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Candid Lessons From A Life In Film

  • … DO AS THE ROMANS DO

    RENT-A-COP (1987) Directed by Jerry London Filmed during the Fall of 1986 Location: Chicago, Illinois The folks I know from growing up in the University Heights Section of The Bronx, and the folks with whom I became friendly attending in college at SUNY Albany, all chose career paths which provided them with steady jobs.  Each and every one of them was quite disconnected from the freelance path that I had chosen (although some might  say that the freelance path had chosen me). I am also the child of two Bronx High School teachers, each of whom spent years going to work at one school.  Their parents had traditional careers as well. One Grandfather was the president of a publishing company.  My other Grandfather worked in the restaurant business, as did my Grandmother’s two brothers.   Others in my family were doctors and dentists with steady practices. There were no freelancers among any of this wide circle.  I was on the road less taken, and it would lead this boy from The Bronx on a wide-open, wild adventure. It was scary and exhilarating all at the same time, and it required a very specific set of skills. When the concept of a freelance first came into the English language in the early 1800s, it was used to refer to a Medieval Mercenary who would fight for whichever nation or person paid him the most. Film production is not that cut throat (at least not most of the time thankfully), but as a freelance existence it requires chameleon like abilities and the ability to join quickly to morph into a worker comfortable with the new set of employment circumstances. Rent-a-Cops, as featured in this new film, are freelancers just like Assistant Directors and Broadway Dancers, who are often referred to as “Gypsies,” when one could say such a term without fear of being banished to The Twilight Zone cornfield by a freelance actor playing a role in a half hour show made by a freelance Director. My second job as a freelancer, and as a member of the DGA, was on a largely unremembered example of modern American cinema actually called Rent-a-Cop.  It’s notable because my being hired on as a Second AD on this film was proof that my having been employed on The Untouchables was not a one-time freelance fluke. I am likely not the first to explain that the work of a freelancer is really two somewhat simultaneous jobs. First, there’s doing the job itself.  Second, there is the job of getting the job, often from people who have merely heard of you due to your reputation, or exposure to you via a resume. Certainly the opportunities can come unexpectedly, like that middle of the night phone call that led to my getting an opportunity to work as a Second AD on The Untouchables. I wasn’t looking for another job in Chicago where I had been living in the usual temporary situation that one does on distant location.  I had surmised that I would return home to New York City and pound the pavement and knock on doors as soon as The Untouchables wrapped up. The Untouchables and Rent-A-Cop shared a common Production Accountant. The Accountant had appreciated all my hard work, especially on the production reports, which I was still doing throughout the schedule on the The Untouchables, since there was no DGA Trainee on the movie. I always appreciated how she made the per diem envelopes with a couple of two-dollar bills.  The unusual aspect spoke well to the outsider nature of gypsy life on the road in which everything feels like part of it’s own unique freelance universe.  This also showed how much money was being brought in to the local economy. When the Accountant found out that Rent-a-Cop was in the market for a Second Second AD, she approached me about the job opening one night while she was on set in Union Station, and while the crew was setting up for another night filming on the steps.  When I showed interest in the opportunity, she made certain to make the introduction to the Rent-a-Cop Assistant Directors, and strongly suggested to them that I deserved consideration for the position of Second Second on the movie. I don’t even know if the Assistant Directors on Rent-a-Cop ever even considered other candidates for the job.  It was great how the two movies fit together schedule wise.  I could easily transition from one to the other without any of the downtime.  This is an ideal scenario for a freelancer, having the next job lined up and ready to jump in and become part of the team almost immediately – which I was.  It would be my first opportunity to enjoy morphing in to a situation of “when in Rome.” Tony Brant, the First AD on Rent-a-Cop, was actually from Rome.  Tony had come over from Italy to work on the production since the back portion of the shooting schedule was actually filming in Italy. Like the stereotypical old world European, Tony Brandt just loved life, adored people, and had the most compassionate vibe.  And just like Bobby Girolami, Tony made his staff feel like family. But Tony Brandt was very much an original.  It was fun to work in his style which allowed for a lot of self-starting (and showing up) on the part of his staff. It made myself, and the Key Second AD, all the more anxious to serve our Roman General well. Tony Brandt also had he most lovable way of communicating.  A substantial aspect of being a successful First AD is, of course, the possession of great communication skills. To that end, and to increased time efficiency, it is invaluable to have an easy to understand shorthand with the Director, with the crew, and with the actors. Tony had a unique shorthand all his own, which we all embraced.  It was a bit of old world magic, which I imagined that he carried with him […]

