Thread: How do you deal with rude attitudes between crew members?

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  1. #1 How do you deal with smartass attitudes in your crew? 
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    So here's my story and sorry for the length. There is quite some nagging so I apologise ahead. I hope my experiences can be helpful to others and I'm still looking for some tips. You are welcome to skip my post of course.

    Some months ago I saw an ad on a Facebook group from a 1st asking for a 2nd in my area. I usually either Produce or Direct/DP my own stuff so I don't deal much with external projects but I said why not, it would be fun for a change to meet people on other projects and anyways be part of bigger projects. Good to network with other people as well, get experiences on shots that I wouldn't shoot myself. The money was alright too which was actually the main motivation.

    So we met up, went on with that shot and shot a few more as a 1st-2nd team during the next few months. Since almost the beginning I felt something's quite off, the guy was bad mouthing and acting sarcastic making faces completely out of context. He was not a bad guy, just a little too much for this culture. You see where I live there is a lot of demand for shooting and things are extremely fast paced. The economy is booming and everybody wants fast results with a slight compromise as needed in order to deliver the maximum value for the product. That said, perfection is highly encouraged sometimes demanded as long as it doesn't mess up the schedule. And things work this way just fine and great products are being produced as well making money that give turn to more projects and so on. Huge music videos are filmed in 24hours without sleepovers and hotels. Music Video 1sts can figure out and pull focus on the spot without needing excruciating explanation from the director/DP on every single shot - there is simply no time for that. Everybody works happily and with respect as a team. It is a rewarding experience.

    At some point he pissed off the DP we were working with till that point because of his weird attitude of asking too much detail about every single shot. He was just a 1st - all he had to know was type of shot, hours, location, gear, pay. Perhaps some script details/spec if it's something complicated. But he was asking for details like how many people are going to be on set, how many on the lighting team, what are we gonna use to light. Because of the way these things work in a very rapid fashion here what happens is that Director calls DP, DP calls 1st to check availability. The DP doesn't have all that detailed information he is just trying to see if the 1st is actually free on that day. But he got a 1st asking all those details like some kind of diva. The DP got a little frustrated but he remained respectful and just trying to do his job. I had to be in the middle of it all and try to explain what's up. You see the guy felt over-qualified as 1st because he was apparently DPing before that. The way he judged everybody and everything our DP/Director were doing made you feel like he really must know something. At the same time though I wasn't hearing about any shots of his own as DP. So I told him, you know what, I have several projects in my company, some $0 budget some with a few thousands and we can do them together as a team. He liked the idea and we shot one such product together where he DPed and I directed. I got shocked after watching the first half of the shot while unloading with a very high percentage of the shots being out of focus. I recommended he changes to wider lenses and higher the f-stop. I had to work around the footage and moved on. I was still grateful for coming on and contributing to my project.

    There was another shot though, this time a commercial one that we DPed together. He proudly took over the camera operating (as he is supposedly the most experienced) and at the very first and really simple shot he failed about 10 times to pull dolly and/or focus correctly starting to blame the gear in front of the director and acting really weird. I stepped in slowly and took over ending up shooting the whole thing till the end of the day but with him next to me so he feels like he is shooting it and making it feel like I'm just helping him so he doesn't get tired. He apologised at the end of the day about his behaviour. i was a bit horrified again about the lack of control and skills but I had to hear him all day commenting on the lighting team's decisions so I thought at least he must know his lights.

    We have been in touch since at the phone catching up. He always had to say something about being busy meeting people to network and discuss some kind of shooting but nothing ever about actual shooting that he has done since I met him almost a year ago. Then a few days ago, a new internal project was coming up so as the director of the project I was putting together the concept and contacted him up to see if he was game to do it together. He was supposed to mainly light the shot and as I would DPing he could offer his help. But that time I have already lost my trust to him DPing so i didn't want to sacrifice this quite important shooting; I just wanted to see if he can at least light properly - he made so many complains about lighting and lighting crews in every shot we have been so I thought he knows about it. The shot was mid high-ist budget (themed studio, ursa mini pro, ultra primes, arri skypanels kind of thing) but I gave him some high budget fashion clip to watch to get motivated for the project as there were concept similarities. He started overanalysing and pretty much said on my face that I can't ask him to do that because it requires from the director (me) to super plan every shot and I'm not experienced enough to do that. I got a little shocked and silent for a few seconds then I explained him that this is not something constructive to say like that. His rude and weird attitude was out again but this time not for others but for me. I said, as director, I know of the time and budget restrictions and our capabilities and it is my decision to not choreograph everything because that's how people shoot these stuff here. Slow motion modelling shots can work just fine by setting a nice environment, giving a slight direction to the model and let them do their thing while taking nice shots around the way that the camera movement is set-up. He was talking about coordinating every single of the model's movement with the camera movement. I explained him that this is ridiculous for the kind of project and budget we are shooting. He even bad mouthed again the DP we were previously working with (experienced in the local industry with many top-budget works) saying if we do it my way it will look bad like that DP's works... He avoided talking about his job (lighting) which was what I was asking him about and focused on how we should be shooting this. In general, it seems he couldn't use those clips to envision a slightly different product. Everything to him was a very expensive commercial shot with the highest standards. I took it all in and explained nicely again and again that this is not a million dollar shot, just a nice commercial shot we get to experiment on. Eventually he got it and we moved on.

