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5:04 pm - Monday, Dec. 05, 2005
Money Matters
Sun 12/4/05 (3:25 p.m.)

Money Matters

Here’s a riddle for you: When is a $25 profit actually a $4 loss?

The answer? When you charge $25 for a notary job, and come back to your car to find you’ve gotten a $29 ticket.

(For not turning my wheels in on a hill. And for the record, yes, there was a posted sign.)

It’s not enough money that I’m terribly bunched-up about it, but it does feed that sense I have of never quite being able to “get ahead”.

The notary job was for Richard G’s wife (I used to work with Richard at the bookstore).

I went to their apartment, about a mile or so from the bookstore. And after doing the notarization, we had coffee and a light breakfast. So I’m going to say the coffee and breakfast and conversation was worth at least $4, and call the whole thing even.

But speaking of money (And not getting ahead)...

Got my check from House yesterday. After taxes, and JS’s cut, it’ll be a little over $500.

And I’m wondering–Will that be enough to pay a mechanic, so he can fix the grinding/scraping noises I’ve been hearing for a week or two now, whenever my car comes to a stop?

Let’s hope so.

Now, I imagine my more avid readers may wonder, regarding the House check, why I only got paid for the one day, when JS was told I’d be paid for the day I was originally scheduled as well?

Well, let’s just say I smelled this one coming when, on the day of the shoot, my contract only stipulated the one day’s money: I mentioned that my agent had been told I’d be paid for the day I was originally scheduled as well, the AD I was talking to asked another AD about it, and basically, nobody knew anything about anything.

So I called JS. And he called around, and when he called back, he said it was the casting department that told him I’d get paid for the day I was originally scheduled, and since it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, they’d all gone home for the holiday.

He didn’t really tell me what to do from there, and I didn’t ask, but really, what was I supposed to do? Refuse to go on set till the matter was resolved? Maybe I should have had the balls to do just that, but I was a friggin’ “day player”, there to say one line, working my first job on my first tv show.

And while I imagine there might be some kind of union protection against this sort of thing happening, for all I knew, if I refused to go on till everything was resolved they would have just said, “Fine. You’re fired”, slapped the mask on a key grip, shot the scene, and right now, I’d be writing about how I managed to talk myself out of my first “co-star” credit.

I hate this.

JS sounds like he might be willing to make another call or two, but I’m sensing he’d prefer me to file a grievance with the union, and wash his hands of the whole thing (He’s not my theatrical agent, after all, and while he wants me to get the money I’m entitled to, that extra $78–his commission-is probably not going to make or break him).

Mon 12/5/05 (10:12 a.m.)

Just got off the phone with SAG.

I talked with the rep-Mia-who got my story, and said she’d call the “labor relations” person she needed to call at NBC-Universal (The production company), then get back to me.

The question now is whether this will be something that can be settled casually in a couple days, or if I’ll instead have to file a formal complaint (I don’t want it to come to that–I’m envisioning being blackballed from tv for being “difficult”-but there’s just no way I can let this slide, not with the money issues I’ve had this year).

Oh, and for the record? The casting people didn’t offer to pay me for the day out of politeness. It’s a contractual issue with SAG–“improper cancellation”: A production company can change their shooting schedule around all they want, obviously, but they have to let the actors know in a timely fashion (And when you think about it, that’s about more than just enforcing good manners–If you’re a “day player”, it’s very possible you’ve passed on auditions, or even another job, because you already had a booking).

But enough about this for now...

Had to make a “Where’s my money?” inquiry recently, to UGNotary (The signing agency I did my first and only signing job for). It’s been over two months now since that job, and I’ve gotten nothing, so I emailed them, mentioned the job, the date I did it, and asked politely whether they needed to be invoiced, or if my email would be sufficient.

The email I received back said “A check soul (sic) be in the mail this week” (I’m assuming they meant “A check should be in the mail this week”).

So we’ll see–I’ve never done this kind of thing before, so if the check isn’t in the mail this week, I guess I’ll invoice them, then if I don’t hear back in another week, decide whether taking them to small claims court is worth my time.

