USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘film crew’
Folk speech
general
Humor

Gaffers vs Grips

The following is a common filmmaking joke:

How many grips does it take to fix a light bulb?

I don’t know

None, let the gaffer do it

 

The informant explains that gaffers only handle electrical work, while grips handle everything else and its disrespectful to do the gaffer’s work if you are not one

 

Context: this was collected during our in class collection time

 

Thoughts: I found this joke to be amusing, mainly because you can look at it from two sides. One, that you do the work you are assigned and don’t take someone else’s work. Or two, you don’t want to do extra work, so you leave it to someone else. I find it funny that even where I work retail, we have similar jokes, about not wanting to do extra work too.

Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

How many…

Informant Bio/Context

The following series of jokes was told on the set of a USC student music video. My informant was helping out as a grip (crew member who works setting up lights and moving equipment).  She is currently a film student at USC and often works in the sound department, but like most USC film students she has held positions in other departments as well.

Jokes

How many actors does it take to change a lightbulb? One – they change it and the world revolves around them.
How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb? Do we have to change it?
How many producers does it take to change a lightbulb? Does it have to be a lightbulb?
How many electrics does it take to change a lightbulb? It’s not a lightbulb, it’s a “globe.”

Analysis

This series of jokes is best heard all together as my informant told them because it makes clear the comparison between the departments. My informant liked them because she herself has functioned in each of the roles mentioned above on a film set, and has noticed that her perspective on a particular task or issue does change with each job.

The joke plays on stereotypes of each role, but also simply their function as part of the collaborative process of making the film. Actors are viewed as vain and egotistical, however it is also true that all of the work done on a film set “revolves around” them, as its their actions that drive the movie. Writers are portrayed as those whose visions are trampled on by the changes asked of them by directors and producers, but they are also here seen to be defensive of the integrity of their work. The implication about producers here is that they will always look for an easier, and more cost effective solution than what it written, and it always shows them to be people who think outside the box. Electrics (film crew in charge of all electrical equipment on a set, including lighting) are portrayed here to have a specific way of viewing their equipment, and special terms for it, that differs from most others’ perception. The joke says that electrics are an exclusive group on-set, welcoming only to those who understand their methods, equipment, and terminology.

My informant felt that these implications about each department, both positive and negative, were accurate. Because of her experiences in these departments she enjoyed that the jokes clearly separate each department from one another, showing that no one on a film set is going to look at something the same way as anyone else will, because every department is in charge of considering different things. With actors its the performance, writers the story, producers the money, and electrics the gear.

I think the jokes also show that each department views their interpretation of the object as the one that makes the most sense and is most important to the making of the film. The humor in the joke comes from this separation of points of view.

Folk speech
Humor

F*** Sound

Informant Bio/Context

My informant attends the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts’ film production program. She is primarily focused on camera and lighting work and works often as a director of photography (crew member in charge of lighting scenes and composing shots in the camera). On a recent student film set she told the following joke while waiting for the director to finish rehearsing with an actor. The camera was already set and ready to go, and she reflected that it was a good thing that on this project they didn’t need to worry about recording sound.

Transcript of Joke

So this actress comes to Hollywood, right, and she’s having trouble you know, um, getting in. So she decides to sleep with a sound guy. And afterwards everyone’s all like, why’d you sleep with a sound guy? You should sleep with the director. Sleep with the director. And she says, well everyone’s always saying, fuck sound! Fuck sound!

Analysis and Background

After telling the joke the informant told a brief anecdote about a set experience she had where the assistant director (set manager) needed to find the production mixer (crew member who records sound on the set) in order to shoot a shot because in between shots the production mixer had fallen asleep and was not responding to calls. The informant herself took the joke as a humorous comment on the fact that the sound department has a lot of down time on sets. Like the actors, they are really only needed just before and through the recording of takes. Much of the rest of the time spent on a set changing lighting and re-dressing set pieces is time during which the sound department has nothing to do which gives them, according to my informant, the appearance of having an easy job and being lazy workers.

My reading of this joke however is more focused on the gender and position of power of the subjects in the joke. The main character in the joke is an actress who is portrayed as naive and desperate for fame. The joke plays upon a general belief that sex will help one, especially a woman with little experience, to get ahead in the film industry. The joke assumes a “green-ness” to actresses in Hollywood. The laugh comes from the understanding by film crews of  the truth behind the statement that “everyone’s always saying, fuck sound” and that newcomers to Hollywood would not understand why that is and would misinterpret the meaning. The actress who is new to town can hardly be expected to know the perception of sound technicians with film crews.

Also notice the use of the term sound “guy.” Rarely in the film industry does one refer to a crew member using a female pronoun – often the word “person” is substituted for “guy” or “man” if one is attempting to be politically correct, or even to refer to a female crew member. The gender dynamics of this joke indicate that it is young, naive girls who seek fame and fortune in a male-dominated work environment, where sex appeal is their only power. The desperation of the actress to break into the film business also hints at the brief shelf life of actresses, who seem to age quicker (and lose that sex appeal) in the public eye than male actors. This reveals not so much a gender bias among film workers as a tradition of acceptance of the fact that many roles in the film industry have historically been filled by men – particularly skilled crew roles.

The fact that the gender dynamics of the joke held even when being told by a female director of photography reveals that while the dynamics of film crews and the business itself may change, a stereotypical image of the film industry planted in the 1920s still holds in the public consciousness, and is source of ironic amusement even to modern film workers.

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