I’m working with this guy currently as the lead in the feature film I’m ADing and despite his character being an ass on the show, he’s seriously one of the NICEST actors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.
The numbers on the shotlist are arbitrary once you are on set. It’s simply a labeling method to keep everyone on the same page during pre-pro. Once you are on the day, your slate labeling is contingent on the order shots are actually filmed.
The first shot of scene 47 is often simply labeled as “Scene 47 take 1”. The next shot filmed on 47 (even if it’s not the next shot on the shotlist) is labeled as “Scene 47A, take 1” and then the next shot filmed is labeled as “Scene 47B take 1”, etc.
There are times when the scripty or director will specifically request a shot be labeled a certain way. It’s very rare but it does occasionally happens. In the end, it’s really up to the scripty how they want the slate labeled since they are making the notes for the editor. But 9 times out of 10, they will go with the slate labeling method discussed above.
Occasionally, a scene is split up and filmed in different pieces that may span over different locations (I typically ask for a revision if this happens in which a new slugline is introduced when a location changes in the scene). If this happens after scene numbering has been locked, I find it’s been easier to simply label the pieces of the original scene with a letter before the original scene number. For example: Our scene 47 has now been divided into 3 individual montage sequences (series of shots) that take place in three very different set ups. To avoid confusion, the first sequence of scene 47 will continue to be labeled as scene 47 and all corresponding shots to that sequence would be labeled as discussed above. The next sequence of scene 47 will be labeled A47. (so, shot 2 for A47 would look like “Scene A47A, take 1” on the slate). The final sequence of the scene would be B47. This is also a rare occurrence and again, always consult with the scripty on how they would like the changes to be labeled for the editor.
For the love of all that is holy, never lock in a location that you do not obtain full control of. This is rule number one to location scouting. When you have dialog, multiple actors, background, picture vehicles, and other large elements at play, having civilians also stepping through the set and forcing production to wait and move aside for them as they shop is simply not ideal. Even if the location has light pedestrian traffic, the risk of injury, loss and damage, and unnecessary stress still runs high. And to top it all off, you can never really schedule for a location that makes you hold filming every time a customer even looks at the store.
So obviously, it’s in everybody’s best interests to NOT film at these locations. But sometimes, it’s necessary. This week, I’ve had to lock down three live gas stations in a city/state that is not very privy to what a film production actually means. And thus, we pissed off a LOT of people.
If you’re anyone like me, your initial instinct when hearing that a location will be live during filming is “OHGODNORIPUPCONTRACTFAAAAACK”. You’ll dread the day on the stripboard and constantly pester producers about what the live location will entail. You’ll beg the DP and Director to keep the shotlists simple and clean and stick to the plan in case production slows down (which it invariably will no matter how light the traffic is at the location).
The reality of handling these locations is that you really just got to keep on keepin’ on. What I mean is that wonderful phrase many of us production folks find ourselves saying out of defeat: “It is what it is.”
And it really is. There’s nothing you can do to make the location any more efficient. You are going to hold the roll for a customer who slowly saunters by the camera either scowling that you’re upsetting the norm of his favorite ice cream parlor or smiling and waving at the camera and asking if they can be in it. You’re going to hold the roll for people outside the gas station screaming about getting their cigarettes and kids loudly asking what the name of the movie is. It really and truly is what it is.
The other horrifying reality of shooting live locations is that the owners often don’t understand what having a film production means. They think student with a camcorder or some documentary crew. They don’t understand what you mean by basecamp, lock up, roomtone, can we shut off the cooler for sound?, can we stop customers while rolling?, lunch break, PAs, greeking logos, and having actors play customers instead of letting the real customers in. No matter how much you outline your footprint on the location as a production, the owner will undoubtedly think three dudes with a camera and a boom pole and will be genuinely surprised by the grip truck and the art van rolling up at breakfast. They will try to fight the producers and say you are disrupting their business and they’re losing money. They will make jokes about Hollywood and cause undue stress by getting randomly freaked out when you try to move the twinkie stand 2 feet to the left for a shot.
As an AD, I’m often the first one they come running at when they think there’s an issue. This is not abnormal. They look towards the one who’s making the loudest commands on set and assume they are the True and Only Boss of the film world. There’s no understanding of the true hierarchy at play and they get confused and irritated when I have to hand them over to the production manager or producers for discussion. Yesterday, I heard “But I want HER to meet with us right now, too!” and the producers had to physically stop him from walking away from them and getting me. I was in the middle of getting an actor changed, a debate about angle sorted out, and shooing off the scripty asking me about a logo that was barely noticeable. I had no interest in once again telling the guy that we’re doing exactly what we lined out in the contract we signed.
My approach to filming live locations is to keep as calm as abso-fucking-lutely possible. And that’s goddamned HARD. It’s ok. It really is. Everyone on that set understands what you’re going through and tempers having small, private flare ups is an expected thing. However, whatever you do, don’t have a full blow up in front of the owner. Go back to basecamp if the urge to tear into a producer rises, but keep it off the set at all costs.
