Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Call for gripes!

Well, not gripes, but I’m writing an article for an actor’s magazine about what they can do to help make crew’s day go smoother.

Instead of doing my usual lighting-centric thing, I thought I’d poll those of you in other departments and really make this something well-rounded.

So, aside from the obvious general advice (stay on your mark, show up on time, know your lines, lose the attitude), what department-specific advice would you give to actors?

Leave ‘em in the comments or email me at randomblogmail [at] yahoo dot com.

Filed under: Uncategorized

33 Responses

  1. AdicaRoy says:

    It may be obvious, but show up for hair and make-up on time. I’ve seen many an actress (although actors are guilty too), of giving a hair-dressing 15 minutes to make them look like bombshells, when it takes 45 minutes to just blow-dry the damn hair. While we all stand around and twiddle our thumbs.

    And don’t make us repeatedly tell your fans to go away because you aren’t giving them autographs. That only makes it harder to make them all move back to a safe location for explosion scenes. Or to keep them from busting shots.

    http://blog.myspace.com/adicaroy

  2. Steve says:

    They should give back ten percent of their salary to the crew for everything they make over a million dollars. And they should have to make a public statement that they realize that movies cost so much because of above the line costs and that they support the crews who are just trying to make a decent living doing something they love. They could also make it a point to keep as much work in Southern California as possible. And some of them could treat us like we are actually human beings.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Don’t ask the editor if you can see some footage, or worse yet, what is cut so far. You can’t. And no, not even after you’ve wrapped. When he/she says no, don’t ask; “Did you use that close-up of me after the big crane shot?” We won’t know that until the picture is locked 6 months to a year down the road.

  4. grip chick says:

    1. Get out of the way when Im carrying something heavy

    2. Shut up while we are lighting
    Heaven forbid a pin drop while we are reheasing or rolling (when they are doing their work) but its party time while we are lighting (when we are doing our work)

    3. Dont scam on me- Im taken & I dont date actors (not that there’s anything WRONG with that…:D )

  5. As a producer, I’d love it if actors would just get to the point and be clear about what their issue is. I’m so tired of actors wasting my time asking me complicated questions about the script/plot while we’re trying to set up a shot when the real issue turns out to be that fact that they don’t want to be in the wardrobe or age make-up or the lighting we want them in.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Actors should know that the crew is there to support them…to make them look & sound good. We are not the “unwashed public” but rather active partners and collaborators in their art.

  7. As Adicoy said… show up on time, even after you’re big and famous.

    And while it has to be put up with, reserve your ego at the door. A set is a work enviornment, everyone has a job, and the more people work together the better the project, and usually the faster everyone can go home. Its oh, so simple, and oh, so obvious… but somehow the actors are the ones who always have an excuse for having a bad day and effecting the enviornment on set.

  8. Mike80 says:

    Here’s one from the grips: if you must chew gum on the set, make sure you dispose of it in a trash can. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted cleaning actor’s gum off apple boxes and dance floor. Unsanitary and disgusting. Ya know, add cigarette butts to that list too.

  9. Anonymous says:

    as a boomie, I LOVE actors who are able to do the following:

    1) give a somewhat similar voice level during the final rehearsal (so the mixer can set his levels)

    2) try and match head-turns and marks each take, or let us know if there’s something that’s going to be wildly different (can’t capture a performance that you don’t know is happening)

    3) try to limit the amount of YELLING/whispering in a single take (it’s almost impossible for the equipment to handle, and they’ll most likely need to ADR it – then blame us.)

    4) remember that the body mics (usually on a radio) are LIVE when we put them on, please keep discussion, and personal comments about the higher-ups for when they’re NOT going to hear them throught the head-sets.

    I know that it’s a fairly long list, but seriously, the actors I cherish the most are the ones who remember that we’re there to capture their performances, and help us to achieve that goal as easily as possible.

    thanks for the space to rant

    Ian
    http://www.thompsound.com

  10. Anonymous says:

    Coming from an actor who has done basic PA work on very very very small productions . . . ;) —

    Be aware that every person on the crew has a harder job than you do. For every length of time that you actually are working on a take, the crew has spent WAY longer breaking down the last shot and setting this one up. So if you’re tired, suck it up. They stayed later last night and are carrying stuff around all day; they’re more tired than you. If you’re hungover, REALLY suck it up, because no one wants to hear it, and it’s your own fault you’re hungover anyway. And if you see a crew member coming toward you carrying something, GET OUT OF THE WAY. Don’t expect that they should have to go around YOU.

    And a special word about makeup and hair: STOP MOVING! Don’t make the poor beauty people have to use sneak attacks to get your mascara on and the pins into your hair! For cryin’ out loud . . . :P

  11. Anonymous says:

    1. Don’t eat or drink the props when the camera isn’t rolling.
    2. Don’t mangle the props if it’s not called for in the scene. (i.e. crumple up the hero paperwork cuz you’re nervous)
    3. Don’t leave for the day with my Rolex even if it is fake.
    4. DON’T PLAY WITH THE GUN!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I’m a music supervisor and I often have to line up coaches for actors that have to play or sing in a scene. Actors: please take this seriously – don’t either assume that it’s a joke just because it’s something you have to do that’s non-verbal, or shine it on figuring that I can always replace your hands on the keyboard/voice track/fingers on the bow, whatever; or keep reminding me that you were in a band in high school and so leave all the work ’till the night before filming and do a bad job at something you’re trying to convince me you’re really good at. I think all the comments are saying the same basic thing: let us do our jobs so that we can make you look good.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Don’t be late.
    Don’t chew gum.
    Stay out of the way when not needed but be near and don’t hold camera. (If it’s ready, you should be!)
    Be prepared.
    Don’t try and get first team fired because you’re having a bad day.

    But…
    The actor’s there to give a performance, not make the boom guy’s/A.C.’s/Script Girl’s life easier nor make anyone else wealthier by kicking back a percentage of their check.

  14. Anonymous says:

    A note from the last part of the process, The
    Sound Editor:

    If you shot your scene under the flight path at LAX then, ‘No, we can’t fix it in the mix.’ Next time, bitch at the producer for not taking the sound guy on the location scout.

    If you gotta do loops, just do it, fer Christ’s sake! Don’t throw a tantrum when it gets hard, don’t get mad at the A.D.R. (loop) editor, just show up on time, just try and remember that we want your performance to be as good as it can be, too.

    We might ask for a few vocalizations (grunts, breaths, etc.) Trust me, that’s great stuff that almost always gets into the final mix. So, yeah, we would like to get that stuff and yeah, we think it’s necessary.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Please tell the actors they can’t leave their dead hooker at my house anymore. Thank you.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Well, you can always leave the dead hooker in the trunk of the camera car. I’m sure transpo would love that…

  17. aussie asst says:

    1. Don’t spend all day on set between shots with your personal assistant trying to organise the most exotic (and expensive) holiday unless you’re planning on taing the crew with you!
    2. Don’t treat your assistant like shit.
    3. If you must change your travel plans 100 times at least be polite to the production coordinator so he/she won’t order you a dodgy meal on the airline.
    4. DO thank the crew at the end of the day – but don’t be over the top about it.

  18. ScriptySpice says:

    First to the Anonymous who posted:
    “…Script Girl’s life easier nor make anyone else wealthier by kicking back a percentage of their check.
    January 30, 2006 4:51 AM”

    Don’t call us Script Girls, we’re Script Supervisors. When in the last 30+ years have you seen a credit for Script Girl. Besides some of us are men (but not me).

    For the actor, please learn your lines.

  19. RJ says:

    Here’s one from a former camera assistant.

    They can hit their marks.

    Most actors don’t truly understand the importance of those little colored “T’s” on the floor to the crew – especially the camera crew. I shouldn’t say “most” that’s not fair – not by a long shot. But I have seen actors miss their marks repeatedly and I’ve literally seen them walk off the set (as in literally walking off the set (as opposed to storming off the set)) because they were “in the moment.” I can understand that, I have studied acting myself and have directed actors so I understand the craft and I understand the moments that happen and how important those moments can be, but I also understand that if they don’t happen on-camera, then they night as well happen in your bathroom at home.

    There are multiple reasons we send 2nd A.C.s crawling around on their hands and knees to put those marks on the floor and only one of those is as a convenience for the actor. The DP needs them so that he knows where the actors will be once rehearsal is over and can light the set. The grips and electricians need them for the same reasons. The set dressers need them so they can dress the set appropriately and the camera crew (I’m including the dolly grip in this) needs them so they know where the actor is going to be and can get focus marks and dolly marks (if there’s a move,) and then hits those marks appropriately during an actual take.

