Being on set can be a lot of fun. It can also quite grueling. Heads can lock; tempers can fly, especially when lots of people from different backgrounds come together for a shared goal of creating art. Compound that with the added pressure of time, and we can understand why filmmaking is considered a very high stakes endeavor. That's why it's essential for all creative professionals, be it actors or crew members, to know basic film set etiquette.
Considering this blog is mainly centered towards actors, these tips and best practices are primarily geared towards them, but should work for other departments as well.
1. Arrive on time - Or even better, arrive early. As I pointed above, time is money on a set and you, as actors want to make sure you never delay the start of a production. Unless, of course it's an emergency. But barring that, there should be no excuse.
2. Know your lines - This one is self-explanatory. As actors it's your job to be adequately prepared before you arrive on set. Now things may change. Nothing is set in stone, especially with certain directors who prefer a more improvisational approach. But in the end, it's my opinion that you'll be better prepared, even if you have to be more flexible on set, if you've already done your homework.
3. Remember your marks - You can't imagine how much time you save the camera department if you just remember your marks. It's a simple task, but often overlooked.
4. Be courteous and respectful - It doesn't cost you anything to say please and thank you. Crews work long hours. They're often the first to arrive and last to leave the set. Therefore, a kind and appreciative gesture goes a long way.
5. Do not shout cut - That's the director's job. Even if you think the shot is over and the camera is unnecessarily rolling, don't shout cut. Just be in the moment. You'll be surprised how many times directors seek those specific moments after a shot is over, just so that they have something extra to play around with in the editing suite.
6. Do not give your opinion, suggestions or friendly advice to a fellow actor - Sometimes you may see an actor deliver a line, or perform a scene in a certain way which you think doesn't exactly work for the film. It's best to keep silent and not speak up in such instances, as you don't want to unnecessarily interfere in the director's vision. Remember, it's the director job to have a holistic understanding of the film and how it'll all come together, so if an actor is performing in a particular way, it's quite possible the director has specifically asked for that. If you feel it is something that is affecting your performance in a negative way, then by all means speak up, but to the right person i.e. the director.
7. Be quiet on set and wait patiently - A set is a professional work zone that costs a lot of money to operate. By engaging in an unrelated conversation, you don't want to distract the director, the department heads or the fellow actors as they prepare for the next shot. Staying quiet and focusing on your next scene is always the best option.
There are many, many more tips of course, but for now, this should give you a basic idea. Remember, a production runs smoothly when all the people involved perform their roles in an effective and efficient manner. This can only be ensured when the actors and the crew members embrace all these key principles.