A Day on Set. What to Expect.

10 mins read

So you got the part and booked the job. Congratulations! Here is what to expect for a day on set!

But hold up, back to ones. Booking the job is only one small part (pun intended) of the entire filming process. A significant part, however you are about to embark on a whole new journey in a whole new world called set.
Below are some key components, set-iquette do’s and do- nots and steps you should take before the director calls ‘Action!’

A Day On Set

Be Prepared

For literally anything and everything. Knowing your lines is minimal compared to what you need to be ready for. Not only should you know your lines backwards, forwards, and upside down, and have done your character prep/ story analysis/ script work/ breathing exercises and meditation (not all is required, but whatever is best for your process) but you also need to be, wait for it, prepared to let go of it all.That’s right. Things change on the day all. The. Time. New script re-writes, scene changes, scene re-arrangements, etc etc, therefore be ready to flex your flexible actor muscles.The more go –with-the-flow and malleable you are to take new direction, the more desirable you will be to work with.

Be Kind

This should be obvious, but welcome to movie business! We get it, you’re on set and maybe feeling yourself for a moment. So make it a quick moment and then get back to work. Be kind to Everyone! Whether you booked a day player or a recurring and especially if you landed the lead, your kindness & professionalism goes above and beyond in the film world. In an industry saturated with celebrity divas, there are more than enough talent to replace you. On 14-17 hour days , kindness is remembered and you want to be remembered, in the best way for future work. Also – you never know who is who. The most important people (Executives, Producers, Directors,) could easily be missed amidst all the chaos. Therefore it is in your best interest to do your research. Put a face to the main names on the production list, and always put your best foot forward.

Hurry Up and Wait

The famous on set last words. Set is a lot of rushing. Hair and makeup can be a very stressful process, because not only is this a time for you to do your own prep, but that is a time for AD’s (Assistant Directors) to come and ask you important questions and give you important information. Also, once you are processed – hair, makeup, wardrobe ready, you will either have to wait in your trailer until called to set – or you will be transported immediately. If you get to wait in your trailer – great! But stay focused. Make sure you have a call sheet and are aware of the order of scenes and shot lists for the day. Usually your call time will be in accordance to your first scene, however, as mentioned before this can change. So be cool, stay hydrated and fueled with food throughout the day, and be ready.

On Location

You have arrived– WOW. The onset location can be very overwhelming. Make yourself aware of your acting playground. By now you should have become acquainted with your scene partners, and if you were lucky you would have gotten the time to rehearse before getting to set. But it is very common, especially for new comers, to meet their on camera fellow actors the day of. This is where all of your preparation comes to play. Listen to your director. Duh. Also, ask the cameraman (or camerawoman) what the shot looks like. Is this a wide? A close up? Your coverage? Normally this will be told to you, but if not it is up to you to do your own due diligence. The set designer and prop master should also be present. Ask what props are replaceable. This will determine your physicality and choices you can make when it comes to moving items around or even breaking them.


Before you finally get to act, you will hear the following:

‘Quite on set.’ Goes without saying, but the ADs will announce this so everyone off camera can stop what they are doing.

‘Roll Sound.’ – Sound is speeding

‘Roll Camera.’ – Camera is speeding ‘Frame.’ – This will be from the DP or operator notifying you that you are framed in the camera.

‘Slate,’ – Scene X – Take X – Mark! *Boom – move Boom if in frame

‘Action!’ – The 1st AD Usually calls Action but your director will almost always call CUT.

Then your scene is up. A rehearsal will have been had by now, and sometimes a director will want to shoot the rehearsal as many actors do better when the pressure is ‘taken off. ‘Always (unless otherwise directed) act the scene in the best way you have prepared it. Show your choices. You were hired for the job because of the decisions you made in the audition. Now, it’s time to show them off for real.

Take #102109

You may shoot the same scene multiple times. Mostly this is to film different angles which enhance the different story perspectives. Yes, this can get exhausting especially for the actor. However this is where your stamina comes in. You must give your best acting even when not shooting your coverage. Meryl Streep has said that some of her best acting has come when the camera was not filming her, but her scene partner. She was there and present for them. Not worried about her coverage.

Have fun, and offer variety if the scene is not working and of course if your director asks you. Remember the backwards and forwards and upside down.

On Set Terms or Common Phrases:

There are many different commands, directions, and straight up shouting you will hear on set. Some may sound like slang, therefore it is within your best benefit to learn as many as you can:

  1. Blocking – Positions of cameras , lights, and actors when moving throughout the scene. Blocking is marked by tapes X’s for your reference.
  2. Striking – Warning before a bright light is about to be turned on. Cover your eyes!
  3. 10/1 – Bathroom. Say this if you need to use the restroom. Usually you will be accompanied by an AD, depending on the production location.
  4. Check the Gate – The director will instruct that the last take is checked to make sure nothing interfered with the lens. Ex. Hair, dust particles, etc.
  5. Hot Set – A set that is all prepped, propped and ready to go! This means lighting and cameras are all in their positions to shoot so don’t touch anything unless instructed to do so.
  6. Hold the Red – Another take is about to take action! Stay in your position. You may also hear ‘Going again!’
  7. Back to One’s – Go back to your first mark. Return to your first position from the top of the scene.
  8. Flag on Play – Something was wrong with the last take you just shot, and you will have to go back and reshoot it.
  9. Flying In – When something is arriving on set. Ex a prop or when something is on its way back to set.
  10. 10)Window Shot – Also known as the ‘Martini Shot’, is the last shot and final shot set up of the day.

And there you have it. Remember that you are one piece of hundreds of moving parts of movie making. Have fun, be grateful for the gift of storytelling, and always bring your truth. That’s a Wrap!

Written By Therés Amee

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