I have only worked on a few feature films but have made countless short films at various levels. While on set last night as a Production Assistant, I realized that even though I don’t have a lot of feature film experience or experience in certain tech departments, my experiences as an equestrian and sideshow performer can offer productions a lot of help. Here are six things that I’ve learned outside of working in film that can benefit people who work on film sets.
1.) Wear layers.
This is kind of common sense and something everyone learns when their mothers are dressing them for Trick or Treating or playing in the snow. Mom is right, though. Wear layers so you can take them off if you get hot. If you have nothing to put on when you get cold, you will be miserable. It’s March and I have been doubling my socks, wearing three shirts of various lengths and weights under a jacket, gloves, a hat, and a hood, and I’ve still been cold- however, it’s been more tolerable than if I just wore my standard single layer.
2.) Take your coat and shoes off outside and put them back on when you enter the outdoors again.
I got this tip when I was working various haunts as a sideshow performer. If you are working out in the cold, make sure you take your extra layers off when you reach your spot to warm up- whether that is a truck, trailer, or a room in a house. This promotes the warming effect of your layers when you are outside.
3.) Always carry writing utensils.
This is something you learn as a writer, but if you’re on a film set, someone is bound to ask for a pen or a Sharpie– especially if you are a production assistant. Keeping these things on hand is a good idea.
4.) Mint lotion.
On a film set, you will be standing a lot and you will get very sore muscles. From my time as an equestrian, I learned that rubbing a soothing mint lotion on my legs and feet helped lessen the pain to the degree that I could go back out again.
5.) Take your vitamins, drink water, and don’t overload on sweets.
Film sets involve the same people, enclosed spaces, strenuous work, and a lot of time together (especially if you end up staying in a crew house), which means– GERMS, GERMS, GERMS! Keep your immune systems up! Make sure you are taking care of yourselves. Give requests to craft services if you need to about more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and healthier alternatives to any desserts or otherwise junk food that is so prevalent. Sugar will make you crash. Make sure you have plenty of water to help absorb nutrients and stay hydrated. Coffee is great, but also drink water. Take vitamin C even if your diet isn’t lacking for the mere fact that when someone gets sick, everyone else will get sick. Sickness spreads on a film set very quickly.
6.) Avoid drama.
On creative projects, passion runs very high and passionate people aren’t always the easiest to get along with. Do your job, try your hardest to not eavesdrop, don’t get involved in other set drama. Also, if you are someone of a different dietary, political, religious, or whatever persuasion, don’t get involved in those conversations either. The easiest way to keep things civil on film sets is to not get into sensitive topics and to just do your job to the best of your ability. I learned this from attending an all-girls high school. Even though a film crew is usually mostly men, the dynamic is still often the same when it comes to drama. No gender is immune. Save the drama for the camera.