Whether it is a photoshoot, video, or film shoot, there are so many moving parts to a day of shooting. If you are new to this hustle and bustle production days can be a bit overwhelming to your senses. As talent, we need to be focused and prepared to work when the set is ready for you. So I wanted to share some important tips to help you not only maintain focus; but also leave a great impression. There are already some published articles on this subject; but I noticed that most of them are written in a strict or intimidating manner. This could cause some nervousness or fears of making mistakes, which could distract you on shooting day. So I want to share this information with you in such a way that will uplift you towards a feeling of confidence, with easy energy on shooting day. All you will then need to focus on is your role and the rest can come second nature.
In this article we have a special guest, Julia Patey. Julia is an extremely talented director whom I have had the chance to work with, and grateful to have her as a friend. I have learned quite a bit from my experiences on set with Julia, therefore I knew she would be just the right person to add some extra insight on this topic.
Show up on time.
Paid or not, it says a lot about who you are as a professional when you are on time for the shoot. It shows respect and dedication not only for the project in question; but for the industry in general. Plan to arrive 15 minutes early, if there are any problems or delays, you will at least show up on time. Julia: Can’t agree more. In many cases, your arrival time is the first impression the crew will have of you. Your arrival time will communicate your level of commitment and interest in the project. If you arrive early, you show that you’re keen, organized, exceeding expectations and already ahead. If you’re on time, you show that you are professional, prepared to fulfill the expectations and ready for the day. If you’re late, you show that you are an amateur, disorganized and unprepared. Of course, everyone is susceptible to being late at least once in their careers : it’s not the end of the world. And you are in most cases able to regain the trust of your crew if you do a good job throughout the day. But arriving early or on time can save you from having to play catch up all day and allow you to offer your best work.
- Pack everything you need the night/days before.
- Eat the right breakfast. Eat gut healthy meals and take care of alcohol intake the days before so you can be your best.
- Read the call sheet, the script, the treatment, the shooting schedule, all beforehand. Know what you need to before the day starts so you are not lost.
- Be in the right headspace, know why you are there, be confident and prepared. Julia: On a proper shoot, you will receive all the necessary documents (script, shot list, shot schedule, etc) to know what is happening on the shooting day. These documents exist so that every department (including yours) has clear instructions about how the day will proceed. Get to know them well so that you can avoid asking unnecessary questions. If the shoot is more rock and roll and you do not have any such documents ahead of time, make sure to get after the director to give you as much information as possible. It may not be your responsibility to push the production for information, but if you have already committed to performing, it’s in your best interest to know as much as possible ahead of time.
Meet the crew.
Take the time to be respectful and say hello . Some shoots send out a call sheet which has the crew names. I personally enjoy reading this beforehand to become more familiar with our crew that day, especially if there isn't much time for introductions. Julia: Yes and no. Yes : Be friendly to your peers throughout the day and you will help to establish a
comfortable environment for everyone. No : Don’t make socializing your priority on set. It is still a
workplace and requires focus – save your stories for the lunch break.
The project you are working on has other creative professionals involved who are just as passionate and dedicated as you are about producing an impactful final product. If you are distracted in any way it may show on camera and take away some of the project's impact, so:
- Phone off. (Some projects use phones for communication, in this case keep it on silent.)
- Assign a BTS photographer, you should not be doing this.
- Be still and silent when the camera is rolling while any one else is on camera.
Julia: Yes, there is nothing more disruptive and unprofessional than someone on the phone, texting, writing an email or taking a BTS photo or video when they are expected to be focused on their particular job. That goes for all crew as well. Keep your phone on you or nearby if you like, but turn off any buzzing or sounds and use your discretion to decide if it’s a good moment to pull it out or not. Chances are, if you’re unsure it’s the right moment to snap a pic, you’re probably best off leaving it in your pocket.
Respect the Director and all other departments.
- The director has a vision that was submitted and approved by other parties. Specific shots were planned and a schedule for the day most likely has been made. Understand and respect this and try not to suggest changing the concept/schedule with dramatically new ideas.
- Unless you have prior approval, don't touch any equipment. If you think anything should be moved, contact the proper department heads. Julia: Ideally, a shooting day should consist of smoothly running through a list of carefully prepared shots. The more ideas and problem-solving you can work out before the shooting day, the more you can stick to your schedule. Films are collaborative, so they require input from all departments. That means, if you have an idea, don’t be afraid to bring it to the table. Just know that the earlier you bring it up, the better.
- Eliminate your real world problems on this day.
- Everyone on set is passionate and ready for an exciting day of creation. Don't be the bad egg that ruins the mood. If someone is late, if someone forgot something, if if if - keep calm, shake it off and keep the energy light and fun.
My experience: I was to do makeup for a music video shoot last year. I prepped the days and night before, and set my alarm for 5:30. I thought it was strange when my phone went off under a different ringtone, and when I opened my eyes I saw sunlight shining through my windows. That's when I realized that the ringtone was from a phone call, from the director. I had slept through my alarm. I did all the anxiety ridden basics multiplied by 10, over apologizing, over explaining, rushing my clothes on. The director said to relax, keep the energy positive, and she will see me when I get there. In the end that positive energy really helped me move forward and get through the day without distractions or negative feelings.
Julia: Yes, try your best to bring a good mood and positive energy with you to the set, regardless of your situation. Each and every person has the power to influence the general mood; it just takes one bad egg to make a stinky day. Try to remember that everyone on set has their own personal problems, so the more you can uplift the mood with your attitude, the better you and everyone will feel.
This information absolutely can translate into how you generally want to be perceived by your industry. Which stories do you like to hear about your idols? When people can't stop saying good things about them, or the horror stories from set about them yelling at crew members? Which stories do you want to be told about you throughout your industry? If you have read this far into this article, you are not an A-list Talent. You have no wiggle room to be a diva to anyone.
Below are the best links to see Julia's projects. Be sure to subscribe to her channels to stay updated on her work as she has been quite busy!
Julia Patey: website
vimeo If there are any specific topics that you would like to hear about and discuss, feel free to comment below or contact me. I will also be posting summaries of my writings on my social media for people to read and discuss there as well.