Studio Manager Meditation: S**t Happens

We work like crazy. As a studio manager/producer/assistant/blogger life very rarely slows down to the point where I can step back and reflect on it. When it does though, I find myself mulling over aspects of this job that might seem so inconsequential, but for me hold deeper meanings. I’ve decided to start this monthly series on the blog to take a minute and stop, reflect, and write about some of the aspects of being a studio manager that really impact me. These are my studio manager meditations.

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Let me start out by stating the obvious: shit happens. Yes this statement is a bit trite and a bit redundant, but in this industry it is incredibly applicable. On every level and in every strata of the creative world, it is inevitable that shit happens; it may even feel that sometimes on the daily, plans can do nothing but go awry.

That being said, the best measure of resourcefulness is not only accepting the fact that shit happens, it’s the ability to be the first one who asks: “what’s next?”

Lenses get scratched, camera bodies break, hard drives fail. Schedules change, models never show, creative direction diverts. Forgive me for beating a proverbial dead horse, but shit happens. The solace in the fact of that statement is the understanding and the ability to anticipate, react, and overcome.

Having a backup camera or a backup plan is only part of the equation. You may have the tools at your disposal to overcome whatever curveballs are thrown, but what it really comes down to is your ability to adapt and work with your new situation. Changes may rattle even the toughest and most resourceful creatives, but you simply cannot let shit happening derail your entire train.

At the end of the day, you need to take charge of the (new) situation and work as quickly as you can to adapt. If you’ve done your homework, then you are always your own best backup plan.

Studio Manager Meditation: Assistant Gloves

We work like crazy. As a studio manager/producer/assistant/blogger life very rarely slows down to the point where I can step back and reflect on it. When it does though, I find myself mulling over aspects of this job that might seem so inconsequential, but for me hold deeper meanings. I’ve decided to start this monthly series on the blog to take a minute and stop, reflect, and write about some of the aspects of being a studio manager that really impact me. These are my studio manager meditations.

crisman_assistant_gloves_ohl(Photo: David Ohl)

Assistant Gloves.

To phrase it bluntly, sometimes you just need to shut up and work. There’s a task at hand, no need for argument, no need for conversation, just the need to get it done. This is when I like to break out my assistant gloves – whether or not they are necessary for that particular task, I’ll put them on, put my head down, and get a job done.

Hauling gear through snow-covered trails, breaking down multiple sets in a rush to avoid overtime charges on a rental studio, hand-holding octabanks on the beach in Maui, these gloves have seen it all. Yes, they might be a little stupid looking with the big flaming “S” for the brand Setwear emblazoned across the back of my hand. Yes, I’ve worn them for so long that the fingers are worn through. No, I will not be replacing them anytime soon. They are certainly expendable, but I plan on wearing them till they fall off my hands.

In a sense, I’m speaking specifically in a tribute to the gloves that I’ve worn over these past three years. Also, I’m speaking to the bigger picture. Whether it’s these gloves or any other pair, the process remains the same, you just need to get the job done. Not every situation in work or life affords the luxury of choice; undoubtedly you’ll encounter tough problems that need to be fixed, quickly and decisively. These are the moments when you need a good pair of assistant gloves.

Studio Manager Meditation: Up in the Air

We work like crazy. As a studio manager/producer/assistant/blogger life very rarely slows down to the point where I can step back and reflect on it. When it does though, I find myself mulling over aspects of this job that might seem so inconsequential, but for me hold deeper meanings. I’ve decided to start this monthly series on the blog to take a minute and stop, reflect, and write about some of the aspects of being a studio manager that really impact me. These are my studio manager meditations.

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Up in the Air.

Airports are never fun. Security lines twist and turn, trudging onward. TSA double and triple checks your gear – yes it’s a camera, yes it’s called a Hasselblad, yes you can scan it again and swab it and do whatever you need to, just don’t drop it. Past the checkpoint and headed to your gate, you’re one step closer to getting there, fingers crossed there are no delays.

Time to board, back in line. Finally on the plane and you can hear the baggage handlers tossing luggage into the belly of the jet – simultaneously glad we’re carrying on the cameras and hopeful the lights and softboxes make it to the next stop in one piece. If we’re rough on our gear, I can’t imagine how the baggage guys treat it. Cabin door closes, iPhone turned off, finally pushing away from the gate.

Sitting on the runway, there’s a curious excitement that I being to feel. This comes from knowing that something greater lives at the destination; we’re always moving forward. When we are traveling out to a shoot it’s the anticipation of the photos we’re about to make and when we’re headed home it’s the feeling of relief from a job well done. Increasing speed, barreling down the runway and we’re off the ground. No turning back now, we’re on our way – we are up in the air.

In the sky, hurtling along in a aluminum tube affords a somewhat uninterrupted opportunity to catch up on email or work through a backlog of photo editing, but the most value that I can derive from flying is the simple quiet that an airplane can offer. Turn off the in-flight wifi, close the laptop, block out the din of the cabin, and just enjoy the uninterrupted isolation that 30,000 feet can offer. Yes, I have things to do; there are always things to do, but they can wait.

Time off the grid is getting harder and harder to come by, time that is uninterrupted by the sound of a cell ringer, the ding of an iMessage, or the ping of a new twitter reply. I’ll take any chance I can get to unplug and pause for a moment – it’s really when I can get the best thinking done.

Subtract your fellow travelers from the equation, close your eyes for just a moment, stop and think. You’re flying – you’re moving forward.

Studio Manager Meditation: Early Mornings

We work like crazy. As a studio manager/producer/assistant/blogger life very rarely slows down to the point where I can step back and reflect on it. When it does though, I find myself mulling over aspects of this job that might seem so inconsequential, but for me hold deeper meanings. I’ve decided to start this monthly series on the blog to take a minute and stop, reflect, and write about some of the aspects of being a studio manager that really impact me. These are my studio manager meditations.

chris crisman studio manager meditation early morning photo phot

 Early Mornings.

Waking up early is never easy. No matter how early you go to bed the night before, every minute before a 6:00am wake-up gets harder and harder. Opening your eyes, only to find yourself in a pitch-black motel room in the middle of nowhere is simultaneously a very strange and familiar feeling for me. Those of us who have experienced this understand that no matter how many times you’re there, it is never easy.

As is is the nature of this job, and this industry, you’ll often find yourself in this position. You groggily attempt to silence your alarm and pull your feet from out the covers and onto the floor of an unfamiliar place.

For as difficult as this process can be, there is always an undeniable feeling of excitement. Even if you’re starting the day hours before you’d like to, you are waking up with a sense of purpose – the sun is going to rise and you’ll be making photos before you know it. There’s also the anticipation. Not only for the sun to rise and for the world around us to wake-up, but for what lies ahead on set for us that day, wherever we may be.

Often, it’s still dark when you choke down the hotel breakfast, checkout, and make your way to the truck. You do that one last run down on the checklist in your head to make sure all the gear is packed; you never want to be the assistant, or worse the photographer who leaves the cameras at the hotel.

Finally, you’re on the road, en-route to the location. When you’re photographing in places like us, you often don’t see where you’re headed until right before you arrive. The inky black sky of last night turning to the first deep blue of this morning; gradating brighter and brighter before the sun unleashes any number of unknown colors across the horizon.

You take a sip of coffee and you’re ready for whatever the day might bring. It’s this moment that makes up for that alarm blaring, dark stumbling, feeling around for a obscure light switch in an unfamiliar room.

This is the moment that you wake up early for.