There is a reason they call the industry ‘show business’. A crew member, especially a freelancer, is initially seen more by how they portray themselves than their actual skills. You can’t help it, it’s just the way human psychology works. While directors and DPs, through years of experience and consistent show of leadership skills, become respected and are forgiven for their quirks and eccentricities (and rude behavior at times), the rest of us, unfortunately, have to keep up a pleasant disposition at all times despite all obstacles.
While it may be difficult to keep a pretense of peace and calm in the chaotic confines of a film set, there are ways you can shine through all of them. Here are some tips that’ll make the higher ups take notice of you – in a good way.
Always emit a positive vibe
We all know that one colleague who constantly complains. Be it about the planning of the shoot, the director’s capability, the food on set, erratic lunch breaks, extended shoot timings, the list just goes on. They always have something or someone to criticize, Guess what? You don’t have to be that person.
The film industry is a very people-centric industry and the right kind of networking can seriously take you places. Having the right attitude can go a long way. This doesn’t mean you have to put on a saccharine-sweet grin on your face all the time. Being self-motivated, putting on a negativity-shield and being focused on your priorities will make you dependable. That’s probably the most important branding a crew member can have – Mr. or Miss Dependable.
Take the time to know your fellow crew members
Make use of whatever free time you get to ask your fellow crew members if they need anything, regardless of which department they fall into. Even if union rules might prohibit it sometimes, the person will be happy you asked. Trust me, even his/her own union members hardly ever offer help.
You never know who you are going to bump into on subsequent shoots. Sooner or later you will land into a tough shoot that is pure production hell. You will need sympathetic friends, guaranteed. Quiet and personal people come off as arrogant. You don’t have to be gregarious and out-going if that’s not your personality, but offering to help is easy and non-threatening. Try it sometime. It’s the easy way to make friends.
Be respectful and courteous to crew members
I have often seen ADs and ACs screaming their lungs out at other crew members under the mistaken assumption that just because you get paid more, you are more important. Not to the guy on the other end, you’re not. Most crew members on set are veterans who use their job to put their kids through college. If your head is in the clouds awaiting your day as great director or whatever, let it stay there – for your own good.
Good crew members share a lot of common traits – they are extremely hardworking, passionate, dedicated to their job and are damn good at it. These are qualities you want to imbibe and ultimately be respected for, yourself.
At worst, these crew members can ruin your day (and career), but if you’ve reached that point, blame yourself. Here’s the tip: Assume everyone on set is better than you. In fact, you can extend that out to everyone you will ever meet.
Get into the head of your department head
While the above three are slow pushes towards taking the right steps in your career, this one is a nitro boost that’ll send your career skyrocketing. You must have seen or heard of several crew members collaborating together on multiple projects. This is not always because they are the right people for the job, but sometimes because they understand each other well.
Departmental heads usually have a lot on their plate. Sometimes they might take out their frustrations on you. Deal with it the way you would deal with a loved when they take out their frustrations on you – patiently, empathetically and with dignity. It’s not your fault.
I’ve found the best way to work under somebody is to care about what they want, and help them get it. This is the key to handling difficult bosses – just be good at your job.
Learn on your own time
Unless you are officially an intern, you are responsible for a set of tasks. It’s one thing to ask questions pertaining to your job, but totally improper to question people about stuff that is not relevant to immediate responsibility – under the pretext of curiosity or education.
Remember, it’s a job – a responsibility for which you get paid for. A lot of young freelancers treat a film set as film school, and other crew members as their teachers, as if they owe them something. I’ve seen many assistants get upset because their boss wouldn’t explain something to them. It’s not their job to train or educate you. It’s your job to learn.
How do you do that? Be observant, offer assistance and learn as you go along.
While many of these tips are plain common sense, you will be surprised how many people assume it doesn’t apply to them. Don’t be one of those people who chop off the branch they’re sitting on. Take it easy and survive. Soon you’ll be one-of-the-gang, and it’s only then when your career will actually start.
Let us know your on-set stories and experiences. Do you have any tips to share?