Don’t tell anyone this, but sometimes when I’m bored at work I go into the men’s room and watch myself in the mirror while I angle my arms in different directions and pretend I’m a hieroglyphic.
Other times I sit at my desk and stare silently, with a balance of frustration and thought on my face. You’d swear I was trying to work out a production issue. But in my head, I’m actually deciding what music I want played at my funeral. I’m nearly ceratin that the “thinking theme” from Match Game ‘76 is what I’d like for when they carry my casket out of the church.
Working in television is not glamorous. Appearing on television is glamorous, but working in television is just long hours. Minimum ten to twelve a day, sometimes sixteen or more, almost all of it on your feet when you’re in production, and then far too much of it in a chair when you’re in post-production.
You’re often working out of rooms with no windows, overhead Gestapo lighting, a shortage of trash cans, and heavy, boxy old Mac desktop computers that crash when they try to bring up a website and auto-save a phone list at the same time. The kitchen has nothing but diet sodas, Hershey’s Miniatures and Cheez-Its. You may start a television show eager and optimistic. But by the time the show spits you out the other end, you’re pale, your pants don’t fit, and you discover all your house plants are dead.
But there’s no time to express how tired you are while you’re in the thick of it. You’re almost always behind schedule. Your shows aren’t being edited fast enough. The network has decided your set should be red instead of lime green even though you wrapped production six weeks ago and the set is sitting in a dumpster in Lancaster. Also, you can’t use that shot of the breaded chicken strips you desperately need because the camera caught some idiot standing where he shouldn’t have been standing, and upon closer inspection, it turns out that idiot is you.
You just have to keep working. You have to always be busy.
And when you’re not busy, you have to make it appear to everyone else that you are.
When I absolutely can’t concentrate on work any more, I’ll pick up a piece of paper and walk around the halls for ten minutes or so with a look of rushed worry on my face. Another producer might say, “What are you working on?” and I’ll say to them, “Trust me. You DO NOT want to know.” And then they’ll run away from me as fast as they can, like I’ve just started talking about my experiences with prison sex.
Sometimes I have the phone up to my ear and when someone comes up to assign me another task, I just hold up the “can’t do it right now” finger, then point at the phone and make a sad face. They’ll walk away thinking I’m trying to convince a contestant to sign that release form no one remembered to have them sign before they appeared on the show. They’ll never know what I’m actually doing is listening to what time Inside Out is playing in theaters across the country, one zip code at a time.
I believe in breaks, but television production does not, so I have to make them happen any way I can. I’m really not qualified to participate in any other field except show business. Thankfully in show business, with a lot of stamina, a little bit of brains, and a massive talent for being able to trick people into believing what you want them to believe – home viewers, studio audience members, the person about to hire you – you can go very, very, very far!
I’d share more tricks on how to always “look busy,” but I’m under the gun to get these pork pies done in time for dinner tonight.
Or am I??