December 11, 2013

The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do to Build a Successful Career in the Film Industry


Right now you're probably thinking to yourself, "That's a pretty bold title for an article, Mr. Hardy. There couldn't possibly be one single thing that's SO important that it could make or break your career as a filmmaker." Well No Film Schoolers, there is, in fact, one thing that is more important than all of the skills that you've put together over the years, the gear that you own, or even your sparkling production resume. It's such an important facet of your success, yet we rarely, if ever, think or talk about it. And now that the suspense has been adequately built, the single most valuable thing that people can do for building a career in the filmmaking industry is...

Build A Strong Reputation

In the world of freelance filmmaking, where a good portion of your gigs will come from referrals, your reputation is your most valuable asset. How many times have you been on a film set, only to find that there's one person whose attitude or outlook is so negative that nobody would ever choose to work with them again? It happens all of the time, and when all is said and done, that person will not get referred for jobs, and likely won't make it in the industry.

With that in mind, here are some tips to help you build a solid filmmaking reputation:

ALWAYS BE ON TIME 

This one seems like a no-brainer, but for some reason, many young filmmakers are lackadaisical with their time keeping. When you show up late (even if you have a good excuse), it shows that you lack professionalism, and when it comes time for the next round of hiring, you'll be out of luck. So, if you have an early call time, set multiple alarms. If you think there might be bad traffic or nasty weather, always make sure to budget extra time to get there. No matter what, get to set on time.

This tip goes deeper than being on time, however. Instead of just showing up on time, get there 15 minutes early. And when you arrive early, find ways to get to work and be productive. This shows initiative and makes you stand out from the crowd in a good way. Just make sure you're always sure of what you're doing, even if that means clearing it with a department head first. If you're an art department PA and you show up early and start building the camera, then you may be hard pressed to find work ever again.

ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING

I can't stress this tip enough. I've worked with some fantastically talented people over the past few years who I would never choose to work with again, despite their talent or their knowledge, because they had a crappy attitude on set.

grumpy cat

The bad attitude comes in a couple of different forms.The first one is straight-forward negativity. When someone starts talking about how the equipment sucks or how the production isn't up to their standards, it sends a message that they're not committed to the project. Even when productions aren't going well, if you can maintain a "glass half full" attitude and emanate positivity, you will stand out from the crowd and bolster your reputation.

The next kind of bad attitude is the absolute worst thing that you could ever do on a film set: Don't talk shit about your colleagues behind their backs. This is a sure-fire way to not only lose the respect of your peers, but also their trust. How can you trust someone who's constantly disparaging people behind their backs, and how can you be sure that they're not talking behind your back as well? You can't. If it's necessary to criticize someone's performance, do so with a constructive attitude and lend a guiding hand.

STRONG WORK ETHIC

Everyone knows that having a strong work ethic is key to building a good reputation. However, working hard is only half of the battle. You also have to work smart. If, for some reason, you work hard for 20 minutes wrangling a 100 foot bates cable, then you're not working smart. Learn how to do various tasks quickly and efficiently, and people will notice that you're pulling more weight and being more productive than other people at your position.

The best possible tip for working smart is to always be prepared. This breaks down into two separate categories. First, you always need to be prepared with the requisite knowledge to carry out your craft to the best of your ability. That means studying in your spare time. If you're an AC, make sure that you have an immaculate understanding of the particular camera and lenses that you're using for your next shoot. If you're a grip, familiarize yourself with all of the gear that will be on the shoot and touch up on rigging theory and various knots and whatnot.

Secondly, you can always be prepared by having the right tool for the job. If you're an AC, that means having a tool kit with every tool that you could possibly need to complete your tasks quickly, and having the proper tool set for various types creative problem solving. The same goes for every other position on a set. However, since filmmaking tools are not particularly cheap, newcomers should at least come prepared with a multi-tool of some sort and a good pair of durable (and heat-resistant) work gloves. Then as the paychecks start coming in, start picking up the pieces for a full filmmaking tool-kit -- like these from this The Black and Blue video:

HUMILITY IS KEY 

This is one of the reasons why I love Roger Deakins so damn much. Despite the fact that the guy is one of the greatest cinematographers of all time, he is constantly working to create better images. And, in my opinion, it's this sense of humility that really pushes Deakins to the next level. He never phones anything in despite his prestigious status. He's always learning and trying new things and doing a hell of job.