  • SIMPLY SHOW UP

    THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987) Directed by Brian De Palma Filmed during the Summer and the Fall of 1986 Locations: Chicago, Illinois; Cascade, Montana During the two years that I spent in the DGA Training Program, I had lived a large portion of my set-life on the other end of a walkie talkie. I was learning to respond quickly to hearing my name coming from that small speaker (hence, GoForGlen), while seeking to supply very short responses, while always seeking to avoid stepping on the transmissions of the others.  This often rendered everything said in the portions of overlapping conversations completely unintelligible.  It was amazing how much production relied on these rudimentary tools like phones and walkie taklies and beepers. While I was in the DGA Training Program, the use of the walkie talkie was becoming very much the part of the tool kit of some of the other departments as well.  Wardrobe, hair, makeup, camera, and props were all started to rely them for information and communication. Each department was typically assigned a separate channel, but channel one, known simply as “one,” was the most busy channel of the eighteen or so frequencies that were possible to use. But it was on “channel one” that the engine of production could usually be found.  Questions and information about the shot would be found there.  Once a shot, or a scene, or a project was in motion, the train had clearly left the station and it was the job of the ADs to stay on track, whether DGA Trainee or First AD or anyone in between. What were we waiting for to be able to film?  How many minutes would it be until camera rolled we rolled?  Would we be going to lunch on time?  What scene number would be up after this one? There was so much information to process that I was starting to find that I would hear ghost transmissions in my head, even after the headset came off, those thoughts still very much there, as I would drift off to sleep trying to clear my own head for a precious few hours of quiet. So it’s during one of those nights in my own nighttime version of The Twilight Zone is how the beginning of this tale unfolds. However, it wasn’t about failing to answer a call over the walkie talkie, the beeping of a dead battery, having a panic about an actor failing to show up for his or her call time… … but by my own failing to answer a ringing phone. It was almost as if my career in film production took a magical turn over this one mysterious late night phone call which, at first, went unanswered. Though this post is about my time on The Untouchables, the full story begins as I was working on what would be my final project as DGA Trainee, and my first network television series in production, The Equalizer. I had been assigned to The Equalizer after wrapping up the feature film Street Smart.  At that point The Equalizer might have been the only one-hour prime time dramatic series filming in New York City.  It was the days when just a few major features were shooting in the city, on top of a few low budget films – and one network television series. What a far cry from the production “Renaissance” in which New York City now finds itself.  The episodic television business has become completely infused into the fabric of the New York City culture and economy. There are now dozens of nighttime network series shooting around every corner in each of the five boroughs.  Numerous Hollywood- type sound stages are popping up everywhere… even in The Bronx.  One of these stages is even the home of a reboot of The Equalizer, in which Queen Latifah, more has taken over the role of Robert (now Robin) McCall, first played decades ago by venerable actor Edward Woodward. My time on the “original” version of The Equalizer was easily going to get me through the remainder of the two years – and give me the rest of the three hundred and fifty days  to qualify for membership in the Directors Guild of America.  There was already an order for thirteen episodes for the series.  With eight days of filming needed to complete each of the shows, that would still take over a hundred days, from July right through to almost Christmas.  Plus, if the series were renewed for the “back nine,” industry speak for a full season’s order of twenty-one episodes, my time on the production could go right through to April of the following year. The thought of that sort of regularity was somehow comforting, and would certainly help financially. More than comforting was the existence of the most minute possibility that I would not necessarily remain the DGA Trainee for the entire run of episodes. There was always the possibility of becoming a Second Second Assistant Director on the series, what was referred to as a “bump up” – but a position in the department would have to open up, and the two First ADs would need to think I was personally ready to fill the gap. After my less than positive experience on Street Smart, I was also anxious for a more positive work experience, which The Equalizer provided – at least on every other episode. On one hour, prime time, dramatic television production teams production teams rotate episodes.  While one set of Assistant Directors is occupied with the show that is filming, the other set of Assistant Directors is preparing the next episode with the next Director.  This allows the following episode to go immediately in to production once the current episode completes filming without ever taking a day off.  The Directors come and go.  The rest of the crew remains a constant, and stays in set-mode from episode to episode. This includes the Second Second AD and the DGA Trainee. The contrast between the […]

  • NO, NOT EVERYONE IS SMART

    STREET SMART (1987) Directed by Jerry Schatzberg Filmed during the Summer of 1986 Location: Manhattan, New York City A question that so often comes up in relation to my decades long film career is, “what is the dumbest thing you’ve ever experienced on a movie?”  Street Smart, for which my last feature assignment as a DGA Trainee, supplies a rather solid answer.  Even with my limited experience at the time, I could tell that this feature film was a traffic accident in slow motion. The “regular” pattern of the long day of DGA Trainee simply had fallen in to chaos. But, before I get to this whopper of a tale about Street Smart, there a couple of other very recent contenders for what is the “dumbest thing” I’ve ever seen on a film which simply cannot be ignored. One of these prized “dunce cap” moments had actually occurred within this past year. During the Fall of 2021, I was approached to help several inexperienced people put together in the New York area.  It was based on a script that almost entirely took place at a single house that sat on a quiet lake.  In the story, the lone occupant of the house, a wealthy corporate executive, had recently lost his wife.  He was attempting to replace the deep hole in his life through fishing, cooking, and his love of music. The house location that the Director had found did not sit on a lake, so the film would need to create the right geography by fusing two locations seamlessly in to one.  The folks who had brought me in to the project had also found a lake they liked creatively and they wanted to fuse two locations into a single setting in the film. Except that though the house and lake were three hundred miles apart. The Director, barely out of film school, felt this lake – and this lake alone – was consistent with his vision, and that it had to be the body of water used in the film.  His “Mommy”, who was the partial financier, and seeming the Director’s most trusted “advisor,” backed this choice, and fought just as hard as he did for using it, telling me frequently that her son had already looked unsuccessfully for an alternative lake option that was a shorter drive from the house. I argued, unsuccessfully, that the State of New York is filled with lakes, many of these much closer to the magical house.  Water is water.  Trees are trees.  Boats are boats.  Docks are docks. Of course, a well-known aspect of producing independent films is the budgetary challenges of how to allocate limited time and resources.  This film was no different.  Every shooting day would need to be aggressively scheduled in order to hit the dollar figure of money raised.  Even then it was going to be difficult to bring the film in on budget.  Traveling between locations was not in the cards. The more I argued against the vast distance, the more Madonna and Child pushed back.  Maybe this lake was so special because this lake, and this lake alone, allowed the young Director to be able to walk on water.  It came to a point I began to question either their sanity or my own. As I did the research on what this would mean to the film, the effects of the terrible choice started to ripple like water through the entire production. Think about it.  A full day would be lost to the travel.  All the equipment, transportation, crew, would need to be brought to a remote location near a very small town with little infrastructure in place.  I was scared to count the local hotel rooms to see if there were enough for cast and crew.  What time would the local restaurants open in the morning?  What time would the local restaurants close at night? I understood the situation to a point.  These people were inexperienced, but they were also incredibly stubborn, and no matter how hard I tried, there was no budging on the matter. Eventually the film fell apart.  Weeks of planning the film evaporated in a series of acts of self-sabotage. You can lead a horse to a lake… or to water… This type of “friendly fire” happens much more that I would have thought when I was first starting out in the film business. A couple of years prior to the case of the magic lake, I was consulting on a film in Central New York State, assisting the Producers with the creation a line by line budget, a shooting schedule, a prep schedule, and overseeing the location and crew search. Working in Central New York was very much in my wheelhouse.  I had recently helped produce a half a dozen films in the area with a similar scope and budget level. Two inexperienced brothers were producing this new film.  Their desire to shoot in the Central New York area arose from the fact that, many years prior, their father had been the hockey coach at a local university and had helped the varsity hockey team achieve a championship season. The brothers were anxious to come to the college town as “returning” local heroes, and the sons of a long ago actual local hero, even if the film had nothing to do with them, or the father.  It was just the shared love of hockey of the father and sons and the fans of the local college team – the sport of college hockey being the backdrop of the film. Here is where it gets interesting.  The story of the film took place in Europe.  The university town in which they wanted to film looked nothing like any Europe I knew.  However, not many miles away from the University, but probably still close enough for them to declare their heroism, was the town of Skaneateles.  Some streets in the quaint town might be able to double for a European setting without […]

  • EVERYONE HAS A PART TO PLAY (OR AT LEAST ONE)

