If you’ve never been on a film set, you might be surprised to learn that it’s mostly a very boring experience. Sure, the occasional shot requires a great deal of exciting machinery and on-set wizardry that is a joy to behold and take part in, but a lot of time spent shooting a movie is time spent twiddling your thumbs, waiting for other people to finish whatever it is they’re doing. It’s been a long-established military adage that war is ‘long periods of boredom punctured with short periods of terror’, and filmmaking can be described in very similar terms. Here’s what everyone gets up to in their ‘long periods of boredom’:
1) Find out where the tea / coffee / food / sweets come from
This is the vital first step for anyone arriving on a film set. Sugar is important when you’re on your feet 12+ hours a day.
2) Realise that everyone knows everyone – apart from you
The film industry – especially the independent film industry – is a very small world. On any given set, it is likely that most of the crew will have worked together on numerous projects before.
3) Try too hard to make friends with everyone
You’re about to spend 3 solid weeks in each other’s company. You don’t know it yet, but you’ll be sick of the sight of them by the end of it.
4) Bump into a light stand. Feel time slow down as it wobbles.
5) Drop something and feel you’re going to get fired
This is why you do not touch things that are not your department – even if you’re just trying to help.
6) Make hilarious puns based on the name of the movie / director
This is what we did on the set of our movie, ‘Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey’, directed by Ate de Jong, who also directed Drop Dead Fred. Look at the tape on the camera.
7) Revere / Despise the 1st AD
While a Director being crap at their job means the movie will be crap when it’s finished, a 1st AD being crap at their job means misery for everyone on set for the duration of the shoot. Depending on how good / bad they are, you will wind up trying to kill / adopt them.
8) Make friends with the sound guys
Don’t ask me why, but in my experience sound guys are always the quietest, nicest, most helpful people on-set. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they spend a lot of time quietly reflecting on sounds only they can hear.
9) Fall in love with the actors
Ah, those beautiful, tall, charismatic people that make the fairest of crew members look like semi-human demics. Their perfect smiles, charming manner, statuesque bodies… Like civilised elves visiting a world of orcs.
10) Fall out of love with the actors
This one happens quite often, apparently:
ACTOR: Can I have some water?
RUNNER: (Handing the actor a fresh bottle) Sure, here you go.
ACTOR: (Giving the bottle right back) Can you open it for me?
RUNNER: (Screams internally and pictures shoving water bottle through actor’s eyeballs) Yep!
11) Try to make other crew members laugh during takes
12) Talk about the wrap party (which isn’t going to be that good)
The truth is that, after a few weeks of 12-hour days (and maybe some night shoots too) all you really want is a mug of Horlicks and your childhood toys back.
13) Freak out when the AD calls ‘Wrap!’
14) Sit down and feel like your legs are floating away
Ahhh. Bring me the wine and let me never rise again.
15) Miss it and hope you’ll do it all again soon
Filmmaking is torture. Sweet, fulfilling, creative torture. And we love it.