First Time on Set? Don't Make These Rookie Mistakes

There are many out there shooting on DSLRs for the first time and learning the ropes as a one-man/woman band. But if you're interested in filmmaking as a career, you're going to be working with a crew on a set at some point in your life. Many of the professionals that read this site can probably remember how little they knew the first time they stepped on a real set, but if you're still in school or just learning about filmmaking, here are 7 rookie mistakes to avoid your first time on set.

Evan Luzi, who runs the Black and Blue, put this list together from his personal experience on set:

  1. Thinking You Should be Directing
  2. Touching Gear Without Permission
  3. Avoiding the Chain of Command
  4. Assuming Your Boss is Your Friend
  5. Arriving to Set Late
  6. Not Introducing Yourself to Anyone
  7. Thinking You Know Everything Already

I think number 7 is the most interesting -- because even though you can technically know a lot, being on set with a real crew is like being on a different planet if you've only been working by yourself or on unpaid projects. Here's what Evan had to say about number 7:

There’s no way you walk onto a film set on day one knowing everything — and all the crew know it because they’ve lived through their own bouts of naivete. So even if you know a lot, one of the dumbest things you can do is to pretend you have the same level of knowledge as the woman who spent 20 years doing what you’re doing now. Unfortunately this means that you may have to put up with some patronizing, some teasing, or even sit through some lessons you actually do know.

Film school can exacerbate this feeling, because at school it's certainly possible to be the most experienced person on set. That's not going to be the case when you get to the real world on paid jobs. You're going to be working with professionals who've been doing it a lot longer, and they've paid their dues. I don't think there's anyone who isn't guilty of thinking they know more than someone else or think that they are above their job, but a simple fact of the professional world is that everyone has to start somewhere, and everyone has to pay their dues. This is a life-long career (if you choose to take it that far), and you're not going to be successful right away (unless you're lucky). It takes hard work and years of dedication if you want to make it at a higher level in this business.

Head on over to Evan's site to read the rest of his post, as it's a great article about being humble, keeping your head down, and doing your job the right way.

[via The Black and Blue]

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Your Comment



It's harsh, but it's true.

June 15, 2012 at 8:22PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


A good lesson for those starting out but even if someone does not purse a career in film/video this is true of any profession.

June 15, 2012 at 9:01PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I'm a production assistant that didn't go to film school. This list is spot on. I've worked on 300 million dollar budget movies and 5,000 dollar ones...the list applies to both.

June 15, 2012 at 9:44PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


#5 should be #1. You better have some years under your belt and know everyone on set before you arrive late.

June 16, 2012 at 5:58AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


These pieces of advice are already a given. Anyone can assume don't be late. Its like try hard is good advice. I think more tangible advice for a newbie

1. Learn how to wrap cables properly
2. If a cstand gobo arm is facing away from you, never have the knuckle on your left (you will be destroyed by a grip if you do)
3. Learn equipment "nick names" a lot of gaffers and dps only communicate in set lingo and you gotta get up to speed. Its how they will weed out rookies, either learn em on set or buy a book for gaffers or grips.

June 16, 2012 at 7:06AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Knowing the words, is the most important thing. If I send you to the truck to get something I don't care if you know how to use it, I just want you to get what is asked for. If you can do this, then you are useful the first day on the set. This applies to all tech departments.

The best way to learn the names, is by working at a rental house.

Speaking of wrapping cable, Circus Wraps will immediately earn you a "dumb shit," and one "dumb shit" will wipe out three "atta-boys."

June 16, 2012 at 10:40PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


"Speaking of wrapping cable, Circus Wraps will immediately earn you a “dumb shit,”"

For the noobs: what is a circus wrap? (I don't work in the industry, just solo, so I'm guilty of not knowing any of the proper terms)

June 22, 2012 at 12:24PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Thanks for the advice!

June 20, 2012 at 7:27AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


AHAHAHA #4 is genius. What have been a good thing to know before my first job on a set. Once the demon was unleashed I was danglin' from a tree with a face of shock and dismay.

June 16, 2012 at 7:14AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Best. List. Ever. I have worked on several set. These rules are spot on, but I agree with Ryan. Knowing the lingo is so important. And wrapping cable is a big one.

June 17, 2012 at 11:35AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Will Thomas

Rule #1
There is only one way to do something. The boss's way.
Rule #2
You will have many bosses.
Rule #3
If you think you know a better way to do something remember rule #1.

June 17, 2012 at 11:58AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

You voted '+1'.

Nothing more annoying than an intern who tries to tell you how to do your job.
Even if they only mean to communicate how much they already know - it is annoying as hell and it makes people want to beat them

June 18, 2012 at 2:35AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


what is the best way to roll a cable? And give me your top 5 lingos.

June 18, 2012 at 6:37PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Man... I tell you, Black and Blue was life saver for my first day on set. I followed these guidelines pretty well and I ended up getting paid $100 even though it's an unpaid internship. I didn't know all the terms and the director criticized me once for being too "anal" on setting up the white balance, but otherwise, it was def. a successful day. Got a chance to work with an AWESOME grip and lighting team who weren't too bossy (though I always expect the worst) and taught me important stuff whenever I got the chance. The only thing is that I sweat ALOT though it didn't seem to be a big deal at the time.

June 20, 2012 at 7:31AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


This list applies to your first time *anywhere* working with any kind of crew, not just film. It's basic respect and self-knowledge.

June 21, 2012 at 12:12PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


This list could go on forever, but here's a few more critically important things:

8. Never stand in a doorway.
9. If you can see the lens, you're in the shot.
10. Never stand in an actor's eyeline.

June 21, 2012 at 12:22PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I am located in LA and about to grip on a set the coming weekend. Can anyone suggest a site or a book to read to get an idea. Any suggestions are welcome.

June 21, 2012 at 10:11PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM