and wanted to have someone with more experience . Fair enough. Still it felt pretty bad.

Many of my best jobs have been slightly outside my knowledge level when I started. That is where I’ve learned and excelled. So far I’ve been able to eek my way through the parts that I didn’t know long enough to figure them out. For example, I just finished cutting a feature and prepped it for a film finish. When I got hired I didn’t know how to do that! I had an idea of how to do it, but didn’t know for sure. Now I wouldn’t hesitate to include it in my skill set. The Lord has been gracious and with the quick mind that he gave me has always been able to make it work. But nobody bats 1.000, so the notion that eventually I would take a job that I couldn’t handle wasn’t lost on me. I chalked it up as experience and plotted my next move. Namely, finding work of any kind. I had enough in the bank that I would be alright for the first part of the month, but going home for my birthday and getting my teeth fixed now looked pretty unlikely.

[/end journal entry]

a week later they called me back for more work. apparently my replacement wasn’t as “personable” as I was. then they tried to short change me on some payment… I held out and eventually got what they promised, but never worked for them again.

anyone else have a rough “first day” story to share?


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