‘…one minority winner won [an oscar] for being a poop pie serving magical negro Mamie that wasn’t going to take it anymore.’
The film industry is a majestic business. Long hours, chances to rub shoulders with everyone from Jay-Z to Bette Middler, and no medical coverage. As cynical as this may sound there aren’t many other things I would do. Film like any other industry has its benefits and defects.
Films dirty little secret which affects communities of color is the oldest institution on our blue-green rock, nepotism. Out dating whoredom, nepotism catapults those close to the throne past those in line.
If you watched the Oscars for some reason and missed the NBA all-star game you might have noticed a dearth of brown faces. The one minority winner won for being a poop pie serving magical negro Mamie that wasn’t going to take it anymore.
Now don’t get me wrong Octavia Spencer is a hell of a talent. My issue is that ‘our’ faces are always missing from the crowd when it comes to best director, best picture and the like. I won’t delve into the magical negro debate, but American film is very much over saturated by non-brown faced folks at all levels.
Even when on a movie set that has a black director and/or producer you’ll see something crazy; the grips are all white. The locations and drivers are the same. The camera ops and assistants are all white. Wait what just happened?
In my experience, perhaps race plays a role in the film industry but for arguments sake I’ll say that institutional racism is consistent throughout our society so I’ll treat it as a constant. So what is our variable? Nepotism by socialization.
When the production team is ‘crewing up’ they call their friends and folks they have successfully worked with before. Well the key grip had a contact with the production manager and the best boy is the friend of the key grip and so on.
Unfortunately most of us socialize along racial lines. So when those calls go out they have a predictable trajectory.
In film when a guy is sick or a someone needs to be replaced people turn to their iphone contacts. Even if your dope at whatever you do if you’re not in enough of those iphones your not going to get the calls that keep you working and earning experience and more importantly making and cementing new relationships.
Making contacts with people of all walks of life in this industry is paramount. Like in any industry people go to work or to networking events to get close to those above them that might afford them advancement.
I saw early on that many people were very interested in meeting and greeting with the director and producer and sniffing up their butt all day. When the truth is that your peers are your best vehicle for more work and more contacts.
I expanded my social network horizontally. Chasing directors and the like that know you from nothing is vertical and faster but its so narrow of a lane. Any good PA has three to four producers/coordinators that they stick to closely. I thought to myself why don’t I get close with that other PA over there that has the similar work ethic as me and we can share our 3-4 contacts and keep us both working constantly through eight contacts and so on.
Horizontal networking expands your possibilities but has its own limitations. Moving departments is the hardest feat to accomplish. When on set networking with those that work right next to you is easy. Socializing with the other departments may become difficult because undoubtedly if you’re talking to them your not doing your own job.
The way to infiltrate these ‘social lines’ is by making new contacts. This is an art. You cant be so transparent to make it clear that your just looking for someone to give you your next job, especially if you’re looking to move departments.
Example, a production assistant that wants to be a gaffer. Don’t just follow the gaffer around all shoot doing all his bidding. He will get sick of you. Be around but don’t be obtrusive. Be helpful but not teachers pet. Eat meals with them and listen more than talk. You’re not just trying to make him like you but make the other gaffers and grips like you as well. Make it so that when those guys wrap that day someone out of that group will say, “hey I like that Kid Richard he was cool”. Get someones number if not the gaffer or key grip and hope for the best. If you did your job and you worked hard hopefully all will work out. With all that said a lot of times things don’t end the way you want. Next job rinse and repeat.