Episode 34 — Guardians of the Galaxy meet Manage This

Episode #34
Original Air Date: 05.16.2017

32 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Ryan "Pez" Pezdirc

Assistant Director, Ryan “Pez” Pezdirc, shares his experience with managing hundreds of background actors in movies like Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, Captain America and Batman vs. Superman. Hear his insight into the importance of leading people rather than sending them and the benefits of being proactive rather than reactive.

Pez is a graduate of the University of Miami, with majors in motion picture screenwriting and creative writing.  He’s a member of the Directors Guild of America and has worked on dozens of films.  He was the assistant director on productions such as “Batman v Superman,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and the upcoming film “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” 

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"If you do not lead the extras where to go, and they get lost, well, guess what?  You have now delayed that day’s work.  So part of what my department does is the logistics of making sure, like I said, from when they arrive, to when they’re ready, to the end of the day when we wrap them, making sure their paperwork is completed, et cetera, et cetera."

- Ryan Pez Pezdirc

"That’s the big thing is, you know, it’s a team effort.  I mean, the beauty of the film business is I don’t care what your role is.  I don’t care if you’re the trash guy.  I don’t care, I mean, from director, producer, to the guy that comes at the end of the night and empties the dumpster, I mean, every single person is a cog in the machine in creating that director’s vision and getting, well, the project completed.  And that’s a huge, huge – one of my favorite things about the business is I don’t care who you are.  Top of the line to the bottom of the line, you are important, and everything matters."

- Ryan Pez Pezdirc

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ANDY CROWE ● BILL YATES ● NICK WALKER ● RYAN “PEZ” PEZDIRC

NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  It’s a discussion about real life, a time to get inside the brains of some of the experts in the field and see how they work and how they thrive in this fascinating world of project management.  Maybe you’re new to the field, with questions about getting certified.  Or maybe you’ve been in the trenches for years and want to compare your stories to those of others who are doing the stuff.  It’s our goal to encourage you and inspire creativity.

I’m your host, Nick Walker.  And with me are two of the most creative guys in the room, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates.  And Andy, today we’re going to say not only hurray for project management, but hurray for Hollywood.

ANDY CROWE:  That’s right.  Hurray for the whole galaxy, if you will.  So we’re excited about this.  This is going to be a fun episode.

NICK WALKER:  Our guest is Ryan Pezdirc, better known as Pez.  He’s a graduate of the University of Miami, with majors in motion picture screenwriting and creative writing.  He’s a member of the Directors Guild of America and has worked on dozens of films.  He was the assistant director on productions such as “Batman v Superman,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and the upcoming film “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”  Pez, welcome to Manage This.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  It’s a pleasure to be here.  Thank you for having me.

NICK WALKER:  Now, you are living the dream of a lot of people who aspire to be in film.  Tell me a little bit about that dream.  How did it get started?  Did you always want to be in film?

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Yeah.  I mean, you know, I’m a kid who my entire childhood is on camera, from the time I was born.  I think there was a camera in the hospital as I came into this world.  And I can pretty much show you, you know, 5,000 hours of everything in my life, every sporting event, every – well, let’s just say everything.  So, yeah, I was born with a camera in my face.  And as soon as I could hold one, I held it.  We’re going back to the days when it was you put the VHS tape in the camera, and then you popped it right in the VCR to watch what you did.  So, yeah, absolutely.  It’s something that’s been a lifelong, I guess you’d say a passion; you know?

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, yeah.  So I mentioned you were an assistant director on all these films.  What does an assistant director do?

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Well, assistant director is something that you become after a very long time working as a production assistant.  In my case it was set production assistant.  That’s kind of an entry-level position.  And in the film world you’re an entry-level for a very long time.

