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New to Set life? 6 Handy Tips No One tells You

Set life has its own set of rules, and while veterans often take them for granted, walking into that world as a newbie can be intimidating. Even the change from small indie film world to major TV and film sets can feel like stepping onto foreign soil without a translator. If you’re feeling unprepared, here are a few things to help ease the transition.

  1. 1. Triple read every email. There is valuable information in every communication you receive prior to arriving to set. Do yourself a favor and study those emails like you’re prepping for an exam. Give yourself plenty of time to get there, figure out parking, etc.

  3. 2. There will be less direction than you think. On most sets, there is so much going on all the time and so many people to manage, that unless you’re in the way or causing trouble, most times people will expect you to be where you need to be without being directly told. When you show up to set, be observant. Watch out for signs, flow of people, trailers, etc. It’s helpful to get your bearings before you dive in. Usually you’ll want to check in with basecamp PA first, but if you’re new to sets and it’s not immediately apparent who that is, don’t panic. Just go to basecamp (it’s the easiest to find, that’s where most of the trailers are and likely where the flow of foot traffic is headed). Ask for the AD trailer, the PA is usually nearby.

  5. 3. Unless otherwise directed, show up barefaced. You want to bring a blank canvas to hair and makeup. However, I would recommend doing your normal skincare routine prior to coming, at least some moisturizer. Make sure your hair is clean, easy to work with and doesn’t have a ton of product in it.

  7. 4. Stay out of the way. Time is money on set. The best thing you can do as talent is to be in the place you need to be and stay there unless otherwise told. Between scenes you’ll be sent back to your trailer or actor holding. Don’t wander off, no matter how bored you get. No one wants to wait around while someone has to track you down.

  9. 5. Communicate! If you need to run to the bathroom, or really be anywhere that is not exactly where you were told to be, tell your first team PA.

  11. 6. Listen and use your best judgment. Especially when you’re on a time crunch, communication may break down. During shooting, most actors are conditioned to do exactly as the director tells them and only that. While it’s a good rule of thumb (and definitely the default), there can be a lot of voices in the mix. Producers, first ADs and directors may be having conversations around you and about you but not with you. Listen closely to anything that concerns you, determine if a conclusion has been reached and mentally prepare yourself for those adjustments. If need be, quickly clarify with the director, but always try to stay up to speed with the pace of set.

Respectful communication and flexibility are your best weapons on set. Remember that you are just one part of a massive collaboration. Keep a cool head, stay present and professional and trust the process. The rest will fall into place.

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