Well, for the past three days, I’ve been working at the Grove (I’m working at the movie theater at “The Grove”, to be more precise, an upscale shopping enclave maybe a mile or so from Borders).

And it’s as bad as everyone said it would be, if not worse (I have worked, by and large, at the “pick up” area for customers who’ve ordered food at one of the little do-it-yourself kiosks).

In one sense, it’s simple math: At the ArcLight, you get about 6,000 “guests” in an average day, and you have three separate concession stands to accommodate them, while The Grove has some 11,000 “guests”, and one large concession area.

At the ArcLight, you go up to the concession stand and order, and the person who rings you up either gets your order themselves, or if there are a lot of workers that night, there might be someone else who puts together the order, then brings it to the person at the register. But in any case, as a customer, it’s fairly clear what you’re supposed to do.

At The Grove, you can either go up to the counter and have someone take your order, or use the aforementioned do-it-yourself kiosks (They’re called EMT’s, and I just now figured out what that stands for–“electronic money transfer”).

As a customer, I’ve never liked EMTs–I want to deal with people when I’m out in the world, not machines-and now that I’ve been on the other end, I like them even less.

There are big signs that say “E-Z Pickup Only” where you’re supposed to get your order from the EMTs, but since the entire concession counter is lined with registers–and sometimes they open up one or two of those registers in the “E-Z Pickup” area during a rush–customers are continually coming up to the pickup counter, and getting pissed-off when we tell them that they can’t order from us.

And when the order slip comes up at the counter, we only have the last three digits of the order number that’s on the customer's receipt at the EMT, so about every other order, you’re calling and calling and calling the number, until the customer eventually figures out it’s their order: “541...541...541...It’s the last three digits on your receipt...541...541...Oh, there you are!” (And when there’s about a thousand people behind that person, and you’re losing your voice from having to yell over the tumult, that’s pretty frustrating for everyone involved).

Meanwhile, people are bitching about their popcorn (No one wants to take the pre-bagged popcorn, even if you got it from the popper 30 seconds ago), or saying they ordered something that isn’t on their receipt, or they need a box and no boxes are made, or they want another bag or another cup or whatever (Which you can’t give them), or you have to explain that you’re out of hotdogs and pretzels and pretty much everything else they ordered (I really had an order like that Saturday night–There wasn’t one thing that was pre-made), and...well, you get the idea.

Either there is no system in place, or there is a system in place, and it’s just overmatched by the demand. But in any case, it’s my perception that things just don't work very well–I witnessed more pissed-off “guests” my first night at The Grove than in my first week at ArcLight (Though to be fair to the management and workers at The Grove, it’s a pretty pissy group of “guests” they have to deal with. A bigger bunch of whiny, demanding, babies than I’ve ever experienced, anyway, and I’m a veteran of 15 years of retail).

And it struck me last night–It’s not the “hard work” that I take issue with in a situation like this. It’s the sense of failure.

At the ArcLight, the week I was there, I felt like I was working hard during a busy “set” (That’s what they call the rush before the movie starts), but I never felt like I was actively failing, and I never felt like the system was failing me.

But at The Grove, you’re working your ass off, and half the time the customer is unhappy, you’re unhappy, and it’s at times like that you start thinking, “All this misery, and I’m not even getting paid enough to live on. What's the fucking point?

And talk about loneliness...The workers at The Grove are mostly “seasonal”, and just about all high-schoolers (I'd guess there's at least five years difference in average age between a worker at The Grove and the ArcLight). And any time you go into the breakroom--Which is a pigsty even by my standards--it's packed to the rafters with very loud, hyperactive children, and you're lucky if there's anyplace to sit, let alone rest for a few minutes.

(Frenetic activity eventually tires me out, and makes me want to retreat someplace quiet, but it just seems to get these kids more "keyed up".)

I'm there another two days, and if they try to make me stay another week, I am very seriously considering quitting. That's how much I'm hating what I'm doing.

And speaking of "hating what I'm doing", it's almost time for me to go back and do it some more.

(Well, at least now I'm seeing an up-side to only working 29 1/2 hours this week...)


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