Advice for Runners & Newcomers to the Film & TV Industry.
This week I've been crazy busy shooting a TV commercial and for some of the time I had a work experience student with me. He'd never had any experience of the film industry before so, like all of us on our first day, he didn't have much of a clue about what was going on! I tried my best to give him as much information and advice as possible, which made me think it might be a good idea to get this down in a blog in case its useful to other people out there.
Everything here is my own personal advice, some of it quite generic and some of it quite specific, but I'm confident that experienced crew and production people will agree with what I'm saying. As the Runner you are bottom of the ladder (for now at least, you won't be forever but you certainly need to take your turn) and there's an abundance of wannabe Runners out there, so its vital that when you get a job you make the most of the opportunity. The better an impression you make the more likely you are to be hired by that team or company again, for them to recommended you to someone else or to give you a glowing reference. And you absolutely need those things to happen to progress in your running career.
So here goes, I hope this will be useful and apologies if you think I'm teaching you to suck eggs but I'm just trying to cover everything I think a Runner should know.
If you're not early, you're late.
A Runner will always be called first as you'll need to set up the tea table / get breakfast / etc before the crew and talent arrive. Always arrive BEFORE your call time and leave plenty of time to allow for traffic or getting lost. If your calletime is 7am, I recommend aiming to be there for 06:45am even if that means waiting outside for a few minutes.
Never underestimate the importance of food and drink.
Shoots are long, long days and usually start really early and end really late. You'll be responsible for making lots of drinks and collecting / distributing food orders. Always keep the food and drink supplies stocked and ready, as people quickly become miffed when there's no coffee. Make sure you get everyone's order correct and write it down if you have to, especially if you're taking lots of orders or a particularly complicated one. It may seem like a small thing, but when you're working long, hard hours its really disappointing and frustrating when the simple things like your lunch order are wrong.
Keep every receipt and bit of change.
It's very important that the petty cash float adds up and can be accounted for, so always make sure you've got the receipt and correct change to give back to production. It may even be a good idea to bring a small wallet or purse with you and use that only for production money. If you forget to keep the receipt, its likely you'll be asked to go back and as for one to be re-printed which is a waste of time and laborious.
Bring wet weather gear and multiple clothing items.
If you're shooting outside in the UK, the likelihood is it'll rain and you'll need waterproof laters, shoes, hat, etc. Weather is obviously totally unpredictable, so I'd recommend wearing lots of layers that you can remove if it gets too hot and put on if it gets too cold. Hats, gloves and sunglasses are always useful as is suncream. A good idea is to have a "set bag" with you on all shoots with these things inside.
Don't touch equipment or props, unless you have been specifically asked by a member of that department.
On dramas and big productions, you'll probably never be asked to move equipment or furniture as there is a dedicated team (set dressing props, standby props, grip, camera, etc) there to do that. You might see a couple of Grips carrying lots of equipment up across a field and want to offer to help, but its actually best if you let them be. They know exactly how to handle the gear, where it goes and the safest ways to carry it. On the other hand on small jobs (for example a short film or commercial where the crew is much smaller), you may be asked to help move things and its ok to do so if someone from that department asks you too. If there is only one grip on the job and he asks you to pass him an apple box then that would be fine.
Prioritise your tasks and don't leave jobs half done.
It can be overwhelming when you're given lots of tasks to do at the same time but its important to prioritise them and not leave anything half done. If you're setting up the tea table first thing in the morning and someone asks you to whip around set collecting rubbish and in 5 minutes you need to pick up the talent, how do you know what to do? Some things are obvious (getting talent to set on time is VITAL, tea table is important but perhaps someone else could help in the meantime, rubbish can be collected throughout the day) but sometimes its trickier (what if the person who asked you to pick up the rubbish was adamant that it needed to be done now?). If you're not sure, the best thing is to ask someone in the AD or Production department. Let them decide what's best and allow them to take responsibility for it. They'll be more experienced than you and will have a better understanding of the shoot. E.G perhaps there's a lot of rubbish and its the way of the next shot so its an all-hands-on-deck-get-it-done-now kind of thing. They might tell you to help clear the rubbish first and instead they'll book a taxi for the talent. Which leads me onto...
If you're not sure, ask.
I can't stress this enough! There is no such thing as a stupid question and there's no limit on how many questions you can ask. If the 2nd AD tells you to show a supporting artist where the honey wagon is and you don't know where it is - ask. If you don't know what a honey wagon is - ask ask ask! If the Director mumbles his coffee order, politely ask him to say it again. If a presenter asks if they can have a tea with almond milk and you don't know if its available, go and ask the caterers or check with the AD/Production team if you can pop out and buy some. As a Runner you're not expect to know everything but you are expected to get things right so make sure you always have the correct information.
Speaking of the honey wagon and while we're here, I'll explain some funny film language...
Apple box: Wooden boxes used by the Grip department and NEVER to be sat on!
Back in / on: Lunch/break is over and everybody is called back to set.
Callsheet: A document that is issued everyday and has all the information about tomorrow's shoot. This will include crew call times, talent pick up times, location details, information of additional equipment or crew, and details of the scenes.
Checks: Costume or makeup need a last minute check before shooting and if so, they'll call out "checks" and ask to step onto set.
Copy: If a message or request is given over the walkie talkie, you should reply with 'copy' to confirm you understood and received the message.
DFI: After chatting to a few colleagues there is some disunion on what this literally stands for, perhaps Disregard Final Instruction or Don't, F**k It... Either way, it basically means cancel what I just told you to do.
"Can someone give me a callsheet? DFI, just found one."
ETA: Estimated time of arrival. "What's the ETA on lunch?"
Eyes on: This literally means, can you see (name - whoever it is).
"Anyone got eyes on Jenny?"
"Yes she's sitting by the tea table."
Gaffer: Head of lighting department.
Honey wagon: Portable toilet.
Lock off: Locking off is politely stopping people from walking into a certain area. If you're filming a scene in a busy high street, you may be asked to "lock off" and stop members of the public from walking into shot.
Mark: A particular place either the camera or the talent need to be in, usually marked by fluorescent camera tape.
SA's: Supporting Artists or Extras.
Sides: Sides are usually printed on A5 paper and are the script pages for the scenes you're shooting on that day.
They're aware: A polite way of saying someone knows what they've been told or asked to do, usually referring to talent.
"Where's Jenny, we need her in makeup."
"She's aware, just travelling now.'
Travelling: This means the talent is on their way from their trailer to set.
"Jenny is travelling, ETA on set is 2 minutes."
Turning: Camera is recording / we're shooting.
Two-Way or Three-Way: Trailers for talent.
Unit move: When the entire unit (all tech vehicles, cast and crew) move to another location.
Video Village: An area where a monitor is set up for the Director / Client / Producer / Script Supervisor / Costume / Makeup to watch the shots.
(Your name) on 2: Whoever is being addressed should switch their radio channel to 2 (or whatever number channel is stated) so they can speak privately. You would usually reply with "switching" so they know you've got the message.
10-1: Is a nice, radio friendly way of saying going or in the toilet.
"I'm stepping off set, 10-1."
Bonus tip: If someone points a finger upwards and moves it in a circular motion, this means we're turning and you should be quiet and not move around during the take.
I’m always happy to receive feedback or try to answer any questions you might have, so please feel free to get in touch.