How Shooting On Location is Like Summer Camp

This is something many of you may have felt before and just not articulated it, or you didn't even realize, but it's definitely true – there's a lot of similarities to going to a summer camp or going on location for an extended period of time to shoot a feature film.

One thing I’ve noticed time and time again is that every film shoot — no matter how tough or exhausting — has taught me something new.

In particular, when I went to Las Vegas for a month and a half to be first assistant camera on a feature film, I came back having learned so much. That’s because I was (naively) throw into the fire.

So, I want to share a few of the lessons I was taught in Vegas starting with the similarities between on location shooting and summer camp. Future videos will cover topics like dealing with logistics in a new city, being responsible with money, and my secret to sticking out the shoot without going insane.

I’d love to hear in the comments what you think about my analogy — have you ever felt like you were at camp when working on a film?

Video Transcript

Hey guys it’s Evan Luzi from The Black and Blue and this is the very first video in a series I’m going to be doing called “Lessons from Vegas.”

If you’ve been reading my site for awhile, you may have caught on to the fact that one of the very first movies that I ever worked on was an independent feature film out in Las Vegas. It was one of my biggest jobs and one of my first as a first AC (assistant camera). And so I kinda got thrown into the fire and ended up learning all sorts of things about how to run the camera department, how to pull focus, you know, just how to live on location.

So there are a lot of lessons that I gleaned from just sort of being thrown out there and having to deal with all this stuff coming at me like a tidal wave. And so I want to take a series of videos and cover some of these topics that I learned shooting in a big city, on location, for the first time.

And today is called “Why Shooting On Location is Like Going to Summer Camp.” This is something many of you may have felt before and just not articulated it, or you didn’t even realize, but it’s definitely true — there’s a lot of similarities to going to a summer camp or going on location for an extended period of time to shoot a feature film.

When I went out to Vegas, we were out there for a month and a half shooting where you’re away from friends and family and you’re in a whole new area. And you’re also with the same people all the time.

So I just kinda want to cover three different areas of why summer camp and shooting on location are very similar.

The first is that you can’t leave — you know you’re very limited in your mobility when you’re in a different city. Maybe you don’t have access to a car or maybe you’re dependent on somebody else’s car. You also just don’t know as many places to go. You tend to stick in the areas around you, or if there is somebody who is a local, you ask them where to go or they’ll show you around.

For me, I’m based on the East Coast in the US, when I was out in Vegas I really couldn’t leave! Unless I wanted to pony up a couple hundred bucks for an airplane ticket, but why would I? I’d be ditching the production and they had already bought me a ticket to go home — but at the end of the shoot.

The fact of the matter is that you just can’t get away. And in summer camp, you know, as much as you’re having, there’s just times where you want to be by yourself, you want to be somewhere familiar, you want to be somewhere comfortable.

Basically, you get homesick. And it happens too when you’re on location.

Anytime you’re away for a long period of time you’re gonna start missing friends, you’re gonna start missing family. Especially when you’re working really long days and you come back to a hotel room or you come back to a crew house and it’s not home, you know, it’s not your bed. You’re not seeing your girlfriend or your boyfriend or your wife or your husband and being able to talk to them and get things off your chest.

Instead you go back to the crew house, or the hotel, and you’re with crew — who you were with the whole day. So that’s the 2nd area I want to cover is that you’re with the same people the entire time. Just like in summer camp you go away and you’re going to be spending both day and night with the same counselors, with the same people in your bunk.

When you’re shooting on location, the same people that you’re working with are the same people that you’re going to dinner with, that you’re going out to bars and having drinks with.

You know, so, it’s… you better hope you like them! Most of the time you do end up liking them, but it’s just a whole different experience than shooting as a local where you can leave set and go out with friends who aren’t in the film industry or you can come home and have dinner with your family.

When you’re on location you’re going out with the exact same people that you just spent 12 hours (maybe more) shooting with. And so, it’s kind of a unique position to be in just having to learn to not only work with the same people everyday — for that long and for that many long hours — but also to learn to live with them.

You know when I was out in Vegas I was staying in a crew house with the producer and I actually shared a room with my 2nd AC. We got along fine, but there are just somedays where I wanted to come back and have space to myself and just relax and it wasn’t possible — that was the situation I was in.

And so that’s something that you kind of have to learn to deal with and that you encounter in summer camp too. When you come back with a bunk full of 10, 20 people when really all you want to do is shut the door to your room and just have “me” time.

So, the third area I want to cover, of course, is that you’re going to have tons of fun. You have tons of fun when you shoot on location. You complain about it, you bitch and you moan and it seems awful while it’s going on, the fifteen hour days suck, they never have the right lunch at crafty, and the producer’s always getting on your case, but then you look back on it and it actually turns out that you had so much fun.

Maybe you don’t want to go live through it again, but you learned some lessons — just like I did — or you had some great experiences. You come back with some good stories.

When I was in Vegas, the amount of stories I racked up are absurd and you’ve read about a lot of them on the site. It was a really tough shoot, but I would do it in an instant again because I made some good friends, I had a lot of fun looking back on it, and I learned some really valuable lessons.

So I’m looking forward to sharing more of those with you in the upcoming videos and I hope you tune in for them. So look out for them in the future and thanks for listening guys! Bye!

 

  • Steveo

    I spent 6 weeks on a gig in detroit. the place I worked at was totally cool, and they paid promptly. they put me up in a nice hotel with my own room. but after about 3 weeks I was pretty much stir crazy. I was doing all editing & VFX on this job, 12hrs a day. I was cheap, they often bought lunch, so when fri nite came, I totally didn’t care what dinner cost as I’d been saving up my per diem. after 4 weeks I went home for the xmas holiday and was back the day after new years for 2 more weeks. I should of negotiated  flights home for the weekends as part of the deal. i was an 8hr drive from home so it wasn’t practical to go back and forth and I rarely drove even though my car was right there. 

    you have to plan off time. you have to have a spouse / partner who accepts and understands this is what you do and can work with it.

  • http://twitter.com/IanAAck Ian Ackerman

    This is a great article Evan! For the past 3 summers I was working at summer camps as a counsellor and being on location is very much like being at summer camp. You cant leave, you see the same people all the time, everyday is different, and you have to pretend like you have all the energy in the world when really, you just want to do nothing but sleep. Working as a counsellor has definitely helped me in the industry because you have to be able to adapt to new situations, constantly. However, there is one difference… on productions, once you go to sleep, your day is over…as a camp counsellor, you’re still on. You still have the responsibility of the kids even if everyone is sleeping (except that one kid that always has to go to the washroom at 4am haha). But considering I’ve now done both of these “careers” professionally, I’m very thankful for my counselling experience, it’s helped so much with my production experience. 

    can’t wait to see more :)

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