Monday, December 14, 2009

Humiliating Story #3: Almost fires and Lawsuits-Oh My!

Yay, today's the last of the Humiliating Shannon Stories! (Well, it's not the last of the humiliating stories that have happened to me, but it's the last one I've promised to tell. And I'm not sure I'll be promising to tell anymore--at least not without proper motivation)

Okay, so this one's not as funny as the others, but it was the one everyone was most interested in, so I hope you enjoy. And you probably need a little backstory to really understand what I'm about to tell you.

The first semester of my senior year at USC was what I often refer to as my "Semester of Hell." I don't usually talk about it much because, well, it's not really a happy memory--and there's really no way to tell most of the stories without sounding completely whiney and bitter--but just so you have some idea, I'll give you the highlights.

This was the first semester we were put on crews. Twelve students, partnered into pairs, each pair sharing one of six jobs. Because I was interested in producing, I picked a crew where I didn't know anyone because they were the only one with a producer slot available. It was one of the worst decisions of my life.

I won't get into the reasons why, but about two weeks into the semester the majority of the crew decided that they hated me. And when I say hate, I mean HATE. First they tried to get me failed--which almost worked, because the issue I was involved with made one of of the teachers look bad. But then my friend got the Dean involved (oh yes, there was MAJOR drama) and failing me was no longer an option, so the crew decided to make my life miserable instead.

And so our story begins, right smack in the middle of all of that fun.

The film we were working on was about a gambler (and it was really, really bad--seriously, worst. movie. ever.) so we were filming at one of California's lovely Indian Casinos down in San Diego. They'd agreed to let us film in their high limit room so long as we followed all of their rules, did not interrupt the gamblers, and were very, very careful. And I have to say, by the end we were 0 for 3. Yay us!

One of the jobs the producer was supposed to do on set was to act kind of like the Supervisor: make sure all the rules were being followed--especially the safety rules--and keep everybody working. But since I was the most hated person on the crew and I was just too fed up to fight anymore, they basically gave me whatever demeaning jobs nobody else wanted to do and I did them. Which in this case meant taping cables.

All the cables for all the lights were supposed to be taped down (that's why they call it Gaffer's Tape) so no one could trip over them and hurt themselves. That's what they gave me to do. "Here Shannon, spend five hours crawling around on your knees taping cables, of which there are way too many because none of us know what the heck we're doing." And I did it. I was just trying to survive at that point.

So there I was, taping cables, when I notice that one of the cables feels hot. Not warm--because most of the cables are warm--HOT. Like, it burned my hand hot. So I called one of the Cinematographers over (a guy who had been a HUGE advocate for the "Let's-Fail-Shannon Campaign" and asked him to touch the cable and tell me if it felt too hot. He did and insisted it was fine. I KNEW it wasn't fine, but what more could I say? Laying cables wasn't my job. Taping cables was my job. So I went back to taping cables (except I didn't tape that one because I was afraid the tape would melt.) I did mention it to my producing partner (the leader of the Let's-Fail-Shannon-Campaign) but he refused to check the cable. So I let it go and hoped for the best.

A few hours later we smelled smoke.

I'm not sure who found the problem or stopped the sparks from catching, but I do know that the very cable I had pointed out sparked, melted, and burned a small hole in the carpet of the high limit room. And, because I was one of the producers, I got to be one of the ones to explain to the Casino Big Wigs what happened and how and why. I also got to spend the next hour trimming melted plastic off the carpet to try and minimize the damage. Good times.

It really is amazing the casino didn't kick us out right then and there--but they didn't. I don't know why they didn't. I bet they wish they had. Oh, how I bet they wish they had. Because the next day we got them sued.

The second day we had two locations running at the same time. One by the slots, which had to be an in-and-out kind of shoot because we were only given a small window of time to shoot there. And the other back in the High Limit Room (yes, the room where we ruined the carpet). I'd been assigned to supervise the second location, which meant I got to hold the ladder steady while one of the production designers decorated the set. We still had about an hour to go when the whole crew comes rushing in and says there's a crisis.

Get this: at the other location, one of the crew left the dolly (in our case, a board with four wheels on it--we were very low tech) near a walkway and some old guy tripped over it and fell. Hard. Ambulances were called. was bad.

By some miracle they STILL didn't kick us out and we rushed through our final shots while my Producing Partner got on the phone and explained what happened to the faculty (our teachers were on call round the clock during filming weekends in case there were any emergencies. To the best of my knowledge, we were the only crew with any problems). Not surprisingly, they wanted to meet with both of us as soon as possible.

I'd like to say that since neither of the incidents in question were my fault that I wasn't held responsible--but it didn't work that way. The teacher's answer was that we shared responsibilities so we shared the blame, no matter what. But since they technically classified each incident as an accident, it didn't affect my grade so much as it did my pride. We were kind of used as the "what not to do" example after that, and I wouldn't be surprised if we still are.

I mean, we did get the Casino sued. And USC.

In USC's case I know they were protected because each film student had a million dollar liability insurance policy covering any damage they did, but I have NO idea what happened with the casino. I'm guessing they paid a large sum of money to settle the case before trial and never agreed to let students film there again.

