Film Set Etiquette: Dos & Don’ts
It’s exciting to arrive on set and participate in the filming process. However, moving from pre-production to the flurry of on-set activity can be confusing and chaotic. Try not to break the unspoken rules of film etiquette, so you remain professional.
Film set etiquette isn’t just for the director and actors—everyone involved has a role they need to fulfill with respect and understanding. This way, production can be completed smoothly and on schedule. To help, here are the most common dos and don’ts for etiquette on film sets.
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Do: Be Courteous & Respectful
It’s exciting to work on a film set, but keep in mind that it is just like any other job, so you need to treat it accordingly. Be courteous to everyone you meet and introduce yourself, especially at the beginning of filming. Working cohesively as a team starts with a fundamental respect that you’re in a professional environment.
Don’t: Be Late or Disruptive
One of the most basic courtesies you can extend on set is to be on time. Everything happens according to a strict schedule, especially if filming is being done outdoors. Showing up fifteen minutes late can create a domino effect and throw everything off for the day. Call sheets will include start time information, so try to adhere to this start time or even arrive early.
Once on set, turn off your phone, speak calmly, and don’t run around. One of the worst things you can do is disrupt an important or emotionally taxing shoot. You won’t just upset the actors—you might ruin the sound in a shot because your phone is going off. Rushing from task to task can also create a panicked atmosphere, so even if you are a bit late, stay calm.
Do: Be Quiet
On many film sets, shooting involves a profound artistic process. You will be surrounded by artists from many different departments: light, sound, makeup, wardrobe, cinematography, and more, as well as the director and actors. Respect their process. You’ll likely have to step back and let people do their thing.
Keep to the background unless your specific task is at hand. Pick a spot that is out of the way and stay there during filming. Once each take is completed, you can then step forward to complete your task.
Don’t: Touch Anything That’s Not Yours
Another major aspect to film set etiquette is to keep your hands off any equipment that doesn’t belong to you, even if the object is in your way. There are several reasons for this:
- Often, film equipment belongs to a certain department or even certain individuals. It’s respectful to let those people handle their own equipment.
- You might not know how to move it correctly or it’s actually in the place that it needs to be. Ask first, and wait for permission before moving anything.
- A lot of filming equipment is delicate or expensive. You don’t want to risk causing any damage, especially expensive damage.
You can help out if you see someone struggling to move heavy equipment, but always ask first. The person will tell you how to help so you don’t cause damage or hurt yourself.
Do: Understand That the Director Rules On Set
There is an underlying hierarchy to filming: when you’re working on set, the director calls all the shots and is completely in charge. They have the power to:
- Set the general tone on set
- Get the space they need to produce their best creative work
- Make announcements of changes or other decisions
- Make original corrections after a take is completed—these corrections always come first
- Call “cut” to end shooting
Let the director work their magic and accept the changes they make. Typically, they are backed by years of experience and expertise.
Don’t: Make Corrections Outside of Your Expertise
Be highly mindful of your surroundings on set. Ideally, film sets should operate efficiently and according to schedule. Every single person has been hired to do a specific job to the best of their ability. Leave them to it, and stay in your lane.
Once again, trust in people’s processes. Try to only fix what’s within your department. Remember, only the director gets to say “cut” to signal the end of shooting a scene, when they deem it the right time to do so.
Do: Speak Up, When It’s Appropriate
One of the biggest aspects of film set etiquette is to do your work safely. If you see something wrong to the point where it is a safety hazard, speak up right away—even if there is only the possibility of danger.
For example, stunt coordinators and first assistant directors are the only other people besides the director who have the power to call cut if they recognize that something is putting the cast and/or crew’s health and safety at risk. This halts the process before the dangerous event can unfold.
Do: Learn Specific Communications & Rules of the Set
Each set you are on, and each team you’ll work with, will be different. They each will have respective rules and hierarchies. Some crews are louder and more casual, while some are very quiet and respectful with distinct separations between departments. It’s best to go with the flow so you blend in and aren’t disruptive to the shoot.
Take some time at the beginning of the production to become familiar with your new environment, and use your common sense. On the very first day, ensure that you are on time and introduce yourself to everyone. As long as you keep your hands off foreign equipment, respect the director’s decisions, and follow these other dos and don’ts, you’ll be able to adhere to film set etiquette and stay professional throughout production.
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