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Keeping your cool on set


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#1 G McMahon

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 08:42 AM

It?s late in the morning on a night shoot, the director lost patience and is apathetic, circuits are blowing, crew is moving slowly, and we are out of cigarettes and coffee and I feel like the only person who doesn?t want to compromise simply to go home early.

I know the importance of keeping your wits. Only the incompetent, inexperienced and ill prepared lose their temperament.

How or what techniques do you people use on set to keep your head? I have seen cameramen smoking pot.

A couple of times it has been pointed out to me that I come across callous (I don't often work with the most experienced crews). I?m not there to make friends nor I am a complete bastard, I?m the first one to apologize to a crew member if I have rode them. It may be my Army background, but I just like making things clear and concise, there isn?t always the time to be precious. Am I wrong or is it just me?

Thanks all,

G. McMahon

Edited by G McMahon, 14 August 2006 - 08:43 AM.

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#2 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 08:56 AM

The name of the game is staying professional and upbeat. It's kind of a dumb analogy, but sort of like boxing.....you going to work hard all night to get lazy in the last round and get knocked out? I warned you, dumb analogy.

Of course, anything you can do to maintain a pleasant vibe for your crew is appreciated. When it's late and everyone's tired is exactly the time to remember to be considerate and helpful.
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#3 Nooman Naqvi

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 09:13 AM

It is very hard to stay calm under those circumstances, but one has to. How to? everyone have their own personal way in maintaining calm. I do by reminding myself that it'll be all over soon.
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#4 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 09:34 AM

I"m just sort of easy mannered anyway, which is why when I do get "concise," everyone seems to take notice a little more and dig in. I'm of the belief that we can be easy going and nice and still get the work done, perhaps quicker. I tend to get more out of people in general because I'm just as willing to help them when necessary than to just get short and authoritarian. The result is that the day moves faster, everyone seems to enjoy themselves, and we don't get into stressful situations as often as we might otherwise. I'm no saint, but setting a relaxed and coorperative mood from the start helps to avoid unpleasant situations later on.
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#5 rwimberg

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 09:46 AM

It?s late in the morning on a night shoot, the director lost patience and is apathetic, circuits are blowing, crew is moving slowly, and we are out of cigarettes and coffee and I feel like the only person who doesn?t want to compromise simply to go home early.

I know the importance of keeping your wits. Only the incompetent, inexperienced and ill prepared lose their temperament.

How or what techniques do you people use on set to keep your head? I have seen cameramen smoking pot.

A couple of times it has been pointed out to me that I come across callous (I don't often work with the most experienced crews). I?m not there to make friends nor I am a complete bastard, I?m the first one to apologize to a crew member if I have rode them. It may be my Army background, but I just like making things clear and concise, there isn?t always the time to be precious. Am I wrong or is it just me?

Thanks all,

G. McMahon



It might help to give the crew a talk at the begining of the shoot as to the possibility of the shoot turning into a long day or night. Make sure everyone understands what it is going to be like at the end of the day and to prepare mentally for the drain. I know after a few 18 hour days I've had to talk to the producer to get them to lighten up or there would be a mutiny. If there is dangerous rigging or the potential for injury then you have to know when to back off.
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#6 G McMahon

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 10:55 AM

I forgot to say that, I am quite jovial, and I?m the first person to have a joke at my own expense, and if anything my Army background makes me a bigger advocate of crew needs, adequate catering and water, etc as so many others (higher echelon, are more concerned with the film).

As a second, I am concerned about the commitment level of film students that have helped out on shoots. I was taught by old hands, but even when I started out crewing on freebies, I always turned up early with my bongos on my belt and kept an eye line on my AC and DP and tried to preempt the next thing, and I was there before they even said my name. I see students sitting back talking about films and what they did on this, and what they would do on this, (typing this is making me feel old). I will give them credit; they are quick to jump on things when I ask them, but should you really be asking for assistance when raising /lowering the tripod?

If I were their age I would prefer to be getting in on pro sets and making good money being a PA, video split op, anything, and being able to watch the pros doing their work then working in a video shop, bar, telling people I?m a producer or director. And to get on those pro-sets you need to be switched on. On a shoot over the weekend I told the sound recordist who was laying a cable at the time, ?when the director is looking through the lens, clear the frame?. I mentioned that to them three times, in the one set up. I don?t wish to sound condescending but there is so much to working on a proficient set then the ABC?s learnt at film school. You are crew, don?t try and dress cool, be utilitarian, when you start getting paid good money, and are employing me, then where a fez hat for all I care. Learn from my experience, you will get more work when people realize your there for them and their production, not yourself. People don?t see you as a creative or bohemian until they have seen your work, not how you dress. If you conduct yourself professionally on unpaid gigs then your Dp, Producer, Director will go the extra yard to pull you on paid gigs.

There are so many attributes that make people successful in this game besides talent. Learn them. I recently killed myself on a corporate job because I told the money man he had no clue, but hey, I hope to get to a point where my shots will be so great they will put up with my character deficiencies (I wonder is that why a lot of great cameramen are older). In saying that though, Mr. Mullen characters (not that I know personally), will continue shooting beautiful pics and be mild, with good temperament and a lot easier to work with.
THAT IS WHAT I WANT TO KNOW HOW TO DO.
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#7 erolroniberaha

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 11:05 AM

After 26 hours of working in a music video that is being shot by a first time director, I lost my nerve. e has been working as 1st ad. If I shut my mouth that day I would have been working with the company he has been working for. A good lesson learned

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#8 Brian S. Miller

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 11:20 AM

First off, if your still shooting 18 hours later, you may have made the wrong Career Choice. No one should be made to work that long. If you forsee that happening, you need to hire Two Crews, then stagger them in and out.
No Money? too bad, break the shoot in two, no time? to bad, this is a small ind. and if you work like that, no one will want to deal with you anymore.

Nieve? maybe, Happy You bet! Working? All the time. :-D
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#9 Carlos Hidalgo A.M.C

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 11:24 AM

good I think that the import think is to thank your crew , they make your job easy, every person whom work on a movie facilitates your job then it is necessary to thank it ( production assistent, the make-up artist, the boy of the sound,) every person will understand after when the presion will be presented and they are going to help you to manage it better.

i think a DOP is like a general if you do everything for your team, thye will do the same for you..


see ya
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#10 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 11:32 AM

Hi,

On the other hand, I did a fairly big job recently where I carefully maintained an icy calm through all kinds of adversity - and really, I should have been yelling at someone. You can camouflage problems so completely that they build up into an unimpedable obstacle. If I'd given someone a good going-over, it would have at least signalled that there was a serious problem, and corrective action could have been taken.

Obviously, not the right course of action for all, or even many, situations, but sometimes it's necessary to make problems known.

Phil
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 11:36 AM

You generally lead by example. If you stay calm and professional, at least you aren't contributing to the tension.

Now in terms of the long day... if you're the reason it's going long because of your perfectionism, beyond what the director or producers are demanding from you, you have to ask yourself if you are doing your job because doing the work well within the schedule is part of the job, even if it means simplifying.

Now I've been in the same boat... on my last feature, we had all the work dogpile into the last day of the shoot: the call sheet had 17 scenes, 9 pages, day int. & ext., night int. & ext., and I knew just looking at the call sheet that it would be a horrendously long day (everyone did.) So I simplified as much as I could but there were limits considering I was shooting stunts with efx rigging, stage sets that had to simulate daytime, etc. The producers asked me if I could just "light it less good" to go faster, but I was just doing the minimal amount of lighting to make the set look believable. When you have a day scene in a room with windows on a soundstage, you can't just bounce a 1K off of the ceiling (and there was no ceiling) and be done with it.

I just plowed ahead and did a 20-hour day. In the end, I was thanked for doing the work properly and not compromising. I kept my cool because that's just my nature. Plus the director was an easy-going guy who also kept his cool and sense of humor. A sense of humor is absolutely critical for getting through a hard day.

As far as pot or drugs, etc. I don't do stuff like that and I don't recommend it. I don't feel artificial stimulation or relaxants are effective really. There are limits to fooling your body. Most of the potheads on the set are somewhat schitzo, like some of the nicotine addicts -- they are either stressed-out because they aren't smoking, or zoned-out because they are high (I'm talking about the pot smokers, not the cigarette smokers -- they just alternate from being stressed-out to being smelly.)

I don't even like to drink too much coffee on a set because afterawhile, my body just reacts badly (I won't go into the messy details.)