So, when you're on a set, make sure you check your ego and your "I already know everything" attitude at the door, because every set is chock full of learning experiences for everybody involved.

JUST BE NICE 

This one is along the same lines as the attitude section, but it's a bit broader. Just be an amiable and likable guy (or girl). Have a strong handshake and greet people with a smile. Have fun and joke around on occasion, but don't let it distract from your work. Say "please" and "thank you," and give off the vibe that you're legitimately grateful to be doing what you love for a living. Show respect to both your superiors and the people under you.

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So there you have it, folks. Putting these ideas into practice will certainly help you develop a stellar reputation, and as a result, you'll bolster your chances for being gainfully employed for years to come in a tremendously difficult industry. This stuff isn't rocket science, and it can make all the difference in the world.

What do you guys think? Is your reputation your most valuable asset as a filmmaker? What are some of your tips for building an excellent filmmaking reputation? Let us know in the comments!

Link: The Ultimate Guide to the Camera Assistant's Toolkit - The Black and Blue

[Header image via fnac]

Your Comment

94 Comments

in film school..in LA learning to shoot on 35film..super16 (BREAKING BAD. BOARDWALK) really helped to get into the union and work..

December 11, 2013 at 7:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DIO

What na awesome article!
Thanks so much! :)

João Moreno

December 11, 2013 at 7:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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*an

December 11, 2013 at 7:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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These are great tips, and it's surprising how many people do talk shit about their previous jobs on set. (I'm guilty of it too, but I don't do it anymore for precisely the reason you mentioned above).

Another thing which I'm a little surprised you didn't mention was clothing, or a general level of presentableness - I tend to just wear black clothes when on set and make sure I've always got a can of antiperspirant in my bag as lugging cameras leads to generally unwanted smells.

December 11, 2013 at 7:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Yeah, how you present yourself is pretty important as well. I always expect a certain level of man-stink on sets, but it's when someone shows up in flip flops that they damage their filmmaking cred.

Part of me actually wishes we could go back to the style of the 1950's, where everyone on set was wearing a suit. Maybe it wasn't the most practical choice of clothing, but goddam they looked classy.

December 11, 2013 at 11:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Robert Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker's Process
4334

how about women?

December 11, 2013 at 8:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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lanalana

This all goes without saying?

December 11, 2013 at 7:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Kristian McKay

You'd think! Unfortunately a lot of folks are just big time grumps on set and I just don't get it.

December 11, 2013 at 11:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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No, it NEEDS to be said on sites like this. :-)
If you're the one doing the hiring, attitude, work ethic, no bitching I definitely take into account. You'd be amazed how rare that combination is. I have one other trick - I fire late people.
When I do find those rare people I try to keep them busy with me, or lend them to producers I trust. One person I gave their first 5/6 jobs to 8 years ago is now a major 1st AC on studio jobs. Others I run into on sets all the time.
Some have hired me in return, or referred work back.
Get these rules down - you'll go far.

December 11, 2013 at 11:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

A lot of people who THINK they're following these rules really aren't. It's amazing how many people lack self-awareness, and don't understand how they come across to people. It took me a good year or two of tweaking my "on stage" personality for when I work with clients, etc. to the point I was satisfied with it.

December 12, 2013 at 3:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Wonderful article. I find it refreshing that an industry has at it's core, the values that makes the world a better place. I have always tried to show a genuine interest in the process on set, what's going on, how will this look on the TV. Etc.. I will now consider the vibe all the more. Thank You for sharing.

December 11, 2013 at 8:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Xavier Gouault

It seems like Mr. Hardy read Mr. Brubakers words on http://www.filmmakingstuff.com/filmmaking-lesson-2-build-a-reputation/

December 11, 2013 at 8:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I agree! I always say, the best resume of all is a job phenomenally done; not well-done, phenomenally done. So few people go out of their way that you stand out. That, coupled with a great positive attitude, no matter what jerks you may be surrounded by are the stuff that dreams are made of.

