3 Stereotypes to Avoid Becoming On a Film Set
Often the biggest problem stopping new or inexperienced crew continuing to get work is their attitude. Sometimes it is the fact that they just can’t fulfill the job, but most of the time it all boils down to their attitude and how they approach the tasks. There are many negative stereotypes that emerge on set during work experience or from junior employees, and I can guarantee if you start to display these characteristics early on, you will struggle to find employment. Here’s what to avoid when starting out.
Congratulations on winning the prize for best cinematography at your school’s film festival. However, don’t parade this fact around in front of everyone on set with your superior knowledge and opinion because, well, no one really cares and you are possibly now in a new league of experts. Nobody begs to work alongside a know-it-all. There’s nothing worse than a new person on set that cannot be taught and doesn’t listen to instruction because they think they already know everything.
They have the arrogance of thinking they should start at the top, and are not prepared to put in the hard yards of starting at the bottom rolling cables or making coffees to learn from the more experienced and skilled professionals. These know-it-alls don’t last long on set. Often they are ridiculed behind their backs and hung out to dry when it is inevitably revealed that they, just like everyone else, do not actually know everything.
How do you avoid being ‘that guy’? If a crew member explains something to you, let them finish their sentence before you cut in with your own thoughts. They may say something you didn’t expect or teach you something you didn’t already know. Even if you find you do have the upper edge on some of your peers, adopt the rule of ‘know-it-alls finish last’ and be courteous anyway. It will dramatically improve your road to respect.
This generation gets a bad rap on film sets, but as a member of the group myself, we do sometimes fit the stereotype perfectly. I’ve seen twenty-somethings start their work experience or first job on set with electric enthusiasm as they finally get to do what they’ve always dreamt of. Soon, they realize that fetching coffee and rolling cables wasn’t exactly what they figured a twenty thousand dollar post-grad cinematography course would afford them. They become dejected, unwilling to do these small tasks, and usually sit down behind the Director’s monitor, just enough in the way to annoy everybody.
Out comes the phone and its zillion social media platforms as the bored Gen-Y does what they can to sustain themselves for the next four minutes because the Director inexplicably wants to do another take of the shot! Like three hours hasn’t been long enough! Truthfully, film sets can be polar opposites within minutes. One minute they are crazy-busy with the whole crew involved in setting up a shot, and then for the next hour nothing happens while the scene rolls for up to twenty takes. It takes effort to keep concentrating when nothing’s happening, but as soon as you get distracted is when you’ll be asked to help out and you won’t know what is going on as your head is buried in your latest status update.
The Big Ego
This is one of the worst stereotypes. There’s no place for egos on set. This person is similar to ‘the-know-it-all’ but generally just thinks they are awesome without any validation of formal training or achievement. The film industry may hold the promise of fame and glamor, but you’ll soon find out that the shine and glow is limited to red carpet premieres and award ceremonies. There’s nothing glamorous in stomping around in foot-deep mud when it’s been raining for the last three weeks or carrying equipment up sand dunes in blistering heat while you shoot desert scenes. Nobody wants to be dealing with your ego on set, especially when you are first starting out (when you’ve won an Oscar you might be forgiven).
You’re there to do a job, that’s it. If someone asks you to do something but you don’t want to, get over your ego and get the job done. Some of the most recognized and awarded people I’ve met have been the most humble and accommodating. As a result, the crew strives for excellence for this individual, as they are well respected and genuinely nice.
Matt Webb is the author of Setlife: A Guide To Getting A Job in Film (And Keeping It). He is an Assistant Director with credits including The Great Gatsby, Mad Max: Fury Road, Hacksaw Ridge, Pirates of the Carribean and Alien: Covenant.
Setlife: A Guide To Getting A… is a must-have guide designed to prepare you for what happens on a typical day on a film set. Matt Webb’s no-fuss, practical tips are essential reading for anyone chasing a career in the film industry. The book is available for $25 from Amazon.
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