IFH 140: 6 Mistakes To Avoid Your First Day On a Film Set

February 10, 2017
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6 Mistakes To Avoid Your First Day On a Film Set

1. Arriving Late

If you’re not early, you’re late. I aim to get to work at least 15 minutes early each day on a film set. This gives me time to setup, read my call sheet and sides, cram in some extra breakfast and make my boss a coffee. If you are late on day one you instantly create a bad reputation for yourself and this industry is built on reputation and relationships. Set your alarm early for the first day, pick out what you need to wear the night before and make sure you’ve had a look at where you need to get to so you don’t get lost.

2. Forgetting Names

No one will remember your name but don’t let that be an excuse to forget theirs. It’s great if you can remember as many names as possible on your first day on a film set, at least those in your department. This will make you stand out and give you the best chance of them remembering you. I sometimes even write down people’s names in a notebook or phone when they aren’t looking so you can refer back to it. Alternatively, you can also ask the production office for a crew list to help you remember who’s who.

3. Asking An Actor What They Do

You’ll be trying small talk with whoever is standing around. It’s pretty embarrassing when you ask an actor what department they are in or what they do. Embarrassing for them I guess, as they expect that you’ll know them from the seven short films they released on Vimeo last year. As long as you are polite I’m sure they’ll get over it. I’ve asked Mel Gibson’s son what his last name was. He politely replied ‘Gibson’. That makes sense, I thought.


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4. Phone Ringing During A Take

This is even more embarrassing than when you wet yourself in kindergarten and had to go to sick bay to get some spare clothing. Don’t let your phone ring on set, especially during a take. At least have it on silent or even better, just turn it off if you don’t need it for some kind of emergency calls. Your Facebook and Instagram updates can wait until you get home. If your phone does ring during a take I can guarantee the crew will remember who you are and be hassling you each day until you provide a case of beer for your sins.

5. Walking Through The Back Of Shot

Film sets can be a daunting place at the best of times with crew members rushing about knowing exactly what to do and where to be. You’ll find it hard on day one to even find a place to stand that is out of the way. Have a good look at where the cameras are pointing and make sure you don’t settle in the back of the shot. It’s always embarrassing when you hear “Cut!” and the director berates the person that was standing in the shot only to realize that was you…

A safe bet is near all the equipment trolleys. Usually, this is fairly close to set but enough out of the way until you discover your place on set.

6. Standing In The Actor’s Eye line

An eye line refers to where an actor is looking in the scene. It may be directly at the other actors, it could be out to the horizon or it could be an imaginary moving car that is driving in the distance. So, why should you stay clear of it? Actors are performers and they need to feel secure during filming.

You’d likely not love fifty people gawking while you feign ‘true love’ and awkwardly kiss your sweaty co-star in a claustrophobic studio. Such a kiss could only be made worse by a wandering PA aimlessly ambling into their line of sight. If you need to be close to the action during the scene, try and hide yourself behind some equipment or set dressing so that you remain inconspicuous. Alternatively, turn your back to them or simply look down at the ground while the scene is played out. Don’t move around and fidget.

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Matt Webb is the author of Setlife: A Guide To Getting A Job in Film (And Keeping It). He is an Assistant Director with credits including The Great Gatsby, Mad Max: Fury Road, Hacksaw Ridge, Pirates of the Carribean and Alien: Covenant.

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Setlife: A Guide To Getting A... is a must-have guide designed to prepare you for what happens on a typical day on a film set. Matt Webb’s no-fuss, practical tips are essential reading for anyone chasing a career in the film industry. The book is available for $25 from Amazon.


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