HELLO ALL YOU CRAZY BLOGGERS!!
Well, I’m in a chipper mood. I just received noticed that I passed my M.A in screenwriting and film production. Yay for me! I am very happy to officially put all that stuff “behind me” as opposed to saying I forgot most of it 😉 just kidding, but it will be nice to start building towards my career as an author and filmmaker. As I mentioned in my post last week I was on set a few weeks ago and I thought I would give for all you beginners interested in the film biz a few pointers of what to do and not to do on set.
I will go with the un-magical number of 4 tips.
Tip #1: When on set DO NOT dilly dally.
Okay, let me explain myself here, for those who are unaware of what it’s like being on set, there is a lot of waiting. There is a saying that goes “hurry up and wait”, which is a funny way to say that most of your day is not spent shooting but preparing to shoot. This is due to the fact that lighting, and structural equipment and camera need time to set up before shooting, which leaves a lot of people waiting around for the set to be camera ready. Because time is money, well hurry up and wait pretty much sums it up. However, most people have a job to do, if you were hired then you have a task. Some tasks are not as demanding as others but that does not mean you should sit around and wait for the next scene to use your clapper for instance. Make yourself useful on your down time. Now I’m not talking about Union shoots, I’m talking Independent productions where everyone pitches in. If your task is done, ask if you can help the non-technical crew, like food services or art department, maybe you can move a box or two. Having said that, however when your task is required be there and don’t make anybody wait, which brings to Tip #2.
Tip #2: Do not make the director wait.
Let me be clear here; Do not make the Director wait, or the Director of Photography or the Assistant Director. If you are assigned a task, when it is your turn to show up than show up. Don’t make anyone question where you are, what you are doing if you are busy helping the Art Department make sure you are following the schedule and you know when you will be needed. We like to see people busy, but we also like to see dedication and punctuality, be ready and be prepared. Now, I’m not saying to run on set that is never a good idea when thousands of dollars worth of equipment is lying around, but what about an energetic step, enthusiastic readiness? Being helpful and on time will earn you some points with the staff and trust me you will get called back for another shoot.
Tip #3: Do not bother the actors.
This is one not everybody knows, but honestly is rather critical to the outcome of the final product which hinders on the actors performance. Not all actors are the same and some can easily slip in and out of character, I’ve heard a story about Kevin Spacey who would “shoot the shit and goof around with the crew” and seconds later after action was called the man was in character giving a performance of a lifetime. Some have that ability but not all and I can assure after having acted myself it is bloody hard to stay in character especially if they have difficult scenes where they need to feel certain emotions. During lunchtime you can certainly talk if they are open and willing but in-between takes if you see an actor by himself trying to concentrate don’t go bug them. Don’t try to make them laugh or anything really. Obviously be cordial and polite, but let them be or come to you. That story with Christian Bale wigging out on someone trying to bring them coffee (not too sure what it was about) I’m almost certain it was because he was being pulled out of character. Just respect the actors space, learn to read body language and then learn to read actors body language when in character. 😉
Tip #4: Have fun.
Film sets can be long and a drag but they can be really cool too. Small productions are the best to learn as much as possible and I can tell you that if you have oomph in your step and are happy, polite and helpful you will get noticed as much as if you are lazy, ill-prepared and kind of a slacker. As the writer of the last film, I had the privilege of being with the director, DP, and AD and watching them in action, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t pick up garbage and didn’t run around helping fetch people or things. I made myself useful and productive always showing gratitude to the crew. A thank you goes a long way. Oh and I almost forgot, during shooting, shut the fuck up 😉
Alright, I hope these were useful tips.