    CRITICAL CONDITION (1987) Directed by Michael Apted Filmed during the Spring of 1986 Locations: Governors Island, New York; High Point, North Carolina; Greenville, South Carolina My two prior blogs have focused on the films on which I began my decades-long journey of film production – as the DGA Trainee.  Both posts recounted stories of how I “broke in to the business’ as a filmmaker, beginning to carve out a niche for myself, while learning some of the key responsibilities of the Assistant Director from both films. My next project, the feature film Critical Condition, was produced almost entirely on distant location, and in, essentially, in one single location.  This was certain to offer a very different experience from the prior two films, Power, which moved quickly from city to city, and Brighton Beach Memoirs, on which the major daily focus was its depression-era setting. Critical Condition was neither period, nor replete with company movies.  It was set in present day with minimal location moves, mostly using an empty hospital. On Critical Condition, the First and Second Assistant Director were the same AD team as on the prior film Brighton Beach Memoirs.  This offered the unique opportunity for me to be able to see how the same individuals dealt with many of the same job responsibilities on two very different feature films. Aside from just the ADs, on Critical Condition, I had much more time to observe and learn about so many of the other crafts as well. It was now abundantly clear to me that, though Assistant Directors are central to the functioning of the feature film set, they are just a small part of the vast production machine. I point to the fact of how long a feature film’s end credits last – sometimes much longer than the length of the average short film – and it becomes immediately clear how many different departments involved in the pre production, production and post production process. Those credits have long been populated with strange and interesting job titles, much more mysterious than the job designation “First Assistant Director”. Part of the fun – in the moments when I had the time to have fun – was continuing to learn so much detail about the contributions of others to the production process. Even as a life-long fan of films and filmmaking, there had not been many such possibilities to do this while growing up. Some of my favorite questions from the people who watch the end credits on feature films (including the adolescent me) tend to stem from their personal curiosity about some of the more mysterious job titles. The same folks who might ask me “… and what is it you actually do?,” would often also ask questions like, “What does the Gaffer do?”  “What exactly is a Key Grip?”  “Who or what is the Lead Man leading?”   “What are the responsibilities of the Swing Gang?”  “What does the Best Boy do?”  “Can there ever be a Best Girl?” Before I write specifically about the responsibility of say, a “Best Boy” (something tells me that, in time, the job title of “Best Boy” will soon be changed to something akin to “Best Person”), which will remove some of the charming archaic nature of the decades old title. Today a library full of books and websites exist which identify the key players on a film crew and give short descriptions of duties of each particular position.  For instance, a “Best Boy” oversees and maintains the equipment for his technical department, so it is inventoried – and in the best shape. Despite the modern opportunities for finding a feature film credits “Cliff Notes,” or a paperback book called “Film Production for Idiots,” nothing like this existed in 1985.  It wasn’t until I found myself standing in the middle of the set, dealing with all those people, day after day, observing and interacting with them individually, that I became clear on what many of them brought to the production process, whether being called “Boy” or “Person” or “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer.” For instance, if I needed to get electrical power supply for the lights, or hair dryers, or hair curlers at the hair and make-up stations, I needed to specifically ask a “Lamp Operator” to take care of it.  If needed to get someone to black out the windows of the make-up room to assure privacy, it was necessary to ask a “Company Grip.”  The go-to person for the supply of directors chairs was the “Assistant Property Master.” And so many tasks supplied by people with interesting job titles. And in the way I was learning the AD craft, most film production professionals learned the ins and outs of their departments by apprenticing with more experienced craftsmen.  Just like DGA Trainees eventually become First ADs, Directors, and Producers… Lamp Operators became Best Boys… Best Boys became Gaffers. Directors of Photography became Directors. ADs wound up running studios. Something to aspire to… Gender aside, “why is the position called the “Best Boy?”  It’s a larger part of the story of various old school designations which include “key,” “lead,” and “foreman,” and harken back to studio and union roots.  Most of these pinpoint who is the person in charge, who is the second in command, and so forth. This made the shorthand of filling a vacancy a simple process.  The key person in the department would call down to a sort of dispatcher and say “send me the “Best Boy” that they had available – someone who could plug right in to the workings of the electrical department and be able to start distributing power. In this way, carry-overs from a prior project’s departmental team, or even from the previous day, could remain, and gaps in the staffing were either assigned by the union, or the studio, or simply carry overs from the previous day. Then, as now, a crew got put together from the top down.  The Writer, Director, and the Producers […]

