“I quit the production.”
It was the first time I had ever left a film and the sentence/thought/action/idea felt all so alien to me. It was even more alien once I said it aloud, to my friend. It spilled out like marbles clanking out of a glass jar.
I’ve “toughed it out” on a number of rough sets, ultimately feeling the kind of victory a Spartan feels after winning a war. But I had quit this one and it didn’t feel good.
“What happened?” my friend asked.
I was working on an amateur short film and had stepped up to the position of production manager. I did what any decent production manager would do and fired off a bunch of emails; some very long, some short; asking for schedules and availabilities, food preferences, and transportation needs. But when the emails were – surprise – left unanswered by many cast and crew people, the director started to email me.
I initially blamed the whole problem on the inexperienced director who’s understanding of film production was rudimentary at best and insulting at worst.
Now, I will admit that my ego got in the way (there’s more than one way to do anything), but the emails became increasingly long and eventually turned into full-blown lectures.
To a degree, it was a comical situation. My responses were brief, overly professional. His responses became a memoir. I learned about how he’s always maintained financial security since he was a teenager. How I don’t understand what my job description entails. And that he doesn’t know how to say goodbye.
I saved the emails.
Anyways, before I put in my final resignation, I had contacted a friend of mine for advice.
I hate quitting. I hate the idea of quitting, of throwing in the towel. It has the stench of failure in it. And it’s something I wont tolerate.
Until that day, that is.
My friend said, “working for free sucks” – oh yeah, I was also working for free – “but you should never have to sacrifice your self-respect for a job.”
That was the advice that laid the whole ordeal to rest for me.
The director wasn’t actually a bad guy. I ran into him a few months later while working on a shoot, the film that I had quit was wrapped and all frustrations he had towards me were gone.
He politely said hello and asked me how I was doing. I was dumbfounded mostly because I had been avoiding him for so long (I work in a small town, it’s nearly impossible not to run into certain people again and again) but all mutual feelings of anger and frustration seemed to have disappeared.
Afterwards, I continued to go about my work and he went up to my boss and said some good things about me. It seems, adults can work things out and forgive and forget.
A friend of mine recently quit a production after having a bad experience herself. This was her Facebook post:
Bowing out of this project means I have respect for myself and my work ethic. Even if it seems to the world that I’m giving up, I’m really just standing my ground and not letting someone walk all over me just because they think they have the right to. Walking away with my head held high, knowing that I will make my dreams come true on my own terms…with respect for myself and everyone around me.