Stepping on a film set can be both exciting and intimidating. Who can I talk to? What is a “Pancake” or a “Juicer”? And speaking of food, when and what can we eat on set? These are questions and situations that we have all experienced being on a shoot. We’ll gloss over basic set etiquette and some lingo/terminology that we throw around during production.
If you are working on a professional shoot, a call sheet will always be sent the night before production. It’s a schedule that indicates when and where things happen, keeping everything and everyone involved organized. The call sheet gives a comprehensive breakdown for cast and crew positions, detailing who does what, where they do it, and what part of the project is being shot. It includes details on wrap times per department, weather forecast for that day, where to park on set / location, breakfast and lunch times, information on craft services and where it will be located, etc.. There are many different versions of a call sheet, but they will always target the same objective; organization. What’s the most important thing for crew members? Be punctual. Showing up late will slow down production, regardless of your role on the project. Feel free referencing the call sheet below for a better understanding of what to expect.
It is important, especially on your first day of production, to introduce yourself to everyone on set, including the talent (if the situation calls for it). Knowing who you are working with on set creates a more enjoyable environment, giving you an opportunity to meet new friends and future colleagues. A memorable introduction paired with a solid work ethic also leads to future gigs, so be mindful of how you act and how you work.
Bright, ostentatious clothing may be a way of expressing yourself, but a film set may not be the best place to share the latest fashion trends. Vivid clothing affects many things on set, such as talent’s attention, or the scene’s lighting. Do your best to avoid wearing colors like white, yellow, and lighter grays. These colors can unintentionally bounce light and even bounce unwanted colors into the shot. Also, 10-12 hour days are very common in this line of work, so dress comfortably. You will most definitely thank yourself in retrospect.
Going the extra mile is a common avenue for a promotion in working environments. That same mentality applies to the film industry, but there are some caveats to keep in mind. There are multiple departments on a production, and you will typically find yourself in a specific role under one of these departments. With that being said, handling your tools, gear, and tasks in your department is your primary focus. There is always an instance where you have down time and a C-stand seems to be sitting in a shot, or a rogue cable sprawled across the set may seem to be out of place. If these things do not fall within your world, leave them be. The C-stand or the rogue cable may be in play for reasons we are unaware of. Moving them without Head of Department (HOD) orders could cause a delay in production, and we don’t want that. If you have down time and would love to offer a hand, always reach out to your HOD and ask.
Saying ‘Copy’, or ‘Copy That’ while on set or on a walkie is the best way to confirm you have received and understood “the ask.” Similar to saying ‘GOT IT’ when you are taking a heavy or fragile gear from another crew member; this quick confirmation allows you to work efficiently, while instilling confidence in the person handing off the gear. If you don’t understand the ask, develop an understanding before saying ‘Copy That!’
TERMS & LINGO
Copy That! isn’t the only film term you will hear on set. Like many other working environments, film jargon is used to convey a quick and concise understanding or acknowledgment of the task at hand. Below, you will find a handful of terms used often.
AC: AC stands for Assistant Camera. There can be multiple AC’s on set. This obviously varies on the size of the production. Responsibilities in this role range from camera prep and building, pulling focus, to slating. For more information on slating, click here!
AD: AD stands for Assistant Director. Again, there can be multiple AD’s depending on the size of the production. Responsibilities in this role range from creating call sheets, supervising cast and crew, keeping the production on schedule, keeping a safe and healthy filming environment, etc.
10-1: This is the best way of letting the crew know you are stepping away to use the restroom.
Apple Box: Wooden boxes or crates varying in size: full apple, half apple, quarter apple, pancake or eighth apple.
A.D.R.(Automatic Dialogue Replacement): When filming is done, the process of rerecording dialogue at a studio.
Blocking: Blocking is the practice of rehearsing a scene and planning the performers’ moves when the camera is not rolling.
Camera Speed: (or Speeding) Camera or the 1st AC will yell this when the camera is rolling.
Crafty: Craft catering, food service, and other amenities on a set. You can reference your call sheet for more information on the location and who may be catering that day.
Hot Set: A set that is perfectly set up with all of the props, cameras, and lighting in the correct places. Try to think of it as a cordoned-off crime scene — don’t touch a thing.
Green: If you are fresh to a job, you are considered green.
Juicer: An Electrician. Also known as a Spark.
Legs: Also known as “Sticks,” the tripod’s legs.
Last Looks: Last Looks is the first AD’s term for the final opportunity to inspect the cast and the set before filming starts.
Magic Hour: The time period right before sunset. Also called Golden Hour.
M.O.S.: M.O.S. stands for “Mute On Sound” during filming. This means you will be shooting something that does not require the sound tech to roll.
Quiet Please: This one is easy. The first AD will yell this right before the camera records.
Sides: Script sheets for the scenes that will be filmed today, normally printed on A5 paper and arranged in shooting order.
Sound Speed: Sound replies that they are recording and ready.
Stinger: An extension cord.
Tail Slate: A tail slate is the mark on a shot that occurs at the end of a film rather than the start of the film.This ensures that the editor of the film understands what is going on when they don’t see a late at the beginning of the take.
Video Village: Video Village is where the set’s monitor is located.
Every department will have their list of jargon for techniques and tools. The language will vary with production types, as well as with departmental tenure. Regardless, this list will put you in a great spot if you are new to production. Also check out our article on Video Production Terms and Lingofor more terms that got tossed around on set.
Assuming outlets on set are free for a quick phone charge is how batteries get unplugged, or how breakers trip. Before you plug something into an outlet, touch base with the set Electrician or your HOD to make sure it is okay. You definitely don’t want to be the person who trips a breaker during a take.
It’s quite common to hurry, hurry, hurry only to be on standby with time to kill. Keeping busy when this happens is one sure way to land yourself a job next time around. If you have the time:
● Organize and clean gear. If cases are strung out around the staging area, find a nice new home for them.
● Transporting gear will dirty up cases. Give them a good cleaning if it’s needed. Both your HOD and rental house will love you for it.
● Change and charge batteries and stay ahead of the game.
● Act as a ‘Stand In’. This will keep you busy, while simultaneously helping out the creatives capture that perfect composition!
● Make sure you and your team stay fed and hydrated. Chances are your direct report is dying for a drink or snack. Taking care of them with a surprise drink will go a long way.
● Help out another department. But before you do, make sure your HOD gives you the okay.
The list of busy work doesn’t stop here, so get creative.
Last but not least, making mistakes is inevitable. Whether it’s on set or outside of work, failure is the one way we learn to be better. If mistakes never happened, production wouldn’t implement a contingency fund within the budget. When you make a mistake, own up to it! Apologize and find a solution. It’s never worth dwelling on, so look at it as a learning opportunity.
By no means does this list cover everything you need to know. But I can assure you it is a great start to put you in a position to hit the ground running. Get out there, have fun!
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