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3 Mistakes to Avoid on Set

As I'm sure many of you know, there is an unspoken etiquette on set. This "setiquette" is designed to make everyone's work life easier, as the standard day of filming presents more than its share of challenges. There's no reason to make a day more difficult than necessary, and doing so ensures people remember you negatively. Here are a few setiquette tips to help you navigate your career on set.


3 Mistakes to Avoid on Set:


1: Running

A film set can be a hectic work environment. Directors and cinematographers want to do everything "RIGHT NOW." The first AC wants a new lens right now, the first AD wants to shoot right now, the DP needs to light the set right now. Nearly every film set is under a tremendous time crunch at all times. Early in my career, I thought I could demonstrate my dedication to accomplishing tasks quickly by running around set. I would jog new batteries from the truck to set or a lens from the lens cart to the camera.

There is always time to do things correctly on set. If you're running around, you risk tripping and dropping gear, injuring yourself, or injuring someone else. Let's say you're running, you trip over a power cable, and the cable pulls down a heavy light that crashes down onto set. I've seen this happen. Are extra few seconds you're saving by running worth the risk? That said, don't mosy around set. Walk at a brisk pace. If your boss wants you to run, that's not somebody you want to work for.


2: Airing out your problems at work

If you worked in an office, would you walk over to your coworker's desk and start lamenting your ongoing divorce? Does that sound like appropriate workplace banter? If your answer is no, don't bring your personal struggles to set. I'm not trying to be harsh, but I work on set. The keyword in that sentence is "work." Because you spend so much time with a group of people on set, you end up weaving your personal life into your work life. That's not always an issue, but keep it light and positive. Are you excited about a fun trip you're planning? Great, talk to your coworkers about it. Did your son score a touchdown in his football game? Amazing, tell people how proud you are and show them a picture. Did you and your wife have a long discussion about how she can't handle the film schedule anymore and she's thinking about leaving? Keep it to yourself.

Think about how what you say colors people's perception of you. Do you want to be a positive force on set who makes people smile during the workday or do you want to bring negative energy onto set. Your coworkers can be your friends, but they're still your coworkers. Conduct yourself in a manner that helps the team get through the day. If you want to talk about politics or your relationship or other heavy stuff, do what everybody else does and get into a fight with your uncle during Thanksgiving.


3. Talking back

Film sets are set up hierarchically. The people up top rely on subordinates to carry out their orders to move the day forward. There isn't a lot of busywork on set. If you've been told to do something, it's for a good reason. For instance, when I was starting out, I had to make a lot of coffee and take a lot of food orders.

"Kyler, can you get coffees for everyone in the department?"

"Kyler, go over to the food truck, take everyone's orders, and bring us the food."

I was usually slightly annoyed with those requests. I wondered why everyone else couldn't get their own coffee or food. After all, I had other responsibilities I felt were more pressing. When I became an operator, I realized how few free moments higher-ups had on set. I'd be craving coffee and find myself unable to leave set to make one. A food truck would show up and I couldn't go stand in line for food. I found myself making the same requests to utilities that had irked me a few years before.

Over the course of a day, your boss may tell you to do some things that leave you scratching your heard. Some of the tasks you're given may seem unnecessary to you. In those cases, it never hurts to be curious. Do what you're told and, when your boss has a free moment, ask him or her some questions. I always found that phrasing inquiries in a "how come we do *this* like *this*," manner usually yields the best results. People usually love to teach, so be ready to learn. As always, if something feels dangerous, disregard this advice and do whatever you need to in order to feel safe at work.

Most setiquette mistakes are relatively simple to fix. The key is to approach each day as if you were going to a regular office job. Be professional and kind. Do your job. Stay on task. Conduct yourself safely. Professional etiquette is simple at its core, and by adhering to some of these tips, you can help ensure you'll be remembered positively.

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