December 11, 2013 at 8:22AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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a bit of a confidence booster on the day I get laid off from a production house. a good attitude is such an obvious thing to consider but hugely underrated

December 11, 2013 at 9:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Christian Davis

This is a great post. I couldn't agree more about what you are saying here, you see people who don't do these things all the time, but you never see them again after that! haha.

December 11, 2013 at 9:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Good post. I would add along with having a great work ethic is to work ethically. What I mean is, for example, when you agree to work for someone, whether for your usual rate, less than usual rate or even for free, do not back out just because you got a better deal without making amends (in other words, finding a replacement). I've had a few people leave me high and dry the day before or even the day of a shoot because they got a better paying gig. Not a good way to build a strong reputation. I understand needing to take advantage of better opportunities but you need to make sure you don't screw over other people in the process.

Of those people who have done that, when I do have a good budget to pay full rate, even more, they are the ones not getting the call. I don't care how good you are. Loyalty means more to me that skill.

December 11, 2013 at 10:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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That is an excellent point. It's actually kind of mind-blowing how much this happens on lower budget sets.

December 11, 2013 at 10:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Robert Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker's Process
4334

Bobby, I hear what you're saying. On the other hand, crew members have to eat. There are situations when I want to work on a friend's no-budget project, and I just make it clear in advance that I need a certain (very low) guaranteed day-rate threshold to hold the date. If they can't make that commitment to me, I'll come out and play on the no-budget project, but only if I don't get a call for paying work. If they are able to guarantee my minimal "survival" day rate, I consider myself booked. I think this is a fair system as long as everyone knows the score ahead of time.

My thinking is that it would be unfair for me to resent my friends for a volunteer gig whenever I get a full day-rate offer. No one wants to be on set with someone who is bitter about being there. And if I'm getting the minimum survival day rate, I don't feel bad about turning down bigger projects. I'm also willing to hold dates for projects I really believe in, such as non-profits I see doing legitimate good work in the community.

December 11, 2013 at 11:46AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Good article. Thanks.

December 11, 2013 at 12:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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moebius22

Ted, I think what you're saying is fair, as long as it's explicitly communicated on the front end like you suggest.
In the past, I've agreed to do things for free but I've made it clear that if a significant paid job comes up, I'm going to have to take it on. It hasn't happened yet that I've had to ditch someone (normally I can wrangle the timelines and make it work), but if it does, I'll do my best to make recommendations on who else the producer could ask. But I'm not going to waste time asking my friends to work for someone else for free.
It's fair to expect that if someone is asking for something free or cheap, they can't expect the kind of loyalty a high paying client gets. But again, ONLY if it's communicated on the front end. If you fail to communicate that, then in my opinion you don't have the option of ditching.

December 11, 2013 at 12:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

I can understand that there is a perspective which suggests that if you have a paying job vs. a free gig then the paying job takes precedence. However, I feel if this perspective means that you are not going to follow through on your word and someone's project suffers somehow, you should reasonably accept that they will not have positive things to say about when asked. This is a business, without question, but it is also a business where yesterday's wannabe director is tomorrow's hot new directing talent. Choose wisely who you leave hanging.

December 11, 2013 at 7:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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JTC

I understand that Ted but every time when crew members agree to a low/no budget commitment I communicate to them that they agree to find a replacement if they have to back out as well as give me 48 hours notice and every time that person agrees. But more than once it has happened, they do not follow through and they're only response is "sorry", well that doesn't cut it. When you agree to work for a low/no wage and accept the terms, you should honor those terms. When you don't, regardless of the new opportunity, you're not just putting out the director, you're putting out the whole crew.

One thing crew members need to keep in mind is that it's a team effort, when you do not do your job, it effects everyone. There are more people on that crew than just YOU. I don't know why people fail to get that concept. There are other people who took that job for low/no wage as well so you're putting them out too!

December 12, 2013 at 11:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Just tweet-shared this. This is a GREAT article from you guys!

