There are lots of people who have worked on movies, tv shows, music videos, ect who have tips and tricks for set etiquette. I am by no means an expert, but I do know a thing or two about being an intern, and being a PA. There is an incredible amount of knowledge that anyone with a decent career in the industry can tell you, and we will all tell you different things. I am here to just scratch the surface on set etiquete for all you future videographers…so here goes:
The first thing that you should learn is time management. I cannot stress enough the importance of being on time. Just so you all know…being on time, means being early. In my experience, 15-20 minutes early is sufficient…you’ll get a “call sheet” (list of everyone in production and the time they should be on set)….find your department, or your specific name on the list and be 20 minutes early to that time. I have seen people be looked over for future gigs because of poor time management. Speaking of being early, If you’re lucky you might catch breakfast!
Food. This is another really important bit of information I would like to bestow on you…eat. Get there early for breakfast. When the crew breaks for lunch, get in the back of the line and grab a plate! You are going to be working very hard. Being an intern and working as a PA can be laborious work. Remember to drink plenty of water because you might work in blazing heat, extreme cold, hot muggy buildings…you never know. Keep yourself safe, full of energy and hydrated. On the other hand though…there is a “craft services” table…beware of this table. Chips, soda, jerky…this table can make or break you. I’m not saying don’t grab a snack occasionally (that’s why they have snacks, for you!)…but do not be the guy leaning against the wall every 5 minutes eating marshmallows when you should be working. That is a good way to get your first and probably last gig.
Wear clothing that is appropriate, comfortable and durable. Examples: black tee shirt, jeans, boots or sneakers. You may be wading through mud, climbing a ladder, sloshing through snow, hiking through the woods…take account for weather conditions, indoor/outdoor shots, locations, ect. Call sheets can also be a great resource for this information as well.
Touching things that you aren’t suppose to…this is a big one. You should never touch anything that you don’t know how to use, or that isn’t in your department. You don’t want to be known as the guy who broke the camera lens.
Another “don’t” : no alcohol. This can be a hard rule for me to follow, but it’s a good rule. Only drink at a “wrap party” (this is the last day of the shoot and there is a small celebration). If you DO decide to drink a little, then never ever get drunk. This is a reputation nightmare and I promise you, you will not get hired again. For interns, don’t even think about drinking whatsoever. You do not want your school to look bad, and you could instantly close every opportunity for yourself in the industry by having a beer.
This last bit of advice is personality driven. I call it being a “yes man”. If you are asked to do anything at all, just do it. Drag sandbags, set up a light, flat wrap, make coffee…it doesn’t matter. You are there to learn; and as a PA or intern, you are everyone else’s assistant. If you don’t know how to do something, either ask or find a way to figure it out. Ask someone in your department, ask another PA, youtube it…whatever you need to do to get the task done. Never say “no”, or “I can’t”.
Saying “hi” and asking questions (when appropriate) is a great way to network. This shows your enthusiasm and drive. You won’t be a PA forever (unless you want to), so the more you learn, the closer you are to your goals. Everyone wants to help and give advice, so ask away!
Sets can be a tricky and scary place to be. High stress levels, chains of command, and physical labor all come into play. Luckily you’ve learned the first few rules of set etiquette…now it’s time for ACTION!