Clawing to escape the belly of the beast here in Hollywood. To commiserate, email my name assistantatlas at yahoo.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

How Not to Be a Suited Idiot on a Film Set: 2.02

As promised, here's a guest blog! This one is by Peggy Archer, the saucy minx who runs "Totally Unauthorized", which you'll find in my links list. Peggy has helpfully provided this guide to not pissing off the woebegone crew members on your local movie/commercial/tv set.

HOW NOT TO BE SUITED IDIOT ON SET
By Peggy Archer

Welcome to our happy little film set! Ignore the swearing and dirty jokes - the crew are really nice folks, but we do have a generally misunderstood job to do, and you can make it much harder for us if you don't pay attention. Normally when "tourists" or "suits" are on set we roll our eyes and groan, but if you just remember the following things, we'll love you forever:

1. Never set any liquid on an HMI ballast - they're the square silver things in the photo, and what they are is a computerized control system for that big huge light. Unless you're the producer, I'll bet they cost more than your car, and spilled liquid will ruin them. Don't sit on them, either. You'll get the ass rot.

HMI

2. Please, please, PLEASE pay attention to what's going on around you. Film sets are dark (especially if they're on a stage), and confusing- and as you can see from the photo, there's all kinds of cable and construction waste on the ground. People are also in a hurry and rushing while they're carrying hot, heavy and/or pointy things. If you're not paying attention, you could be seriously injured. Don't wear open toed shoes or flip flops, either. 3/4 " drywall screws have ways of finding your toes.

3. If you take a picture and are using the flash on your camera, please say "Flashing" loudly - before you take the picture. A camera flash looks exactly like a light bulb blowing out, and if the electricians see the flash of white light and don't know that's what it is, they'll go batty trying to find the blown out globe when it was your camera. This is funny, but very, very mean.

4. When the AD says "Quiet" - this means you. "Quiet" does NOT mean 'continue your conversation in a whisper'. "Quiet" means shut up while we're rolling. The microphones that are used can pick up a whispered conversation from a surprisingly long way away.

6. If you see crew running in and out of a doorway, please don't block that doorway while you have a conversation. We might accidentally hit you in the back with something pointy. On a related note, the phrase "Watch your back" means move right now. If you're in a doorway and you hear the phrase "Watch your back", move AWAY from the doorway. Do not attempt to go back through it. Remember, pointy object = pain.

7. Whomever's carrying the heavier load gets right of way. If I'm carrying a 40 lb light, and you're carrying a 10 oz. cell phone or two sheets of paper - You are the one who needs to yield. I don't care who you are. Neither does my spine.

8. When craft service puts food out, let the folks who've been there longer get to the food first.

9. We are happy to answer questions and chit chat when we're not busy. If we are busy (and you can tell), please let us work. We get yelled at if we don't.

10. Ladders are for climbing, not for setting drinks on.

11. If you ask really nicely, the grips might let you sit on an apple box (but know that it can be taken from you at any time), but NEVER EVER for any reason sit or stand on camera cases.

12. Don't stand in front of a light. Feel that heat on your back? It means you're casting a shadow onto the set. Don't walk in front of a light, either. On a related note.. if you can look into the camera lens, you're in the shot.

13. If folks are working over your head, you might want to move. We try not to drop things, but accidents do happen. If a crew member asks you to move, please do so immediately and don't argue.

14. If you don't know what something is, don't touch it.
14a. Don't plug anything in ANYWHERE without asking first. DC power (which some stages still have) will do a number on your cell phone charger, and if you didn't ask before plugging it in, we'll laugh at you.

15. Please don't wear perfume. Even air conditioned sets are hotter than hell under the lights, and you wouldn't believe how bad your "Obsession" smells after it's been hanging in the air for a while and has bred with someone else's "Opium". Speaking of bad smells, if you have to fart, please step off the set - off the stage if you can. Thanks.

Now, see, if we all just follow the rules Peggy won't have to donkeypunch you in the nutsack/vagina. And I won't have to encourage her to do it.

28 Comments:

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing, if you're an agency suit, please assemble your thirty, black clad collegues and play your games of yahtze/uno/battleship away from the prop furniture. If fact, back at your office would be a great place....

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few other tips:

1. If you hear someone yell "Points!" It means you need to *immediately* watch out, less you get stabbed in the face with something likely made of steel and fully capable of ruining your day. It is a subtle variation of the "Watch your back!" phrase.

2. The camera dolly is not a toy. Do not assume you can sit on it (even when it's not being used) unless you have the expressed written permission of the dolly grip. Speaking of dollies, if you happen to see dolly tracks on set: STAY AWAY FROM THEM. Do not naively assume you possess the necessary skill or grace to successfully maneuver in or around them. Dolly tracks are often positioned off the ground using wooden wedges or blocks, and if you happen to accidentally kick or bump into one, it can throw the whole thing off kilter thereby ruining the shot (or in extreme instances, causing the dolly to fall off the track). In the event that you do knock one of the wooden wedges/blocks out: DO NOT PUT IT BACK YOURSELF--instead, find the dolly grip, explain what happened, and apologize profusely.

3. In addition to lights, reflective units are also used to light the set and you should not stand in front of them either. These reflective units include bounce boards, which look like big white squares of thin styrofoam; shiny boards, which look like big silver squares; and mirror boards which as their namesake suggests are big square mirrors. Since these units do not output heat, it is not as easy to realize if you are in the way.

4. If a jib is being used on set you need to be extra careful and really pay attention. A jib is a piece of equipment that looks like the smaller brother of a crane. It's basically an arm with a camera on one end and weights at the other. Jib arms can range in length anywhere from 6 feet to 30+ feet, and they have a special talent for clotheslining people. If you visit a lot of sets that use jibs, chances are that one day you're gonna run into one...literally (and probably head first). When (not 'if') this happens, do not start yelling at the jib operator. Your injury was not their fault. You should have been paying closer attention to your surroundings instead of walking around looking downwards while talking on your phone.

5. Regarding #14a. Learn this rule, know this rule, live this rule. Power is a tightly regulated commodity on set and generally everyone wants some. The electric dept is tasked with making sure the power is safely balanced and goes where it *needs* to go first. Just because you brought your new Mac laptop to set and happened to spot a squarish steel box on the floor with an empty outlet on it doesn't mean you can go ahead and plug into it. When there are a lot of lights on set, even the smallest electrical devices can become the straw that breaks the camel's back and causes a breaker to blow.

5a. While we're on the topic of electricity: if you get the OK from the electrics to plug into an outlet, but then discover you need an extension cord, simply ask for one. Never take anything off a cart without asking. Although you might be trying to make electrics job easier by not bothering them, they *need* to know where every piece of their equipment is.

6. If you visit a set where they are shooting on real film and you decide to go check out the monitor, do not make the idiotic comment that "this doesn't look very good". What you are looking at is a video tap--a very very rough approximation of the image. In this case, what you see is NOT what you get. The finished (processed) image will undoubtedly look a million times better then what you're seeing on that video screen; so save your visual critique for later.

7. The grips probably won't give you an apple box (on general principle) but feel free to ask anyways.

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