December 11, 2013 at 10:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Awesome article (y)

December 11, 2013 at 10:58AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Bico-FGS

Awesome article. Thanks so much for sharing it to us Robert

December 11, 2013 at 10:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Bico-FGS

Man thats is the most effective srticle advice one can learn from. Yet many over look that simple step. Attitude is everything. Ask Allen Iverson. NBA Retired amazing athlete, but went out to early from his career. Very sad.
Thx for the post

December 11, 2013 at 11:43AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Sorry, my friend, but Allen Iverson, all 5-10 of him, was a person who played with more injuries and pain than just about any athlete in sports history. Do you remember the ESPN magazine cover which showed the 20 different injuries that he was PLAYING with so as to not let down his team.? He was frustrated because they asked him about practicing when he was killing himself on the court, not that he was a perfect person. Unfortunately, he had tattoos, corn rolls, and a street style so everything he did was scrutinized to an exceptional degree. But bball fans will recall how he took to Shaq who laid him out and yet he never stopped coming.

December 11, 2013 at 8:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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JTC

Great article. Very, very true.

December 11, 2013 at 12:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I remember working on a set where one of the grips was a total incompetent with a shit attitude to boot but had seniority so they had to hire him. I remember the key grip coming over to me working as a daily and said "I can tell you're working hard and want to do a good job. Keep your schedule open for the next little while because this guy's eventually gonna screw up bad enough that I can get rid of him and I want you." I ended up doing three other shows with that key grip later that year.

December 11, 2013 at 1:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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... and a bit of luck.

December 11, 2013 at 1:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dan

That's the beauty of it. Everyone eventually has some luck come their way. These tips help you maximize the opportunities your luck gives you.

December 12, 2013 at 3:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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agreed. its amazing how simple this tip is, yet how overlooked it is by many

December 11, 2013 at 2:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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andrew

99% of the people will do all of this stuff and
go way..way..beyond it. Unfortunately there
is not enough jobs/productions to give them
all jobs that pay enough to buy a house.

Like it always was....It's WHO you know...
...not what YOU know or do.

December 11, 2013 at 2:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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sammy

I agree with this. These are all good tips in general. But if you want that killer dream career... you're going to have to know somebody, or produce amazing smash-your-face great material on your own. There's no "climbing the ladder" for the creative positions, no matter how professional you seem.

Fortunately, I think were heading into a "wild-west" era of producing entertainment now. The whole "who you know" game is really brought about from the over-regulation and unionization of everything. Once everything is broken-up due to new technology and distribution models, you'll see more of a meritocracy emerge.

December 11, 2013 at 3:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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bwhitz

Yeah, I agree. "Climbing the ladder" has become almost impossible in the modern age of filmmaking purely because of the numbers. If everyone's doing this then it just doesn't work.

December 11, 2013 at 7:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Over unionization? If you didn't have unions or regulations they would be paying people next to nothing with no health or retirement packages. 401K plans don't really help when your employer is a LLC that goes belly up and in the red just as the film hits theaters. Thank the gods for TV It's the only thing that's keeping the Industry afloat.

December 11, 2013 at 9:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Bolex16

Unionization - or, plainly put, a stipulated above-the-market wage - is why major productions flee LA to all corners of the globe. And then folks aren't just working for what some may deem as "low wages", they are not working at all.

December 11, 2013 at 9:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

What exactly is market wage to you? $10 bucks an hour? Your talking about people who can do very specialized work who know what their doing in the limited amount of time you have on set. I have actually seen shows completely over budget because they hired people who didn't know what the was doing simply for the hope of saving some money--it really helped in the end not hiring a Gaffer who couldn't figure out how to reboot the generator or a loader who leaked the film because he never loaded a Arri S3 before.

That's right, their leaving LA so they CAN pocket as much money as they can! I've heard from the lips of one producer who said they love their interns because they don't have to hire a cleaning lady nor does it interfere with their latte and croissant budget at Starbucks.

Really, go work on non union shows for the rest of your life. That way when your old and retired you'll see what sort of pension you'll have from MPHP: a big FAT ZERO.

December 11, 2013 at 9:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Bolex16

You're not entitled to a salary from an entrepreneur. You can choose to accept to what is being offered or turn it down. High union wages drive up the costs of production, resulting in very few middle-budget films being produced. Simultaneously, a lot of the high end TV production has left LA entirely due to the impossible licensing and permit rules from the city and the state. As Milton Friedman liked to quote - there's no free lunch. Higher costs mean higher ticket prices OR fewer films made. Fewer films = fewer jobs. And, by the way, over in Europe, they can film a drama or comedy for around $12M (€10M) and a major action film for under $50M. Had these costs been attainable in the US, there'd be more films and more jobs. The unions, as usual, kill their own golden goose.
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PS. Once VOD cements itself as a reasonable distribution platform, the major studios will have far less of a grip - pardon the pun - on the production and you'll see a ton of independent films made and turning in profit. Those films will simply not be able to afford large crews and the scale wages.