    But the one crew member who depends on those marks most is the Focus Puller, or 1st A.C. The job of the 1st A.C. is to keep the camera in focus at all times. This is complicated, primarily, by two things. One is Depth of Field and the second is that the A.C. does not actually look through the camera to determine if it’s in focus. The way it works is the A.C. must know how far the subject (actor) is from the film plane (the spot in the camera where the film passes behind the lens and is exposed – where the lens actually focuses the image.) He then turns the barrel of the lens, which is marked with distance measurements, to correspond to the subject distance. During rehearsal the A.C. can run his tape measure out to the marks on the floor and find out exactly what that distance is. Then, during the shot, provided the actor is on those marks, the process is simple. When the actor (or the dolly) misses it’s mark, the A.C. then has to guess what the new distance is.

    This is where Depth of Field comes in. Depth of Field is a space in front of the camera that is in focus at any given time. In other words, if the subject is 10 feet away from the camera and the lens is wide enough, the subject can move maybe 10 feet forward or backward (I’m guessing here, I don’t have my Kelly Wheel (a depth of field calculator) out) and still remain in focus without the lens focus changing. The trick is that there are things that can make that depth shrink. They are: less light, a longer lens or a closer subject. A longer lens is generally what we contend with so I’ll use that as an example. If we shoot on a 20mm lens at T11 (T stops are talked about on film sets as opposed to F Stops, but that’s a subject for another day) which is a lot of light, then there’s focus for miles (as we say) but if we shoot with a 150mm at a T2, which is very low light then the focal depth could literally be 1/2 an inch. That means that if they actor is 1/2 an inch off his mark and the A.C. doesn’t see it, he’s going to be out of focus. If you’ve ever seen shots where the actor’s eyes are in focus and his ears are out of focus, or if he’s 3/4 to camera and one eye is in focus and the other is out of focus that’s a great example of what I’m talking about. In that case, if he’s 2 feet off his mark and the A.C. guesses wrong, it could look like he’s under water. Now – of course it’s the A.C.s job to guess right and there are a lot of A.C.s that are very good at doing that, but when an actor perpetually misses/ ignores his marks, it’s extremely tough on the A.C.

    Now I’m not writing this to suggest that actors should be robots, shuffling back and forth to exact pin-points on the floor, but it is something that I’ve found most actors are unaware of. I worked, as an A.C., with one actor, who was a great guy and a great actor, who would rehearse a scene one way then when we shot he’d always do something totally different. It threw me off at first, but once I realized that he was doing it, and did the same thing consistently, I was able to adapt and expect it. One afternoon we were waiting for something on set and he asked about what I was doing. When I explained it to him (and mentioned what he did) he was stunned. First, he had no idea that he was doing what he was doing – and second, he’d never had anyone explain to him what an A.C. was really doing. He swore to me from that moment on he was going to hit his marks if it killed him. He never did, it didn’t and I kept him in focus. But at least he knew.

    My Blog

  20. Anonymous says:

    Cary Ewels, Mel Gibson, Halle Berry Jaimie Foxx, Jason Lee, Holly Hunter, Drew Berrymore Lucy Liu, Ethan Hawk , Denzel Washington and Cameron Diaz Thanks for treating us like humans and taking the time to stop and chat you are on my list as crew friendly

  21. Anonymous says:

    A few years ago I worked with a script supervisor/continuity person named Rick Bernagozzi. He was great and I referred to him as my script girl. Sorry if you took offense. None was intended.

  22. Peggy Archer says:

    Thank you all so much for the input!

  23. WOW I learn such good stuff on this blog! RJ’s breakdown on hitting marks really hit home. I will be such the better actor to work with and crew member from reading these comments. Knowledge truly is power.

  24. Could I just make one slight addition to RJ’s great comment about actors hitting their marks? Yes, by all means hit the damn mark. A frame of 35mm motion picture film has the equivalent of about 30-50 million pixels and opportunities for the audience to see their favorite actors in high-definition increases exponentially every day. That mark not only represents the place where actors will be optimally lit but also where they will not be casting unwanted shadows on their co-stars. But more importantly, please don’t let the camera SEE YOU LOOKING for your mark! Did you ever notice, while watching Friends, that Courtney Cox would often wander into a scene and appear to be looking down and picking a piece of imaginary lint off her sleeve? What she was really doing was looking for her mark.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Have you ever watched a movie and remarked, my God those actors were so wonderfully consistent in their marks and did you notice how well they matched their movements from wide-angle to close-up? I guarantee the boom guy loved working that show!

