20 Rules You Should Never Break on Set

20 Rules You Should Never Break On Set

Yesterday I posed a simple question to those who like The Black and Blue's Facebook page and, within the hour, dozens of responses poured in.

Yesterday I posed a simple question to those who like The Black and Blue’s Facebook page:

“When on a film set, what’s the one rule nobody should ever break?”

Within the hour, dozens of responses poured in.

The answers ranged from the profound to the practical to the peculiar. Many recommended turning cell phones off while others took the opportunity to remind their fellow crew to show up early (or at least on time). Almost all started with “never” or “don’t” — a sign that crew aren’t the most forgiving when it comes to major setiquette mishaps.

Overall, I was so impressed with the flood of advice that I wanted to share the top comments with those of you who didn’t catch the Facebook post. So I’ve gathered up 20 responses — split between the most popular and the ones I enjoyed the most — to share with you here.

“When on a film set, what’s the one rule nobody should ever break?”

  1. NEVER work without pay. – Chris Ratledge
  2. Never try and guess your wrap time, You’re just jinxing yourself. – Paul Raymond
  3. Don’t fart during a take. – Jason Bourke-Velji
  4. Never give your opinion unless you are the director. – Joseph Cabato
  5. If you don’t know something, dont act like you do. – Nick Sokol
  6. Stick to your role, and keep your mobile phone switched off. – Bogdan Jugureanu
  7. Don’t move ANYTHING on set unless told to! Continuity is sooo important! – Tee Lee
  8. Never call CUT! – Louise Murphy
  9. Some wise advise I’ve once heard: “You should always be waiting on someone but never be waited upon.” – Michel Aspirot
  10. When firing a light, wait for a couple seconds after the call to switch it on. Otherwise you blind people who looked at you (just because they heard something) when you don’t give them time to look away again. – Jonathan C. Hout
  11. No eye contact with Ms. Lopez. – JR Lipari
  12. Never forget the chain of command. Its not a democratic process. – Tom Majerski
  13. Don’t run unless there’s an emergency. – Duncan Ballantine
  14. Feed your crew. – Michael Ferrara
  15. Don’t be late. – Paul Stephen Edwards
  16. If you’re the Camera PA, there better be beer on the truck or you better make a deal with the grips. – Wade Thomas Ferrari
  17. [Don’t] put drinks on the magliner – Sam Hayes
  18. Keep your mouth shut – Francesco Bonomo
  19. Safety first – Blake Larson
  20. Just. Be. Cool. – Susan Medaglia

What’s Your Rule Nobody Should Break?

A special thanks to those whose comments are quoted above and a big thank you to everyone who took the time to share a piece of advice yesterday!

I speak on behalf of all readers when I say your advice is so valuable because it’s coming from real crew working on real productions — it all helps to navigate the murky waters of setiquette.

If you missed the opportunity to share your rule on Facebook, it’s not too late! Let us know in the comments below what your “one rule nobody should ever break” is.

Finally, if you want to engage in these conversations in real time, make sure to join The Black and Blue on Facebook. Over there we talk about everything from cameras to pulling focus. We also share production stills, cool links, and, of course, the newest posts from The Black and Blue.

We’re all friendly folk and your News Feed will stay safe in my hands — I promise :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/bikenejad Alex Niknejad

    Here are a few of my golden rules:

    Double check everything.

    Don’t freestyle knowledge.

    If it’s heavy or expensive, sandbag it!

    Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, but consider how, when and who. The director could care less what you think about a scene, but if you notice a critical error or mistake you can potentially save people lots of time and money. In my experience its better to communicate those errors with your direct superior so that they can relay it up to the director, rather than going directly to the director.

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

      Awesome contributions, Alex! Thanks for sharing. Agree with you completely about communicating errors up through the chain of command. You don’t want to look like you’re circumventing your boss and it also gives you the opportunity to voice your concern.

  • peterblue11

    ah i missed sending in my things.

    if you are not the director/DP/1st ac or maybe makeup dont make eye contact with the actors during a take. it could throw them off and you feel like an idiot for ruining the take.

    i don’t agree with the “never give your opinion” bit. on smaller shoots, indie productions etc, everyone is still at a learning stage to a certain extent, for example I have often pointed out things to the DP when i was “just” 1st or even 2nd AC and saved a take, ie a certain prop has been moved and nobody noticed. don’t babble for no reason but point our errors that could ruin takes – it will make you look attentive and a true teamplayer. just be considerate and voice it to the right person in the chain of command.

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

      Good point about the nuances of sharing your opinion. It’s a tricky line to walk, but it’s all about experience really and having the right tact.

  • John-Michael

    A slight addendum to #7 and #18: Unless there’s an emergency. I’ve had to do this a couple of times, most recently when a gust of wind caught a 4×4 Silk and was about to hurl it towards the actors.

  • Nate Suri

    Always bring gaffer.