  • FINDING A NICHE

    BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS (1986) Directed by Gene Saks Filmed during the Summer and Fall of 1985 Locations: Brooklyn and Queens, New York City I began my second assignment as a Directors Guild of America Trainee on the feature film Brighton Beach Memoirs with a much greater understanding of the role of the DGA Trainee and the Assistant Director than I had when I had when started on the subject my prior blog-slash-assignment, the feature film Power. I had also gained a much greater sense of the many long-term, varied career opportunities available to those who successfully complete the DGA Training Program. Just as in the movie Brighton Beach Memoirs, the future was wide open and, much like this blog, free to be written on a screenwriter’s set of blank typewriter pages. Brighton Beach Memoirs was based a semi-autobiographical script by the immensely talented Neil Simon, who had found a solid niche as America’s foremost, and most well-known, comedy playwright.  The film was a thinly veiled account of the misadventures of Simon’s fictional younger self, the teenage Eugene Morris Jerome, who grew up in depression-era Brooklyn. Neil Simon made his memory of being an aspiring young writer completely relatable to the audience.  The movie also nicely laid the groundwork of how the creative mind turned his relationship with his dysfunctional family into a career of making generations of movie and theater-goers appreciate that laughter can be elicited by great writing. Unlike screenwriters, like Neil Simon, Assistant Directors – or ADs – as they are commonly called in the shorthand of the movie business, remain largely unknown to the general public.  Sure. an occasional movie about filmmaking has an AD as a character, but this has not brought the awareness of the craft, or those individuals who excel in the role, into the cultural mainstream. Screenwriters see life as a story and an ark. ADs see like as a puzzle. Everyone thinks they can describe what Writers do. Almost no one can describe what ADs do. There are probably multiple reasons for this. ADs are not recognized by the Academy Awards – or any awards for which they are eligible, except for those of the Directors Guild of America.  ADs are relegated to the film’s end credits, just ahead of those strange crew names like Gaffer… Key Grip… Best Boy… Leadman… The average person knows little about any of these.  At best, may be some audience members, who watch end credits religiously, joke about those funny job titles, and eventuall get in to production, I believe it’s also because of the difficulty in adequately describing the totality of the role of the AD to “outsiders.” The Movie sets would certainly find it almost impossible to function without ADs. Indeed, one of the main duties of the AD is making certain that rest of the crew, including the Gaffer, the Key Grip, and the Leadman, all work in sync. But there are so many other facets of the AD position. Over the years during which I was a DGA Trainee, a Second AD, and a First AD, in giving answer to the question, “and what is it that you actually do?,” I began with the statement that as an Assistant Director, not to be confused with a Director’s Assistant, that I am primarily responsible for helping to schedule all the different scenes in the film in a “user friendly” and logistically feasible order,  Then, in sync with the Director, and other key creative personnel, I, and the others in AD department, work tirelessly to bring together all the elements to make that schedule happen. This can be extremely rewarding.  As a DGA Trainee, often when a single shot was completed, no matter what my tiny part in achieving it, I could point to that few seconds or minutes of screen time and say, “yeah, I had a tiny little hand in making that happen.” Sometimes my part consisted of getting the actors ready. Sometimes I would do a simple task, like delivering rewritten script pages that needed to be learned quickly. At other times my task was simply being a body block, placed somewhere off set to inform crew members that they couldn’t go through a door because that door was actually in the shot. It also wasn’t that unusual for a task to be uniquely specific to a single shot.  For instance, there was the time Jonathan Silverman, who was playing the main character Eugene Morris Jerome, asked me to get him a pickle.  Jonathan was about to do a scene in which he would have just eaten the pickle and wanted to actually eat a pickle for his “method” approach to acting.  This type of task was simpler and fun to explain to family and friends then the idea of walking around set collecting time cards every Friday and inscribing individual crew members clock-out times on the daily production report. My recounting those tasks of the daily routine as a DGA Trainee would make even my best of my friends’ eyes glaze over in boredom. However, I was never bored when learning the ropes from my superiors, and that’s really how I picked up all the nuances of the job.  This began by soaking up the goings on in my department and learning who to ask in order to get an answer to something I did not know.  As such, it was necessary understand the “food chain.” In other words, the knowledge of who answers to whom in each department and who in the hierarchy was responsible for what specific tasks, and held the most up to date information. It was always the First AD who was the very top of the pyramid.  Yes, the First AD answered to the Director, the Producer, and the Studio.  But, on set he was the team captain, the “play caller,” the COO. The First Assistant Director on Brighton Beach Memoirs was named Bobby Girolami. Prior to my working with hin, Bobby already had […]

