First rule on a film set — Be Present

Time on a film set is a little different than time in real life. On average, it can take about an hour on set to capture the coverage you will need for one minute in a film. Every minute during a film shoot, your cast and crew have to work as a team to create the images and sound that will become a film.

I’ve worked on sets with just two people and I’ve worked on film sets with thrity people. That means there can be a huge cost of person time to make your film. Any time someone isn’t present, or at least quiet, it can cause delays on set.

Being present means that:

  • your cell phone is off or at least in airplane mode (unless you are a crew person who needs to communicate with the outside world)
  • you’re quiet unless there is a problem that needs to be addressed
  • you are focused on the job or task you were given for the filming day
  • you only eat during meal breaks, unless you were excused
  • you are attentive and proactive to the needs of the set. If someone needs help, offer a hand.

When you interview someone for a film, no matter how good they look on paper or in person, you never know how they will act on set. Working on a film is the best way to test a person’s metal. That’s why directors often like working with the same crew.

When quiet on set is called all of your attention should be on your job and the actor’s performance.

One goal on our film shoots is to give newer people on set an opportunity to learn. On our last shoot, Perpetual Like, I gave our Production assistant a chance to see what I was seeing on the camera before rolling.

The first rule also applies to directors. When you are managing a film set there are a hundred things running through your mind. I’ve written a handy checklist to keep this organized, even when your shoot wasn’t completely planned out ahead of time. Even with a full crew, your attention can always be pulled in one direction or another. When everything for a take is set, it is best to take a deep breath, push everything else to the background and focus on your actors right before you call action.

Every day that you are on set, there is an opportunity to learn something new, but for that to happen, you have to be present.

Bridgeport Film Club

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