Moving from the pre-production process to the intense activity of production can be a confusing experience for fimmakers. Fortunately, no matter how cluttered with people and chaotic a movie set may seem - everything always follows a plan.
To help you find your way around, we have collected the most important unwritten rules of set etiquette.
1. Don't Run. Be Quiet
Walk On Set
You do not run on a movie set under any circumstances, no matter how quickly something needs to be done or how high the pressure might be. Why not? People running around will generate unrest that will not lead to an overall time gain. A film set is a place of great artistic concentration and, in addition, some crew members perform technically precise and delicate work. Hustle and bustle is therefore not only counterproductive, it can even be dangerous.
In order to maintain a working atmosphere where people can concentrate on their work, it is also important not to shout or talk loudly or exaggeratedly. The only exceptions on set: the announcements of the assistant director or location manager.
2. Understand Communication Paths and Hierarchies
Scene Transitions Define The Type of Work
Film sets are designed to make sure that the scene transition scenarios that arise during a production can be processed flexibly and efficiently - whether it's a mass scene with 500 extras, a technically complicated car stunt or an emotional love scene. These transitions place very different demands on the work of the departments and on the procedures.
Film Set Hierarchies
No matter what the scene is, the transitions can be smoothly managed because workflow on the set is based on clear communication channels and hierarchies, which are adapted to each respective shooting situation. Failure to follow these hierarchies can lead to miscommunication that can significantly hinder a smooth flow of filming.
3. Accept The Director's Ideas
The Director Rules The Set
The tasks on the set are clearly distributed and everyone is responsible for their own workload. It is not part of your job to interfere with other departments - especially the work of the director. This understanding amongst everyone working on the production sets the tone on the set and gives the director the space they need to focus on their creative work.
Everyone on set is expected to adapt to the rules of the game. This means accepting announcements as binding. Even if you do not immediately understand a director's announcement, you can be sure it will certainly be backed by experience and common sense. If every employee questioned every announcement, the progress on set would be virtually zero.
4. Respect The Equipment of Other Departments
Hands Off The Equipment
It doesn't matter if something is in the way or you need a piece of equipment right now - the equipment of other departments is taboo. Pieces of equipment are not common property, they are managed on set by various departments. Equipment can be expensive and fragile and sometimes requires extra care when being used.
Therefore, before you use or touch anything, you should always ask for permission, even if you just want to clear it out of the way. It is disrespectful to move equipment without prior approval of the department. Of course, that does not mean that you should not touch equipment if someone needs a helping hand, on the contrary. As a general rule: Always ask - even before you use foreign equipment as a seating opportunity.
5. Find a Position and Stay There
Get Out Of The Way
The process of preparing to shoot follows a clear structure. At the beginning, the director announces which camera shot they want to film, and this is prepared by all the relevant departments. The next step is rehearsing and then shooting occurs until the director is satisfied with the results. During this period, the processes are always the same. The actors always play the same part, the camera films with the same movements and after each run all departments bring their work area back to where it was at the start. To make your life easier and avoid being a nuisance, don't stand somewhere different every time this process occurs.
Stay Out Of The Way
Before the first rehearsal, find a position where you can follow the action and make your corrections after each take and stay there until the end of the shoot. It might seem simple but it's harder than it sounds. On a movie set, there are more ways to be wrong than right. You must not stand in the light or in the eyelines of the actors and you should avoid standing between director and camera or director and actors in case they want to communicate with eye contact. You will know when you have found a good position because you will not want to leave it again.
6. Let The Director Do Their Job First
There is a lot to do after each rehearsal or recording. So that means employees should rush to the actors, the set or the equipment and bring their work area back to where it was at the start, right? No. First of all, the director has priority. They have the privilege of making the first corrections after a take. Often, the director is further away from the actors than the camera, sound, or even the make-up and wardrobe departments because they are watching each take on their monitor. When everyone approaches the actors and the set after the "Thanks, out.", the director can end up arriving to the scene of activity last and a member of the cast may already have their attention somewhere else.
Wait Your Turn
To avoid this issue, director corrections always come first. After each take, all employees remain in their positions until the director has completed their corrections; only then should they bring their work area back to the starting point. This focuses the attention of the actors on the direction and ensures an orderly process.
7. No Corrections Right Before Shooting
Correct Immediately When A Problem Occurs
The rehearsals are going on and you realize that there is a problem in your workspace that you urgently need to correct before shooting begins. When is the best moment to announce the correction? Just before shooting is about to begin? No. At this point, the actors are increasing their concentration and inhabiting the emotional space of their characters and the last thing a director needs is a long break right before the first take.
Avoid Annoying The Talent
Preparing for shooting is the very last thing done, and the process should be kept as short as possible. The sooner you announce that you need to fix something, the better. It's important to note that this also applies during shooting—nothing is more annoying than if the director is already satisfied with a take, but something has gone wrong in your field of responsibility which necessitates the take having to be done again. Make it clear immediately that something is wrong.
8. How To Treat Actors
Understand Acting Methods
Actors rightly have a special position on the set. They are the only people who do not have the protection and anonymity of working behind the camera; they make themselves available in a very open way for the film. They have to visualize and experience the character's emotions powerfully, otherwise the camera - and the viewer - will not take the performance seriously. You must be respectful of this. You should respect their peculiarities and methods as well as understand their strategies for protecting themselves between takes.
Respect The Acting Process
When an actor prepares for an emotionally complex scene, you should not disturb their concentration, and when they perform a sensitive love scene, you should not be standing nearby munching your cheese roll. Although it may not seem like it at first glance, the actor's job is one of the toughest on the set. Don't do anything that might put them off.
9. Behave As You Would Off The Set
Have Good Manners
As a general rule, behave as politely and respectfully as you would in your normal life on set. Every single position on a film set carries a high degree of responsibility and is essential for the film's production and the people on set often work longer than they are legally required to, including interns. Regardless of your own position, it is important to respect that passion and commitment.
Enjoy The Experience
A film set brings people with a wide variety of skills and knowledge together like few other industries, and you can learn something new every day that can be incredibly enriching. This, along with many other things, makes a film set one of the most beautiful, exciting places you can imagine.
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