You’ve trained for years, auditioned for many roles, and finally booked a job!
Congratulations! But in all your training, has anyone ever taught you what to do and not do once you’re actually on the set?
So you don’t have to learn the hard way, here are my Top 10 Ways To Be Great On The Set:
1. Arrive Early
Arrive at least fifteen minutes BEFORE your call time. If you are shooting on a studio lot, you will probably park in a structure and have to walk to the set. If you are shooting on location, often cast and crew parking is further away from the set and a shuttle bus will transport you there to check-in. The goal is to arrive on SET (not at parking) before your call time. Commercials, television, and films all have million dollar budgets, and if you are late, you are costing them money, not to mention starting out everyone’s day stressed. Respect their time and yours. Set 3 alarm clocks if you have to, bring a book if you are way too early, but NEVER be late! There is no excuse.
2. Check In With An AD Immediately
Always let someone know you have arrived, and ask for the 2nd AD (Assistant Director) to check-in. If you find your trailer, and they don’t know you are there yet, they could end up calling your agent at 6:30am wondering where you are! Let them know you are on the set, and where you are headed at all times. Depending on where they are in their shooting schedule, they will usually encourage you to get breakfast, and then show you to the make-up & hair trailer.
3. Check Updated Script For Recent Changes
Often, scripts can change overnight. It is your job to double check the working script for that day and make sure you are aware of any changes. Dialogue may be rewritten on a daily or even hourly basis, so be sure to ask for a current script and begin memorizing any changes. If you are shooting a commercial, check out the storyboard to get an idea of the whole project. It’s best if you understand the entire concept, even if you are in only one piece of it.
4. Never Gossip About ANYONE On Set
Sets are a tight-knit family. These people have usually worked with each other for years. You are a guest in their home. You don’t know who knows whom or who is related to whom, and the worst way to find out is to badmouth someone on the set, and find out it’s the director’s niece. Keep in mind the P.A. (Production Assistant) is often a friend of someone higher up on the food chain. They have walkie-talkies and word travels very fast! Not only that, but if you start complaining or gossiping, you can best bet everyone on the set will know about it within minutes, and it will make your time there difficult, or worse, it could even get you fired.
5. Stay Positive + Grateful
On the flipside, people notice an actor with a positive attitude, who is happy and grateful to be there. In all honesty. no one likes to hear an actor complain. The crew doesn’t get paid residuals, and thinks we’re overpaid at times. Keep in mind that most everyone on the set got there long before you arrived and will leave long after you are wrapped. You may have plenty to complain about, but unless it’s something violating to your work as an actor, keep it to yourself. Even if everyone on set is complaining, don’t get on the bandwagon. On the next project, YOU might be the only one who is asked back!
6. Make The Best Of The Part You Are Playing
Remind yourself of how fortunate you are to be acting for a living! You get to PLAY and get paid! You may have been chosen among hundreds of actors to do this job. Feel how wonderful that feels and be grateful. No matter how small the role is, remind yourself that everyone you saw at the audition would happily trade places with you right now! And remember small roles can lead to bigger roles. I have a friend who worked on a hit show as a wacky neighbor with one line, which was “hello!” She was excited to be there, easy to work with, and created a well-rounded character, despite her one word of dialogue, and they ended up bring her back as a recurring role with ample dialogue in 6 more episodes! Make the best of where you are, and where you are will get better! And keep in mind, there are no small roles, only small actors.
7. Take Nothing Personally
You may be asked to do a take over and over again, and have no idea why. Don’t begin to doubt your abilities, but know it is the director’s right to request you to work as much as he/she finds necessary. You don’t know what is going on behind the scenes. The director gets all kinds of comments from the writers, network, ad agency (if it’s a commercial) to do things differently, and doesn’t have the time to tell you that it’s not you! If he/she seems moody or unfriendly, choose to not take those actions or emotions personally. A director is usually under immense pressure to get things done right and quickly. Often getting no notes after a take, means you were great! As an actor, you were hired to be flexible, adaptable and professional, no matter what the circumstances.
8. Monitor Your Craft Service Visits
Keep in mind you need the stamina and energy to make it through a long day, and your performance needs to be consistent. Don’t overdo the caffeine or sugar and then crash half way through shooting. Pace yourself with the right foods and drinks that will maintain your energy throughout the day. In other words, skip the donuts and chocolate, and opt for the protein bars, and fresh fruit. Keep in mind that just because it’s FREE doesn’t mean you have to eat it! Emergen-C packets are great to add to water and keep you hydrated and energized throughout the day. If your bored while waiting to shoot, bring a good book or take up a meditative hobby like knitting, not eating.
9. Leave Graciously
It’s a good idea to thank everyone you see on the way out. They’ve all been working very hard, and rarely get any accolades, especially from actors! Be the exception to the rule, and maybe their perception of actors may change. Once you are wrapped, if they are moving on to another shot or location, it is best to immediately thank the director (and anyone else you’d like to) before they move on to the next set up. It will be much harder once you leave set, and change, to return and try to say your goodbyes. You never want to interrupt them, as they are trying to beat the clock and stick to budget. Thanks them quickly, yet personably and be on your merry way.
10. Write Thank You Notes
It is so rare these days for anyone to send, much less receive, a hand written thank-you note. Everyone likes to be appreciated for their hard work, and a little accolade goes a long way. Take the time to hand write a note, sincerely thanking those you appreciated working with for their time and for hiring you. If you make sure to get a call sheet from the production office while you are working, you will have all the names and addresses you need. You don’t need to gush to everyone, but a simple and sincere thank you to the director, writer, producer and even the casting director (for calling you in) will set you apart from the millions of actors who don’t think of anyone but themselves. You can then add these people to your “people I’ve worked with” list and send them a postcard to announce when you are working again. Pretty soon, you will have a contact list that might even get you rehired! And if you really want to shock someone, write a thank you note to your agent!