On Set Filming Etiquette

On Set Filming Etiquette

This is not some sort of disease but how generally you are expected to behave on location/set in the film industry. These are open to interpretation but these pointers will give you a nice outline of little rules and tips to help you. Lets start from the basic to the industry jargon.

Filming Etiquette
Filming Etiquette

On Set Filming Etiquette: The Basics

Be Polite. Please and thank you along with excuse me always go a long way to helping you communicate and build rapport with others in the team. Film sets are quite tribal in a way, camera people sticking together, makeup sticking with the actors. As a sound person you can meander through these different groups as we always seem to be listening to everyone anyway.

Remember names. Chances are they won't remember yours after the first day but if you are able to remember theirs then they will feel inclined to do the same. A tip I always use a trick of when the person says their name you say hello (their name) and shake their hand or do a physical action to help affirm it. This follows saying your name of course.

Always know what everyone is planning before they roll. Keeping in the know about decisions not only helps you do your job but also shows you are listening and active. Sometimes you can never know everything but it will help with boom placement or whether to change batteries etc..

Have FUN. You should be feeling like you have the best job in the world 99% of the time in this business. It's a tough game but always be trying to bring up the mood of at least yourself to help carry you through tough long days. Of course there are times when it is important to be serious in front of some clients to air professionalism, so start off pleasant and then once you have built rapport then you can start joking around.

Read the script. As a head of department you should have understood the threads of the story to help make choices and suggestions to the director. Asking directors questions about motives behind characters can tell you a lot about how they will act on camera. It will also boost your professionalism. Lots will brag or don't need to read the script to do their job, but you're a pro and HOD (head of department)

"Crossing!" Anytime the camera is ready or setting up to check lighting, always announce if you are crossing past the lens or causing a shadow when crossing a light. This is just to not distract the camera op while they frame up.

On Set Filming Etiquette: Radio Miking

This obviously includes being polite and fast to get the radio miking out-of-the-way. You don't want to mess it up though and have to keep going back for tweaks. This is why it is important to establish rapport with the person you are miking up (gauge if that is appropriate for the person you are miking and the general mood - some people just want you in and out as fast as possible)

Introduce yourself again. This is if you haven't had chance to properly meet them one on one and hopefully you remembered their name too.

Tone of voice You should be very calm but clear in your voice, most of communication is not what you actually say but how you say it. When asking to remove necklaces or explaining how to put the waistband on, just calmly and clearly tell them "Ok now I'm going to need you to..." They will ask or tell you if it is anything they are uncomfortable with

Making the opposite sex. Many men work in this industry and most films have a female lead actress who needs a mic. It is usually best to try to do everything yourself so you know it is secure and proper. However some people are uncomfortable about this and have a "pervy sound guy" attitude. I take it from the point of asking "is it ok to mic you up now?" to which they hopefully say "Yes". Begin by saying where you are going to place the pack and the mic and proceed after an "OK".

Children / Minors. Be present with the chaperone or the parent of the child if they need radio miking and you should have no problems miking the child yourself under their supervision. If they want to radio mic them then just tell them to put the pack on and to leave the wire out so you can put some tape on it and then explain where they can place it.

Skin allergies. Some people have skin allergies to double-sided tape so it is always a good idea to carry some medical tape just in case. These people will make you aware they are allergic and hopefully not grin and bare it. Just something to be aware of more than anything.

On Set Filming Etiquette: Other Departments

Unless you are on a very small setup each department should be sticking to just their own equipment. Always ask people of a department if you need something moving. They should also do the same with yours. Never just go in and touch the camera for instance unless you have asked first. It shows a mutual respect. Of course if they say it is ok to do it whenever then just make them casually aware.

In a similar vein, don't try to solve other departments problems unless you feel they haven't tried something or are overlooking something. It is easy to want to suggest loads of ideas but like the saying going "too many cooks spoil the broth" and sadly you can end up delaying things even with a good idea. Of course if the problem is causing your department problems then you are entitled to suggest away :)

On Set Filming Etiquette: It Is The  Director is in charge

It is hard to go with some directors decisions such as running out of time to wait for planes or liking a performance that wasn't good for you. It is just your job to then point out the issues such as needing ADR or saying ok ill get wildtracks or lines afterwards for the edit. Sadly it won't always go your way, but don't let that confuse you with not putting up a bit of resistance to some decisions for problems that can be solved with just 1 more minute of investigation, like finding the power switch to a fridge that started making a noise.

I am sure there are plenty more little things you will pick up but these are a nice starting base for you.