Skip to main content

How to prepare for your first day working on a film set

From job shadows and internships to paying gigs, there’s always excitement working as an on-set grip and electric crew member rigging lights, setting up cameras, and bringing scenes to life. But whether you’ve worked on smaller, amateur productions or have never stepped onto a professional film set before, you should know what is expected and how to conduct yourself properly. After all, film crews must operate like a well-oiled machine to stay effective and efficient, so there are a few pointers you’ll want to follow.

Have Your Gear Ready

Before you step foot on set, it’s important to make sure you have everything you need ready and accounted for. You’ll want to have a comfortable yet durable pair of shoes or boots that can be trusted to protect your feet on set. If you know that you’re going to be shooting outdoors, make sure you have proper attire for both anticipated and unexpected weather conditions. It’s better to be caught out in the rain or snow fully prepared than to soak or freeze because you weren’t. Whether you’re working indoors or outdoors, have a set of sturdy leather or insulated work gloves on you at all times. You’ll be handling a lot of electrical equipment, so it’s always best to dress for safety on set.

Aside from your wardrobe, you’ll need to have a toolbox or toolbelt for your grip and electric essentials. Your tool checklist should include:

  • Wrenches
  • Screwdrivers
  • Allen wrench/key
  • Clips
  • Clamps
  • Rope
  • Pocket Knife

On-set grip and electric crews are responsible for building, rigging, and adjusting cameras and lighting, so you will be working with a wide array of tools daily. Even if you don’t expect to use everything, it never hurts to have spare tools ready just in case someone else on the crew needs them. A fanny pack can come in handy for other useful items.

Know the Chain of Command

Between communication and organization, you should have a good understanding of the on-set hierarchy before day one. This includes knowing the chain of command for individual departments as well as for the entire crew. Remember that the director is at the top. That means that any creative decisions or adjustments that come from the director should be followed.

As a member of the on-set grip and electric crew, you’ll mostly be working with the camera, grip, and electrical crews. The director of photography, the key grip, and the gaffer are the heads of these crews, respectively. Your orders will come from these leads and be disseminated by the best boy grip, or the grip second-in-command.

Be Early and Ready to Work

Forget about getting to work on time. When it comes to working on a film set, you’re either early or you’re late. Give yourself extra time in the morning to get to set about 15 to 30 minutes before the day officially begins. Take those extra minutes to familiarize yourself with the call sheet. This is a guide that lists the cast and crew, shoot addresses, the filming schedule, relevant phone numbers, and crew titles. You won’t be tested on any of this information, but the crew on set will know if you’ve misread something. This is also a good opportunity to get used to some of the grip and electric jargon commonly used on set.

Follow On-Set Etiquette

On-set etiquette isn’t complicated, but it can be very particular. For starters, be aware of your surroundings. Everything has its place on a set, including you. If you aren’t directly working, make sure to find a spot that’s out of the way, out of the light, and out of the actors’ eyeline. Stick to this same spot when you’re not actively coordinating operations.

Another good rule of thumb is to only handle the gear that you have been tasked with. You shouldn’t touch or use anyone else’s equipment without their permission. Even if you need to move equipment to set up for a scene or to make a necessary adjustment, find out who is in charge of the gear and have them move it.

Last but not least, be mindful and respectful of cues on set. Don’t shout or walk on set during shooting. Unless there is a correction that needs to be made before shooting begins, keep with the other production crew and allow the director to take control of the set.

Have a Good Attitude

It sounds cliche, but a good attitude really is crucial working on a movie or film set. Shooting days are long and tiring. Nothing makes a day go south faster than working with a difficult crew. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are and work towards improving those areas when you can. Be curious and willing to learn yet courteous. If you don’t know how to help with something, be honest. Trying to help others with a task on set that you don’t know how to perform can be dangerous, so always be upfront about your abilities.