Tips for On-Set Etiquette
This week, our Vancouver office is in the midst of film crews as an episode of PSYCH Season 8 films just outside our doors. In light of our current guests, we thought it would be good to mention some tips for on-set etiquette. If you’re a parent taking your child to set, keep these tips in mind for the both of you. You’re working with the crew just as much as your child.
Being on set can be fun, and it can also be long and slow. It all depends on what kind of show it is. But whether you’re on a big budget movie set, or a small independent web series, the rules are the same.
1.) Do not wander off. Make sure you tell someone where you’re going, even if it’s just to the bathroom. Usually, you have an A.D. who’s job it is to know where the cast is at all times. Make sure you let them know where you’re going. Although days can be long, you have to think of yourself at work. You wouldn’t wander away from your desk to sit in the sunshine because you were bored, or go to the store next door to find a book, so don’t do it here.
2.) Don’t plug in just anywhere. If your cell phone dies, or your computer is low on battery, always ask before you plug it in. Film crews have some powerful equipment that needs specific voltage. Even if there’s a plug open, it doesn’t mean there’s enough voltage left in that socket to plug anything else in. You could end up blowing a breaker, and possibly damage very expensive equipment. Ask someone which plugs you can use, and they’ll let you know or provide one for you.
3.) Don’t touch any gear. It feels like a nice thing to do to help out. But unless you specifically have permission, this could be a very bad idea. Everyone on set has their job, and they’re responsible for their department’s gear. If you move something, and they can’t find it later, it might cause them some trouble. Also, there’s a lot of equipment that requires specific care and safety regulations. You could hurt yourself by picking something dangerous up.
4.) Respect the chain of command. Almost everyone has a superior on set. If you’re on set a couple of days, it’s a good idea to learn who everyone is, and their place. If you need something, you should find the right department to ask. When in doubt, ask the A.D. that’s been assigned to look after cast, or maybe the Locations Assistant.
5.) Don’t just invite anyone to set. When you’re filming a cool film and there’s another actor on set you greatly admire, you might want to bring friends or family to meet them. Everyone on set is specifically accounted for, and it’s considered extremely unprofessional to bring people without first getting permission. You can try asking the A.D. department or the Production Manager.
6.) Keep your phone on silent. Having a portable internet connection is commonplace nowadays. There’s always someone who needs it. But if you’re using your phone for any reason, make sure it’s silent. Vibrate isn’t an option because the sensitive sound equipment can pick it up. When in doubt, make sure it’s completely turned off.
7.) Quiet on Set. Bring a book, or something quiet to do. If you’re sitting on set but not currently in the shot, you shouldn’t just sit down and chat through it all. If the A.D. is calling for quiet, that means you’re silent.
8.) If you ever feel unsafe, it’s important that you speak up. No one on set will ever blame you for saying you don’t feel safe. No one wants you to get injured, and as an actor, you want all your energy to go towards your scene. Speak up.
9.) Show up early. This is for everyone on set, not just actors. It is a general rule that if you’re not fifteen minutes early, you’re fifteen minutes late. If you’re early, you can grab some breakfast. If you’re late, you’re holding people up.
10.) Use people’s names. Even if you’re on set for one day, make sure you look at your call sheet in advance and pick out the important names. For actors, the A.D.’s are important to know, as well as the Director of Photography, the makeup and wardrobe, the other actors, and of course the director.
11.) Makeup and wardrobe. Unless you’ve been given specific instructions to dress yourself, makeup and wardrobe will have specific instructions to make you look a certain way. Sit/stand still, let them do their jobs, and don’t complain if you don’t like the shirt. This is the director’s vision, not yours.
Being on set doesn’t have to be stressful. Just remember that you’re there to do a job. Be prepared, be respectful and ask questions if you’re uncertain. Treat the experience like you would any other job. You want to work with these people again. If you’re a pain to work with, they will remember, and not hire you on their next show.
You’re allowed to have a good time. You’re going to be meeting new people and experiencing awesome things. It’s fine to chat and get to know people. Just remember that the job should come first, so don’t keep anyone from their work.