Paul Clark's Gutter And Sheet Metal


An American Story

Posted by thegutterdude on November 3, 2008 at 8:50 AM


On a hill overlooking one of the major studios in the "Valley", is the home of a major movie producer I was fortunate enough to work for about three years ago.


It was a custom job where I had to design a gutter that would both look good and also take care of an inherent leak problem. In a word the job was massive. It chewed up about two months of that summer but by the time it was done, it became a showcase job for me.


I was also fortunate that the family I was working for were such nice people. Down to earth, bright, both interesting and interested. Some might consider their home ostentatious because of the size and location, but once I got to know them, it was obvious that the decision to buy was a practical consideration before all else.


Not being one who reads movie credits, when I met Mr. K I didn't know him from Adam, and therefore had no preconceived notions about him. He was just a nice guy; obviously sharp and thorough.


About two weeks into the job, when I asked, I found out what he did for a living, and it was about another two weeks before I got around to looking up his 'film-ography' and found out what a major player he was in the film business.


Despite the impression we all get from the movies, people make it in the movie business the same way people make it in any trade; by being reliable and competent. When millions are on the line, nobody hires a flake more than once (Over the years, I've met many heavies in the movie and other businesses and with out exception, they've made it by being exceptional in one or more ways, and it's been my good fortune to talk to them and observe them.).


Toward the end of my job, for some reason, Mr. K opened up to me about his start and how he came to where he was. It was a great story.


Back in the early sixties, Mr. K was a middle class student working his way through college, living in the Washington DC area. Over the summer he decided upon getting a job for a local TV station.


When he went in to apply, and informed them he had absolutely no knowledge or experience in television he was told, without ceremony, to hit the road.


Although he did go away, after thinking it over for a night, he decided he wanted to work in TV, and went back the next day, saying that he'd be willing to work at anything. Thinking they could get rid of him, they gave him a job sweeping up, which he took, did, and continued to do.


About two weeks later, he was spotted by the manager (who'd been the one to boot him out two weeks prior), broom in hand. After his shock and indignation at seeing Mr. K, he crooked a finger and told Mr. K that he was short a camera operator and that Mr. K was elected. Mr. K was given quick instruction and thrown into the deep end where he flourished the rest of that summer.


The next summer he upped the audacity quotient at a Pittsburgh station nearer his home. He applied for a job as a producer giving a vague mention of the last station and his experience there. He got the job, showed up, went into the producer�s booth and realized he was completely lost.


Looking around at the monitors, wondering how he would fake his way through, one of the older technicians who�d been watching him said, �You�ve got no idea. Do you�?


Mr. K. answered with a sheepish �No�.


The old veteran took pity, told him what to do immediately, then continued until Mr. K knew his job.


From then on it was a succession of jobs and positions, working his way up through the ranks in TV, then movies, learning his jobs, honing his craft, taking on the next challenge.


All the glitz and charm and glamour supposedly attached to the movie business, is definitely not at his end. Behind the camera, in the cutting room, or in the office, it�s work, work and more work, and you�d better not get any of it wrong, or you�ll be out of work next year, and probably for good (No pressure there�).


The logistics a big budget producer must deal with are staggering. As an example, Mrs. K. told me about a time when he was on location. During a call home, he had told her that he was having a root canal done that day, and that promised to be the best part of his day.


It�s interesting to note that people who�ve had to struggle that hard to succeed, and have to keep struggling retain an alertness and humility about them no matter how high they rise. When Mr. K came home from wrapping up his movie, his first comment to me was �Yeah, but now I�m out of work�.�. �I have to find another script�. He wasn�t smiling either.


The process and pressure of getting the right script, the right actors, directors, locations, technicians, budget, distribution, et al, and making no mistakes in the process, is tremendous. One missed queue, bad edit, bad re-write, bad light bulb, mis-spent dollar, wrong release date�one hair out of place on an actor can make the difference between a success and a flop, and there�s no fixing it afterward.


If you met Mr. K in a grocery store, you�d meet a nice guy who took genuine interest in you and the conversation, and you�d probably have no idea that you were talking to someone with the brilliance, nerve, determination and attention to detail that would put a neurosurgeon to shame.

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