Whilst on the set of “Pop Rocket,” we had the pleasure of working alongside this great guy. His name is Justin Robinson . . . remember it. Someday you’ll be hearing it more often, no doubt. An aspiring filmmaker from South Carolina with an impressive repertoire of experiences under his belt already for such a young fellow, Justin has a great eye for photography and a natural vision for film. He was an invaluable asset to set production; constantly finding ways to improve the scene, the attitudes of those around him, alleviate stress and workload on the director and PAs alike, and just being an overall gofer. The following is a blog post from his personal website, which he allowed us to share with all of you. Enjoy, and make sure you follow the link at the bottom to check out his work!
Set Etiquette by Justin Robinson
Here is my two cents, along with a nickel and some thoughts on what I believe you should pack into your knapsack of on set behavior. By all means, my name isn’t Steven Spielberg, nor is it Rustin Jobinson. I just want to share the little knowledge that I have on this beautiful topic. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunities to serve on the few sets that I have! I look forward to the next one(s).
As the Joker says, “. . . and here we go!”
Have a Servant’s Heart
Ladies first, dude. Leave your pride and insecurities at the door. Be willing to be the guy who makes the pizza run on set. Forget credit. Be there for the right reasons. Serve others, serve the story, and serve the project any way you can. Be the best coffee-pourer in the world, and wrap cords like a champ. The level of your work ethic shouldn’t change when people are in the same room as you or not. Make a fool of yourself, and make people laugh. Laughter is a healthy recipe for a set. Lift burdens of work off others’ shoulders.
Think like MacGyver
Make things out of nothing! So many times on set, I’ve been in a pickle trying to rig up some lights or something, and out of no where, someone will come up with a simple but brilliant idea of how to rig it. I’m not saying just throw duct tape on everything, but make things work. Don’t bring more problems to the set, bring solutions. Things will break, learn how to deal with it. Think like a filmmaker—be creative.
Listen, listen, listen, and take initiative! If you see something that needs to be done, don’t look around to see if anyone else sees it, go do it. Know where everything is on set, so that when you’re asked, you’re not like, “Where is that?” If you see that someone is having a headache, pop out some Advil. In between takes, bring some water to the crew and cast members. A little drink of water can brighten someone’s day. If you see the director carrying things that he shouldn’t have to, jump to it. Most of the time, especially on indie sets, most PAs sit around during takes instead being one step ahead of the game. Keep your eyes out for when someone isn’t feeling well, or when you can tell they’re dealing with some crap off set. Be sensitive to those things and fill in the gap. Do things without being asked to. Be alert.
Having a bad attitude on set can be contagious. It’s unhealthy and it’s hard to cure. No one likes a complainer, stop it. Filmmaking is some of the hardest work out there, so you need to absolutely love it. The hours fluctuate like an emotional girl. Sometimes you work 15-18 hour days! If you’re reliable and work your butt off, they’ll call you back. Keep your mindset away from self and turn it to others.
Long story short, don’t walk! Obviously, running saves tons of time and it shows that you care. When you’re asked to grab something from the other side of the set, run. If you walk, you’ll probably end up wasting precious daylight on your facial-book or texting the girlfriend you don’t have.
Don’t Take Things Personally
Don’t expect everyone to act like Jesus. Shooting schedules, deadlines, weather, tempers, and egos . . . what a combination for the self-esteem of the American 20th century male. Filmmaking is so frustrating at times. Long hours and the lack of food and sleep deprivation don’t help, either. If people saw the amount of work that went into that 3 second shot, they’d be amazed. When you’re not paying attention and the crew is breaking down a scene, and one of the gaffers yells at you to get out of the way, don’t take it personal. Just stay out of the way and/or lend a helping hand. He’s got things to do and deadlines to meet, just like you. I’m not saying it’s okay for people to go David O’ Russell on people, but begin to grow some tough skin. Situations like this will help you deal with people in similar situations. Your feelings will get hurt at some point so take some advice from my speech teacher, Rocky Balboa:
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a mean and nasty place and it’ll beat you to your knees if you let it.”
Have Endless Energy (if possible)
Be the guy encouraging people on set at 5 a.m. If your energy level sucks, the whole atmosphere of the set comes right down with it. Spread joy instead of complaints. Another secret weapon on a set is saying, “thank you”. When I worked on Olan Rogers’ web series, “Pop Rocket,” I heard “thanks man” so many times from Olan and Brett Driver, the DP. It wasn’t even really necessary for them to say it, but it encouraged me to work even harder. “Thank you” is like an energy drink.
Remember, it’s the little things on set that go a long way. Treat everyone with respect, whether they’re the PA or the director. I’m sure these are things that you already know, but sometimes we need reminding. I hope this encourages you and energizes you to work like an animal on your next project.