10 Things You Should Never Do on a Production Set
It takes an army to complete a production. And, just like any well-organized military force, on set, every person’s role is important. If you do your job correctly, you are contributing to a work of art that will wear your name in the credits like a banner of success. But, if you participate in one of the party fouls listed below, you could potentially cause a problem that could jeopardize the integrity of the project. Whether you are an industry veteran or as green to film as a greenscreen backdrop, there are a few things that you should never do while working in film.
1. Don’t wear the wrong clothes.
It may seem silly to have to think about what to wear on set, but wearing the wrong outfit could affect your safety and even the production.
Always dress practically.
Wear closed-toed shoes—you don’t know if you will be asked to run, jump, skip or hop and you don’t need sandals slowing you down. Closed shoes will also protect your feet in case of falling equipment or dropped nails. We don’t want to repeat the scene from A Quiet Place. Ouch.
Wear dark colors.
The electric department has put a lot of hard work into lighting the scene. Don’t show up to work wearing white and somehow end up bouncing more light onto the talent’s face. Wearing dark colors will eliminate this possibility. Besides, when you wear black no one can tell if you’ve spilled the tomato sauce from crafty all over your front.
Know the location.
Are you shooting 10 hours in the sun on a hot day? Will you be inside a building with ice-cold air conditioning? Check the call sheet for location and weather the night before the shoot so that you come to set wearing comfortable clothes that fit the occasion.
Dress to work hard.
Once you arrive on set, you’re expected to move. You’ll be lifting, bending, running, and standing for long hours. Wear clothes that are flexible, comfortable, and practical.
2. Don’t be late.
This is a great rule for any job, but it is especially crucial for a film production where your tardiness could escalate into a problem affecting the entire crew.
Being late is rude.
Every member of a film crew is of essential importance to the project or else you wouldn’t have been hired. Being late shows the producer that you don’t consider the job as important as they consider your role. Odds are, with that kind of attitude, they will not hire you onto the next production.
You’re wasting your time and everyone else’s, too.
Most productions are on strict schedules. They will start whether you are there at call or not. However, if you aren’t there, that means someone else will have to pick up the slack you’ve left. This could cause time delays and an upset crew, which won’t be the most fun to deal with when you show up.
You have no excuses.
Modern technology makes it so easy to be on time. Your phone can remind you when you have a gig, when to wake up, whether there is traffic on the way, and provides a way to communicate with the production manager if you have an emergency.
3. Don’t be negative.
Productions are hard work. It is easy to fall into a negative state of mind after a long day, especially if everything has not gone according to plan. But negative attitudes will not be appreciated by anyone on your team. They can also cause a domino effect, tripping more crew members into foul moods and blaming you for it. You will be much better off if you accept that hard work, flexibility, and a positive attitude are all necessary for a career in filmmaking.
4. Don’t speak inappropriately.
If you often work in the same city, you may often work with the same crew. When you’ve worked with a group of people for a while, it is easy to fall into a sense of camaraderie. When working in a comfortable space, it can be easy to lose the filter on your thoughts. But be careful what you say when on a job. You never know when a client or a producer might be around to hear you say something inappropriate or offensive. Not only is inappropriate speech unprofessional and disrespectful, but it can also cost you future jobs.
5. Don’t wait to be told what to do.
Having initiative is one of the highest respected attributes of a crew member. A director and producer will appreciate someone who doesn’t wait to be told what to do but instead pays attention and jumps in to do what is needed the moment something comes up. This is especially important for a production assistant whose job is to assist every department on a production.
6. Don’t get in the way.
On the one hand, it is great to take the initiative and be willing to jump in to help anyone. But don’t take your eagerness to help too far. Being enthusiastic to the point that you are getting in the way of others and their roles can confuse and annoy your fellow crew members. While you should always be willing to help, don’t overstep your bounds and end up stepping on others’ toes and their expertise.
7. Don’t be unprepared.
Because productions are ever-changing, you want to be prepared for anything on a shoot. Make sure your utility belt is packed with anything you may need. Bring a pen and paper, extra walkie talkie and camera batteries, bandaids, gaff tape, flashlight, screwdriver, etc. Bring anything you think you might need, even if you don’t end up using it. It is better to be prepared and not use everything than to wish you had something you don’t have.
8. Don’t leave your cell phone ringer on.
While a phone is a valuable tool, leaving the ringer on is a rookie mistake that can be made by even the most seasoned film veterans. Never, ever leave a phone ringer on while on set. Imagine: you are filming an essential scene and have been at it for a while. This take is the one. It’s perfect— everything the director was looking for. Then, just as the scene is hitting the high point, your cell phone starts to ring. The director yells, “Cut!” and everyone glares at you. The scene must be reset, and it’s all your fault. Avoid the wrath of the director and turn your silencer on before you step foot onto the sound stage.
9. Don’t be lazy.
There is a reason certain things are done in specific ways. Never cut corners for the sake of doing less work or saving time. Be sure to use proper cord management, set up c-stands correctly, wear safety gear, label takes correctly, etc. There is a reason things are done a certain way. Sometimes it is for the safety of the people and the gear. Other times, the process exists because it has been proven to be more efficient. Either way, don’t change up the way things are done because you feel like doing less work. Skipping steps can end up causing more work or can create a safety hazard.
10. Don’t be in this for yourself.
Depending on the size of the production, you are one person in a group of dozens, or even hundreds, of people who are working on the project. It takes an army to complete a production. Everyone is an essential piece of the puzzle, and no one is working just for themselves. Whether you are there for your crew, there for the story, or there for the art, have a more significant reason to be a part of the production than it’s just another job. When you have a passion for what you do, it will be reflected in the quality of your work and, in turn, on the quality of the production.