BILL YATES:  So you pay your dues.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  You pay your dues figuratively.  Then, once you join the Directors Guild, quite literally.  That’s just the way it goes.  You have to work as a set production assistant.  The basic path is 600 days.  You have to work as basically an entry-level position for 600 days.  After you’ve accumulated those days, you submit them to the Directors Guild of America.  They have to approve those days.  I mean, they literally look at your documentation and say, okay, this person has met the criteria.

You are then eligible to join the Directors Guild.  It’s not like they just call you and say, “Hey, you’re in, you got it.”  Because after you get your accreditation, you turn in your 600 days.  Then you still have to find work as an assistant director.  Maybe one of the differences between a union and a guild, I’ve heard before that unions are meant to keep you in, and guilds are kind of meant to, not keep you out, but it’s not – there’s no job…

BILL YATES:  Okay.

NICK WALKER:  They make it tough.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Exactly.  There’s no job placement in the Directors Guild.  There’s no union hall.  It’s not like they have to hire me before they hire someone else.  But that’s kind of the gist of getting your – we call them “getting your days” as a set production assistant, and then submit it when you’re eligible to join.  And I joined.  Very exciting.

NICK WALKER:  I knew somebody in the film industry one time who said it is nearly impossible to make a movie.  There’s just so many things that come together, so many aspects, so many different crews.  Would you say that that’s almost true?

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Well, it’s quite an undertaking.  There are so many different people involved.  I mean, if you’ve seen a movie nowadays, I mean, you’re talking potentially thousands of names.  It wasn’t always like that.  But as the film business moves into the, well, not moves into, but the digital era which we’re now in, you start to include a lot more people in the post-production side of things, visual effects.  Some of the movies I’ve worked on you’ll shoot – you’ll actually shoot the movie for anywhere from, what, 30 to, I mean, my longest film was “Batman v Superman.”  We shot that for 150 days.  Now, that’s a pretty long movie, you know, that took some time and effort.

ANDY CROWE:  Where did most of that shooting take place?

PEZ PEZDIRC:  That shot primarily in – our stages were in Pontiac, Michigan, so you can call it Detroit.  Did a lot of nights in Detroit, a lot of interesting places in that city to be Gotham City.  And then we went to Chicago.  We shot outside of Chicago in Yorkville, Illinois; in actual downtown Chicago, which was different.  I mean, that’s a big city.  There’s a lot going on there.  That took a lot of coordination, a lot of people, a lot of bodies.  And then we shot in the absolute southwest corner of New Mexico.

ANDY CROWE:  Okay.  So Pez, tell me on your most recent, well, I don’t know if it’s your most recent project, but the one that’s just hit the theaters is “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.”  And you had a great opening weekend with that.  What was your role as assistant director?  What did you particularly do and contribute on this project?

PEZ PEZDIRC:  On that project I was in charge of the extras.  That’s something that I’ve been doing now for many years, both as a set production assistant and now as an assistant director.  And that started – everything from – if you’ve seen the film, there are characters called Ravagers, and they’re kind of these space cowboy types.  We started very early on, and we did a training camp.  We called it “Ravager boot camp,” where we brought the guys in and kind of ran them through and told them what was coming.  And that was weeks – that was during preproduction.  We hadn’t started shooting yet.

So during preproduction, that film had lots and lots and lots of prosthetic makeup, which requires fittings, molds of people’s faces and teeth.  So you could do teeth, you know, they call it a “lifecast.”  A lifecast is when someone gets like a plaster – they wrap their heads in plaster, and then they can use that form of their face to create the prosthetics that would then go on the actual person’s face after the prosthetics have been created.

ANDY CROWE:  All right, Pez.  Let me back up a minute.  You’ve got a casting call that you put out for extras; right?  Does that originate with you?

PEZ PEZDIRC:  It does not originate with me.  My job is once the actors actually arrive on set.  There is an extras casting department.  On those films it was Tammy Smith casting here in Atlanta.  Tammy puts out posts, you know, puts out a casting call, and people come in.  They send in headshots.  They send in their information.  And that’s pretty general for the film business.

