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Do You Pull Over to Check Out Film Production Shoots when You See One?


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#1 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 25 September 2007 - 10:00 PM

Lately I have seen a couple of shoots going on where I wanted to see the lighting design but the only reason I was on the road was because I was going somewhere else so I didn't stop.

Do you stop every now and then when you see a shoot going on? If you do, what are trying to absorb from the shoot?

Ever take any pictures you may want to share?
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#2 Jon Kukla

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Posted 25 September 2007 - 10:10 PM

If it's in my town, I occasionally may take the time to enquire as to the camera crew if I have the time and it doesn't look too manic. (Never know if your friends are at hand.) But generally no, aside from a passing glance I leave them alone; I know they're busy, and when I've been on the job, I tend to get annoyed by onlookers myself.
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#3 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 12:15 AM

My wife and I were vacationing in Europe this past winter and one of our destinations was Venice, Italy. I arose early one morning to walk around the Plaza San Marcos where I encountered an Italian film crew in support of an Indian Director of Photography who were setting up to film beauty shots of the square as the sun came up over the Grand Canal. We drank espressos together and I took pictures of them with one of the crew's still cameras, the ARRI 435 in the background. We communicated in broken English (them) and destroyed Italian (me). It was a wonderful way to spend part of the morning.
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#4 Gunnar Mortensen

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 12:19 AM

When i first started I asked the 1st AC the same question and he told me- "walking on another set is one of the biggest fau pau's in the industry. Also hanging out at rental houses and trying to get work from other AC's prepping camera packages." Needless to say I have never tested it and just took his word on the matter.
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#5 Michael Nash

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 03:06 AM

Since I live in "commercial central" (Pasadena area) I practically trip over film shoots. There's a mid-century modern house about a block away that hosts one-day shoots (commercials mostly) about every one or two months. In fact the only thing that keeps some of these houses and streets from hosting more shoots is the local ordinance that prohibits more than one shoot in the same area within 30 days, so as not to overly inconvenience the neighbors.

I think the coolest shoot I saw at that house was a time-slice rig set up around a car in the driveway. Never saw that spot on the air (sometimes local shoots are for foreign markets), but I recognize that house and my general area on TV all the time.

There's been an Audi A4 commercial in heavy rotation that I recognized as a street I've been walking on-and-off for over five years. Every time I saw the spot I wondered if they really did the car stunt "live" between the two parked cars, or if there was any compositing involved. Last week I took a stroll through that neighborhood and the tire marks are still there in the pavement! (although that doesn't answer if the parked cars were shot as a separate plate).

In any case no; I don't go poking too closely to other people's film sets although naturally I'm curious. Most of the time I give a cursory glance at the lighting setup just to see if there's anything new or unusual (usually it's pretty predictable). Other than that I'm looking to see if I recognize any of the crew!
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#6 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 04:52 AM

Do you stop every now and then when you see a shoot going on?



Since I live in Rome and there is an average of 10 film crews around every given day, it happens quite often. If I have time, I ask what they're shooting and most of the time there's someone I know working on the shoot, so it's a chance to say "hi" to a friend or colleague, or to get to know more people through them.

Edited by Francesco Bonomo, 26 September 2007 - 04:52 AM.

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#7 Jon Kukla

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 09:01 AM

When i first started I asked the 1st AC the same question and he told me- "walking on another set is one of the biggest fau pau's in the industry. Also hanging out at rental houses and trying to get work from other AC's prepping camera packages." Needless to say I have never tested it and just took his word on the matter.


I wouldn't necessarily call hanging out at rental houses to know ACs a faux pas. It worked pretty damn well for me in the UK with virtually no problems. However, the lack of formal union rules for hiring probably was also a factor. I've been told that this can be less welcome in other places, such as union towns - you just have to judge it from place to place.
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#8 John Sprung

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 01:08 PM

Do you stop every now and then when you see a shoot going on?

No. Some folks are OK with it, others not. So it's best to just keep on going.

If you really want to observe crews at work, get a gig as an extra. Nothing to do but watch most of the day. As Mr. Berra once said, "You can observe a lot just by watchin'." ;-)




-- J.S.
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#9 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 02:10 PM

When i first started I asked the 1st AC the same question and he told me- "walking on another set is one of the biggest fau pau's in the industry. Also hanging out at rental houses and trying to get work from other AC's prepping camera packages." Needless to say I have never tested it and just took his word on the matter.


