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Are You Making Friends On Set?

Filmmaking is a uniquely collaborative medium that brings together many people towards one creative goal. The people are also one of the best reasons to stick around. A good friend on set has the potential to become a good friend forever. Do you stay in touch with those you work with?

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Finding Friendship Within Film

A few days ago, I was brought news of a production assistant (PA) I worked with who passed away. He was an older PA, at age 39, but he had the enthusiasm and spirit of a young man. On that particular film, things managed to get tough with long hours and high pressure, but this PA would show up to set everyday ready to greet me with a “Hello” and a smile.

Oftentimes, this was enough to make my day a little bit better than it was before.

We stayed in touch for a few weeks through Facebook when the shoot was over, but after that we drifted apart. Like summer camp, intentions of keeping in touch fizzle quickly when everyone packs up and goes home on the last day of a shoot. And while you can’t be expected to stay up-to-date with everyone you meet, even just one more friendship makes a gig worthwhile.

We, as filmmakers, have unique opportunities to befriend many people over the course of a career.

If you are just starting out in this industry, you will be surprised at the strong friendships you form. Not only is this good for networking, but you will eventually find yourself turning to these people for advice, for conversation and for companionship.

If you are grizzled and battle worn from years within the industry, it might be a good time to dust off some of those old business cards and give a former buddy a phone call or a friendly message on Facebook. Doing this is a rewarding experience.

Reconnect with old friends

I brought this up because it made me realize how much I enjoy the friendships that come as a result of my job. What can start as a work relationship can transform into a solid friendship over time. After awhile, you no longer “talk shop,” you talk about each others’ lives.

When I heard the news about the PA and how he is now gone, I immediately regretted not taking more opportunities to shoot him a quick message. He’ll never know how much I truly valued the brief companionship we had on set.

We should all strive harder to bring friends we make on set into our lives outside of work because of the companionship it rewards us with. So, the next time you are telling a good story from that one job or feeling nostalgic about the times from a shoot way back, don’t hesitate to drop by and deliver a “hello” to those who were with you.

It might make their day a little bit better than it was before.

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  • http://twitter.com/Olneysimon Simon Olney

    I couldn’t agree more, I have recently forged a very strong friendship with a fellow DP that started when I worked for him as a gaffer on one of his films, we were treated terribly by the production, and bonded over the situation we were in. This soon led onto a number of phonecalls and online discussions, he soon adopted me as his regular gaffer. I find it a lot easier working with somebody who I am a friend with, as not only do they allow me more creative control, but they trust me enough to know that I am working as hard and fast as I can, and that if I say something can’t be done, it is out of physical impossibility rather than laziness or inability. He has provided me with a number of jobs over the last 9 months, and with my first job as DP on the horizon, I have hired him as my operator to repay the favour.

    For me the journey is as important as the finished product, the sense of community you share with a group of people on a feature set is what you remember, and sometimes is the only thing that keeps you going.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Simon, thank you for that comment, you said so much of what I was thinking while writing the article and you said it very eloquently. Bravo.

      I have a similar relationship with a DP right down to the bonding on a production gone wrong. You are so right about the trust allowing you more freedom. It also makes my job easier since I know a lot of what to expect from him. There’s a rapport that makes us work well together.

      I think it’s hard to work with somebody so much and so well without eventually becoming friends. In this industry, the hours are long and the work is tough. You also have a good amount of down time to converse and get to know others.

      When you say the journey is as important as the finished product, I agree wholeheartedly. Sometimes I remember the journey more than the movie itself. Sometimes I never even watch the finished product, but I had a great time on the set.

      I know on that one production that was really tough for me, if I wasn’t friends with the DP, I may have become too frustrated to continue. Instead I was doing it for him and my commitment to him as his AC and as his friend.

  • FB

    very nice post, as usual! (and great comment by Simon, too!)

    I think there are many different degrees of relationship that are born on set: no matter if you do or do not become close friends with some people, part of any kind of job in this industry is to keep in touch with as many people as possible (mostly the ones you like working with, but sometimes it’s necessary to keep in touch also with those you don’t really get along with).
    I have become incredibly close to some people I’ve met on different sets and I feel extremely fortunate to call them friends, and with many others I’ve been keeping in touch for years, a more “casual” friendship, if you will, but a good kind of relationship nonetheless. Actually, I can’t think of ANY job I’ve done in the last few years that hasn’t come more or less directly because of relationships I’ve kept alive through time.
    Obviously, there’s no doubt that working with some friends sometimes makes a big difference on set, but it can also make you “lazy” and prevent you from making new ones.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      It’s true, just like life — there are different degrees of friendship. Some people I am friends with on set and have worked with many times before, but we only really talk when we are on set. Not every person you meet will become a good friend.

      I think my point is that you shouldn’t only talk to people for networking but that those friendships can become more valuable from a general life point of view.

      Most of the time, like Simon said, it’s the production (and the people) you remember, not the resulting film.

      P.S. thanks for the compliment!

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