There’s usually a casting call.  Sometimes it’s actually an open call.  “Hey, we’re looking for extras.  Come to this location on this date.  Bring a picture of yourself, et cetera, et cetera.”  Come in, and casting will take their picture, put it in a database.  Other casting companies you just submit, you know, online, what have you.  But in the case of that, our extras casting puts out, you know, they bring the people in.  And sometimes they find a diamond in the rough.

ANDY CROWE:  So we’ll go ahead and disclose right now that one of our producers on the podcast, Stephanie Pittman, was one of the extras in “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.”  Is that correct?

STEPHANIE PITTMAN:  That is correct.  It was a lot of fun.

ANDY CROWE:  And you’ve gotten to see it now?

STEPHANIE PITTMAN:  I’ve seen it three times now.

ANDY CROWE:  And have you – you haven’t given us the list yet of the scenes that you’re in, but we can look forward to that?

STEPHANIE PITTMAN:  Yes, yes.

ANDY CROWE:  Tell me Pez didn’t cut them all out.

STEPHANIE PITTMAN:  There was one that was cut out, and I’m very upset about it.

ANDY CROWE:  Okay, well…

STEPHANIE PITTMAN:  But there’s still one in there, so you can spot me.

ANDY CROWE:  We’ll get our army of listeners to write letters of protest.  But good for you.

STEPHANIE PITTMAN:  Thank you.

ANDY CROWE:  That’s something to look forward to.  So when we figure out where that is, we’ll post it in the show notes.

STEPHANIE PITTMAN:  Awesome.

NICK WALKER:  And Pez, you mentioned the prosthetics and costuming.  Stephanie showed me a picture of her in costume because I said, “Will I recognize you?”  And she showed me the picture, and I said, no, no, not going to recognize her.  It was an amazing outfit.

STEPHANIE PITTMAN:  Yeah.  I was painted yellow.  So I was sitting in the makeup chair, what – we were called at, like, 1:45 a.m. one day, and I sat in the makeup chair falling asleep till, like, 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. or something crazy like that.  And I had prosthetics on my face, as well.  So it was fun.

NICK WALKER:  So how many people have to have this kind of makeup job?  Are we talking about dozens and dozens?

PEZ PEZDIRC:  On that movie, I mean, it’s hard to put an exact number on it.  I had mentioned Ravagers.  Those were, you know, call them “space pirates,” whatever you’d like to call them.  But a lot of those guys were picked based on either their natural face, they had a unique face.  I mean, in extras casting a lot of times they look for – they call it “unique faces.”  I mean, if you’re just an average Joe, nah.  But if you’re a guy that has a horn coming out of his head, you’re going to look great on camera.  I’m kidding, but, you know…

BILL YATES:  Sign me up.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  People such as Stephanie that came in, she would have been a part of – they would have had to – lots of measurements.  I mean, everything from measuring your head to your waist to your chest to everything because they had form-fitting costumes that were created by Legacy Effects, which is an effects company.  They did a lot of the plastic or whatever materials they used.  But lots of fittings.  So in the preproduction process, especially on that film, you had hair fittings for if you were in a wig.  I’d mentioned casting of your face.  “Casting” is an interesting word, but they would measure your face, basically.  They would see what you were going to put on your face.  But, no, she would have been a part of that.  She would have absolutely had to come in and, yeah.

BILL YATES:  So, Pez, you have these extras who are coming in.  Some of them are going to be there throughout a good bit of the shooting, and then others are just in for the day.  So I’m trying to picture how in the world you manage these temporary team members.  I’m thinking about project managers and some of the people that are in and out of their projects.  Can you share some advice for how do you get people to figure out, okay, kind of get over the star shock.  This is what I need you to do.  This is your role.  This is safe.  You can do this.  Please don’t do that.  And now let’s get excited and go make a movie.  How do you do that?