True, walking onto someone else's set is a no no.

One time a DP told me that someone had walked onto their rather low budget outdoors shoot and actually wanted to hire him for another project later that month. I told the DP I thought that was disrespectful of the person to just walk onto a set, even during a break, and try to do business with someone from the set, the DP disagreed. I pointed out that if that had been a Disney shoot no way would the person get such easy access to the DP and he should think of himself in the same way, but he disagreed, lol, he just wanted the work. I think that scenario disrespects the producer and executive producer. If someone wants to stroll onto a low budget shoot and try and lure the DP for another job, even if it's for later that month, they should approach the person in charge of that shoot and ask permission to speak to the DP and let that person decide how to proceed.

Observing a public shoot from a distance to take in what the overall mood is that is being created isn't harming anyone, is it?
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#10 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 03:46 PM

Although curiosity drives me towards observing a set when I come across one here in London, I usually don't have the time to "settle down" there and observe.

I also agree with such behaviour being a potentially unwanted distraction for the crew if one member of the public makes her/himself comfortable around them. And approaching them for a chat is a no-go, as I would not want someone do disturb my gig when you work in high concentration to get all hands on deck to give their best.

However, having said that, I am still a bit angry to myself of not having approached a crew I encountered recently in Covent Garden, as they were making what seemed to be a Direct Cinema-style documentary. They used an Aaton XTR with the Aaton Cantar, which I hadn't laid eyes on yet. I would have loved to use the opportunity to look at the Cantar and the Aaton ecosystem they used.

But things can work out the other way, too: my partner and myself were in Vienna last month where she attended a conference at the Hofburg. Unrelated to that, a crew was shooting a commercial in front of that grandiose building. They had 535 as A camera, and a brand-new Arriflex 235 as B. I kind of started to explain my partner some aspects of the 235 while only passing by. And to our surprise, the DoP - overhearing us - actually approached us and asked if I wanted to have a look at it - which was extremely kind and made an otherwise boring late afternoon.
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#11 Chris Keth

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 05:36 PM

I'll stop and watch for a minute, usually. If someone walks over I'll ask what they're working on and wish them luck. I don't feel right lingering. Sets are busy enough.
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#12 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 07:24 PM

I work on sets. Seen em. Not too much desire to spend more time "at the office" when I've got the day off. :)
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#13 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 07:40 PM

Since I live in "commercial central" (Pasadena area) I practically trip over film shoots.

There's been an Audi A4 commercial in heavy rotation that I recognized as a street I've been walking on-and-off for over five years.



You said it, Seems like there are trucks on San Pasqual almost weekly. What street was the Audio ad shot on? I swear I recognize the houses but can't quite place it.
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#14 Michael Nash

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 03:40 AM

You said it, Seems like there are trucks on San Pasqual almost weekly. What street was the Audio ad shot on? I swear I recognize the houses but can't quite place it.


The Audi spot was on Prospect, a block away from the Gamble house (near the Rose Bowl). They film there a lot; there's a wide fork in the road and a gentle hill that helps create a visually private "back lot."

And yes, Arroyo Seco Park is a popular spot for base camp. I see signs and trucks all the time...
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#15 Byron Karl

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 01:44 PM

It's not such an "us vs them" attitude in NYC, where being a pedestrian enviornment means you walk by and through working sets all the time. Most of the time, the huge condors and balloon lights don't really have any impact on you, because it's worlds away from anything that can be done on a small scale. However, seeing people light interiors of shops or rig outside of apartment windows is usually pretty illuminating.

The street I live on has been in about 5 features over the last year or so and yesterday I passed by a block-long set for a TV show. I didn't pay it any mind, but later I looked it up on IMDB and it credits Stuart Dryburgh as the DP. Makes me think I probably should have stopped a little longer.

However watching a set is crushingly boring. I can see the appeal of stopping by and seeing how a set-up is done, but the time between different set-ups is enormous and doesn't warrant lingering.

Edited by Byron Karl, 27 September 2007 - 01:45 PM.

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#16 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 06:11 PM

The Audi spot was on Prospect, a block away from the Gamble house.


got-cha. I know the area well.
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