The thing is to watch out for unsafe behavior on set when people are tired and get rushed.
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#12 G McMahon

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 11:55 AM

First off, if your still shooting 18 hours later, you may have made the wrong Career Choice. No one should be made to work that long. If you forsee that happening, you need to hire Two Crews, then stagger them in and out.
No Money? too bad, break the shoot in two, no time? to bad, this is a small ind. and if you work like that, no one will want to deal with you anymore.

Nieve? maybe, Happy You bet! Working? All the time. :-D


Mr. Miller,

Everything should be judged on its on merits, Mr. Behara has probably been in situations that many of have been in, and believe we're doing favours and furthering our career. We have to be objective in our perceptions of what people have gone through. After all, as film makers we have to be objective.

I believe this site is for us to perfect our craft and in that perfect utopian society we will all be working at premium rates with the best crews.

Please don?t condemn people for bring truthful on any of my threads, I am glad your happy and that?s what this thread is about, getting other shooters with ill temperament up to speed with your self. So please, how do you find your euphoria. I know when I get back from a crap shoot all I have to do is put on a good film and I back there.
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 11:58 AM

The occasional long day is just going to happen now & then -- the real problem is when it is systemic, a regular occurence on the shoot.
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#14 Arni Heimir

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 11:59 AM

I agree with David Mullen. Humor is paramount. That and an energy drink.
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#15 G McMahon

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 12:11 PM

I kept my cool because that's just my nature. Plus the director was an easy-going guy who also kept his cool and sense of humor.


When you say it was in your nature, is it innate or did your feel it was easier to keep calm with your increase in knowledge as your career developed. Earlier, did you hit the roof at all?
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 12:19 PM

When you say it was in your nature, is it innate or did your feel it was easier to keep calm with your increase in knowledge as your career developed. Earlier, did you hit the roof at all?


I'm just naturally quiet and low-key. I tend to internalize my stress, for better or worse.

I'm not saying that I've never snapped at someone on a set though when pushed enough, but it's rare and I usually apologize later to the person.
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#17 John Holland

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 12:21 PM

I think as the most important technical person on a set you must keep your cool at all times and try and keep a nice relaxed atmosphere with humour ,its only a movie . If there are real problems , they should be dealt with the Director , Producer at the end of the day . Some times things cant resolved , but not often . john .
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#18 Alex Haspel

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 12:39 PM

Most of the potheads on the set are somewhat schitzo, like some of the nicotine addicts -- they are either stressed-out because they aren't smoking, or zoned-out because they are high (I'm talking about the pot smokers, not the cigarette smokers -- they just alternate from being stressed-out to being smelly.)

mr. mullen,
with all due respect, but as a (cigarette) smoker myself, i find comparing my brood to potheads a bit unfair. just like every other working professional i know, i am strongly against pot, booze or any other mind altering substances on a set. since everybody has certain responsibilities, duties, and work that should be done agile, effektive and skillful, i consider not being sober irresponsble and dangerous to ones self, others and the final product. i would not hesitate to fire someone who is high or drunk on set, or plead to so, given i'm not in the position.

and as a cigarette smoker, i consider it my duty not to show others that i'm craving for a cigarette, or go smoking one in inappropiate moments. so does any other working professional i know.
maybe there are more black sheep where you work, but the industry here is rather small, so anyone going for a smoke between takes or being obviously unconcentrated because of his nicotine addiction won't have a very long and/or glorious career.

so, being a controlled, concentrated and focused worker as a smoker, also on non-smoking sets, is possible, and not to be compared to someone who does obiously not take his job seriously and is high or drunk on set.


phew...
that was definately my most eloquent post, given that english is not my mother tongue.
must have been the fact that this was something "personal" .. ;)

Edited by haspel, 14 August 2006 - 12:41 PM.

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#19 G McMahon

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 01:12 PM

As a smoker, from everywhere I have worked, if the boss is a smoker, all is good. If it they aren't, then be discreet (unless your a grip or electric, carry on). Otherwise, we smokers are becoming the most contemporary discriminated race. We will be gathering in dark alleyways for the next couple of years till we are liberated.

People are drifting, what are peoples techniques of keeping calm?

Edited by G McMahon, 14 August 2006 - 01:14 PM.

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#20 Alex Haspel

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 01:36 PM

People are drifting, what are peoples techniques of keeping calm?


smoking.


just kidding.
i just keep reminding myself that behaviours like loosing ones temper are most likely not considered professional.
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