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Yeah, well, that’s – a huge part of that is what my department does.  My bosses, I mean, by no means am I at the top of the line here.  You know, I’m essentially, especially in the Directors Guild, I’m still kind of entry level in that position.  But my bosses are in charge of scheduling the film; actor availability.  They actually take the script, and they break it down, you know, how many days, how many nights, things of that nature.

So in the film business essentially assistant directors are the project managers.  There are many other things at play.  There’s producers.  There’s the director, of course.  But my specific department in the industry, we have to lay that all out.  So as far as people coming in, that’s part of my job, too.  I have to keep people excited.  I have to keep them involved.  Like you mentioned, I keep falling back on this, but the Ravagers, for instance, in that film they came in many weeks out, came in, they kind of learned what they were getting into.

Now, we started the film very top-heavy with those specific characters, which is why we brought them in earlier.  We did a lot of work with them.  We trained them how to move, how to walk, how to grunt.  I mean, things, silly things like that.  These guys, they pretty much knew they had to be available for let’s just call it a month and a half.  Let’s just say right upfront, hey, guys, if you’re going to be this role, if you’re going to accept this role, you have to be available for the next month and a half.  I’m making up that timeframe.  But essentially that was the deal.  So you have to be available and willing to do it.  Sometimes it’s not for people.  Sometimes they get there, and they’re like, wow, this wasn’t what I expected.  And I have to deal with that a lot.  On all films.  I mean, we’re talking about one film in particular, but this is pretty standard.

I mean, you have people that come in, “Hey, I heard about this.  I want to try it.”  And I basically say to them – I tend to give the negatives.  I tell them right away, “You’re not going to be famous.  I hate to say that, but it’s the truth.  Chances are you’re going to come in, you may never see yourself.  I hope that doesn’t happen, but it could happen.  We’re here to do a job.”

They call extras, in our business, we call them “background extras,” sorry, “background actors,” or “BG.”  Why is that?  Because they’re in the background.  If you watch a film, and you notice the extras, it takes you away from what you’re actually supposed to be watching, which is the actors in the foreground, the people talking.  So it’s a hard line getting people to kind of understand that everything is important.  Every single person that is on camera and, of course, behind the camera, just like me, we all matter in a film.  But you’ve got to keep them focused and let them know that they’re there for a reason.

ANDY CROWE:  So, Pez, I’ve got a question for you.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Sure.

ANDY CROWE:  You know, one of the things that project managers really care about is getting better at their job.  And we do that, one of the ways we do that’s through lessons learned.  So in lessons learned in a project management capacity, you always ask the question, what would we do differently if we were doing this again?  So you’ve done this whole thing of managing extras, probably more than once.  This isn’t your first rodeo at this point.  What have you learned?  What have you learned about that whole process?

PEZ PEZDIRC:  It starts with the basics, quite literally from the moment an extra arrives.  I’ve had anywhere from one extra to my biggest day on “Batman/Superman,” I had 777 extras.  I love that it came out to 777 because I’ll never forget that.  When I did my paperwork at the end of the day I was like, wow, 777.  That is…

BILL YATES:  On one day.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  In one day.  Now, by no means is this – I’m certainly not suggesting this is just me.  This is a huge team of people, people working with me, people that are my bosses, people that are costumers, you know, they’re – but going back to your question, from the time they arrive, something as simple as making sure there’s adequate space to support however many number of people you have.  We refer to that as “extras holding,” which is basically where they get ready.  You have to have the coordination for what – that’s what I do.

And over time have I learned.  I’ve learned that something as simple as making sure there are adequate restrooms – making sure there’s enough coffee is a big one.  You wouldn’t believe what coffee becomes in my line of work.  If there’s no coffee, you’re going to have very upset extras.  Something as simple as trash cans.  I mean, and I know this sounds silly, but you have to start with the basics.  And the basics are from the time they arrive you have to keep them comfortable.  You have to keep them satiated, literally with food and drink; have to make sure there’s adequate restrooms.

