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Set Etiquette

Introduction
Priorities
Schedule
Preparation
Creative Standards
Promptness
Location Etiquette
Initiative
Communication
Conclusion

Introduction

You've just signed on a Regent film shoot. Perhaps you have been 'drafted' by a director to assist on his shoot, or you might have contended with numerous other applicants for the position.

You have a particular motivation for your participation in the film. You’ll be able to better learn the craft, to gain experience, to fulfill a course requirement, to help out a friend, to see a film get made you believe in, or to be sensitive to God's leading. Your goal may be very different from other participants, but it is important that you to know and remember your reasons for participating in the film. For whatever reason you've decided to commit to the film shoot, you've made an important commitment. What you do from this point forward can significantly impact the entire shoot and your own future reputation for better or worse.

Priorities

The way we treat other people must be the highest priority in every communication that we have with others. The stranger who wants to know what you're filming, the actor who requires a fifth take after blowing the same line, the crew person who accidentally breaks a piece of equipment, the park district representative who's given us an oral promise we can film at the park for free then changes his mind the night before our scheduled shoot because he talks with his lawyer -- these people require our utmost love, tolerance and patience. It is important not to forget people in the process of making a film. Let some quality control go if we need to, in order to love and value the people we are around. Put simply, we put our actors and crew and the people that we work with ahead of the project.

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Schedule

Your production team should know once you commit that you will not ask to be excused from your responsibilities unless there's a death of an immediate family member or you are gravely ill. Many professional productions do not allow anyone to take off work for illness or even death in the family. You are expected to show up every day on time regardless of personal circumstances.

Any change in the schedule, once shooting starts, presents an enormous organizational challenge to the production department and a great inconvenience to a large number of people. For this reason, it is imperative that you do not ask or expect changes to be made in the schedule to accommodate the unforeseen in your own individual life. If you have any dates during the shoot when it will be impossible for you to attend, give the production team these dates well in advance of drawing up the shooting schedule, before you commit to working on the project realizing that such accommodation might not be possible. You will have to decide whether to commit to the shoot or not.

Please make sure to keep your schedule open for the unexpected. It is difficult, but often necessary to reschedule shooting days because of an unforeseen and uncontrollable variable such as the weather. Don't make solid commitments during contingency or even unscheduled days that would prevent you from shooting if these days have to be used.

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Preparation

During the final days prior to a shoot will be a challenging period of individual and group preparation and study that will last throughout the shoot. Your own work should consist in meticulously researching and increasing your understanding of your craft. You should be thoroughly accomplishing all of the tasks involved in pre-production for your area of responsibility, and meeting together with the other members in your team to make sure you're completely prepared and organized before the shoot.

Like legendary cinematographers and art directors, you should go to elaborate lengths to study and prepare for your work, visiting locations, researching period photographs, doing tests, consulting with others in your field to obtain additional counsel and insight.

Researching areas of your work through interviews, reading books, studying films that have an application to your own work, being willing to ask questions and try new ideas, doing tests, writing out storyboards and lighting diagrams, seeking lots of diversified hand-on experience--all of this preparation will add much more to your experience than if you simply rest on your previous level of expertise.

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Creative Standards

During filming, your attitude should be razor sharp and accommodate zero tolerance for mediocrity. Just what you tolerate also determines the level of excellence at which you will function. There is a constant battle between "It's good enough, let's hurry, we're all waiting, let's roll" and "Let's get this right, whatever it takes." Depending on the type of shoot you are working on, usually efficiency or perfection is emphasized. Sometimes a certain amount of quality is sacrificed to get the film in the can quickly and sometimes when there is more time, the director will wait for small details to be perfected before burning film. It is a safe bet that with your increased ability to do your job both fast and well will come more job offers.

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Promptness

Because everyone on has an integral role in the film's production, the crew’s productivity depends on each person being on time each day. Take the initiative to find your own transportation and be on time. One person's being late a few minutes can mean many wasted hours when multiplied by the number of people in the cast and crew.

Once you arrive on the set, start setting up and begin work immediately.

Lending an extra hand is a welcome gesture of kindness for some and for others causes great offense. It is important for you to find out what the expectations of your director and fellow crewmembers are and then act accordingly. Many low-budget Indie film shoots require its crew to wear more than one hat and cross job responsibilities to handle the workload. Usually an Indie shoot has fewer crewmembers than a studio shoot. There might not be a 2nd ad, for instance, or the art department might consist of a single individual. Make up and wardrobe are often combined into the same position, as are craft services and drivers.

There are times where extra hands on deck are invaluable and increase the bond between crew as each member shows caring and appreciation to others and their work. Another crewmember may have his hands full and be struggling with his job. Be sensitive to whether the person wants help, and then pitch in if you can. Lend the people working with you to other areas of the production that are in need. If something prevents you from doing your job, use the time to help with another area of production that will ease the workload.

