General Erwin Rommel was a dick, working for the evilest world leader in history, but that doesn't mean he was stupid. One of his more famous quotations involved the four qualities any soldier could have. Think of it like an old school Chinese restaurant menu:
COLUMN A: A soldier can be STUPID or SMART.
COLUMN B: A soldier can be LAZY or INDUSTRIOUS.
Every soldier had one attribute from column A and one attribute from column B.
According to Rommel, most soldiers are stupid and lazy. Which is fine. you tell them what to do, they do it. Your basic cannon fodder.
The ones that are smart but lazy rise to the middle ranks of command but never much further.
The ones who are smart and industrious rise to become commanders, generals and great leaders of men.
Not surprisingly, this matrix applies to the film business as well. Stupid and lazy people, Rommel's cannon fodder, don't die in spectacularly bloody fashion, but they don't last long in the business.
Smart but lazy people rise to the middle of the pack but don't have that extra spark of ambition it takes to hurl themselves to the top.
Smart and ambitious people do very well for themselves.
And the heights of damage which stupid but industrious behavior causes can scarcely be comprehended.
Case in point, we're shooting a short film at the top of an extremely steep hill in a gravel pit. We have a 300 pound generator with us which we've had to lift into the back of a pickup truck as the pickup is the only vehicle that can make it up the hill to our set.
We get the genny running, get a few lights going and are ready to shoot when the genny suddenly shuts down. I look over and I see one of the crew guys standing near it with a gas can. Investigating, I learn he decided, on his own, with no prompting, to refuel the genny before we shoot. Only in direct violation of all generator protocol, he didn't shut the genny off first and filled the tank while it was running. This blew the fuel pump. The genny is now a useless hunk of metal.
We're on a medical industrial in a high-end medical clinic. We have to do a very wide shot of a nurse talking to a patient. I tell one of my crew guys that we're going to put the camera in the hallway and shoot through the doorway. I leave for a minute to get a drink, and when I come back, the camera isn't in the hall, but the crew guy has taken the door off its hinges, in the process, putting huge scrapes and gouges all over what is probably an $800 slab of polished wood.
Did I mention this was an expensive, high end medical clinic?
I inform him that we can also shoot through the doorway simply by opening the door. We didn't have to rip it off its hinges. He stares at me, door in his hand, the light of reason never sparking in his eyes.
Shooting in a 5th floor walkup in Manhattan. Lots of heavy equipment to load down the stairs at the end of the day including about 20 C-stands (stands used to mount lighting and grip equipment.) A bunch of us carry a load of crap down, come back up to find all the C-stands gone. The only one in the apartment is a PA. Where are the C-stands we ask?
He smiles. "Oh, I saw there was a nice backyard down there so I threw them out the window. A lot faster than carrying them."
We run to the window and look out. Sure enough, a pile of twisted, mangled and now useless stands litter the building's backyard.
Stupid and industrious. Not making this up.
Final example didn't happen to me, thank god. My buddy Ken is shooting at the switching center of a telecom giant. In order to get enough power for the lights, he has to tie in, that is make a direct connection to the main electrical panel.
The telecom people are nervous. If the power trips, the switching system goes down, and they'll lose something like $25,000 a MINUTE in business.
Ken tells them not to worry, he's done this a millions times. And he ties in. No probelmo. They shoot. No problemo. Then the shoot is over, wrap time.
Another PA, on his own, decides he's going to pull the tie in himself. He's never done a tie in. He's never pulled a tie in. But he figures how hard can it be? After all, it's only 300 amps of live electricity he's dealing with.
So he pulls the tie in. And of course, he screws up, shorts the box, and knocks the power out. For seven long minutes. Then reboot time for the system. All in all, costing the telecom giant almost a quarter of a million dollars in lost business and Ken a huge client.