Sadly that wasn't the last disaster my wonderful crew had durning that horrible semester. (The following week we had all kinds of problems at Larry Flint's casino, including an accident that could have been SO, SO, SO bad if it had happened about ten minutes before it actually did). Not sure if the crew was cursed, or if it was because they were all such a bunch of arrogant idiots--some of whom were regularly drunk and stoned on set--that they couldn't function (I'm guessing the latter). Either way, pretty much that entire semester was 16 weeks of never-ending Shannon Shame.

Well, I hope you guys enjoyed the story as much as you thought you would--and I hope I don't sound bitter or negative because I'm not. I was at first. But not anymore. In fact, I can even laugh about it now--funny how time does that. But I don't think I'll ever be able to set foot in that Indian Casino again. I may even be banned...


  1. That sucks! But so awesome! Thanks for sharing. Good laugh on a Monday morning. I was totally laughing with you, not at you. ;D

  2. awww you poor thing. I did laugh a little but to be honest my reaction was more of the: how terrible for Shannon!!

    I am glad to see that you have at least decided that this can be something to look back on with laughter. There is a silver lining(s) though Shannon - you learned a little bit about litigation, you are probably adept at taping anything down now, it might have deterred a life that could have been drowned in gambling debts and you were able to see how inebriation & drugs really can affect other people around you (I mean how your crew affected you not you.... well you know ;o) )

  3. Awww bummer but at least it made for good blog fodder!

  4. I can't imagine anyone not liking you. Boooo to them!

  5. Thanks for sharing your vulnerable moments. No one likes to be dis-liked, but these emotions are writing fodder gold mines. I hope you use these memories to write a killer book that sells fabulously. You know what they say: Success is the best revenge. (not that I advocate revenge--only in the form of book selling phenom)

  6. Oh no! That sounds like a complete nightmare. Isn't writing more fun? No gaffers tape and dollies to worry about. Just power cords and idea whores.

  7. Oh wow. I'm saddest about them combining in a campaign against you. Now I know what you mean about Hollywood not being a happy place.

    (Stoned? Really? How do they function at all in Hollywood?)

  8. Abby: Aw, I'm glad you enjoyed. And it's okay to laugh at me sometimes too--my husband does it all the time. Especially when I trip--which happens ALL the time. :)

    Southern Princess: LOL, ah, you and your silver linings. I actually put an even bigger silver lining on it: this was a key part in my decision to leave Hollywood--one of the BEST decisions i've made. I mean, there were other reasons too, but seeing the jerkwads start to make it in the industry definitely made me wonder if I wanted to be part of a place like that.

    Frankie: LOL. It's true. I kind of have an endless supply of Shannon Shame thanks to that semester.

    Marybeth: Aw, are you wooing me again--because I think I love you for saying that! *reaches through the screen to hug you*

    Elle: Aw, thanks. I definitely draw on those memories to channel the right emotions in my book, and I would LOVE to find a tiny margin of success to rub in their noses--especially that horrible teacher. Maybe I'm evil, but I just can't help mysefl. :)

    Lisa and Laura: YES! Writing is way, way better. All I wanted to do was write in the first place--film school was a total fluke. So happy to be on the right track again, even with the Power chord and Idea Whore issues. :)

    Heather: Aw, thanks for the sympathy. Not gonna lie, it wasn't fun. And it was actually more of a Conspiracy than a campaign (I used campaign because conspiracy makes me seem paranoid). They were falsifying things to make it look like I was late and delinquent in my duties, and the teacher was happy to believe them because she wanted me gone. It sucked. And yes, stoned--though they did worse than that. Hollywood is a dirty, corrupt place in many, many ways. Not somewhere I wanted to be.

  9. Yeah, what's up with the Shannon-hating? A let's-let-Shannon-fail campaign? Wow. Seriously, did you, like, pee in someone's coke? Sorry it had to go down like that, good lady.

    Except, unlike Elle, I'm not against revenge, per se. As long as it's subtle, devious, and well-deserved...

    In other words, go ahead, sell the novels, get rich, then find those film-school hacks and rub it in. :)

  10. Simon: Heh. Sadly, no. I dared to argue for honesty. That's really all it was. There were budget restrictions on the films, so the rich kids couldn't run to their daddies and get a million dollar budget and make a film that blows everyone else out of the water. The crew wanted to spend more than the budget and have me fudge the numbers to hide it. I told them I didn't feel comfortable with that. They told me every producer had done it for the last decade. I said I didn't care, that if the money was spent it went in the budget. They yelled at me and started falsifying things to get me failed. I went to the teacher and told her what was going on. She'd been accepting the false budgets for years, so my info made her look incompetent. Then she wanted me gone too. It was LOADS of fun.

    And thanks for the permission on the revenge. I'm kinda planning on it. *rubs hands together with an evil smile*

  11. Sounds like the teacher was enabling the rotters. What's up with that? What's the point of having a budget, if she let people cheat? She's just teaching them to cheat. I bet the Dean saw it that way too, and it didn't make her happy eh?

  12. Myrna: Yeah, the Dean made them re-evaluate the whole budget system. I'm told the following semester the budgets were almost double the size of what they were during my semester, but that was about it. Hollywoods a pretty corrupt place (trust me on that) so it's not really that surprising that film school had its own corruptions too. Yet another reason why I just didn't belong, but in this case I was glad I didn't belong. Thanks for the support and the comment--you rock!

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