ATTITUDE Your attitude is one of your most precious assets. Chances are given to young newcomers because they’re talented, bright, and have a great attitude. If you’re in a business where the tensions run high, you want to be able to count on “your” people to handle things well, efficiently, and with a lack of bad attitude. On a film set where the days are long and the working conditions often not ideal, the crew member with the bad attitude is the one who is complaining, finding fault with someone else’s work, laying blame, and nagging about how long until wrap. It doesn’t even matter if this person is correct in his judgments or if everyone else agrees that Yes, it sucks to be out all night in 20-degree weather in the mud and rain, and No, no one is making enough money for this. No one has to hear it. You must be agreeable, helpful, and in general happy that you’re on the set of a film (commercial, television show, music video). The whiners and troublemakers are noticed, and they are not invited back. Even if their complaints are justified, everyone is in the same boat—who needs to hear about it? Write it in your private diary or journal if you keep one. Tell your best friend. Do NOT blog or post about it!
Along with the whiners are the princes and princesses, the egos: “I could do it better”; “I saved their butts”; “They couldn’t have finished the movie without me.” I promise you, they can always finish the movie without you. You are expendable. There are lines of people behind you, waiting for you to leave or be told to leave.
In an office, the people with an attitude are the drama kings or queens. It’s all about them. They do everything. They work harder than anyone else. Everyone else is incompetent. Their ideas are the best. They don’t get the credit they deserve. And of course there is the gossip. The drama king or queen is the first with the bad news, the nasty comment, the information that may or may not be true but is certainly no one’s business. These people are a drain on the energy of the work environment. They are also the manipulators, the connivers, the liars who set their co-workers up for a fall. Succeeding in a hypercompetitive industry is hard. Stay away from the attitude-challenged. You’ll be stunned at how a bad attitude rubs off on you and how it effects other people’s perception of you. Keep your eye on the road ahead of you, SMILE, and be the first one anyone thinks of when they need someone they can count on to do the job with a minimum of fuss. You will do well.
What follows here are two cautionary tales. Both are entirely true, but the names are changed.
CAUTIONARY TALE #1: You’re at the Bottom of the Food Chain Until You Aren’t Will was volunteering on an independent film. Every day he was asked to run to a specific vegan cafe ́ to fetch lunch for the lead actress. He had to leave set and fight the L.A. traffic to do this, and he was quite put out about it. He felt that getting lunch for an actress he’d never heard of was demeaning, and that since he was working for free, he should at least be doing something worthwhile.
On the third day of the shoot he was asked again to pick up the lunch. He rolled his eyes. The producer, who was himself doing the director a favor on this one and who usually made much more high-profile films, pulled Will aside. He told him, “No one should ever know you’re unhappy or that you think you’re better than this. You know why? Because when they started ALL these people, including me, had to do something we didn’t want to do. We were ALL better than that. Every job on a set is the same. It’s doing whatever has to be done to get the movie made. If getting the lunch helps, then that’s the most important contribution you can make, and you’d better hustle and do it gladly, until it’s not your job anymore. There are people waiting for you to get booted so they can snag your spot. Once you move up you’ll be telling the next guy what I’m telling you. You have to suck it up and look as if you’re having a good time.”