  • GO AHEAD AND ASK QUESTIONS

    POWER (1986) Directed by Sidney Lumet Filmed during the Spring of 1985 Locations: New York City and Long Island, New York; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Seattle, Washington; Washington, D.C.; Durango, Mexico Whenever I am asked,  “What’s the best piece of advice for someone who wants to succeed in the film business?,” the answer I often give is “Embrace questions.” Film production is a marathon session of questions and answers. You need to learn quickly when and how to ask them. You learn to try to anticipate the questions that will be asked of you.  Success or failure can be impacted by offering responses quickly and succinctly, honestly and confidently. This give and take question and answer journey likely begins the very first day of getting invited into the mysterious world of feature filmmaking.  Some folks hold their information rather closely. Other individuals part with it fairly generously.  I’ve always operated within the latter category. Hence this blog. I got into the film business when I was chosen for the East Coast Directors Guild of America Producers Training Program, going through a process of just such a marathon of information and inquiries.  Along with hundreds of other hopeful applicants, I filled out a form, submitted a resume, and gathered the necessary letters of recommendation.  Next came an SAT-like test, which was administered in a cavernous room in the East Village of Manhattan.  The test consisted an array of questions, focusing on math and verbal skills, spatial relations, problem solving, and personality. The most notable portion was the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a series of hundreds of true false statements, which I understand is used to assess an applicant’s mental health. The MMPI asked various iterations of similar questions, like what kind of work I thought I would like, among these, florist, librarian, forest ranger, and building contractor. But my favorite item might have been when I had to agree or disagree if it made me nervous when people ask me personal questions. Oh, the irony. The results of the test eliminated a substantial number of applicants from moving on to the next phase of “the primary.”  I guess some of them might have found the items on the MMPI a little too personal. The next step in the process was a series of role-playing exercises done in small group settings.  The most memorable of these was: You need to get on a life-boat in order to survive, but there’s only room for some of you, what do each one of you do?  Very much to the point of this particularly exercise, the group was culled down substantially. My guess is that all of the potential murderers in the test groups were eliminated in that round. About a dozen applicants then entered the final phase of the selection process. Each remaining potential DGA Trainee was individually interviewed for about twenty minutes by the Training Program’s full Board of Trustees.  By this time, I was so close to being voted in that I could feel the thrill of victory. The odds were decent.  There was one of me, there were twelve Board members with voting power, and about ten other applicants vying for what I believed were a half dozen spots in the upcoming class of DGA Trainees. Since the position of DGA Trainee was about as basic entry level as a job in the film business as any could be, I was asked if I would have a problem being asked to get someone a cup of coffee. I guess some people around the table thought this was beneath a candidate like me, because I had a degree of higher education. I responded simply, “How do you take it?”  My answer got a laugh and I could feel the satisfaction with my quick and sincere response.  That single answer might have changed my life. A few days later a thin letter came in the mail with the return address of the DGA Training Program. I was in… I would be one of the six finalists selected for the next class. I was ready and excited for the challenge, and for the fantastic opportunity being presented to me. The two years mostly consisted of apprenticeships on feature film and television series, but there were other requirements to successfully graduate. Each Trainee had to serve a two-week internship in the actual office of the DGA Training Program itself. Days were filled with simple tasks, answering phones, filing, going through applications… This was to give each of us some knowledge of how the Training Program, and the Directors Guild itself, worked. That same Administrator who oversaw the DGA Training Program also oversaw something called the Qualifications List.  The “QL,” is the data base which tracks the threshold of the minimum number of days needed for entrance into the DGA, the trade union that represents Directors and Assistant Directors. There are essentially only two legitimate ways to qualify for membership in the Directors Guild of America as an Assistant Director.  A perspective member must either work 350 days as a DGA Trainee or must accrue 600 days in another on-set production capacity. This second way required presentation to the Qualification List Administration of supporting materials… including call sheets, pay stubs, and production reports, so I always tell people to save these from day one. Since the position of DGA Trainee was about as basic entry level as a job in the film business as any could be, I was asked if I would have a problem being asked to get someone a cup of coffee. I guess some people around the table thought this was beneath a candidate like me, because I had a degree of higher education. During the 1980s, the office of the DGA Training Program and Qualifications List was on the second floor of 110 West 57th Street in Manhattan.  There was only one other office on the floor, a door labeled, rather innocuously, with three letters: L a H. The “L” […]

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