    A couple of days later, I moved on with the pre-production and let him know about the concept in more detail and that I pre-booked camera and lenses so he can add anything he needs for the lighting. After a few okay messages suddenly he threw another rude one on me, pretty much nagging like a little girl about whether I trust him as a DP and why I took DP decisions on my own. Then, he disappeared for about 24 hours without reading any messages or answering any calls. I called him seconds after he sent that message but he didn't pick up. I texted him nothing. So later on that night I texted him about my concerns about him on this project with this behaviour. No bad words just a few realities I needed to clear up like how this is my shot that I have stakes on and can't have any drama going on around in front of the talent and my team members. He offered to help, he said he could do light, we didn't have anybody to do light so I thought it's great for him to do the light. Still no reply I started getting nervous and stressed as the shot was just a few days later. Next morning I checked, still nothing, no read messages even. So I sent another message letting him know that this is really not nice and unless he replies within the next few hours I would naturally have to remove him from the project and readjust the production variables asap. Again no bad words, just straight talk since at that point all I cared about was to know if I have lights or not. Inside that message I did mention how he could always opt-out if he thought this shot and our style was not good for him. He finally replied (about a day after his rude message) saying he was busy and that my attitude was unprofessional and not "team" work like. He went on throwing blame in any direction away from him said a few more things to snob my production and skills and that why we shouldn't work together. All in a pseudo-professional kind of talk but full of sarcasm, lies and offensive talk. I kind of expected that reaction as that's what he has been doing since I met him - talking about how unprofessional is everybody around him; only that everybody else is busy shooting while he is busy judging. So I sent him a last message explaining him why I couldn't trust him as a DP and reminded him about how he didn't do well on the jobs we worked together and how I was giving him a chance to prove himself on my own project so he shouldn't act up that arrogantly given his performance. I also let him know that his attitude has been quite rude talking like that about people, including me. Again no offensive words, no sarcasm, no tension, just sharp realities that I felt I had to clear up with him. That he was talking and promising things way above his capabilities and he shouldn't be talking down about anybody especially before he proves himself. That seems to have triggered his insecurities so he started calling me names saying I need mental help, attacking me using private information we discussed before as friends, sarcastically wishing me good luck cause I will need it... And then the blocking around all social media followed.

    So after the long story the question is, how would you have dealt with the person above? What would you have done differently? How do you spot those people from the beginning so you don't end up with bad emotions and wasted time?
    Last edited by pidulgi; 01-17-2018 at 10:54 PM.
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  2. #2  
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    First, you are really really patient guy. Second, I would stop working with him in the beginning.

    I met similar guy couple years ago. He was in charge of lightning in our studio and he was always complaining about everything, everybody - lights were old, we did not have enough lights, cameraman is not doing it right and his favorite "I will not light it more because it would look like tv, I like more like in theatre.". So we had gain our cameras? I was not in charge so I was not able to fire him. But his attitude and work style really affected entire crew. His nickname Mr. Smarta*s.

    Anyway, I have learnt when you meet someone new who is like "Mr. Smarta*s", nice and friendly and seem like great dude with lot of skills, this person is usually the first who you will dont like the first .
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  3. #3  
    Senior Member jambredz's Avatar
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    Honestly... and this is may sound harsh... I blame you.You're the one basically enabling all this. You saw all the warning signs from the start and even after giving him a chance once, you continued with him. I'm sorry but I'd have cut that off way before. Lack of skill is one thing... But his bad attitude was on display from the start (according to you) and you turned a blind eye to it. Then add to that his lack of skill in working. He did nothing out of character. Did you expect a different outcome? If so... Why? You cuddled the beast and when it turned on you and bit you in the ass, you then want to blame the beast. That's not how it works.
    Last edited by jambredz; 01-18-2018 at 07:17 PM.
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  4. #4  
    Senior Member DPStewart's Avatar
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    Attitudes like that??