And then for me, getting them ready, getting them processed, I have to make sure that there’s a flow.  A lot of what I do is about flow, from the time an extra arrives, where they park, to where they arrive to me to get ready.  We have to do their paperwork.  Every extra comes, they do basically a start pack.  They fill out a voucher.  They have to do an I9 for taxes.  And that’s part of what I do.  Me and my team, we do the paperwork.  We then get them to costumes.  We then put them in hair and makeup, or rather show them how to get to hair and makeup.  But it’s all about the flow because, as soon as one of those things breaks down, it can all just – it can all fall apart.

ANDY CROWE:  Suddenly something that doesn’t need to be a bottleneck is a bottleneck.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Exactly.  A long time ago I was taught from a boss of mine, he once said to me, “Extras are not sent; they are led.”  And what that means is I was doing a TV pilot at a casino in New Mexico.  And my boss said, “All right, Pez, we’re ready for the first 10 extras.”  And I said, “Okay, here they come.”  And I sent them, and I did not lead them.  So what do you think that means?

ANDY CROWE:  It means that they scattered to the four winds; right.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  They disappeared.  They were never found.  And so all of a sudden…

BILL YATES:  They’re in a casino.  What do you expect?

PEZ PEZDIRC:  All of a sudden at 7:00 o’clock in the morning myself and my team were running around a casino trying to find 10 extras.  So something as simple as making sure the path – sometimes, quite literally, we will have arrows.  We will have signs.  We have a locations department.  When you are not onstage, you have a department, and their purpose is to, one, make sure you have permits for the location.  It goes so far beyond just extras.  But physically leading somebody where to go is a big part of what we do.

And as I said before, if there’s a breakdown like that breakdown, that is a delay.  If you do not lead the extras where to go, and they get lost, well, guess what?  You have now delayed that day’s work.  So part of what my department does is the logistics of making sure, like I said, from when they arrive, to when they’re ready, to the end of the day when we wrap them, making sure their paperwork is completed, et cetera, et cetera.

BILL YATES:  Pez, how do you guys – I’m envisioning like a huge storyboard or some kind of, you know, here are the shots for the week that we’re going to make.  And I can envision you and many other peers looking at this together to figure out, okay, this is the role that I play.  This is when I need to have people on set.  I need to have 20 people here today.  I need to have 777 here on Wednesday, that kind of thing.  What does that look like for you guys?  What’s your big planning board?

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Well, there’s, I mean, the paperwork involved in a film production is crazy.  I mean, just like any job, really.  But for us it starts in preproduction.  I have a boss called a first assistant director.  That person essentially runs the set.  That’s the person on the radios.  Okay, rolling, action, cut, all of those things.  That person in preproduction, I mentioned before, physically gets a script, breaks it down; okay?  So that’s the start of the schedule.  That person creates the schedule.  Then you have a second assistant director that also helps create that schedule, then starts looking at things:  actor availability, talking to agents, talking to managers, making sure that on those dates that you have scheduled the film that you actually have cast members available to be there.

ANDY CROWE:  Available.

BILL YATES:  That’s a good thing.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  I mean, that’s a huge part.  And that’s not me, yet, in my career.  But hopefully someday.  But that’s a big part of it.  The second assistant director then makes call sheet.  That is quite literally your daily schedule.

BILL YATES:  Got it.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  So you have both a schedule for the entire film and then a daily schedule, if you want to look at it as that.  It’s called a “call sheet.”  That tells, on the front of the call sheet, tells who’s working, what actors are working, when they’re working, all of that information, what scenes you’re shooting; okay?  There’s also an advance schedule at the bottom of that document that tells you about the next day.

Now, on the back of that call sheet is everyone, all the crew members, and what time they’re supposed to arrive.  So there is quite literally a daily schedule, if you want to call it that.  There’s a schedule for the entire film.  Then there’s a call sheet that displays the day’s schedule itself.  So that’s a big part of what my department does.