Setting a quiet yet productive pace is the best thing you can do. And you’re going to look around at points and think you’re never going to make the day. And you might not. That’s ok too. Always look at these filming locations as a scenario that will probably be changed. Allow yourself to be flexible with the protocol and the schedule in order to just keep getting shit done. Owners don’t like watching a film crew stand around their store and it makes the customers nervous. Obviously you should take your time with complicated set ups, but always be pushing your crew to keep working, even at a snail’s pace.
Be very careful with the amount of time you actually spend rolling. Do a bunch of rehearsals first in which you don’t need to disrupt the business. That way, when you do lock up the location, it’ll only be for a small time period and the actors are already comfortable with lines and blocking before you even press the red button.
As I stated earlier, flexibility is key here. You’re going to move scenes. You’re going to jump back and forth between scenes and maybe even angles. You’re going to force the DP and director to do some things differently from the shotlist to appease the owner and keep the production from being thrown off set. I had to push several simple car interiors yesterday alone simply to make sure we could have the time to deal with standing by while customers were at the counter. Not everything is going to go as planned and that’s OK. Be prepared to make it a flexible day and find your contingencies ahead of time, but don’t feel like you need to stick to schedules that are hurting the production just in the name of protocol.
Finally, patience is so damn important. And that might be the hardest part of this all. As an AD, you’re often used to pushing and pushing and pushing and going faster and faster and keeping everyone moving at a very quick pace. You’re probably not going to be doing that on these locations. So employing patience even when the entire is crew is looking at you ready to shoot is going to be a good tool to utilize. Calmly explain why we have to be in standby so much and make sure everyone’s ready to go the moment the location is cleared to shoot. Work with an amicable producer who can keep a dialog with customers coming in and also act as liason with the owner. Be patient with the customers too. It’s not their fault either. They’re just doing their thing. Don’t rush them and don’t be rude to them no matter how many times you get asked when the movie’s going to air or if any big names are in it.
You’re probably going to have several moments where you want the day to be over or you want to desperately punch the owner in the face. Just remember that you’re not alone (for once) in this stressful state. The entire cast and crew involved are right there with you, so set a good precedent and be patient, pleasant, and flexible. You should be able to make the day you need to make.
“Is it lunch yet?” “Are we there yet?” “When’s the next shot?” “Are we going over 12 tonight?” “What’s my calltime tomorrow?” “Where are we filming next week?” “Will our checks be on time this week?” “Is the makeup assistant single?” “I lost my sides.” “There’s no more coffee” “Will there be pickup days?” “Where is everyone drinking at after wrap?” “What’s this rash on my arm?” “Why did my wife leave me?”
Whoever runs this account must be working on my sets.
This is NOT status quo.
This is NOT how you get ahead.
And yes, you should go public, take him to court and make his life a living hell until he pays up.
If you keep taking on duties that are very much not what you’re supposed to be doing, they’re going to keep thinking you’re willing to do that.
Say no. Tell them that script supervising is not a throw away position that some random person can do. If you’re running a set, continuity is not your concern unless you notice something yourself. Also, how can you line the script and make detailed notes for the editor and monitor coverage if you’re also making sure the next set is getting prepped, your PAs have good lockups, G&E is setting up in a timely fashion and the car is getting rigged to a process trailer? You can’t.
Say no and be clear that script supervision is a specific skillset that’s so damned important, they have earned a permanent place in video village.
I need to go back, right now MA is not a good place to be
i’m about to go to waltham to work on a movie ……… . .
that should be interesting
do you live in MA?
Waltham is pretty damned close to Watertown. I would check in with your PM and make sure they’re even still filming. They may have everything on lockdown.
I can’t even believe this. My old city is in total lockdown. Friends are STILL locked in their houses watching cops from their windows. My family’s texting me telling me they are ok and are sending their prayers to me hoping that I got some sleep.
I will delete all of this once it’s over and go back to AD advice. But right now, I can’t even…
This shit is fucking nuts. Mainstream and local media reporting that the Boston Marathon suspects are responsible for this insanity happening in Cambridge/Watertown right now. Suspect #1 is dead and Suspect #2 is at large.
Currently, friends of mine are reporting SWAT teams outside their houses and bullet shells on their driveways.
Assistant Directors don't always yell. Sometimes we write about stuff. Because I'm a workaholic, I sometimes feel the need to document the things I see and the questions that are raised while going through the most insane process of making a director's dreams come true. About me: My name is Michelle. I am a (currently) non-union First Assistant Director working out of Austin, TX. I hope to one day join the DGA and direct my own scripts on the side, but until that time comes... Got questions? Comments? Complaints? A project you want me to AD? (I'm cheap!) Email me at - firstname.lastname@example.org You can also find me on the good ol' twitter - twitter.com/m0thra