So far I’ve worked on 10 feature film sets, with budgets from 30k to 6m; I’ve worked on all genres from comedies to action films. When you work on a film set, the film set will become your life until the film is made. This is a typical day for me as a Script Supervisor.
I wake up at 5:30am in a hotel room. At home I would press the snooze button for another 10 minutes but I quickly hurry out of bed and start to get dressed. I put on thermal underwear and pack extra layers if I’m filming outside. On day 1 it took me 30 minutes to get dressed but by day 10 I’ve got it down to 10 minutes clinging onto every second of rest I can get.
I get a lift to set and we arrive at 6:30am. The catering van is already there and has been cooking food for the past hour. A full English breakfast is available and cereal on the side. I grab a greasy bacon butty and a cup of tea. A catering bus is parked on the side of the road, I climb inside and sit in silence eating, the sun hasn’t come up yet and it’s too early to make conversation.
At 7 am a runner comes into the bus and declares that the day has started. Sleepy crew members wake up and exit the van. It’s time to rock and roll.
I arrive on set; I find a corner and sit on my fold-away stool. A runner passes me a copy of the Call Sheet* and some Sides* and I begin my work. I read through the sides and make sure no changes have been made from the original script. I read through the current scene, check my notes and get set up for the day.
*Call Sheet – A sheet of paper issued at the end of each day by the 2nd Assistant Director with information on what scenes are to be filmed that day and in what order. *Sides – A5 print outs of the scripted scenes for that day, in order of filming
At 7:10 am the director arrives. I find him a chair and he sits next to me, we give a nod or give a ‘morning’ to one another and then he reads though the scene. The actors arrive and the director Blocks* the scene. All crew members (other than me, the director and the DOP) wait outside as the Blocking takes place. When the director is happy the crew come in and watch a Block. The DOP gives orders to his camera and lighting team and the actors leave for additional costume and make-up.
*Blocking – When the director rehearses a scene with the actors in the actual location of filming. The crew watch the block so they can see what positions the actors will be in. Sound will see where they can put the boom, Props will see what additional props are needed, Camera makes note of what shots are needed- everyone learns something from a block to avoid mistakes whilst filming is happening
The first slate of the day
Its 8:30 am and only now is everything ready for the first shot to be taken. I sit on my stool next to the director with a monitor in front of us. I turn my Cans (Headphones) on and the 1st AD calls the roll “Final checks” “Turnover” (Camera says – Speed*. Sound says – Speed) “Mark it” (Clapper loader says – Slate 112, take 1 – and claps the slate together), the 1st AD shouts “Action”. The filming begins.
*Speed – the camera operator declares the camera is rolling by saying ‘Speed’, the sound recordist declares the sound is rolling by saying ‘Speed’
It's 1pm and dinner is called. The 2nd AC come onto set and quietly asks me how much have we done. I declare its 6 slates and we haven’t finished the scene yet, the 2nd sighs and walks back to their office.
Dinner is 1 hour long and is paid for. On low budget sets you’re handed a cold sandwich, the higher the budget the better the food gets. On some sets the food is great, you get to eat as much as you like and often there are multiple choices and deserts. You can get fat on film sets, I can’t say no to free cake so I pile on a few pounds.
The 12 hour work day
Expect a work day to be 12 hours long when you work on a film set. Although I woke up at 5:30am we only started work at 7am. We shoot from 7am-7pm. The average film set with a month of filming time will get 20 Set ups a day (Set-ups are the same as Slates, which means shots, 20 individual shots were taken that day).
The 1st shouts ‘It’s a wrap”. It might be 7pm but work is not over! The director heads to the editing suite to see the footage from the day or watch edited dailies from another. The lighting and camera team ‘De-Rig’ the set and makeup and costume clean up their trailers. Everyone has another hour of work to do to get ready for the next day. When I worked with paper and pen, it took me 1 hour to type/scan my notes to the editor and finish my end of day sheet. With Digital Script supervising this time now only takes 15 minutes.
End of night drinks
I’m driven back to the hotel. It’s 8:30pm and I’m exhausted. I head back to my room and complete any work, I set up my bag for the next day. I then head to the bar where the camera and lighting boys have already been drinking for an hour. This is the only time I get to relax and socialise.
I drink, eat and chat until midnight. Maybe I’ll find a quiet place to read a book. Some jobs are tough, there is too much work and so allow only hour to socialise at the end of each night. I always make some time to have fun otherwise the work load will drive you crazy.
Runners who are new to the job, climb into bed at 9pm exhausted and determined to get 8hours sleep. I can survive a whole month on 5 hours a night, if all you do is work you go crazy and get depressed. I’ve seen many runners leave film sets for this reason, you must always make some time to relax and have fun.
I have a shower, climb into bed and the alarm clock goes off.