December 12, 2013 at 10:58AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

The money people save by fleeing LA and unions isn't being used to lower budgets or drive costs down. It's lining executive and celebrity pay. They could EASILY afford to make their shows union and pay high wages for the work and keep the budgets in line and not drive up prices but they'd rather keep the extra several million dollars for themselves instead.

These people are multi-multi-multi-millionnaires, and they don't care about who they work to the ground and how they treat them. People who think that the unions are the problems are being lied to and snookered.

Filmmaking can be a respectable middle-class successful career option if the people controlling the purse-strings wanted it to be. It's a lot like Wal-Mart and McD's and other big businesses who could easily afford to double their company's wages but choose not to in order to give themselves golden parachutes.

The ONLY thing that has kept this trend at bay in the film industry has been unionization. Especially in post.

December 12, 2013 at 3:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Also you cite Europe as an example where you can make films cheaply and how unions can't do this here. Filmmaking in Europe is a) HEAVILY subsidized by the government, and b) unionized just like the US. They can make films cheaply because the government gives them millions in subsidies and free money, and they pay their people living wages and benefits.

Again, the reason budgets are out of line has NOTHING to do with unionization. It's just not that big a piece of the pie. Cut 10 million from an executive paycheck for a movie and you can double your crew wages.

December 12, 2013 at 3:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I completely disagree with sammy and this attitude. This is that glass half empty thinking. I knew no-one, started off with a good attitude and I've climbed the ladder. Lots of people here have done the same.

Its hard to recruit (believe it or not) because all the great people as described in this article are taken by the time a place opens up for them.

How do you get a job? Find any production company or post house and call, then call and call again. Thats how most people here did it.

Let's look at bwhiz's assertion that "it's who you know" from a glass half full perspective. If you want to be an editor don't turn down that runners job you got offered on set even though its not what you want. You'll meet editors on set. Then guess what? You'll know an editor and can hassle them for a post job.

December 11, 2013 at 8:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Andy

there's a catch about not talking badly about people behind their back
you do a project and you work with people, and then you friend, or you are hiring for next project - and you know that a person is hiring someone, who talks the talk, but basically lacks the skills
there's not a nice way out of this situation

December 11, 2013 at 3:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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lanalana

A corollary to this is that your best friend on one job will not save you on your next job. I know some truly lovely people from my time in Hollywood, but I also knew that with the exception of 2 or 3 really true lifelong friends, every single one of them would sell me out if they needed to and vice versa.

December 12, 2013 at 3:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Great article, unfortunately if the industry expects phenomenal work and a great attitude then it should then pay and put in place certain standards accordingly, in the UK there is very little regulation and because of this I've seen these qualities in great film/TV people being exploited, being expected to work when very ill, lower than minimum wage pay etc

December 11, 2013 at 3:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Sean

A friend of mine got his nose broken (he's a stuntman) and still maintained the "positive attitude" and didn't go to the doctor, so the production wouldn't feel guilty about it. That can't be right.

December 11, 2013 at 5:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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lanalana

They do pay up in many cases. When I worked as a union sound editor in LA it was absolutely golden. The problem is that not enough productions are unionized in the same way. I can't speak for on-set stuff like the stuntman fellow, but I remember a number of times where my boss would call my office and demand I go home and get some rest because they didn't want to pay me overtime. Awesome stuff!