At the end of the day, if you've finished your work, you can assist any other department, which can use your help in successfully completing a perfect wrap. Make sure before you leave that you've received information concerning your next shooting day and what scenes and special requirements are involved which might involve you. It is up to you to determine the expectations of the crew as set by the director or producer and be sensitive to either paying attention to your job and your job alone, or doing the opposite and pitching in when someone needs help.

Please do not leave the set at any time during the day unless the head of your department or the 1st AD knows where you are. If are called off the set to do an errand, take the initiative in getting someone to cover for you and notify the proper people who need to be informed. Be conscious of time during the day. Come back from lunch promptly and full of energy. Don't leave the set until you're sure that your responsibilities have been accomplished.

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Location Etiquette

When you are guests in someone's home or institution, be careful about your mood and conduct. Do not bring food into people's home. Check with production to make sure that use of the washrooms or kitchen has been cleared with the owner.

There is a no smoking, no drinking of alcoholic beverages rule for the cast and crew of any Regent picture during the entire time you are working or residing on location regardless of whether all the cast and crew are Christians or not.

If you are in a position of leadership, it is important to clearly set forth this standard at the beginning of your shoot, especially if you're working with non-Christians. If on the other hand, you are a crewmember on a non-Christian shoot, you might expect quite a different standard, which often includes other behavior you might not be used to such as non-stop foul language.

Realize that while this might be offensive to you, the people acting contrary to your value system are not trying to inflict harm on you. It is your choice whether to work on the picture or not, but once you've committed, there's little you can do about it, except whenever it doesn't offend or interfere with your job, to move away from the smoke and foul language.

You're constantly being watched and judged by those around you. The crucial thing is to make sure your behavior is impeccable and an inspiration to others, and worry less about what others are doing, especially if they are unsaved.

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Take the Initiative to Learn

For many of you, these shoots are the best film school around. But to get the most out of the opportunity, take the initiative! Observe, ask questions, learn to operate new pieces of equipment, take advantage of an opportunity to learn as much as you would in a year or more of film school. It may be a little awkward to be asking so many questions, but most people are glad to provide the answers for you, and even if they seem rushed, you'll have a lot of knowledge to show for your curiosity at the end of the shoot.

Although less serious, many shoots experience severe doses of mismanagement and ineptitude. While very different from the problems caused by thoughtless angry people, they can be just as problematic to your attitude and it is important that you know who you are and march to your own drum in the midst of any adversity.

Usually your considerate, organized approach to life on the set will often serve as a wakeup call to others who might have fallen beneath this standard. And if it has no effect on them, you'll usually discover your steady, level performance will be noticed and respected by those around you and may be the key in landing your next job.

Make up your mind that you will have zero tolerance for doing anything that disrespects another actor or crew. In addition to trouble-shooting a malfunctioning piece of equipment or routine that is time-consuming, you also need to devote even more attention sometimes to trouble-shooting poor communication, a tense working relationship between a crew member and his assistant, bitterness that you might have towards an actor, apathy that tempts you to not care.

Sometimes, you may perceive someone dislikes you. A cranky remark or someone ignoring you may put you on edge. If the person has done what they've done out of spite or apathy, they need to be confronted. But sometimes people are tired, or distracted and what they say may not be directed towards you at all and may simply be a reaction to their own distraction or discouragement. Or they might simply feel threatened by you or the work you are doing. Chances are, the offending person still likes and respects you a lot, and you will see this after they've gotten through a tough work responsibility or experienced a hot meal or a good night's sleep. Try to distinguish what's happening inside of this person, and try to help them rather than combat them. Often some encouraging words combined with the passage of a little time will help solve the problem for the rest of the summer.

Follow the biblical guidelines in Matthew 18 for confrontation. Bring your concern to the person involved in the gentlest, most loving way you can, admitting your own weakness, and realizing the need for the rebuked person to save face. And by all means, do it off the set, out of earshot of others. Approach the individual involved privately first, and if the problem persists, then bring the issue to the attention of proper authority. Never bring the problem to a third party's attention before confronting the individual involved (gossip), and never, never confront with an attitude of anything less than genuine kindness and caring.

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Good Communication

We admire and appreciate crew people who radiate enthusiasm about their work, who speak well of others, who are spending their off days and off hours creatively generating input and work having to do with the film, who not only tolerate the extra energy and time needed to do excellent work, but encourage it in others.

Strive to be like these people. Remember how important these 'people' issues are to the feelings of others and to the technical excellence that will bring glory to God.

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Final Words

Many of you will continue to know your fellow cast and crew long after the film is finished, so it is well worth the effort to work hard at human relationships as well as the professional craft of film making.

By God's grace, you will team up to produce an incredible film on your shoot that will be a delight to see, and at the same time, touch its viewers with truth and love. By God's grace, you'll grow in friendship and commitment to each other that will last a lifetime. By God's grace, you will gain a whole lot of new understanding of the craft of filmmaking. You will grow in character and wisdom.

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