    GONE day one.
    Cameras: Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Blackmagic Pocket Camera (x2), Panasonic GH2 (x2), Sony RX100 ii, Canon 6D, Canon T2i,
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  5. #5  
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    He's gone and never to be worked with again.
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  6. #6  
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    Yeah seems pretty clear you've made a mistake there.

    I could understand if he was already a prior buddy to working in film and you didn't want to ruin a friendship but you went out of your way even after you knew his attitude and abilities to continue working with him even though there was no obligation.
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  7. #7  
    Senior Member Asyndeton's Avatar
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    Sounds like a lot of dunning-kruger effect at play here. But as the others said, it sounded like a classic story of a toxic relationship, I’ve learned many years ago to never work with anyone with a bad attitude like that if it’s within my power.
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  8. #8  
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    Thank you guys for your replies. Most likely dunning-kruger effect indeed. The works I do are my own company's content. I sit down with artists and make a product from start to finish. Nothing huge but no indie level either. Filming is just a part of it that I got into a few years ago and I fell in love with since. Thus, most of my works are internal - I control the funding and I also do the work hiring 3rd parties as required. So I'm used to have very good control of what's going on in the projects I work in (as I have created them) and have people following my planning. It's only recently that I started working on 3rd party projects like that mainly for the money, the experience and networking. So I'm not used to deal with those kind of situations much. At the same time I try to be easy going and behave like what my position is at the moment. If I'm a 2nd, I will behave as a 2nd with respect to the 1st, DP, Talent, Director, Producer/Investor etc. I will not go out there like I own the place and most importantly, even if I feel something's off I will not express it during the shot; I will go back home and think about whether I should be there or not. I remember there was that situation that the DP was running out of time for his shot, trying to get the Alexa Mini stripped to put on a Ronin and instead of helping in any way the guy (as a 1st) would just stand there and whisper to my ear about how badly planned was all this and he shouldn't have had that plate locked in that way on the camera and they should have designed the shots differently etc. Then he would have this cringe smile when everybody else around are serious people doing their work (it was a $30,000 music video). So I was like, it's okay, people have personalities, not everybody is perfect, I can't just push everybody away everytime I feel uncomfortable. There are also some cultural differences that could explain some of this guy's weirdness since he just moved to this country and he might not get exactly what is what and how things are done. He was also an ex-army; nothing against service people and no prejudgement but well honestly, you probably need to be a little bit cockier than the average citizen to survive in there to begin with. Maybe I was wrong after all and too humble. So I settled in my mind that his personality is just "peculiar" and I gave him the chance, in my own humble way, with respect, allowing him to feel he is above me; naturally as he was the 1st and I was the 2nd. But he always felt like that was a given; that he was better than me. That he is a more experienced and better cinematographer just because he decided so and because I was humble enough to not present every little project I do as the greatest achievement in cinematography. Wasn't only about me though - he honestly felt better than and kept commenting on so many decisions of our DP and Directors in such disrespectful ways. Commercial projects and music videos that came out to be successful with millions and millions of views. But I'm the kind of person that like to keep good relations with anybody, not matter the situation; so I kept the relation. I guess my mistake was to call him up again for another project. "Doing me a favour" from his perspective, "Giving him another chance" from mine. Lesson learnt. Surely not everything can be perfect and you can't always choose your team but working with people you trust and respect you as you respect them is important.
    Last edited by pidulgi; 01-19-2018 at 11:36 PM.
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  9. #9  
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    I feel with you. Had a similar relationship many years ago to someone who was also a know-it-all can-do-it-better. But he did it in a kind of friendly way, masking well what he was doing. And he was always a victim, blaming everyone else for his own fails. He was also a master in manipulating people by telling them what bad things others have said about them - it was just not the truth, more a twisted kind of his own distorted reality.

    It sounds easier to avoid those kind of people than it is. They can camouflage well what they are doing.
    True masters do not rob their craft all under your nose.
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  10. #10  
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    Well, on a positive twist of things, while looking for somebody to do the lighting, I called the experienced DP we worked under to ask him if he knew anybody I can hire for lighting for the project I was directing/DPing. I just wanted one single person as that was the size of the project and was expecting some semi-pro freelancer as our budget was very tight. He only knew bigger lighting teams. He instead offered to "come and help out" himself. What a great honour to have such a DP in my set under me just for the lights. After his recommendation we rented a couple of skypanels and he did some amazing detailed lighting. The footage looks like quite a few thousands dollars above its budget and definitely better than it would have looked with the iffy guy's lighting. Also the atmosphere was so positive and friendly. He didn't try to dictate me, he just did his job (lights) and we had some good time while filming giving me advice only after I asked him. I still paid him some "thank you money" of course and have to buy him some nice dinner next time but yeah, what a nice day, what a nice footage. I guess some things happen for the good.
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