December 12, 2013 at 3:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Disagree about the working 15 minutes earlier unpaid. While the author may think it show eagerness, it actually shows immaturity and inexperience as the production company MUST pay you for every minute of your labor. Enough already with the freebies! This is actual work being performed by you to make a living. Allowing yourself to act that way without self-respect sets a standard that the production companies will start to expect on all of their shows--That all "good" workers work 15 minutes for free each and every day. Getting injured while performing work duties off the clock may pose problems with workers comp. And there may be claims for unpaid wages in the future. Incidentally, what are you going to do? Unless you're running power for the crew or assembling the camera system, there is nothing necessary to be done without orders from your those within your department's chain of command. Unload the grip or electric truck by yourself? Will it be the contents of the entire truck or what you think the DP might use? (wait-- are you the Key Grip or Gaffer now?). Or maybe bring down the dolly or sound cart? (are those your departments?). What if there is a company move, even a move just across the street? This article is simply poor advice. Yes, do show up at least 15 minutes early READY to work, but wait for the actual call time to begin your labor. And if they do want you start early, get PAID for it. Period.

December 11, 2013 at 7:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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James

I agree about the free labor situation--it sucks and more and more productions are trying to get away with it. If you lucky to live in LA ,NYC or somewhere their shooting a lot you have a better chance of getting work (hopefully unionized ) but if not your screwed. It's a glamourous business on on side and downright terrible on the other.

December 11, 2013 at 8:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Bolex16

Totally agree, this "repost" is nothing more than a long Facebook status. As if being a nice guy is advice that is needed? Nice guy or not it won't be your attitude that keeps you on set if you don't know what you're doing, being an ass will have you quietly replaced by someone else but being a great up beat guy who know f@@k all isn't going to be hired, there is no single rule, there are lots.

These posts are just to pad the site out, I'd rather you guys posted less but posted credible articles. Being nice? Come on man, there is much to this industry that could be blogged about.

December 12, 2013 at 6:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Anthony Brown

15 min early ? only when there is no traffic otherwise... and go get some java nearby. Just be there on time give or take a couple min.. LISTEN to call sheet directions or line producer's directions. In one case I needed a grip on a corporate job. Met the guy and told him I didn't need his extra 2 tool boxes of whatevers. he loaded them anyway and didn't LISTEN to what I said. Never opened them, never needed anything because I had what was needed. Sometimes you need to trust the higher ups know WTF they are doing.... and you need to know when they don't.

the other problem here is that if its not NY / LA its another ball game. I got work by hiring others on my productions and they now call me when they need help.

December 11, 2013 at 9:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Great article! I've found all these points to be very true throughout my work. The people I consistently work with are those that I don't mind being around for 12 hours (read: likable), and who have a very strong work ethic.

December 12, 2013 at 11:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Denver

Yes yes and yes. A decade in post sound taught me much of this. You CAN succeed if you follow these tips.

If you feel you have already mastered these tips, the next level versions can be phrased as follows:

1) PRESENT YOURSELF WELL- As an up and coming dialogue editor at a major studio, I was once told about one of my coworkers: "He's the best dialogue editor here, but he'll never supervise a show, because he doesn't know how to talk. You, on the other hand, know how to talk." In other words, you can make decent work by doing a good job and staying in your office (especially in post), but you won't ever go beyond that until you can master client relations, being personable, "on," and knowing how to talk to people. If you can do that you can move up to above the line stuff like supervising, which I was lucky enough to do for a while. Sometimes it can be difficult to know when to talk and when to STFU, which leads me to...

2) STAY OUT OF GOSSIP - The next best advice from the same experience was when my boss said "If anyone ever asks you your opinion on anything for any reason, say 'Um...I don't know, I wasn't listening.'" This is GOLD. Don't ever get involved in water-cooler talk, whether it's about sports, politics, restaurants, you name it. NONE of the people in your workplace are your friends, you just happen to have a mutually beneficial relationship for the time being, and the moment that relationship is no longer mutually beneficial all the small talk in the world won't save someone from stabbing you in the back because you said something random about someone else and it bites you. Don't get involved, just do your job. When I left my last big studio job the boss said his favorite thing about me was that "I never had to worry about you." Sometimes, just doing your job is the best thing you can do. Knowing when it's time to make small talk with clients and when it's time to shut up and do your work is an INVALUABLE skill.

