Having taught film making at several colleges, schools as well as film and television schools for many years I always include a section on set etiquette. In the motion picture industry, in most areas of North America, a set etiquette course is mandatory before you can enter the trade. Proper set etiquette is the only way that a large group of diverse technicians and artists can work in concert to create a thing as complicated as a feature film.
The main tenets of set etiquette are:
1. Workers on a set always show up on time (or even a bit early) and ready to work.
2. Each person does only his or her work. If you aren't busy and wish to help someone in another department do their work ask them first if you can help. DonÊ¼t just pitch in. It might seem that youÊ¼re doing them a favor, but it could go against their work ethic (or the unions).
3. No one, except possibly the D.O.P. and maybe the first A.D., will bother the director with their ideas of how a scene should be staged or how the set should be run. If you feel you have a valid suggestion or complaint take it first to your immediate supervisor or (if you're sure this is appropriate) an assistant director.
4. When the "Quiet!" command is given you immediately fall silent and still (even if you're half way through the punch line to a killer joke).
5. For safety reasons you must be more careful of wires, cables, grip stands and other dangers that lurk in the shadows behind the camera than you would have to be in many other jobs. Because of the constant changes made on a set cables aren't usually dressed safely out of the way and a grip stand set up in a certain configuration can take an eye out if you walk into it.
6. Always try to use standard industry terminology to communicate with other workers on the set.
7. If you have anything bad to say about anyone - DON'T.
8. No bad language or offensive jokes on the set.
9. If in doubt as to what you should do - ask.
10. Do your job willingly and to the best of your ability.
For the videographer - depending on what type of shoot you're on, you might want to adopt points 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 particularly.
The event videographer (weddings, conventions, seminars, live performances, etc.) might also wish to follow these suggestions:
1. Try to be as invisible as you can. You are not there to show off your camera or your ability to look cool while running it. Try to blend in with the furniture as much as possible - while still getting the necessary shots, of course. This is especially important for weddings, funerals and other non-entertainment venues.
2. Dress appropriately for the job. If it's a wedding where the women are dressed in dresses and gowns and the men are in suits and ties.. you should be in similar dress (that matches your gender).
3. DO NOT partake of any food or drink that might be offered to guests unless you have been given permission by the people who have hired you or those organizing the event. Most professional wedding videographers, if they are contracted for a very long day, will stipulate that a meal (or at least a meal break) must be provided when the contract is set up - before the event.
4. As an outside, hired service provider you should avoid being drawn into the event on a personal basis. For example, if you are shooting the reception at a wedding and you are invited to dance with someone you probably should politely decline. If, however you cannot decline without seeming rude then perhaps you could have that one dance and then go back to your job. A good excuse to not accept the dance offer would be to politely explain, with good humor, that if you put your camera down you might miss an important moment between the bride and groom and that you really should be prepared if it should happen.
5. Know when it's time to finish your job and leave. No hanging around after your job is done. But, always make sure you have finished and that there really are no more shots to be had. Also, make sure that the event organizer, bride and groom, or whoever is your contact is aware that you feel you're done. They may have just one more thing they want you to capture.
6. After the event is over - within the next day or so - you should contact the person(s) who hired you to let them know that editing is in progress and when they might expect a finished product. If you just shot and turned the tapes over to them at the end of the event at least contact them with a "thank you for the business" message.
It's all common sense. Be polite, try not to stand out during the event (your finished work will make you shine) and do your job with as much professionalism as you would in the big time motion picture industry. You'll get repeat business if you do.
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