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Not Sure How to Act on Set? Learn Proper Set Etiquette in this 1-Hour Training Video

08.20.12 @ 11:45AM Tags : , , , , , ,

If you’ve ever been on a film set, you know there’s a good amount of jargon and a lot to be mindful of. Chances are there have been times when you’ve heard terms that you’re unfamiliar with, or maybe you haven’t been exactly sure about how to conduct yourself (and maybe ended up making an inadvertent faux pas). But in this video, Marc A. Hutchins of Alexander Films will show you what you need to know regarding common terminology and proper etiquette on film sets. Whether you’re just starting out in film or feel you need to brush up on the basics before you walk on set, this is essential viewing.

I’ve definitely been guilty of doing more than one of the “dont’s” mentioned in the video (sometimes I still have trouble keeping my knees from popping during a shot), and there were a couple pieces of terminology that were new to me as well (previously I had never heard the term “hot points” used during a shoot).

The only thing I would add to Marc’s talk would be to emphasize avoiding the eyeline. This is essential, not just to help the talent’s concentration and ability to stay in character, but also to avoid potential audible emotional reactions you might have to their performance (laughing, gasping, etc.). In fact, during shoots where I’ve been a camera operator and the number of takes for a shot start piling up due to the cast and crew breaking out in contagious giggles, I’ll sometimes look away from the monitor momentarily to help ensure we get a usable take.

This video is a great companion to another Aetuts+ video that Joe posted about recently on 5 reasons why a professional might be reluctant to want to work with you. Between these two videos, you’ll have the foundation you need to be a more responsible and effective member of any film crew.

Link: Aetuts+ – “Setiquette” – How To Have Proper Etiquette On A Film Set


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • I like the still frame that video froze on… “God’s Promises”. God promises that if you follow these tips, you won’t go to film hell. : ) Hahaha clearly filmed at a church. Great post Justin, looking forward to watching.

  • Billy Chase on 08.20.12 @ 1:10PM

    Funny. I just researched Alexander Films and they happen to be in my neighborhood. I didn’t even know.

    This is a good post.

  • Thanks for sharing this. Keep in mind, these are very general rules specific to our set. Much of this info can be carried over to other productions, but protocol and terminology will vary from set to set. Being professional is the key. Treat each opportunity as a rung up the ladder.

  • If more people applied most of this to everyday life the world would be a better place.

  • john jeffreys on 08.20.12 @ 10:36PM

    I pop my knees every morning after I wake up. Feels good man

  • Valuable resource. I knew some of this, but was surprised how much I WASN’T aware of. (“If an actor touches the item in frame, it’s a prop — otherwise it’s part of the set.” I had no idea, and understanding the language-of-the-pros is crucial for small filmmakers like me.)

    ALEXANDER FILMS is on the East Coast, but we flew Marc to Los Angeles to oversee a shoot at The Rose Bowl several years ago and it was worth every penny. His knowledge goes far beyond how to act on a movie set. Thanks for sharing this, Justin.

  • “The road to success is always under construction.”

  • I learned quite a few things from this and I know many others I’ve been on set with would learn too. It shows how much there is to know on a set (even a small one). As grip we used “points” when carrying most stuff, but “hot points” when it was hot. He didn’t use a few terms I like: “striking” for when I light is lit, “strike” to take down, “intentional/saving” for turning off lights, and “martini” for last take of the day . I am not sure why but there is often folk who stand in the way when gear/sets are being moved. Frankly unless you absolutely have to be there move (and encourage others to) move out of the way of gear being moved around. I also strongly agree to no open toed shoes and no running. I’ve seen too many accidents because of each of those. Oh and marking your water bottles, I’ve seen way too much waste on most sets. If you don’t have a marker tear the label can work with few folk on set. I actually bring my own (often frozen) water bottle and because the label is different that helps too.

  • BTW I did not see a Script Supervisor on his org chart. That’s one position I think is very helpful even on a smaller crew.

  • NOBODY CALLS “CUT!” EXCEPT THE DIRECTOR OR ASST DIRECTOR. If there is a safety issue, and you see something unsafe or potentially unsafe, find a crew person or PA with a walkie talkie and tell them. Anyone so new to the set that they need this advice, is also so new they probably wouldn’t recognize a dangerous situation if they saw one. Whatever an outsider or “newbie” might see, that they think might be dangerous, might also be a PART OF THE SCENE being filmed. If you want your film career to last longer than ONE DAY, don’t EVER say “CUT” out loud.

    • Yeah, that jumped out at me too.

    • john jeffreys on 08.24.12 @ 8:50PM

      Ive been on sets where the DP was also allowed to call “cut”.

      • Yeah it depends on the shooting situation, sometimes the DP/Operator is the only person the actors can hear/see – so you don’t have a choice. For other cases, if there is a mechanical problem or something else wrong with the camera, protocol would be to tell the Director that there is a problem and they need to cut, and then the Director/AD would then say cut.

    • Jeremy Davis on 08.30.13 @ 12:58PM

      Doug, you are right that if there is a potential safety issue that does not look imminent, (eg. a cable someone could trip over) the person who notices it should report it to someone. In other situations like the light about to fall on someone that was mentioned, it may be appropriate to yell cut, even as a PA or extra. If someone faults you for that, it is on them, not you.

      I had a situation on set where a piece of plastic had gotten on a hot light. The plastic started melting and smoking up the small space we were in. Someone pointed out that it smelled like smoke, we stopped production, found the issue and took care of it. Everyone knew that the smoke smell was out of place and so saying cut was appropriate here for a PA. We thanked the person for pointing it out and resumed filming. Had they not pointed it out, we could have had a fire on our hands in a very dangerous location.

      If you notice a safety issue and you don’t take immediate action and someone does get hurt, you a personally liable. I’m sure there are egotistical filmmakers that would yell at a PA or Extra for saying “Cut” for safety reasons (when calling cut for safety, the appropriate thing to say is “Cut-Safety” or just “Safety” and immediately point out the problem). Personally I prefer to work with people who make safety the priority. I won’t yell at anyone who calls cut for safety on my sets and I won’t care if someone yells at me for doing the same on theirs.

      • I think a good idea on a smaller set that’s kinda low budget would be go with “talk to someone else” – then if they agree you can yell cut yourself and have another person to make sure you’re not crazy.