Sh*t I Say: “Quiet, Please”
Today is the sixteenth day of the April A to Z Challenge. During this month I will be writing blog posts every day (with breaks on Sundays) about the topic “Sh*t I Say” starting with each consecutive letter of the alphabet. This is one crazy project, y’all.
I spent a lot of years on film and television sets. Remote shoots in the middle of nowhere, controlled shoots on sound stages, tiny guerrilla shoots where I scrunched up in a ball under the camera to get the right eyeline for my interviews, or cushy comfortable shoots set up in ADR booths on the lot at Disney. Doesn’t matter the size, location, or nature of the shoot. When the camera’s rolling and you have footage to capture, you need little to no background noise.
So you say “Quiet, please!” when what you really mean is shut the eff up.
In fact, when I think back, I believe I’ve always been pretty polite on sets asking people to keep their voices down, or yelling “Quiet, please!” As an EPK producer, I was often basically intruding on people’s time – weaseling precious minutes out of the schedules of people who were deemed Very Important. My job was to get what I needed with as little disruption as possible. So I was very polite, which is not foreign to my nature. I can bitch about people all I want behind their backs but I am very polite to their faces.
And so I took it hard when I learned a very important lesson back in 2004 when I was directing “You’re Invited,” which aired on the Style network. It was the largest crew I had worked with by that time, and the shoots were long – we often arrived on location before dawn and left after 10:00 PM. Much had to be done on a tight schedule. Needless to say, it was stressful.
One evening I was working late at the office and my boss, the executive producer, called me in and asked me to sit down. She closed the door. Uh-oh. I was being subjected to a “talking-to.”
We had just had a particularly stressful shoot that week because our talent had some emergency and threatened to pull out completely, but staying up all night the night before and scrambling like mad, we managed to save it and get through the day. I will admit now that I was sleep-deprived, wound-up, and oh, yeah, I was nearly ten years younger than I am now. (Because now I am very patient, very wise, and I never lose sleep.)
My EP told me, in short, that my demeanor as a leader on set was not satisfactory. I was shrill and short-tempered, and my crew walked on eggshells around me because they “didn’t want to stress” me out. My boss herself laughed uncomfortably and said “If I had to hear your voice – that voice – yell ‘Quiet, please!‘ one more time – I thought I would scream.”
This EP was pretty awesome. She had a good vision for the show, she was fun to work with, and she was direct. However difficult it was for me to hear what she was saying, I knew she was right. Looking back, I can’t quite remember my reaction. I’m sure it was petulant and offended. I probably cried.
But it made a difference. My boss instructed me to make better use of our Assistant Director (Auntie Katie, pictured above – if she reads this I am sure she will have a very entertaining opinion to share). “Make her your mouthpiece,” she said. “Save your energy – and your voice – for your task at hand.”
I’d like to believe that I did that. I will never forget that lesson. Even now, when I am yelling at my kids, a little voice inside me sometimes pipes up. Quiet, please. It reminds me to bring my voice back down and say something important, because that is when people – even my roaring children – pay attention.