Days 2 & 3 on set of a Documentary Production

Day two was once again in the studio, we filmed another full day of interviews. This time we had exceptionally interesting subjects, the brothers that own the Chicago Brauhaus, Harry and Gunter. We also had a historian who looked at Chicago through the lens of bars, and we also had a columnist from the Chicago Tribune.

With the two brothers, we finally got some meat for the documentary, we got their German backgrounds, WWII, moving to America and opening up a restaurant in Lincoln square. Then talked about why they’re closing the Brauhaus instead of keeping it open and whatnot and how Lincoln Square is going from being a very German neighborhood to less than that because no more Germans are coming in anymore and just the culture is changing.

With some of these interviews we had to switch up the chairs and whatnot that we were shooting, and it completely messed everything up and made the whole process take longer than necessary because one chair was much larger than the other and therefore setting everything up again became more difficult than it should have been all because we failed to adhere to the markings that we made for where to place the chairs. We needed the interviews to all look similar and moving even just a little bit is going to change the whole dynamic of how we place these in the film later on.

DAY 3

Day 3 was a whole different beast. This time we were actually in the Brauhas filming. The Brauhaus is an old building but it was made well, for sound purposes. When it comes to filming, it is a very dim, red place and even the better lit places, the lights are such an odd colour that it makes filming and deciding apertures and colour grading difficult.

Today was the first day I was entrusted to help change lenses, and I learned that I place them initially too hard, I twist too much and I thought I was doing things just like my boss. I learned that these $15,000 lenses, aren’t like the ones at my school that easily connect to the Canon or BlackMagic cameras. These lenses use a German glass that is basically the best glass in the world, which is interesting since we’re talking so much about German culture.

We also learned that our main focus, Harry, really likes to perform for the camera and makes most of the things we want to film with him very difficult to get the feel wanted for the film. He’s a very nice man, but we also know that he can be very harsh with his employees and those are some of the things that we’re hoping to get, but since he is so aware of the camera anytime we are in his restaurant, we’re not sure to embrace his performance, or try something else.

We mainly filmed B-Roll today which was very tedious, just filming pictures on the walls, servers, bartenders pouring and whatnot. The other difficult thing about this production is that everyone is so friendly and always wants us to either be eating or drinking. This isn’t a problem for me or my boss, but when it comes to our sound man, he can definitely throw back some drinks and that’s clearly a problem.

Today we also sat down after filming and sat with the director and producer and rewrote our schedule and where we wanted to take this film. We also discussed some logistics for the next two days.

All in all, describing what I’m learning is proving to be more and more difficult because I just have so little to compare this whole process to, but what I do know is that once this whole production moves to Post, and I can get another production in, I’m going to realize the differences and be able to really determine what is good and bad that I’m seeing.

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Interning for Production

Today was the real first day of my internship for Tangent Mind, a production company based in Saint Louis. We’re filming a documentary about Chicago Brauhaus, a very famous German Restaurant in Chicago.

This is the first time I’ve ever been on a “professional” production set. I say “professional” because this is a “bare bones” project. Just me and 5 other people on the crew, and I, an intern, replaced an AC. The other people include audio, director, producer, another intern, and a DP.

My main job for the day was to basically watch and learn, and that I did. I noticed many similarities with things I’d been taught about production, as well as many technical things about specific cameras and especially about lighting and DIT work.

This documentary couldn’t be more perfect for something that interests me. Its all about German culture and how that influences Lincoln Square, a very famous neighborhood in Chicago known for its German population that is steadily diminishing.

Today was the first day of shooting and it was a 13 hour day of only interviews. This may sound boring, but hearing people talk about the Chicago Brauhaus and being raised in Chicago as German American’s was exceptionally relatable to me since my Grandma moved to the U.S in the 60’s just like the parents of almost all the interviewee’s. Many of the stories they told of their upbringing was exactly how my own mother describes her upbringing and was exceptionally relatable.

Now we shot these interviews in a studio that was free to us for the day because Jon, my boss, knew some people and they allowed us to use their studio. This came with some setbacks. The studio is literally located mere feet away from train tracks, not to mention its on the Southside, in a less than desirable neighborhood near Garfield Park. This meant that all day we had to deal with sirens, choppers, and trains. From an audio perspective, this sucked, but we were also working on a time crunch and couldn’t afford to stop whenever a loud sound occurred.

I learned that even in studios, there will be problems that you can’t take care of no matter what, and this is also something that Jon advocates that spending lots of money on a slightly better studio pretty much won’t always be worth it, because there will always be problems on a production set to work through.

