Like a best man, he's got to be reliable, remain calm in any shocking situation that might arise, and clean up nice. Alec Bova explains how to be the best best boy ever.
This article has been contributed from the Fall 2010 issue of Resource Magazine, courtesy of the publisher. To subscribe to the magazine and explore Resource’s online features, visit the Resource Magazine website.
Photograph by John Engstrom.
Alec Bova didn’t intend to follow in his father’s footsteps, yet he could not deny the electricity in his blood. Alec’s father is an electrician who covered Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, while two of his uncles work in sound system installation. The Bova’s seem to have a thing for electricity. Although Alec studied theater and music at the University of Cincinnati, earning his degree in Fine Arts, what started as a way to pay his rent turned into a career. Alec is now a manager at Scheimpflug, a digital equipment rental house. He is also an electrician and best boy on sets, powering the equipment he has rented . . . a dual threat.
As a best boy, Alec employs his skills as an electrician, acting as the main human catalyst bringing power to the production. Here, he offers tips and tricks that he uses to be successful in his work.
Keep a clean house.
Alec learned this first and foremost from his father. “He would say, ‘If you clean up where you are, you know where everything is and it’s just more efficient.’ That’s a really important one,” Alec said. Having things tidy also helps prevent one from tripping over themselves and the equipment.
Keep your head in the game.
“That’s more of a general thing,” Alec said. But there are many things on set to distract you from doing your job. He had recently worked on a commercial shoot that used a “really cool Red cam” that he wanted to check out. However, he had to remind himself that it was his job to actually supply power to that camera, and to ensure that the massive generator kept running.
Have a gun but don't need it.
Many times, Alec and his co-workers are not able to physically see the set or location that they have been hired to power. Alec gets a general idea of the power requirements based on the list of equipment a client has ordered. However, he must also understand how and where they might use it. Since Alec is delivering power to not only cameras and what is seen on screen, but also to computer villages or catering set ups, he must work with the equipment he has brought to properly divvy up power. Most of the time, he works a few hours away from home base and running for a missing cable is not an option. On the same recent shoot, Alec had to power a 1,000-yard long field while an actress frolicked in the hay . . . with minimum direction from the Director.
Be like the foundation of a house.
“When I was a kid, my parents built a house. I remember going there and seeing nothing but the cement and foundation. That’s kind of what I do, because you have to lay that down first before the house can go on top,” Alec said. Working in remote locations, a shoot cannot start until Alec has done his job as he typically brings the only power source. If Alec were to run just one wire, cable, or power supply incorrectly or route it to the wrong location, he would have then to turn the power off to fix it. That usually doesn’t go over too well on a set where multiple things are plugged in all at once.
Be a strong Tetris player.
Alec packs the truck, unloads it, uses the equipment and repacks the truck—usually by himself. The wiring alone brought to a set can weigh over 300 pounds. Alec has developed a geometric strategy in packing this heavy equipment in his trucks: “I think of it like Tetris.” An acute knowledge of angles certainly helps in both Tetris and packing a production truck—although Alec gets to use bungee cords and there are no “L” pieces.
Be a strong . . . person.
Literally. Beginning with the 300 pound wiring, a completely packed generator truck can weigh multiple thousand pounds. Since Alec is the only one hauling much of this around, he must have the strength to move things but the endurance as well to work a twelve hour day. That is not to say that only muscle bound men are capable of this kind of work; “I’ve seen the tiniest girls easily move [the equipment] around,” Alec says. Combined with the strength to move the cargo, knowing how to move it is also key, as well as having the mental strength to stay concentrated while driving the boulder-like truck.
Go slow and get ready to be shocked.
Not emotionally—literally. As an electrician, the potential of being electrocuted or shocked is an obvious hazard of the job. “Luckily, I haven’t had a big accident,” Alec said. On a daily basis, he works with enough electricity to kill him a few times over. If he doesn’t slow down to take his time to properly plan a layout, his risk for a mistake increases. Above all else, safety is first, even if a production is delayed.