Everything You Need To Know About Being On Set

26th September 2022

Everything You Need To Know About Being On Set
Georgia Carter

Georgia Carter

Have you just got your first film or tv role and this means it will be your first time on set? Film and tv sets can be quite daunting but they don’t need to be. What are all the tv/film set jobs, the film set etiquette, tv/film set lighting equipment or the set lingo? Well don’t you worry, I will tackle all of these questions and more in this article. So read on dear creative for more set content!

What To Know About Being on Set

Whether you are on tv/film set in London or in LA – anywhere really, the concept will be roughly the same, it just depends if you are working at a studio or on location. 

  • Call sheet – You will be sent a call sheet ahead of the day on set, which details everything you need to know for that specific day. This will include, the cast and crew list and all of their info, the location of the shoot, travel info, the nearest hospital – this may not be included on every call sheet but I have seen it before, and cast call times – this is extremely important. 

The call sheet is a daily game plan for the production and I would pay particular attention to your call time, as you should arrive about 20 minutes, maybe more before this. In short, turn up early, and give yourself plenty of time for travel. You do not want to be late to set as it creates a bad impression. If you are nearer the top of the call sheet, this will mean you have a larger role, or the lead if at the top. 

  • Don’t be a diva – Be nice to everyone. Remember first impressions count and if you love your job and you have been given an opportunity to be in a tv of film production, have fun. Be professional but you are there to create new relationships too, so really invest in the people who work with you, whether that be the other cast members or crew. 
  • Be Prepared – Research your character and the whole project as much as you can, and learn those lines, so you have a good idea of the scenes before you start shooting. That said, be prepared to really play on the day and don’t get locked into certain ideas as directors like to change things – even lines on the day. You need to be flexible. 
  • Ask Questions – This is important, as the more you know on the day, the better performance you can give, or if you are behind the scenes, you definitely need to know everything that is going on. Being on set requires focus all the time. 
  • Conserve your energy and be ready to go – Days on set are long and can be exhausting, so be prepared to spend time waiting around. You need to come up with a way to keep yourself entertained but reserve that energy between takes and for a 12hr, maybe more day. They can also be 6 day work weeks, so you need stamina. 
  • Be grateful – You are being paid to do a job that you love, so turn up to set, with a good attitude and have fun. 
Being on Set

How To Get Work Experience On A Film Set

What does a runner do on a film set, or maybe you have asked yourself, should I be an extra to build up my skills? These are both very valid ways of understanding what being on set feels like.

A runner/production assistant will be likely to go and get coffee for the cast and crew – there may be a few runners depending on how large the set is, and they basically are general administrative assistants to ensure everything goes smoothly on the day. In short, they copy the call sheets, sides, scripts, health and safety notices and other paperwork and run around distributing it to the crew.

As an extra on a film set, or for tv – again it does depend on the scale of the production – you can network with so many people, you can see how the hierarchy works. Essentially you can learn a lot by just observing what is going on around you. There are plenty of extra casting agencies globally, so if you reach out to them, you just create a portfolio and you can start your extra journey. And the massive plus is that you get paid very well as an extra. Just imagine being an extra on the harry potter film set or on the titanic film set for instance. Larger productions are always needing supporting artists. 

To get experience, you can take a university degree in film and tv / media, where you will make your own projects and then you will have use of industry contacts your course may give you. It is all about networking, once you have your first job, then people will refer you for the next one, and it just hopefully keeps going. This is why you need to be nice and easy to work with in the industry, as it makes it much easier. People will remember if you were difficult – whether you are behind or infront of the camera.  

Set Jobs

Above The Line / Below The Line 

It is useful to know before you go on set, the difference between above the line and below the line roles.

Above the line are the people who have the most financial and creative influence on the project. These include; The Director, The Producer, The Executive Producer, The Principal Cast and The Casting Director.

Below the Line are those departments that are still of course very integral to the project, and are broken down into various departments, which employ a great number of people. These include; The Production Department, The AD Department, The Art Department, The Camera Department, The Electric Department, The Grip Department – they work very closely together, The Hair and Make Up Departments, The Wardrobe Department, The Sound Department, Catering, Stunts, and the VFX Department.

As you can see in terms of a tv/film set crew there are a lot of people required on set and as you can imagine time is of the essence – well time is money really. There will be teams working on anything from the tv/film set design, costumes, lighting, finances, film set furniture, food to so much more. It is truly a collaboration!

Set Lingo 

When you are on set, it will be a huge benefit for you to know the lingo, so you are not caught out. The more you are on set, these will become second nature to you. 

  • Dailies – Raw footage, what has been shot that day
  • Honey Wagon – Loo
  • Martini Shot – This is the last shot of the day
  • ADR – Automated Dialogue Replacement 
  • Magic Hour – When the light is perfect to shoot
  • Boom – Microphone  
  • Wildtrack – This is the ambient, background sound on set
  • Cherry Picker – A lift / crane
  • Dolly – A platform on wheels that carries the camera
  • Cans – Headphones
  • Sides – Script
  • Sausage – A long bean bag which can be used as a mark for actors
  • Dirty Single – This is an over the shoulder shot, using just a small part of the actor in it 
  • Last looks – final check of hair and make-up
  • Unit Base – where all the makeup, costume, and cast trailers are located, as well as crew parking and catering
  • Hot set – a set that is currently being used for filming or will resume in near future

Final Thoughts

So there you have it! I think that is what you would need to know being on set and you should be ready to start your first day now. Feel free to check out our other articles on our website to read more about the certain jobs that you will find on a set in more detail. But for now lights, camera, action! 

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