ANDY CROWE:  So we haven’t talked about the top director yet, the director.  Is he or she on the set at this point?

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Absolutely.

ANDY CROWE:  Okay.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Yeah, I mean, as I said, I’m in the Directors Guild.  Yes, it’s the same guild.  If you are a DGA, or if you’re a member of the Directors Guild, we’re in the same guild.  However, it’s a different job.  The director, of course, is the ultimate creative person.  It’s their vision, a lot of times, especially if you have a writer/director.  It is quite literally their vision.  They have created the subject matter.  They are then there to create their vision.

Absolutely, the director’s on set.  The director’s there way, way, way before I’m ever even hired or a part of the project.  But, no, the director is there on set.  The director is in charge of the cast, the people that speak.  He tells them what he’s looking for.  They go over the script.  They make sure everybody’s on the same page.  But the director is absolutely there, I mean, he’s the boss.  The director is there.  It’s his vision.  And every single person on a film set is there to create the vision of that director.

ANDY CROWE:  And so how do you get that vision from the director?  Because this ties directly to what we do as project managers.  A sponsor will either initiate or pay for a project, and it’s handed to a project manager.  And now we have to get this concept, this idea that it’s going to create some value in some particular way, out to the team.  How do you pick up that from the director?  Does the director give a crash course on “here’s my creative vision”?  Does he or she hand out storyboards?  How does that happen?

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Well, there are, a lot of times, quite literally in the film business, storyboards.  Now, historically that was a lot of times an artist, somebody that you would physically, on a piece of paper, you would have a frame, a square that was a frame of the film.  And that person would hand draw.  Nowadays, as I keep saying, the “digital age” that we’re in, we do things called “previs.”  And those are people that are physically creating storyboards that can actually play, essentially an animated version of what you’ll be shooting on film, or nowadays in a lot of digital cameras.  So you can physically watch on a screen what the previs team has created.

ANDY CROWE:  And the director’s working to give them guidance and say yes, no.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Absolutely.  The director is completely involved in that from start to finish.  He will come in, say, I mean, everything, of course, is based on a script because that’s how the film business works.  So the director will sit in with a previs team and say, okay, here’s this scene.  This is what I’d like to see.  Then they create that.  They do so many versions of that previs, I mean, I couldn’t even begin to, you know, that’s far beyond my reach, as far as what I do and what I know in the business.  But let’s just say you start with a version, guy walks into a bar.  Well, guess what?  They will physically create an animated version of a gentleman or whoever it is walking into a bar.

From there the director will watch and say, well, this isn’t really what I was looking for.  I want the guy to walk into the bar and trip over a stool, pull the Dick van Dyke or something.  And then they’ll have to do another version of previs.  And then finally, once it’s narrowed down, you can then use that moving image, that animated version, and create an actual storyboard.  You can print out frame-by-frame shots.  So what you had said is, on set for that week or that day you will physically have a board, a storyboard with those screenshots, with those frames.  And then we will try with our actual cameras to match that.

BILL YATES:  So, Pez, how do you – back to this idea of getting that vision.  I imagine there have been times when you think you and the director are totally in sync, just the same way that, as a PM, I’m thinking I’ve got – I’m in the mind of the sponsor.  I’m right there with her.  And then I show up with a resource, or I create a feature, and I’m thinking you show up with an extra.  And she looks at me and goes, that’s not what I had in mind at all.  Does that – how do you, I mean, it’s got to happen, like…

ANDY CROWE:  Have you ever had the wheels come off?

BILL YATES: How do you manage that?

PEZ PEZDIRC:  I mean, part of – yeah, well, not part of.  What we do is to make sure the wheels don’t come off.  In the rare instance that they do, it’s about being a step ahead and knowing how to fix that.  Back to creatively, guess what?  If we do something the director doesn’t like, guess what we do?  What the director wants.

