Author Topic: Worst Job Offers?  (Read 2208 times)

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Melissitchka

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Worst Job Offers?
« on: Jan 07, 2016, 04:58 pm »
Hi there,

I'm working on a blog article about the worst jobs you've ever done in the arts. The point of the article is to get younger stage manager and performers to think about what they're really being offered when they take a gig. I plan to write about my own experiences, but I was hoping to include other stage manager's as well. If any of you are willing to share a story, I'd love to include it. It can be anonymous too, if you prefer.

A bad example is: "Man, I could tell you stories about the horrible pay, long hours, super unsafe working conditions with some of the show I have worked."

A good example is: "I was a rehearsal pianist and one time I worked for three hours of accompanying auditions for a Subway sandwich coupon. Not a sandwich. A coupon for a discount on a sandwich."

Thanks!
Cruise Ship Livin' Perk: A Whole Lot of Travel Stories - http://worldsherpa.wordpress.com/

iamchristuffin

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Re: Worst Job Offers?
« Reply #1 on: Jan 07, 2016, 07:53 pm »
Oh god so many!

My second job after leaving uni was for a 'friend' who was 'producing' a 'play' in a fringe theatre. It was a two-hander, and there was me as SM, the director, the producer, and an LD.

Four weeks of propping, rehearsals, sourcing and fitting costumes, re-writing the script, designing sound, and a week of performances for the grand total of....(Drum Roll please).....250($365). On the other side of one of the most expensive cities in the world.

WHAT I LEARNED ON THIS GIG - There are occasions that it's better to be unemployed, and working for a loss is a real possibility.

Shortly after this, I had an interview for a touring dance company as Head of Stage (or so I thought). I was offered the gig, and I accepted. Well, it was a relatively decent salary (although it was a buyout - I don't really remember knowing that there were other options out there), it would be my first tour, it went to some good venues, and it was something different.

Fast forward to the fit up, and I'm told the video truck had arrived, and could I unload it and set it all up. What on earth, I hear you ask? It turns out that the HoS for this company has 'always' also been the Video Tech. When they asked me at the interview what my experience with video was, I answered 'I've done a little plugging and playing with a desktop projector, but nothing bigger than that.' And we're talking about a ton of equipment, servers, multiple projectors playing the various media, long Ethernet runs.... The rest of that day involved a LOT of Googling and ringing friends for help.

Fast forward two weeks, and I'm on the edge of collapse. 90 hour weeks, daily travel between venues, a different fit up, venue, and strike each day, and a horrible environment from the other technician, the dancers, the directors of the company certainly didn't help, but the video really was the straw that broke the camel's back. When the rig worked, great - I could do what had worked in one venue in the next. However, when something changed, or something didn't work, I was screwed - and I had ZERO knowledge on video troubleshooting.

Anyway, I got fired (They didn't think I was the right fit), and it's probably been one of the better things to happen at the statt of my career.

WHAT I LEARNED ON THIS GIG: It's OK to admit you are out of your depth, and it's OK to not be amazing at everything. It's also OK not to be best friends with the whole company.

That's the first two that spring to mind, though it's not the best writing I've ever done.....

C

leastlikely

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Re: Worst Job Offers?
« Reply #2 on: Jan 11, 2016, 07:09 pm »
A couple years after high school, a guy that I had gone to school with started up a youth summer theatre company through the local parks & rec dept. It has become now more of a standard summer camp program, where they meet daily for two weeks and present a showcase at the end of the session, and then the next session starts. But in the first summer, it was a single three-week session to put on a fully-staged production of a musical. He contacted me saying "I'm directing it, our other friend from high school is choreographing, someone else I know is coming in as MD, do you want to stage manage it?" So I said yes. It was really hard but really fun! And then after the final performance, the woman from the parks & rec dept was there to hand out checks to the counselors. A check and an envelope full of coupons from sponsors. This is when I learned that there was not a check for me. They had budgeted for three counselors (which, if it had been a regular day camp, would have been more than enough for the number of kids we had) and it wasn't their fault that the director had elected to take on a fourth counselor, which was not required for the camper-counselor ratio. The parks folks don't know anything about theatre and don't understand what a stage manager does, so from their POV they viewed me as unnecessary to the operation of their day camp.

The other three counselors, rather than paying me out of their own pockets (which is what I would have done if I was them), banded together to give me their coupons. So I got like. 15 coupons for restaurants I've never heard of, landscaping services, printing services, etc. For three weeks of work as a combination camp counselor-stage manager.

DeeCap

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Re: Worst Job Offers?
« Reply #3 on: Jan 12, 2016, 10:42 am »
I don't have any theatre ones that I can recall but I remember one when I tried to move into film. It was about ten years ago when Bollywood was gaining popularity in the US and Bollywood producers were attempting to make films in the US.
I was hired to work as an assistant in the art department and assist in transportation. We had a meeting with the producers in a restaurant; this was going to be the biggest Bollywood ever produced on US soil; three months of work, with salary, housing and transportation included. We were given documents to sign and a start date.
As the date got closer I had no other information, so I emailed the office. No response. Tried again, no response.
Three days before production was to begin I called the office. The phone was disconnected. Nothing. I cleared my calendar and declined jobs due to this job and then I had nothing.
I don't know what happened to the production but I learned that the industry never took off here. It's cheaper to create the US in India.

megf

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Re: Worst Job Offers?
« Reply #4 on: Jan 12, 2016, 11:13 am »
In college, I had an opportunity to be a PA on a really big, splashy benefit. I knew the PSM/Production Coordinator, and really wanted to work with him - and he had more or less said that this gig, which was five days long, would put me at the top of his list for several larger and better-paid projects.

