It’s your first day on set? I couldn’t tell.

Being new to film or television — or “being green”, as it’s known — is hard to disguise. Film sets are a bizarre, fast-paced world with their own lingo and rules, and simply knowing where to be and where not to be are only learned with time and experience.

noob on set alert

2008. Lots of green going on in this photo, and I’m not talking about the trees.

In an attempt to help the PAs and interns of tomorrow, I asked my coworkers to complete this sentence:

You can tell it’s someone’s first day on set when…

“When they don’t silence their phone.” -Kimberly, coordinator.

Rule #1. There are so many legitimate ways that a take can be ruined, and having someone’s cell phone go off is just plain stupid and avoidable. Put that sucker on vibrate before you even get out of your car. And if you have to run an errand and go off set, turn the ringer back on! (And, of course, put it back on vibrate when you get on set.)

“They ask what time they’re going to be done.” -Neumann, 2nd AD.

Want to act like there are a million places you’d rather be than working on a film set? Ask your boss what time wrap will be. Go ahead. I dare you!

When you’re on a film set, work is your life until you’re sent home. Plans, the outside world…they don’t exist. Save yourself frustration and heartache in the beginning and don’t make plans on days you’re working. We’ve all had to miss dinners, nights out, concerts, and birthday parties — it’s an unfortunate sacrifice that comes with a cool yet demanding and unpredictable job.

When they wear all white. INSIDE!!” -Darryl, key grip.

Evidence of crew members happens on camera more often than you’d think — especially in tight spaces with shiny surfaces, windows, mirrors, etc. White stands out and clearly identifies a person, whereas black looks like a shadow or an unidentifiable void. When in doubt, wear black. 

They stand in a doorway.” -Brittany, producer.

Mankind must be taught from birth that standing in a doorway is a safe place to be if you want to observe the action without getting in the way — because we all do this on the  first day on set. It may work in real-civilian-life, but on a film set, it’s an absolute Hail! no. Dozens of people need to get through that doorway to move gear, props, extras, etc — get out of the way!

They don’t wear comfortable shoes.” – Sandy, makeup artist.

Entire blogs could be written about film set fashion and the constant struggle of looking presentable vs. comfort. Most of the wiser ones err in favor of “practicality”: Converse may be cute, but you’re going to need arch support after a couple of 16 hour days on your feet. Merrells are a popular for a reason.

“When they can’t believe they get paid to drink on set after the 1st AD calls martini.” -Cookie, 2nd AD.

This is AMAZING. I haven’t witnessed this confusion firsthand, but I can see how it would unfold: If you’re not used to working busy 14 hour days on set, you’re exhausted and a little delirious towards the end, and a martini simply sounds awesome. A lot of surprising and unprecedented things happen on a film set, is the idea of everybody stopping down to have a drink really far fetched?

Unless you’ve just completed the final shot of the entire movie (or season) and everyone’s busting out champagne, then yes.

Martini = Final shot of the day.

But don’t worry, most crews will go out for REAL drinks after they’re wrapped. (wrapped = finished working.)

I am working as a PA today but usually I am a Director or DP.” -Brian, camera extraordinaire. 

This happens with surprising frequency, and it cracks us up EVERY TIME. Don’t try to brag or pretend you have decades of experience but for today, you’ve “settled” on being a PA for the hell of it. Once you’ve gotten promoted out of PA-dom, believe me — no one takes another PA gig after that.

Film school shoots are good for hands-on experience, but they shouldn’t be bragged about to an actual DP or director. You’re only hurting your reputation by doing this, and people like Brian and I will snicker and quote you on the internet.

“When they walk up to the DP to give their opinion about the lighting/composition.” -JT, photographer/AC.

Giving unsolicited opinions is a telltale sign of an arrogant newbie vying for respect: Respect is earned with time. Those are corners that can’t be cut. Everyone has an opinion, but there are very few positions on a set where people are hired solely for their opinions. We’re hired for our experience, work ethic, ability to adapt and problem-solve, etc.

They try to hand money for a soda to crafty…then put an entire case in their purse when they find out it’s free.” -Lauren, craft services.

This is also awesome, and I know for a fact I asked “this is free?!” the first time I saw a first-rate craft services spread — and I think I even asked Lauren quoted here!

Sometimes, at the end of small shoots, PAs get to take the crafty home — but don’t assume, lest you be labeled a kleptomaniac.

They just yelled “action” instead of “rolling.” (True story.)” -Drew, 1st AD.

Y’know…it happens to the best of us. We can all be jittery. Just don’t do it again!


Enjoy this post? Join the community, subscribe, and follow!

Photo credit: Jen Bates

Author: Laryssa

Laryssa has spent 6+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. She writes about her experiences to help (and amuse) others. If she's not working, she's either traveling, reading or writing about travel, or planning travel. Follow , Twitter, or Facebook.

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge