Wednesday, 25 August 2010

She works hard for the money

Since moving to New York I haven't done much of what could be constituted as a hard day's work.

I appreciate this is unlikely to endear me to anyone reading, so I'll come straight in with the defence that I only recently got my U.S. work permit. Well fairly recently. Two months ago to be exact. I had planned to hide it down the back of the sofa but The American got to it first.

"Honnnneee you can get a proper job now!" he trills, waving the card excitedly around like it's the Wonka Golden ticket .
"I have a job! I am a Journalist."
"Honnnneee. I know you are a journalist, but you kind of have to work as one, not just, like, be one."
 "Fuck off and make your own pasta."

To further my defence it's not like I've sat on my arse watching Maury and General Hospital for the last year, instead life has been it's own real life soap opera to which I've become the reluctant producer.  I've been pretty busy with a whole lot of something and a fair bit of nothing.

There have been paid jobs here and there, some radio, some writing, a few small TV jobs, but nothing that would pay the rent- and when you live in a bijoux box in the West Village, ain't nutin' going on the but the rent.

I had been trying to avoid going back into tele, for the reasons that I am rather fond of having a life and not so fond of cultivating new deep set frown lines.

But the TV demons want what the TV demons want, so when I get my called by a former colleague and offered a month's work as a New York  'fixer' for a high end Natural history programme I am back in the game again.  I have to admit it feels good to be a whore for the money  get hired again.   

I take the job even though 'fixer' sounds like a someone who goes in and cleans up after a grisly murder in a Tarantino film. As it turns out, it means everything from location and casting manager to producer, NYC restaurant expert and coffee runner.

Before the crew arrive for 8 days of filming I spend the several weeks beforehand researching and finding people and places to film. Turns out I am pretty good at scouting locations, seems my year of doing a whole lot of something and nothing has given me a finely honed sense of this Island.


The crew arrive on a dull, humid Tuesday night. Within 20 minutes of meeting them at their hotel there's a TV crisis, some sandbags are missing for an essential piece of kit. For the majority of you fortunate enough to not work in the industry, let me explain a TV crisis; It is the very worse kind of crisis. It starts as quickly as it is over, but for it's lifetime it's all pervading, encompassing and really, reeeeeally serious. This particular one find us all in a sport's shop at 8p.m. buying 200 lb of weights and then working how we get them out of the shop and back to the crew's hotel.

That's just the entrée. Over the following 8 days there are many more real-life TV dramas and surreal moments.

There is extortion from the locals in Chinatown, there are rats and their catchers, there are angry honeybees on a show stopping rooftops in Queens. There are 6 a.m starts, midnight finishes, a soundman with suspected martini poisoning  and a night out that ends with a cameraman riding a mechanical bull in a Lower East side bar.

There is a fight in another bar that has hundreds of women's bras hanging from the ceiling (not involving any of us crew I would like to point out),  there is the panic stricken 5 minutes when we think we've locked some contributors on a 7th floor balcony and there is getting chased down by some graffiti artists in Long Island City.

Then there is the weather. After a glorious NYC summer, it is stubbornly grey when all we need to film is golden sunshine.

The American is patient while I work day and night, although really I suspect he just enjoys playing a lot of x box unhindered. While I am gone our apartment goes to shit: laundry sits in the basket, nothing gets picked up from where it was dropped and a cure for cancer grows in the sink. The American does not do any of these household chores because he has a penis and is busy killing Nazis.

I don't have time to write or see my friends or do anything else I love. I am out every night having dinner with the crew and this means booze becomes my major food group.

I also don't go to the gym which means I get grumpier by the day, although I do lug lots of camera equipment around up endless flights of stairs and carry a lot of waters and coffees. Me and the driver find ourselves doing a lot of drinks runs actually- on one of them we work out we have a combined age of 65 and three degrees and a postgrad between us-which we think might make us the most well educated pair of coffee runners in town. We laugh about a lot about that. No really, we're in total stitches.

On the last day, with the words "it's a wrap" ringing joyfully in my ear I wave goodbye to the director as she heads off for Newark.

I bounce down 27th street, feeling the satisfaction of a hard month's work.  Just that old fashioned buzz of a job well done and bringing home the bacon. Feels good. I had forgotten how good. I want to go crazy, pay some bills! Do a food shop! Mail a rent cheque!

The euphoria lasts until the next morning when I get sick.  A raging sore throat, a thumping headache I can't shift and a lethargy. Tele hangover. I swear I will not do another TV job again, even though I know I will, especially when I add up what I've earned. This causes my fingers to disconnect from my brain and make their own way to my laptop to buy some new stuff for the apartment and an ipod and that perfect pair of summer wedges without the ankle straps that make your legs look fat.
Then I take to my bed in dramatic Victorian fashion and dispatch The American to Duane Reade to buy me Theraflu and tissues that don't make your nose go red. I tell him I think that maybe TV work does not agree with me. He says I should rest and not worry about another job until I'm better.

I tell him I suspect it will be a long recovery.


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