BILL YATES:  There we go.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  And that’s why, you know, if you’ve ever been on a film set, you’ll do many, many takes.  Which is another thing.  Keeping people interested, for instance, extras, hey, guys, we could literally do this shot 40 times if we don’t get it the way the director wants it.

BILL YATES:  And you may have – she may want a certain resource, and then another.  Here, I want this extra.  No, let me try this other look.  So you’ve got to keep them all kind of ready to go.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  It’s, you know, I had mentioned this before, but they say it’s show business, not show friends.  And for instance, let’s just say we’ve casted somebody.  Our extras casting has brought in someone to be “hot girl at bar” or something.  I’m using that term loosely.  But we bring in, “Here she is, here’s the girl, all right, we’re ready to rock, here we go, and action,” and girl completely stinks and doesn’t do it.  Guess what?  Director says, “Bring me another girl.”  Well, all of a sudden…

BILL YATES:  That’s on you.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  She’s gone, and let me go grab somebody else.  Hopefully they do it.  I mean, you can literally do a shot like that where the fifth person to do the performance is finally what the director wants.

BILL YATES:  Right.

NICK WALKER:  Wow.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  And that’s…

ANDY CROWE:  Nick, you’ve spent a lot of time behind camera at the Weather Channel; right?

NICK WALKER:  Oh, yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  And, I mean, a lot of time behind camera.  And I’ve figured out that Nick is quite famous in a lot of circles among the weather fans of the world.  So how much of this translates even remotely to sort of live work that you’re doing?  Any of it?  Or is it so dynamic and fluid, you’re more on the Agile side, and Pez is more on the waterfall side?

NICK WALKER:  Well, everything I do is on live television.  And so it’s, you know, you don’t get a second chance.  If you blow it the first time, you just move on because you have about a million more to do.  So you don’t worry about the last one you did.  So that’s – it’s different.  But I have been, on a couple of occasions, an extra.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  A background actor?

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, a background actor, yes, yes.  And I can identify with what you’re saying, the assistant director trying to keep us happy, because you come there with stars in your eyes.  You go, I’m going to see famous people.  I’m going to be in the movies.  This is going to be great.  And it’s cold.  And it’s…

BILL YATES:  It’s a waiting thing.

NICK WALKER:  Like you say, you’re hungry, and where is the coffee?  And you go, “This is work.  This isn’t…”

ANDY CROWE:  Show business.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  And that’s the big thing is, you know, it’s a team effort.  I mean, the beauty of the film business is I don’t care what your role is.  I don’t care if you’re the trash guy.  I don’t care, I mean, from director, producer, to the guy that comes at the end of the night and empties the dumpster, I mean, every single person is a cog in the machine in creating that director’s vision and getting, well, the project completed.  And that’s a huge, huge – one of my favorite things about the business is I don’t care who you are.  Top of the line to the bottom of the line, you are important, and everything matters.

So it’s about creating, it’s about convincing extras sometimes, hey, guys, this is what we’re trying to do here.  It might not be fun.  But you signed up for it.  You know what I mean?  And you might not be getting paid a lot, but you are getting paid.  And that’s the other thing.  It is a job.  People come in, like you said, stars in their eyes, oh, my god, I’m going to see so-and-so today.  What’s that going to be like?  And sometimes they don’t ever leave a room.  I mean, honest to god, there have been days where I have had extras that come in, they work a 14-hour day, and guess what?  They never see the set.  Now, we try to minimize that, and that certainly isn’t my decision.  I mean, listen.  I’m one of those cogs in the machine.  I mean, by no means am I the boss.  But it’s about being – it’s a team effort.

