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Tony the Production Assistant: Corporate Gigs

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We Are Movie Geeks welcomes guest blogger Tony Fernandez, a production assistant taking us inside the underworld of indie filmmaking.

Working as a Production Assistant isn’t very glamorous. It’s even less glamorous while working for a corporate client.

I’ve worked on many productions for corporate clients; recruiting videos for colleges, in-house videos for big name retailers, productions for investment firms, and plenty others. These gigs usually pay pretty well but they rarely involve creating art.

Some corporate clients are definitely easier to work with than others. I’ve worked for people that treat me like well, don’t talk down to me and make working with them a generally positive experience. Some clients know what it feels like to be on the low end of the totem pole and they’ll relate to you, joke around on set while working and sometimes even go out for a drink afterward. I’ve even become friends with some of these people.

One of these ‘good job’ was a series of admissions videos for a medical school. On one of the
production days, the crew was given access to a hospital room that was used for training. The medical students are trained on life like mannequins. The mannequins are full size, have facial features, and hair. They also make noises that are controlled remotely. That isn’t all; they also have bodily fluids and create waste. That’s right; they puke, pee, and poop.

I watched as a student’s ran exams and procedures on these dolls. I saw a student run a feeding tube through the nasal passage and down the throat of a “patient.” The mannequin coughed and made painful groans throughout the procedure. I then watched a mannequin lose complete control over its “functions” and observed the students dealing with it. I was horrified, but where else would I be able to witness something like this?

Then there are other types of clients I have worked for. These other types will send “producers” and copywriters to accompany the crew on set. Most times these “producers” have zero set experience and need to have every little decision run through them or have everything explained to them. This always causes headaches.

Producer — “Is that plant in the background too green?”

Everyone else — “No… but we can kill some of that light if you want.”

Producer — “Why is that light on the side of their face like that?”

DP — “It’s called an edge light. If you don’t want it I could turn it off, but I feel that it is helping the overall image.”

That’s how you have to talk to them. They need to be babied. They are all children, children with huge salaries that don’t care about other people.

These productions usually takes place inside a corporate compound. These compounds are built to hold hundreds of people, sometimes thousands, in their gray cubicles with egg shell white trim and gray carpeting. It is our job to make them look appealing.

I once spent a 12 hour day shooting holiday inventory for a big chain retailer. I lit purses and Christmas sweaters. I went over camera technique and blocking to better capture a room filled with body sprays and cologne. After a while, everything starts to look the same. You’re led all around a building, shooting room after room filled with objects. The days are long and there is hardly ever a break, the only real break is lunch.

I remember eating lunch in one particular compound very well, not because the food was great but because the cafeteria had a 60 ft. window with a 50 ft. American Flag hanging in it. I felt like I was having my lunch on the set of a Michael Bay flick.

I’ll take working for a good client any day of the week, but it’s hardly ever a choice over who you’ll work for. I’m just glad to be working, and sometimes I get spoiled by working with a crew and with producers that I like. I just wish it happened more often.

2 Comments

  1. bill

    February 3, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Wow, way to never get hired on another corporate job. Good luck making music videos. One hell of a career there.

  2. Tim

    February 3, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    At least he is honest.

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