I do the benefit, anticipating a nice, if modest, windfall at the end of the process. What student doesn't love a $500 check, right? It's five days of running up and down stairs - the elevator is for freight only, and there are 5 stories of dressing rooms. Also, the costume department doesn't have a PA/runner, so I'm carrying evening gowns by the dozen up and down these stairs, too. Also, there is no designated hospitality person, so when I'm not carting gowns, I'm carrying cases of bottled water to each dressing room. Still, stairs aren't so bad, and I'm working hard for that check and the future opportunities. Woohoo!

The producer's personal assistant handed out checks on the loading dock, during load out.

All of the checks bounced.

Ultimately, we got 50 percent of our agreed-upon payments, and many lengthy apologies.

tonyedgabe

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Re: Worst Job Offers?
« Reply #5 on: Jan 14, 2016, 04:13 pm »
A few years back I was hired as a resident SM for a theatre for youth company in the bay area. The pay was decent enough but as with most gigs there was that "other duties as assigned" part of the letter of agreement. This was before I was union and some of these duties included house managing for 250 screaming 1st-3rd graders, building maintenance, and my favorite part of all, scrubbing toilets. Don't get me wrong I am all for a 40 hour work week, but when I am told, "no you're not allowed to leave, we can find things for you to do for the next two hours," I am most certainly not a fan. It didn't help that rehearsal and the time I was supposed to be there coincided with heavy commuter traffic, (no joke sometimes it took me three hours to drive 26 miles.) Luckily I am not there any more.

TarytheA

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Re: Worst Job Offers?
« Reply #6 on: Jan 14, 2016, 08:42 pm »
Oh these are so crazy to read! My worst experience was working on a show while I was in college where I was asked to be the video technician, but ended up being more of the assistant projections designer (this became apparent slowly over the course of rehearsals). I know NOTHING about creating projections content. Programming is great - give me some completed videos and Isadora and I'll make magic happen! But designing - finding/sourcing/creating content - STRESSES ME OUT. I really loved some of the people that I worked with on that show, but when I left the theatre for the last time I sat in the car and cried because I was so happy to be done (and releasing stress, I guess. I had kept it together while in the theatre of course!). I just wish the responsibilities had been clear from the beginning so I could have prepared myself, or else said no! It might not sound like the worst thing to someone else but for me it was.

Also, forgive my ignorance, but what is a "fit up?" C has me curious!
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iamchristuffin

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Re: Worst Job Offers?
« Reply #7 on: Jan 15, 2016, 06:06 am »
Ha! Sorry, fit up is a another word for get-in/load-in/bump....usually used in a static-show environment, as opposed to a touring one. Must be a UK thing, I didn't realise!


TarytheA

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Re: Worst Job Offers?
« Reply #8 on: Jan 16, 2016, 08:16 am »
Thanks C!
That's what it sounded like from context clues, but I thought I would check to see if there was more to it that I was missing! :)
"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
-Herm Albright

Jonas_A

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Re: Worst Job Offers?
« Reply #9 on: Jun 15, 2016, 10:38 am »
A few years ago, I was approached by a newly-formed independent theatre company made up of young people who were keen to create some really cool stuff: They said they were really keen to have me onboard, had heard great stuff about my work and we had a few meetings after which both me and they said it looked like it could work well.

Oh, until they mentioned that not only were they "not allowed" to pay me (they were incorporated as a student theatre body at a local university,) but also instead of negotiating pay, told me that everyone who was working with the company would be asked to contribute several hundred dollars towards the budget - money we shouldn't expect to see again because of the costs and lack of audience potential of the show. They were a bit confused when I politely pointed out that they had contacted me regarding employment and not paying to work on their project.

Said company is now doing some very cool work and are still apologetic that they asked me to pay them and not the other way around.

dallas10086

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Re: Worst Job Offers?
« Reply #10 on: Jun 15, 2016, 10:59 am »
Wow. I have nothing half as bad as some of these stories.
The worst for me was when I was told by the Artistic Director that the play had three acts and two intermissions, and my first question was, "What is your run time?" I was told 2.5 hours with intermissions, which seemed reasonable. I was getting paid a fair rate, and I took it really to put some extra cash in my pocket and fill in a calendar gap.
Fast forward to tech and the first week of performances, and the show it clocking in between 3 hrs 15 mins to 3 hrs 45 mins (main reason: several parts of the play take place in an A.A. baptist church with a full choir, and the director had told the actor playing the choir director to just 'go with how you feel' when it came to the length of the songs). The Artistic Director was part of the show, and I kept telling him constantly that not only is it running over but the times are varying wildly. He shrugged it off.
That was the only time I felt way underpaid for the amount of time involved. But at least with only 54 cues to call I got a lot of reading done.

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