You had mentioned earlier about how does the director get that vision?  Well, a lot of it comes down to meetings.  There are production meetings where you go through the script, and the director will literally say, in front of every department head – grip, electric, locations, camera, hair, makeup, costumes.  And the director will say, “On this day I want the actress to have mud in her hair.”  Okay, well, then hair will go, “Okay, we’ve got to have mud, and we have to have reset mud.”  Makeup will say, “Well, is it going to touch the face?  Where’s the mud going to be?”  Costumes will say, “Okay, well, how many extra costumes do I need that day?  Are we going to get mud on the – we can get mud on the shirt.  We can get mud on the pants, you know, what are we going to do?”

And that’s why you have preproduction.  It’s not like you just show up on a movie and say, okay, here we go, day one and shoot.  I mean, you’ve had a lot of times months of preparation to make sure every single person is at least on the same page.  Now, sometimes when you actually get there on the day, things happen.  People get sick.  A light breaks.  I mean, those are – but it’s all part of it.  And that’s part of what we do in my department.  Like I work for one of the, you know, my boss that I’ve done a number of movies with, he’s the best in the business.  And the reason he’s the best in the business is because he sees the problems before they happen.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Which is a huge part of it; okay?

ANDY CROWE:  Be proactive as opposed to reactive.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  For instance, well, we gave this actress four hours to get ready in hair and makeup.  It’s hour five.  What’s going on?  Well, guess what?  Hopefully the other actor that got ready in two hours is ready to rock.  Let’s bring them in.  Let’s shoot something quickly.  We shoot their scene.  Okay, now the other actress is now ready.  Let’s bring her in and shoot that.  It’s about staying ahead of the game.

ANDY CROWE:  And productive.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  And productive, of course.  Sometimes, and that’s, you know, people say “Hurry up and wait” in the film business, which is very accurate.  I mean, it’s go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go.  All right, now we’re sitting here.  Can’t do anything because someone’s not ready.  And sometimes it happens.  Sometimes it’s unavoidable.  But our department is in charge of minimizing that; you know?

NICK WALKER:  Well, Pez, this has been fascinating stuff.  We could talk all day, I’m sure.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  I could probably talk all day, too.

NICK WALKER:  But thank you so much for taking the time to be with us.  And by the way, I love saying your name, Pez.  I get the picture in “Stand by Me,” don’t you, of the kid saying, you know, “If I could have one food that I could eat every day of my life, cherry-flavored Pez.  No question about it.”

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Yeah.  I’m not that guy.

NICK WALKER:  You’re not that guy.  Yeah, okay.  It’s just a name.  Ryan Pezdirc, we thank you for sharing your experience with us.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  It was a pleasure being here.

NICK WALKER:  We’ve got a gift for you, the mug you see in front of you.  Now, we wish we had 777 of them.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Oh, I don’t know.

NICK WALKER:  So you could keep all your extras happy.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  All right.  Thank you very much.

ANDY CROWE:  That will set you apart from the other extras, sipping coffee, when you have that.

BILL YATES:  That’s right.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  All right, beautiful.  I love it.

NICK WALKER:  Absolutely.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Well, thank you guys for having me.  This was a lot of fun.  Hopefully we learned something, a little inside scoop into the business.

ANDY CROWE:  Definitely.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah.

BILL YATES:  It’s a good challenge, too, to see the problems before they happen.  What a good motto.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, absolutely.

PEZ PEZDIRC:  Try our best.

NICK WALKER:  Well, Pez, thanks again.  Andy and Bill, as always, thank you for your expertise.  I want to remind our listeners that you just earned PDUs, Professional Development Units, for listening to this podcast.  And it’s easy to claim them.  Just go to Velociteach.com and select Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click on the button that says Claim PDUs, and just click through the steps.

That’s it for us here on Manage This.  We hope you’ll tune back in on June 6th for our next podcast.  In the meantime, you can visit us at Velociteach.com/managethis to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us.  And tweet us at @manage_this if you have any questions about our podcasts or about project management certifications.  We’d love to hear from you.  That’s all for this episode.  Thanks for joining us.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

Photo of Stephanie from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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