My Nouveau Riche Travel Diary: Do I Really Belong in First Class?
As I write this, I'm sitting in Business Class on a flight to Mexico City for the premiere of Ben-Hur. I'm sipping ginger ale and watching Captain America: Civil War for the third time. I have a blanket. I have lots of leg room. I have a place to charge my iPad. And I didn't have to fight to get my suitcase in the overhead compartment.
Before I started traveling for work, I was always SO jealous of the producers who would be sent on those shoots. It was a dream to get to see the world for the show - a big part of what people get into journalism for. Once I got the call to jet off somewhere, i couldn't wait for the adventure! And in most ways, I wasn't disappointed.
I'm going to hit you with the bad news first - it's not as glamorous as it looks on my Snapchat. On my first work trip (a Sunday night flight to Chicago and a Monday afternoon return), I never left the hotel.
1) You're there to work, not play and good luck finding any time to truly do either.
When I took the trip to Chicago, I flew in on a Sunday and flew out the next afternoon. We were shooting in an airport so I literally only saw the airport and the hotel in the 36 hours I was there. So much for sightseeing! The same is almost always true for work trips to Vegas. Since it's such a short flight from LA, we normally fly to Vegas and back the same day. It's one of those fly in, find the shooting location, do the red carpet and/or junket, and head back to the airport. No time for gambling, no time for cocktails, just hard work. When it's 5 o'clock somewhere, that somewhere is the airplane!
2) Catching up on work (and sleep) when you get back.
This is literally impossible. People often forget how hard flying is on the body, even when staying in the same time zone. A trip that lasts even a couple days can make you feel like you need a weekend to recover, but that's often not the way things turn out. A coworker of mine went to New Zealand for 48 hours and was on the plane longer than he was in the ground. He was back to work the next day. For this trip to Mexico, I'm leaving Monday at 9:50am PST and arriving Wednesday at 9:00am PST (which means I have a 4:45am car to the airport & a 6:50am takeoff)...then heading straight to the office.
3) Working with new crews is hard
I work with (relatively) the same grouping guys every day. Sometimes I'm their kid sister, sometimes I'm their mom, even though they're twice my age. But working with the same camera/audio/grips/props every day makes producing really easy because you develop a shorthand. You know how they work best - how much you need to tell them to do vs how much they'll take the initiative; how they like to set up a shot; if the talent has a good or bad side; signals to push in; confidence that they'll tilt or pan or whatever. And they know how YOU work best - the kinds of shots you like/need, the setup you'd request, etc. With a new crew, it's a blank slate and requires more communication so things don't go wrong, which is stressful when you're a perfectionist.
Honestly, working with new crews has made me a better producer. It makes you think about the things your crew knows to do instinctively. It helps me appreciate my crews more by getting a crash course in how much they do.
4) Expenses are a pain in the...
Expense reports take forever to submit and forever to process. Sorting through the receipts and taking the time to input all the information is almost like a second job. A second job that you don't have time to do because you need to get back to your ACTUAL job when you return to the office. It's a necessary evil, but waiting for that money to come back is super evil.
1) You'll stay in the nicest hotels with the best service
I have never stayed at the Aria, with it's automatic lights, curtains, music and view of the Vegas strip. I have never booked a mini suite in Palm Springs. I normally choose the best room for the price but rarely splurge on a room that features a 24/7 yoga channel & a mat in the closet. The remotes in the hotel rooms I pay for just control the TV; you don't order room service on an iPad. But when I travel for work, those are just some of the perks. Don't even get me started on the room credits - thanks studios for saving me SO much money and time on those pesky expense reports!
2) You get to see the world!
I've had so many amazing opportunities to see cities and have had experiences I never imagined. For example, I've now flown from Chicago to LA with the Emmy statues, shooting stand ups at 30,000 feet.
The ultimate experience centers around my favorite show Friday Night Lights. I've always wanted to attend the reunion at the ATX TV Festival in Austin. This year ET took part in the largest and final official reunion of the cast. In March, one of our segment producers emailed me about the shoot, asking if I could field produce and I immediately replied with a (possibly over-) enthusiastic "YES!". So somehow I found myself on the set of my favorite show, wandering the field house and setting up interviews on Panther Field on a Friday night in Texas. Total Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, AMAZING Shoot.
It also would've been an appropriate opportunity to wear my cowboy boots if it wasn't 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
3) Hanging with the biggest stars in the coolest places.
Listen, this is the whole point of going on these shoots. So chatting with the cast of Bad Moms in Las Vegas is the name of the game. Playing poker (again in Vegas) with Matt Damon is what you're supposed to do. Reuniting the cast of Friday Night Lights in Austin, where they lived for so many years, is awe-inspiring and AWESOME! It's not every day the whole cast of Ugly Betty reunites in front of your cameras. Morgan Freeman in Mexico City for Ben-Hur is epic (oh how I wish he was narrating this blog post for me...but it is so LONG!).
4) You get out of the office for a day or more!
This is a pretty self-explanatory point. It's always good to break up the routine a bit and experience something new. Getting to mix business with some fun is awesome - period.
So that's it! Full run down of my thoughts about work travel - it's just as good as advertised. (Oh and I'd really like to see a spin-off of Falcon and The Winter Soldier - c'mom Marvel, give us a buddy cop comedy!)