A few weeks ago my daughter had an amazing opportunity to film a national commercial. It was a great experience and every single person we encountered was very kind to us. Upon arriving to this secluded location where your GPS or cellular service no longer worked, it was obvious that a lot of effort went into making sure this commercial was staffed with the proper amount of production equipment, crew and talent to give the client the vision they paid for.
Over the last few years as my daughters career has started to pick up, I have had my share of escorting her to various types of lots with various types of budgets. From no budget student films to the million dollar popular TV show budgets, and with every set you never know what to expect.
However no matter how big or small the budget is, it never ceases to amaze me on the amount of work they go through to make the ‘movie magic’ happen; and I don’t just mean the producers and directors.
From the hairstylists, transportation department, production assistants, script supervisors, craft services, casting directors and the endless list of other key people who need to be on set and ready to go hours before the actors need to be there
I am humbled by it all, are you?
By the time my daughter and I arrived on this particular set for her to film her commercial (which was at around noon) most of the crew that were there had already been there for about seven or more hours, and we had another seven hours left to go.
Yes I know acting can have it’s difficult moments especially when you’re trying to do it right, but when you look around at everyone else on set, you have to admit, actors have the better end of the deal.
When you’re new to the industry, there are many things that will shock you. The majority who work outside the entertainment industry would probably think its cruel and unusual punishment to allow (and expect) an individual to work an eighteen-hour day. However for those who live it daily and aren’t the highly compensated producers, directors, actors or writers, they will tell you that this is nothing out of the ordinary for them.
Although I know everyone has a choice to choose what they want to do as a profession, and with each profession comes their own set of quirks and differences, as a parent to a young actor I like to make sure I acknowledge and express my gratitude to the crew whenever I can. Some are shocked that their efforts were acknowledged and some, my words of thanks doesn’t even faze them, but I do it anyways.
In speaking for my eight year old, while she is on set, she is often times oblivious to all the hard work and efforts that go in to making sure she shines for the hours she is there; unless I point it out to her. From making sure she has a set teacher, to the make up, hair and costumer who make sure she looks her best, to the 1st and or 2nd AD who makes sure she is where she needs to be and keeps her safe while getting there, to the medic who is on site and ready to tend to her when she falls down (because she’s a kid and its going to happen), to the production assistants, sound operators, directors and everyone else who will directly and indirectly interact with her, be patient with her and make sure she is happy and having fun while remaining a professional child actor, I am grateful to them.
With the mixture of taking the time over the years to explain this to my child and due to her genuinely kind spirit, she often takes the time on her own to walk around and give high fives and hugs to the individual crew members after they call wrap. Regardless of how long she chooses to stay in this industry, I never want her to take for granted the huge amount of effort, time and energy that goes into filmmaking. If this is the road she will continue to travel down, it’s important for me that she understands and respects the entire process and not just solely focus on her part in it. Filmmaking is a symbiotic relationship. Without the actors, films won’t be made. However without those key individuals behind the camera who tirelessly put in their sweat and time in making sure everything and everyone shines, all who act wouldn’t have an outlet to fuel their creative fire.
So here are 12 things I’ve learned from viewing the production sitting behind the camera as a parent of a young actor. Keeping some of these things in mind, might keep you off of anyone’s hit list.
- Saying the simple words of thank you or great job to the individual crew and everyone else behind the camera can go far when it’s least expected.
- Do whatever it takes to make sure you are there on time, even if it means you have to leave your house three hours early. If you can be replaced, you will be, even if it is the day of the shoot. Don’t take for granted that often times they might have someone on stand-by.
- Don’t be a prima donna and ask for people to fetch you anything. I’ve watched the parents of young actors try this one. I still shiver at the idea to this day.
- At breakfast and lunch, let the crew eat first. They have been there really early and I’m sure they are starving.
- Try to learn people’s names, especially if you’re going to be working with them closely or over a period of days/months. Personalization can go a long way. I’m just sayin’.
- Don’t be a critic of other people’s work. There is a difference between feeling like your life is being put in danger so you have to say something versus you just being a jerk. They hired you to show up and be a professional, act like one and be respectful
- In between takes, try to keep the unnecessary chatter and messing around to a minimum. You (as the actor) may be on a quick 5-minute break, but it doesn’t mean everyone else on the crew is too.
- Don’t touch anything. My daughter was four when she learned this hard lesson. Every single thing on set is hot and off limits; if you want to piss off the crew, mess with the props, lights, mics etc.
- Don’t try and do anyone else’s job. I don’t think I need to explain this one further, just don’t do it.
- Don’t be a one-upper. Especially if you’re a parent of a young actor. As a fellow parent I DO NOT want to listen to the long laundry list of what your child has done. Just have a normal adult conversation, please.
- Compliment other people’s work. As the actor being captured on film, you’re work will be acknowledge for years to come. Those who helped set up the scene so you look great won’t. So genuinely tell them they are doing a great job.
- Practice gratitude. This one attitude shift will take you so far in life.
At the end of the day, it’s a collaborative effort to make any size film. Whether it’s a 30 second commercial spot or a two-hour movie, there isn’t one person on that set who hasn’t worked tirelessly to make the end result look amazing. As an actor you will work with many different personalities and sadly, not everyone will be nice. However just keep in mind that how they treat you, that’s their karma. How you chose to reciprocate your response, that’s yours and its 100% in your control.