Diamond in the Rough

If you have read any of my previous posts, you might be wondering, “Nick, you seem to HATE serving, why the hell do you continue?”

Well, thats a fantastic question. I rather dislike interacting with humans but, the money in any serving job ends up being rather good. Better than most other jobs I can find, and aside from one of my jobs, management has been exceptionally good to me.

But if thats the case, you might be thinking that I’m just a money whore. While some of that may be true, I do in fact enjoy quite a few people that I end up serving. I also end up hating some, or being completely and utterly indifferent to some customers.

Some tables I know can sense my fakeness, some do and love it, and some do and immediately hate me. I know if I were more extroverted and personable I’d more than likely overall get tipped better.

But Like I’ve said before, not everyone who dines out is an extrovert and in need of loving attention while they get their food.

First of all, we have the regulars. The idea of ever being a regular at a restaurant myself is an terrible, ugly thought, I would never do it. Many regulars I tend to not be fans of at first either.

But there’s often more than one reason why they come in to the same place on the same days, or always order the same thing. I’m someone who likes certain places and visit them often, but hardly ever out of habit, and I’m constantly trying new things. I’m also not personable enough to go somewhere everyday and just make a slew of friends.

Eventually you befriend these people out of habit and learn to enjoy their company. Sometimes some stability in customers can be nice.

One of the regular couples at my old sushi restaurant have actually become good friends of mine outside of the restaurant. In fact every time I go back to visit Chicago, if I don’t let them know I’m coming and try to see them, they would be offended! My last time going back to Chicago they invited me to dinner and drinks, and we ended up hanging out most of the night as they bought me dinner and quite a few drinks.

My all time favourite story about customers is a young couple that came into the sushi restaurant. We exchanged a few witty remarks and I just sort of clicked with them. This does not happen often by any means, but we did and as I asked them if they wanted any dessert, they remarked that they were going to a gelato place nearby.

We began talking about gelato flavours. Theres a particular flavour that I absolutely love more than anything else that I’d had in Peru one time and have not been able to find it elsewhere since.

As they were leaving they jokingly said they’d stop back to the restaurant to bring me some gelato. I certainly didn’t believe that they actually would. But sure enough, about an hour later they came in and had bought me some Gelato!!!

This act of kindness nearly made me cry and is still an experience I cherish to this day.

Fatigue and Rest

We all tend to get tired while working and with serving its no different.

However, there is something particularly draining while serving when one is an introvert. Spending an entire day talking to random people and interacting with different types of people is utterly exhausting.

I fully understand why many servers smoke, I did it for a while just as an escape from people, to take large breaths in solitude and exhale calmly. It is sometimes the only form of solace one get get in a normal shift.

Many days, I am more the capable of spending an entire 12 hour shift of interacting with a whole myriad of types of people. These days I tend to treasure, and often can’t control how they happen, but they most often happen after a good nights rest at the very least.

The one part that can sweep you off your feet is a mistake. Whether it be my mistake or the customers mistake, in which they hardly ever admit, mistakes can really increase anxiety. There have been a few times where due to either a language barrier or just a plain old miscommunication, I’ve made more than one mistake at a table.

When this happens, I’m so incredibly embarrassed I find it hard to go back tot he table, and if I do, words cannot come out of my mouth, and at this point, fuck any sort of eye contact.

It also effects how I feel towards my other tables and instead of trying to be super nice and helpful, I become extremely sheepish and just want to go home, because I refuse to go cry in a bathroom. That also doesn’t help the problem, but exacerbate it.

At my current job I get a 2 hour break in the middle of my shift. Sometimes this is exactly what I need to recharge. Other times, a measly 2 hours is not enough time by myself to collect my thoughts and prepare myself for attempting to make strangers happy to receive payment.

Not only do I have to deal with customers, but also the cooks and other servers. Sometimes I just really don’t feel like talking with anyone, I’m not inherently in a bad mood, I just have nothing to say, and this can occasionally stir up trouble, because friendly servers are always wanting to see whats wrong. And we all know if we say nothing is wrong, and then are asked multiple more times if something is wrong, now there is a problem.

After long days of dealing with people, I’ve found the best medicine for me, is a bottle of wine, my couch, no socks, and a thoughtless show or film that I can just watch and not worry anymore.

The Bane of Servers

As some of you may know, servers are not the only people in the service industry responsible for getting the food to that table.

Cooks. They can be a servers saving grace, or the Cersei Lannister of the restaurant.

We can all agree that communication is one of the key elements in any successful relationship. Well, with cooks in the kitchen it is no different. However, cooks are a different breed of human. Oftentimes they work the hardest and most in restaurants and usually get paid hourly instead of on tips, which typically equals less money.

