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Tips for working on set!

Film production had always been the most intimidating part of the film studies for me until I realized that you don’t have to do it alone. Collaboration and teamwork are at the heart of filmmaking and you should absolutely take advantage of Middlebury’s close-knitted network to assemble your crew of creative collaborators. Here’re some tips that I wish I could go back in time and tell myself.

  1. Schedules, schedules, schedules:
    Identify as early as possible (at least a month in advance!) how many people you need on your set and their roles. You don’t want to be be directing and doing sound at the same time in case there isn’t enough people on the crew. On the other hand, you also don’t want to experience the Diminishing Marginal Returns where too many people on set lead to less efficiency and create stressful environment. 4 people was great number for me personally (one DP, one director, one Gaffer, one PA/sound person. Your project does not need to be in a completed pre-production stage to reach out to these people (plus actors). I repeat, your script does not need to be finished when you reach out to these people. It is crucial you start this process of scheduling as early as possible to account for rejections, last-minute changes and simple recruitment of the best people before they commit to another project.
  2. Be respectful of everybody’s time
    Once you have people committing to helping you, it is crucial to carefully plan the shooting hours and stick to them. Your crew and actors are volunteering their time and to ensure they will want to work with you again, you don’t want to ask them to stay overtime the last minute. Sometimes you won’t have the luxury to do so anyway if you are shooting on a paid location with a strict time limit. Feel free to advice with our professors or other peers about how long a specific scene might take.
  3. Be kind and establish the type of set you would want to be a part of. The shooting process can be very stressful but it doesn’t always have to. I have been on plenty of sets where the director and crew were efficient and welcoming. Definitely be polite to every person on set and remember that the best creative solutions come in moments of play not rush.
  4. “Get everything in the bag” or “Get my cut”. Decide which type of director you want to be. “Get everything in the bag” is the director who gets as many shots of the scene as possible and strictly sticks to the pre-production plan. “Get my cut” director prioritizes creative solutions based on the circumstances and maybe tends to more creative choices. Ideally you are on a spectrum between both, be careful of leaning to much into one or the other direction. Also, a personal tip: I like to always do at least one elaborate shot (long take or a taxi switch) that requires everyone on the crew being involved to pull it off. Edgar Wright in his interview mentions this type of shot is his favourite thing to film because it truly brings together the team.
  5. You do not need to do this alone! There are a lot of things to figure out but please do not undertake to do it all alone. Ideally, find a co-director or and a creative partner to devise these tasks and keep each other accountable. Unlike many other classes at Midd that underline individualism, film production is all about not carrying the wight alone. This sounds very straightforward but sometimes proves the hardest for Middkids.
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