Congratulations, you got the job!
It doesn’t matter if it is your first time on set or if you’re a long time veteran. It is vital to show professionalism and proper etiquette on set.
1. Show up on time
I cannot stress this point enough. No one wants to wait for people to show up. It is disrespectful and costs the production money. Of course there are factors we cannot account for, but make sure to have a plan B where you can catch the next train or bus and count in traffic. Be on time – simple, but makes all the difference.
2. Do your prep work
On set there is usually little time to discuss your character in detail; this has to be done before shooting. The crew won’t have time to wait for you to do your exercises and get into character. Know you lines, backstory, character relations, read the whole script if you’re allowed to and work out a way to quickly drop into the scene. Note – This is a generalisation. Directors work in different ways, which might affect the way your prep work is done, so make sure to communicate clearly with your Director what is expected of you.
3. Check the atmosphere
All sets are different; some are chatty with lots of room for play and laughter. Others are quiet and somber in order to give the Actors an environment where they can do some heavy acting. Sometimes they are completely opposite! A grim drama can have a loud, cheerful environment and a comedy and be solemn. It all depends on circumstances. Feel the atmosphere and take your lead from the Director and department heads.
Talk to and acknowledge everyone, not only your Director and scene partner. Make friends and get to know people, but be respectful of others. Not everyone wants to be your Facebook friend and wants to keep personal and professional life separate.
5. Feedback and direction
If you didn’t receive any, what you did was fine and there is no need for you to ask what you did right and what you did wrong. Directors can often restrain from commenting on what they loved about your performance in order to not lose the magic due to the fact that you are now aware and won’t be able to replicate it. Things look very different on camera, so always take the direction and feedback on, even if some choices might seem odd. An exception is of course if you feel uncomfortable with the direction. Be in conversation with the team and speak up if something feels wrong.
6. Only the director says cut
Basically, don’t stop acting until the Director says cut. It doesn’t matter if you’re stuffing up the lines or forget to walk to your spot. Keep going, what you’re doing might be just what the Director is looking for. Cutting yourself off in the middle of a scene or saying cut is a big no no for anyone who is not the Director – with one big exception. The First Assistant Director is considered the primary safety officer on set and is empowered to cut if seeing something unsafe. Same goes for the Stunt Coordinator, but if you see something unsafe or a big accident about to happen – say something.
7. Ask your questions right
Check in with yourself before asking questions – Is this the right person to ask, can I figure it out myself, is this the right time and a priority? As a general rule and depending on how big the set is, you should ask the assistant of each department before asking the managers. Asking when your break is in the middle of a shoot is not okay, you can distract the team and come across as disinterested and not present. With that said, don’t be afraid of actually asking questions, but think and check in with yourself before.
8. The art of continuity
A Script Supervisor is responsible for continuity in the shots and to make sure the Editor can cut the scenes together seamlessly without any mismatches. This includes Actors saying the right lines and in the right order, drinking and eating in between the same lines in each angle and matching up eye lines. You will help both the Editor and the Script Supervisor by being aware of what you’re doing in the scenes with your body and knowing the script well. It’s hard to know when you need to do exactly the same thing as you did in a previous take and when you should mix it up a bit or add something new. This is where you need to trust feedback and direction.
Days on set can be long and you might spend more time waiting than actually acting. This is affected by a number of aspects. Weather, traffic, light, sound, breaks and retakes are all common factors in slowing shoots down. It’s not all about you and the more patient and understanding you are the easier it will be for the rest of the team. Bring a book, a game, go over lines, meditate, get to know others who are waiting, do yoga (if your costume and hair allows) and be ready to go at any minute.
Sets can be daunting, even scary with so many rules and etiquette. Every single person on set wants to do as good of a job as they possibly could and the closer you can follow these tips and the more professional you can come across, they easier it will be to work with you and the bigger your chances will be to get hired by these people again. It’s not all just about your craft, it’s about professionalism and you as a colleague.
Acting Performance Studio