Don’t Be Despised! Film Crew Dos and Don’ts

If you’re starting out as an amateur filmmaker or on-set technician, know up-front that it can be a highly demanding and alienating experience.

Being on set can be as cliquey as a high-school-teen-TV-drama. It’s also a place where military-style stratification and classism are king. Did I mention it’s easy to be fired?

If you are just starting out as an indie filmmaker or find yourself on a large set of someone else’s film, here are some dos and don’ts to help you make friends, keep your job and put food in your belly (hopefully).

DO:

“Be the solution to someone else’s problem,” as Stewart Lyons, Breaking Bad production manager told us. No matter what part of production you’re in, always be ready to help and make your supervisor or friends look good.

DO NOT:

Let producers or companies abuse your proactive and helpful nature and “forget” to pay you.

DO:

Respect locations that you film at: Don’t litter, screw up topsoil, break stuff, light fires, fry an outlet, etc. You’re responsible; don’t shame the rest of us.

DO NOT:

Be late. In fact, on time in film and TV generally means 15 minutes early.

DO:

Learn how to do your taxes as an independent contractor or small business, to avoid penalties and fees and potentially save lots of money.

DO NOT:

Gossip about people. It can be difficult when you’re on a nightmare production, but be careful. Gossip comes back with a vengeance.

DO:

Bring up safety issues with the assistant director’s (AD’s) staff. If they don’t respond in a timely way, go to the AD. If you’re ever asked to do something that compromises safety, screw them; don’t do it.

DO NOT:

Be rude to production staff or talent, no matter what their pay rate may be. Instead, try to avoid working with them in the future if they are truly difficult. I add names to a list of people to never work with or hire, if it can be avoided.

DO:

Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water (especially in the desert).

DO NOT:

Bellyache and whine. Positive people are favored on set during 14-hour-plus days.

DO:

Dress appropriately for the weather conditions: a hat for sunny weather, a big coat for winter, etc. It’s smart to have layers you can remove or add.

DO NOT:

Wear open-toed shoes or flip flops to set. It’s not safe for anyone!

DO:

Network and make as many friends as possible. You will need them and they you.

DO NOT:

Give improper credits to crew or talent who work on a film (especially if you don’t pay them). This includes misspelling names on your film’s credits and or IMDB. I’ve made mistakes too.

DO:

Let the right people know when you leave to use the restroom. Do not leave set unannounced.

DO NOT:

Get in the way, or especially in the way of talent during a rehearsal. Remember that thing that happened with Christian Bale? Bale had a right to be mad, but he should have responded in a professional manner.

DO:

Work expertly and be thorough in your job duties. If you are really great they will hardly notice you.

DO NOT:

Make noise on set unless you need to (never make noise while filming of course).

DO:

Ask questions about your duties, so that you’re clear about them and don’t screw things up.

DO NOT:

Forget to have coffee ready for your crew and talent. This is the mark of amateurs, and people will quietly revolt (even background).

DO:

Feed your crew and all talent well, particularly if you’re not paying them.

DO NOT:

Get offended by the ravaging egos of some talent and directors. Smile instead; it doesn’t matter.

DO:

Get out of the way when people are moving equipment (“hot points”). Leave the room if you don’t need to be there.

DO:

Learn everyone’s name and position as quickly as possible.

DO NOT:

Touch anyone’s equipment unless expressly asked. Even then, do it with extreme caution.

DO NOT:

Ask an actor for an autograph or picture on set. Use common sense.

DO:

Be adored.

Here are few additional resources.

Article originally published on Pyragraph.com

Photo by Tom Mogavaro.

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Jeremy Shattuck is a screenwriter, post-production ninja and award-winning writer. His current mission is to help incubate culturally relevant films in New Mexico through screenwriting workshops.

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About Jeremy Shattuck 43 Articles
Jeremy Shattuck is a screenwriter, post-production ninja and award-winning writer. His current mission is to help incubate culturally relevant films in New Mexico through screenwriting workshops.