    Let’s beware the tail wagging the dog.

  26. Jess says:

    Hmm… I’m in tech support, but my recommendation is pretty universal: if you want something, ask nicely. The “I am entitled to this 5 minutes ago and I know you won’t do a good job unless I snark at you and throw my weight around” is not the way to get quality service. On the other hand, we will move heaven and earth for someone who asks nicely, waits patiently, and says thank you.

  27. ScriptySpice says:

    Have you ever watched a movie and remarked, my God those actors were so wonderfully consistent in their marks and did you notice how well they matched their movements from wide-angle to close-up?

    Why yes! That’s how Script Supervisors are born. Then we learn it’s not so easy and get over it…. sort of… sometimes. ;)

  28. Mike80 says:

    I love that the actors are posting anonymously. “Beware the tail wagging the dog” – hilarious. If one of them ever did a hard day’s work in their lives…oh, I’m sorry, that’ll never happen. Look, there may be some better than others,and some that can’t, but overall acting is EASY. Look at Soderberghs new film, hired a KFC manager as his lead, and she’s gotten great reviews. Get this straight – you should kiss the crew’s ass because WE MAKE YOU. Without the crew you’d be working in a KFC waiting to be “discovered”. Or you’d be on the set,alone, and the camera would be laying on the floor on it’s side, empty of film. I don’t hate actors, just the one’s that think they are doing something important or difficult. In Hollywood particularly, if you want to be a big-name actor you need to be: 1. connected ( know someone or sleeping with someone or have pictures of someone in a compromising situation) 2. good looking 3. gay,scientologist,or jewish (combos even better)4.able to barely remember your lines 5.be able to give great schmooze. Now there are a lot of people who use hard work and talent, but sadly they are by far the minority. End of Rant.

  29. Cecily says:

    Hmmmmm…. hard not to respond to a “WE MAKE YOU” rant about the actors. I love this blog because I love crew work, but at different times of my life, I’ve been on both sides of the camera.

    Nobody works harder or with more professional skill than a good hollywood crew. In every craft, time and time again, I see excellence and artistry and a make it happen attitude that is unsurpassed in any business.

    And actors are often insecure, sometimes neurotic, and even the best will miss their marks, whisper when you expect them to shout, and screw up lines.

    But without them, my hostile friend, it is you who might well be stuck working at KFC. People have gathered to look at and listen to actors for thousands of years — all without film crews. And while I might, most normal people do not marvel at smooth audio levels, perfectly-pulled focus or unwrinkled props.

    Stars live in a crucible of performance anxiety, ass-kissing yes men, financial excess and grotesque invasions of privacy. And yes, plenty grow into full-on assholes.

    But most don’t. Your average working stiff actor on a set is a hard-working craftsperson like the rest of us. They’ve studied, honed skills, paid dues — and often — worked longer and harder with little or no payback just to get there.

    They defied a profession with endless unemployment and insecurities to land those few days or weeks on a set. And many of them have paid emotional dues you and I could never afford.

    So yes actors, hit your marks. But also be dangerous and surprising. And yes, keep your volume even. But also wow us with raw human emotion. And remember your lines. But also be completely caught up in the character and the situation so that you never sound rehearsed.

    It’s EASY. Anybody could do it.

  30. Peggy Archer says:

    Cecily gets the last word.

    No more flames, please.

    Thanks again to everyone for contributing!

  31. cvcobb01 says:

    Damn. Too late. Gotta speak my piece anyway. From an AD perspective, I really want the actor to save the performance during blocking and rehearsal. Know their stuff, but keep the performance sort of muted (sorry sound guys). Because quite a few actors peak too early and then the director has to get far too many takes to build a performance. And I’m there trying to push the day along, knowing that the actor blew out his/her metaphoric knee just to block the scene. Hate that.

  32. Anonymous says:

    late to post like Deamon at Hollywood Park:
    *If you bring wardrobe, bring it clean and ready to wear,
    *Courtesy, courtesy and did I mention courtesy to ALL
    working bodies on the set.
    *Do not eat at the craft table, walk away with your snack and give others a chance at the table.
    *Don’t take half of a bagel, dough-nut etc. No one wants the half you left.
    (anon1)

  33. Gabe says:

    As a grip, I’d just like to reiderate something that has been mentioned already. When you see me carrying a sky-high on my shoulder, please move out of the way. Don’t expect me to leap around you with cat-like reflexes just because you’re ‘talent’.

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