I’m not talking about the fancy Michelin ranked restaurants where we have award winning cooks whose life was a particular path directed towards culinary masterpieces. I’m talking about people who just so happened to be pretty handy with a knife and were thrown behind a grill to make not terrible food for a shitload of people in a day.

Naturally, these cooks happen to understand the current predicament they are in, they know they get shit on (money-wise), and yet they need money just like the rest of us. Here is where the attitude enters. Sure they work REALLY hard more often than not, but knowing they get paid less, AND they control the flow of the restaurant, they understand the power in their hands.

Being a new server in a restaurant, it is honestly a coin toss on your first couple of days if the cooks will arbitrarily decide to like you or not. Being a male, introvert, the male dominated world of cooks is already pitted against me. I’m already busy being fake with the customers that I’ll never see again to notice that I forgot to be genuine or half heartedly nice to the cooks, I “need those eggs over-easy, not medium-well.”

My worst nightmare was Maria, yes a female, cook that had been at that Chicago IHOP longer than I’ve been alive. It took me a bit to realize that she absolutely just no reservations, hated me. She would purposely get my food order incorrect, never talk to me, ignore me, and if I made a mistake, which happened frequently being a new server, it was a shit-storm like you wouldn’t believe.

Finally, one day after many months of working, dreading Tuesdays and Thursdays when it was just me and Maria. I’m letting my friend that is a new manager know that Maria just downright loathes me, and he scoffs and doesn’t believe me at first, until he starts to see it himself. Both of them being spanish-speaking, and me being almost the only person in the restaurant both server, and patron that is only english speaking, have a conversation. He relays the word to me that on my first day of work, I did not say Hello to Maria, and because of that, she created a vendetta against me.

This is where I learned an important fact about many people of the hispanic culture. It is exceptionally rude to not greet your elders. After that day, I made sure to say “Hello” at least twice to her and eventually she grew to not get my orders wrong quite so often.

The Wonders of the Service Industry

Hi welcome to FakeItTilYouMakeIt a biweekly/bimonthly¬†(every two weeks) account of experiences I’ve had as a server. My goal is to discuss how terrible it can be serving while being an extreme introvert. However, despite not being the best people person, there are plenty of great stories to tell. There will be a mixture of my accounts with people I’ve served, as well as coworkers, food at my restaurants, and anything that has happened while near my places of work.

Getting Started:

I’ve been serving for 3 years now at three different restaurants: IHOP, Sushi X, and El Monterrey. Each has been vastly different, not only in what is served but also clientele, and location. One thing has been oddly consistent is the fact that the cooks in each restaurant have all spoken Spanish ¬†as their first language, and english as a broken second language at best.

I’m a student and serving is a great way to pay the bills, usually I get to eat either at a discounted price, or for free, and serving, depending which restaurant has decently flexible hours.

I hope to be able to tell stories that people can appreciate and hopefully some can relate to, I cannot be the only introverted person to ever become a server, and I know this to be a fact because some coworkers of mine have been introverted as well. I also hope this can be relatable to the fellow introverts that dine out, because they are the only ones in which I have ever had a pleasant time serving, despite being a select few.

IHOP:

My first job in a new big city, Chicago, was at IHOP, the International House of Pancakes, located at Diversey and California, just a few blocks from where I lived. A corporate business that had many rules and guidelines that some person who gets paid way too much thinks makes a successful business. My boss was an asshole, but not because he is an asshole as a person, but because he didn’t feel that being a leader, and a friend were good ways to lead the people of IHOP. In fact friends of his that are my friends have told me that he has drunkenly talked about wanting to befriend me now, now that he isn’t my boss anymore. I’ve also been told we are oddly similar so this may also explain why he chose to distance himself form me more than others.

Despite being an asshole, my boss wasn’t the worst boss ever and I did manage to learn the ropes of being a halfway decent server. The breakfast business is a fast-paced whirlwind of eggs, pancakes, and mean old people. What’s worse about being a breakfast place is being a 24/7 breakfast joint in a town of around 10 million people. For starters one IHOP rule is to keep tables that are ready to be sat in in a very specific manner, one manner is with an empty coffee pot on the table, however, overnights we could not abide to this rule. Why you might ask? well, copper and plastic coffee pots can make for one hell of a weapon, especially when you’re very drunk and angry for some reason. So one might say this is why we can’t have nice things, but drunk people overnight needed their comfort food, and if they needed it, they got coffee to order, but certainly not before.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more on random serving stories with a satiric, and introverted twist.