Rules of the Set

Got this off a facebook group. Some days, I do miss production. But for the rest of the days, I enjoy being stuck alone in my air con room.

Welcome to our happy little film set! Ignore the swearing and dirty jokes – the crew are really nice folks, but we do have a generally misunderstood job to do, and you can make it much harder for us if you don’t pay attention. Normally when “tourists” or “suits” are on set we roll our eyes and groan, but if you just remember the following things, we’ll love you forever:

1. Never set any liquid on an HMI ballast – they’re the square silver things in the photo, and what they are is a computerized control system for that big huge light. Unless you’re the producer, I’ll bet they cost more than your car, and spilled liquid will ruin them. Don’t sit on them, either. You’ll get the ass rot.

2. Please, please, PLEASE pay attention to what’s going on around you. Film sets are dark (especially if they’re on a stage), and confusing- and as you can see from the photo, there’s all kinds of cable and construction waste on the ground. People are also in a hurry and rushing while they’re carrying hot, heavy and/or pointy things. If you’re not paying attention, you could be seriously injured. Don’t wear open toed shoes or flip flops, either. 3/4 ” drywall screws have ways of finding your toes.

3. If you take a picture and are using the flash on your camera, please say “Flashing” loudly – before you take the picture. A camera flash looks exactly like a light bulb blowing out, and if the electricians see the flash of white light and don’t know that’s what it is, they’ll go batty trying to find the blown out globe when it was your camera. This is funny, but very, very mean.

4. When the AD says “Quiet” – this means you. “Quiet” does NOT mean ‘continue your conversation in a whisper’. “Quiet” means shut up while we’re rolling. The microphones that are used can pick up a whispered conversation from a surprisingly long way away.

6. If you see crew running in and out of a doorway, please don’t block that doorway while you have a conversation. We might accidentally hit you in the back with something pointy. On a related note, the phrase “Watch your back” means move right now. If you’re in a doorway and you hear the phrase “Watch your back”, move AWAY from the doorway. Do not attempt to go back through it. Remember, pointy object = pain.

7. Whomever’s carrying the heavier load gets right of way. If I’m carrying a 40 lb light, and you’re carrying a 10 oz. cell phone or two sheets of paper – You are the one who needs to yield. I don’t care who you are. Neither does my spine.

8. When craft service puts food out, let the folks who’ve been there longer get to the food first.

9. We are happy to answer questions and chit chat when we’re not busy. If we are busy (and you can tell), please let us work. We get yelled at if we don’t.

10. Ladders are for climbing, not for setting drinks on.

11. If you ask really nicely, the grips might let you sit on an apple box (but know that it can be taken from you at any time), but NEVER EVER for any reason sit or stand on camera cases.

12. Don’t stand in front of a light. Feel that heat on your back? It means you’re casting a shadow onto the set. Don’t walk in front of a light, either. On a related note.. if you can look into the camera lens, you’re in the shot.

13. If folks are working over your head, you might want to move. We try not to drop things, but accidents do happen. If a crew member asks you to move, please do so immediately and don’t argue.

14. If you don’t know what something is, don’t touch it.
14a. Don’t plug anything in ANYWHERE without asking first. DC power (which some stages still have) will do a number on your cell phone charger, and if you didn’t ask before plugging it in, we’ll laugh at you.

15. Please don’t wear perfume. Even air conditioned sets are hotter than hell under the lights, and you wouldn’t believe how bad your “Obsession” smells after it’s been hanging in the air for a while and has bred with someone else’s “Opium”. Speaking of bad smells, if you have to fart, please step off the set – off the stage if you can. Thanks.

(Peggy Archer work as a lighting technician on movie and television crews in Los Angeles, California)

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