Phase Two of my mission to change careers and get into working in studio transportation is under way. I just finished my first day as a driver on a low budget non-union feature shooting in and around L.A. It’s a tiny little show being shot very much on the cheap and there’s only two guys in the transportation department — me and the guy who hired me — but it’s a start.
One thing that hasn’t changed since my grip days is the long hours. My call time was 9:00 a.m. this morning and I didn’t finish my day and head for home until about 12:30 a.m. tonight. Something I hadn’t really thought much about as I planned this move into transportation but was blatantly called to my attention tonight is that grips may be among the last to leave the set after wrap is called, but transportation leaves last, after everyone else — and often drives every else’s trucks somewhere else before they’re done.
I’m tired, I’m beat, and I feel like I’ve been rode hard and put up wet. It’s good to be back.
After getting laid off from yet another software training gig and having my years of experience pissed on by potential employers because I don’t happen to have the latest set of credentials that say I’ve spent X number of hours in a classroom learning what I taught myself how to do on my own… Well, after all that I decided “Fuck It” and I’m changing careers. So I’ve been back to school. Truck driving school.
The game plan is not, however, to be a long-haul trucker. I may do that if it comes to it, but the ultimate goal is Teamsters Local 399. These are the guys who drive for the TV and movie studios and that’s what I want to do. I’ve held a lot of jobs over the course of my life, and the most fun I had was when I worked on movies as a grip. I think I’m too old and my knees are too shot to try to get back in as a grip, but I think coming back in as a driver is an achievable goal. So… back to school.
I “graduated” yesterday after taking my driving test at the DMV. I now hold a Class A commercial drivers license with endorsements for air brakes, doubles and triples, tankers, and hazmat. That means I can drive anything on the road but a bus, and I’m going back in two weeks with a shuttle van to test for my passenger endorsement so I can do that too.
It’s not easy getting into 399. Hiring is done off their Industry Experience Roster, which has three different levels of seniority: Group 1, Group 2, and Group 3, and jobs are filled from the roster in that order. To get on the roster on Group 3, I’ll need to work 30 days on union shows in a one-year period. That only happens when the town is so busy that everyone’s working and they can’t fill the jobs from Groups 1, 2, or 3. They call that being “in permits,” and that’s when non-union people like me get our shot — when we’re “permitted” to work on 399’s shows without actually being members.
So I’m gambling a little bit in doing this. The writer’s strike crippled Hollywood over the year-end, and SAG’s contract is about to come up for renewal and there’s some fear that the actors will strike too. As a result of that, production is at a low ebb right now — nothing new is in production because nobody wants a strike to shut down their show. I’m gambling that production will spike when the actors sign and that things are going to get really busy — busy enough for me to get my shot to get in, and start a new career as a driver.
Wish me luck.