3) ANTICIPATE - This is for when you're on a dub stage or set and there are clients around. If you're good at your job and you work long enough you eventually pick up a 6th sense about what clients are gonna want from you. As a sound editor my job was often to anticipate their notes in the mix, fix them before they give them, and then that way the note never gets given. To the client I'm just on my work and doing a great job, but it's a constant behind-the-scenes with me and the other editors and the mixer, making sure everything is humming along smoothly. If there is a problem or a tech issue or anything THE CLIENT MUST NEVER KNOW. To the client it must always be smooth sailing. Any problems on our end are our problems and need to be dealt with on our own time and outside of the client/producer/director's eyes. It's gotta be like Gosford Park up in there.

Those are my tips, anyway.

December 12, 2013 at 3:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Reading these comments you're suddenly aware of what a fractured and hierarchical business we work in. I know so many directors who flog themselves into the ground job after job after job and never really see it back and I seem to have hired a lot of mercenaries these last two years who are brilliant but faceless and have no need to be your friend. Be nice is useful but right now I need 'be professional'. More and more I feel the need for a separation between film life and social life as it just makes the work to smoother. That might sound harsh but in drama work particularly I don't have time for it. I don,'to care if people turn up in flip flops, I don't care if they say nothing, just do a great job, that's all I ask. Previously I would have said I want that strong social bond but now I actually step back from it. As a director I find it gets in the way and I hold back from asking tougher things of people because I'm worried about friendships.

Tough business, but it is just that, business.

December 12, 2013 at 3:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Its all those things that an entrepreneur needs in order to go into business. And being a freelancer is kind of entrepreneurial.
thanks for this great write up.

December 12, 2013 at 4:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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No place for hurt feeling on-set, friends or foes. As soon as you step in you need to repeat one thing: Man up!

December 12, 2013 at 5:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Good article, but isn't this how everybody should behave on every kind of job? I mean if you're a cameraman or an accountant: work hard, be nice, be reliable. That's it :)

December 12, 2013 at 6:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Heiko

That's how George Clooney got his start. He had strong work ethics and was very personable with everyone he interfaced.

December 12, 2013 at 7:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Great article!

December 12, 2013 at 9:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Yes, women can smell too.

December 12, 2013 at 10:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Chris

And put your phone down! Resist the urge to check it every 2 minutes. You can do that when you're legitimately on a break. Unless you are an emergency surgeon you do not need to be on call to the rest of the world at all times!

December 12, 2013 at 11:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Wendy Banham

Very Nice point and very true.

December 17, 2013 at 6:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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This is so true and great advise

December 13, 2013 at 7:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Please, It's so obvious you don't even work in this industry that it's a joke. At the most your just some guy who wants to make " movies" and the idea of having to actually pay someone higher then minimum wage ( or at all) is a terrible thought. But besides the obvious; having unionized personnel is what keeps a steady workforce of professionals in the industry it was keeps it running. You need people with experience and the only way you going to keep them around is with necessities like raises, benefits, pensions, and everything else needed if you going to devote your working life to a profession. Take that way, and you loose that workforce and your suck is with people who have less experience and contribute to a higher chance of failure--two things even the most penny pinching, cheapskate producer or studio exec want's to avoid, and never will, when they hire guys like you off of Craigslist.

December 13, 2013 at 2:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Bolex16

It's not unique to the film industry. People just think it is.

December 13, 2013 at 5:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Thank you.

December 14, 2013 at 2:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Khadijah Khadijah

attitude is a crappy word appearance is the actual word

December 18, 2013 at 2:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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matt

Why is this on the front page again?

December 18, 2013 at 4:46AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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H

yep. wondered the same...

December 18, 2013 at 6:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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mariano

Would this constitute as a bad attitude?

December 18, 2013 at 6:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Would this constitute as a bad attitude?

December 18, 2013 at 6:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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So it's not déjà vu. Why has No Film School started reposting or bumping articles?

December 18, 2013 at 9:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Tzedekh

Because there is no easy way of finding old posts on our site. Even though that's going to change with the redesign coming next year, in the meantime, we realized that thousands of people were missing good posts because they get buried. We have lots of regular readers who check the site multiple times per day, but many more only see it once a week, maybe less, so it's a good way of showing them something they'll probably be interested in but might have missed because it's gone and not easily found on the front page.

December 18, 2013 at 9:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

This article is spot on. I strive to be like this every day on set and when dealing with life in general. A rule of thumb I like to live by is, "you never know who will be your boss one day, so treat EVERYONE with respect." Thanks for the awesome article!

