Don’t make these mistakes! A guide to film set etiquette

Understanding film set etiquette is a highly important part of working amongst a film crew. It can be hard at know at first when to speak up and when to shut up, many of us will learn these rules the hard way whilst on set. This short post is here to give you a heads up on the very basics.

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Basic Film Set Etiquette

Don’t be Late to Set - Firstly, don’t be late to set. The whole crew cannot be waiting around for you to show up, time is money. On your call sheet, you will see a breakfast time and a call time, you might not want breakfast but make sure you are at least 15 minutes early to start work every day.

Introduce Yourself to Everyone - Introduce your self to everyone on set. Ideally, you want to introduce yourself to everyone on set on the first day of shooting.

This is why its good to show up extra early on the first day to make sure you have the time. Not only does this help with networking (think about all of the people you will get to network with on a feature film set) but is simply polite. People will remember you more, trust you more and perhaps be more inclined to ask you back for work.

You can introduce yourself to actors when they are not working. Many people forget to do this, but being polite and friendly with actors will help them feel more comfortable when working around you. When they are performing however let them do so without interruption.

You Might like my basic guide to Film Terminology - Read here

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Stay Safe – A film set can be a dangerous working environment. Don’t lean on set walls, watch out for wires on the floor. Be aware of your surroundings whilst on set.

Do not touch anyone else's stuff – Importantly don’t move or touch what is not yours. The last thing you want to do is to be accused of breaking expensive equipment. If someone looks like they need help ask, but don’t automatically grab and shift other people’s stuff about the set.

Treat it like any other job - Film work can be fun, its creative, but remember that is still a job, you are being paid to complete a particular task. Don’t bring your outside issues into the workplace. Remember to be respectful to the authority and know your place on set.

You might like my film set and tv runner jobs guide - Read here

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Film Set Hierarchy Etiquette

Only the director gives direction – If your not the director avoid giving any direction to the actors. If you see an issue mention it first to your HOD (or the 1st AD) try not to mention it out loud to the director themselves as this could cross the line of authority.

Only the director is allowed to say cut  – only if the actors are in possible danger can anyone else cut a shot.

Respect the chain of command - Rumours spread fast, gossip spreads quicker, be respectful to everyone on set. A new director, actor, 1st AD will be nervous aim to show encouragement and support, not criticism.

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Stay in your department – You can be friendly and talk to everyone on set, but make sure to only work within your own department. You have been hired to do a specific job. You can offer a helping hand if someone needs it but focus on completing your own work first.

Common sense is everything -  You will learn with experience, be friendly and aware of your surroundings just like in any other job. Analyse your situation and make the best decisions based on this. When in doubt be friendly and polite.

Resources - Black and Blue - A -Z Guide to Film Set Etiquette | Basic Film Set Terminology | 6 rules - When to speak up when to shut up | Filmmaker Magazine - on set protocol