December 18, 2013 at 3:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Sean

Sure...I know of a some people that
wound up DP and Directing studio stuff...

..but then there are couple hundred I know of
personally that are just as good who don't..
didn't..and never will. Just because that's Life.

And then there's a couple of thousands who
I don't even know of personally.
Face the Facts. Then move on.

December 18, 2013 at 6:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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sammy

Great stuff as always...I also want to add being present to the moment. Talking about what you did last night or whatever other gig you just finished should be saved for later. You're on this job today, be focused on this job and project.

June 18, 2014 at 9:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kat

Great points all around.
About reputation, I will always ask for references when working with new people and meet them for coffee at least once.
Quick story, I once worked with a director of cinematography who came with a bad reputation that he was talented but troubled. He arrived on set and immediately showed everyone how much of a complete basket case he was. He would flip out at random times, make snide comments about performances and crew members.
Anyone else every experience anything like this?

June 18, 2014 at 9:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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If you are starting your career, be ready to do WHATEVER comes your way on the set. If you're the director, don't wait to fix that curtain hurting your frame. If no one does that, move your ass and do it. Sends out a strong signal to your team, and well, ITS YOUR FRAME!

June 18, 2014 at 10:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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SSG

Love this comment!
You are Utterly correct.
And people who are at lower rungs of the production effort will SEE that director and be Inspired and Motivated by that person. They will See them as not being afraid to get their hands dirty or get-in-the-trenches.
This Brings a production company Together! And helps move the total effort FORward! ( :

June 18, 2014 at 2:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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F. Glenn Bowen

Here's my question- how do you handle it when that negativity is directed at you?? Because I have absolutely been on sets with people who will treat you like crap if they get an excuse to do so. And I've been on plenty of tense shoots with people that will throw you under the bus as soon as they get the chance (indie shoots) or with random people that will direct their negative attitude at whoever they can. As a woman (who really strives to be a nice person on set!!) I find that sometimes that kindness is taken for weakness, but if I stand up for myself I run the risk of being seen as combative. How do you ensure that you're not being treated unfairly without being seen as a bitch? Or is that just not possible?

June 18, 2014 at 12:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Liz

I ALSO love THIS comment. (Lol, I replied to the one above as well).

But you are so inCredibly right-on here.
And not simply in the scenario you mentioned, but Also just Generally speaking.
Sometimes people can be just mean and accusative for their own Selfish reasons. They may make assumptions about someone and think that they can Do so because "they're Somebody" - (in their own minds).

A person can quite Talented in their field, but quite immature when it comes to deeper currents of their adultness (or lack of it).

I try to do this...
* Be responsible for My Job.
* Stay Under the Radar of people who seem Sold on themselves.
* Stay True to myself, and That, as UNselfishly as I can.

I also try very hard to align myself with REASONable people.
"Surround yourself with good people" ... is I think how that phrase goes.

June 18, 2014 at 2:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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F. Glenn Bowen

Ryan Koo.
SUCH a great post.

Thank you sir.

June 18, 2014 at 2:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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F. Glenn Bowen

There are a lot of a-holes who Direct & Shoot movies and some do a fairly good job. But, they make the lives of those around them miserable. In the end, no matter how good they are, they will never be first on anyone's list at the hiring time because if it comes down to an a-hole and a decent person, everything else being equal, the decent person will get the job. Be kind to your Actors and crew and you'll have a long happy career.

June 18, 2014 at 4:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Danny

I think reputation is key to this industry, especially the attitude/being nice parts. At least thats what I felt being on the sets I've been on. I don't have too much experience though as I've only been an extra on a few gigs. When you see other people being nice to each other it resonates in you to be the same and that creates a really good morale across the set. So I know I would choose to be humble to be apart of such fascinating projects, you know? Anyway, I think this article nails it.

June 18, 2014 at 5:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Mark

Fantastic piece.

June 19, 2014 at 2:08AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Couldn't agree more. Be obsessive with doing your job and not Facebook of snapchat. I deal with that all the time with my people.... well said Wendy !

June 19, 2014 at 2:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Matt Mikka

Yep agree 100% about phones away. Making movies or watching movies - phones should be off!

June 19, 2014 at 9:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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