    • Far Out Films

      Yep, that would be my rule too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Frank-L-Ridley/100003531487980 Frank L Ridley

    Actors: Don’t lose your mind when working with a star. Pretend you do this all the time and stop talking about yourself. (This is advise I give myself. I hope it will be of use.)

    • patrizia

      Very good advice. I must say though find working with and around stars a lot more relaxing than being around newer, less experienced (and potentially more nervous) actors/directors,etc.

    • chanela

      YES!!! whenever i’m on set there is always THAT person who sits there and brags about themselves all day long and acts like they’re better than everybody else(even though they are also an extra just like you). nobody wants to hear it. shut up! lol

  • devovit

    Always defer to the sound department.


    – The sound department.

    • devovit

      P.S. Don’t put that light there.

      • 3847859

        goddamnit your boom is in the shot again

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Frank-L-Ridley/100003531487980 Frank L Ridley

      I will say for any indy film maker, don’t stint on sound!

  • http://www.facebook.com/chasinglamely Kriss Sprules

    There’s only one important story on set – unless you’re the writer, nobody gives a damn about yours (actors, extras and PAs are the worst for this!)

  • Jason Sweatt

    Be respectful and courteous to everyone. They may be in charge of hiring you on the next production. They will remember you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marisa.f.oherlihy Marisa Ferrey O’Herlihy

    Nobody’s job is “easy”. Respect every department’s work.

    Marisa Ferrey, Assistant Director

  • http://twitter.com/aaherter Alex Herter

    Never assume anything, always ask questions or receive repeated instructions if you’re unclear on anything. For coffee and crafty always have a pen and paper handy to get orders correct and double check them when you pick them up before returning to set so everyone gets their food.

  • RicardoCasco

    Godamnit. Guessing the wrap time rule is something I always tend to break haha

  • Kevin

    The best thing I’ve learned is important (that is not mentioned here) is to anticipate what is going to be needed done by you next and set up for that during any down time. People really appreciate when you can do something in a fraction of the time they expected because you already did most of the work and were just waiting on the word.

    • AJ

      I want to like this way more than one time. Efficiency is always appreciated.

  • Patrick Larson

    So the other day I was cam. op’ing a live event for broadcast, and one of the other cam. op’s would routinely take his headset off and not tell the director. This absolutely ticked me off. So my rule to add would be:

    Don’t remove yourself from means of communication, but if you must, tell the person you respond too in the chain of command.

  • Victor Chon

    Never forget filmmaking is a team sport.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ElectricHobo Jared Hoy

    do YOUR job, let others do theirs.

  • lane

    as a pretty consistant camera PA i definitely know that #16 REALLY rings true

  • http://www.facebook.com/pamela.johnson.5623 Pamela Johnson

    I have a couple I live by.
    I Never assume anything.I Always introduce myself.
    I Stay out of the way.I shut up, watch and listen.
    I never ask for a photo or autograph, however I usually receive some memorabilia and I really appreciate it! It’s nice to have something else to save besides my credentials which I like to collect.

  • jake

    don’t fix it in post. get it right on set.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sterlinglarsen Chris Larsen

    Know who the above the lines are and stay out of their way on set, don’t try to talk to the dp if the director is anywhere near, get out of the way, If you don’t have business being near the scene then FO, don’t talk around the camera, leave your phone in the truck, put down your damn slate and pick up the battery/tripod/front box/steadicam stand, tab your marks, don’t hook up with anyone until the last week of the shoot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/quish.yusuf Quish Yusuf

    Something from over Asia, “Always, always, always be considerate of others. You’re not the only one who’ve not had enough sleep. So DO NOT sleep on your job”.

  • amp502

    “Just. Be. Cool.” is the best here. Everyone is different. Don’t hurt anyone, don’t kill anyone… after that, just be cool. Should I fly in a stinger for the inky? Or should I grab a cord for the small light? Who cares?

    Just be cool. Right on, Susan.

  • cbenge

    please, don’t walk/stand in front of the still photographer’s camera.

  • Alan MacKinnon

    “If it’s worth running for, it’s worth waiting for”

  • guynoir

    Don’t stand in the doorway.
    Be nice to the PAs, they’ll be producers one day

  • AJ

    Respect the crew’s efforts. I’ve been on too many projects where location managers park the crew trucks a significant distance from the actual shoot location, when with a simple inquiry, they could have gotten access to the adjacent parking lot. Hauling a 400lb+ dolly over a quarter mile of uneven, soupy, muddy terrain and heaving it over barbed wire fences is foolish, especially if you can part the truck right on the opposite side of said barbed wire fence by asking for permission.

    There is plenty of equipment on a set, much of it is pretty heavy. If you make the effort to get your trucks as close to set as possible, setup and teardown will get you shooting faster and cleared out of the location faster… AND you won’t burn out your crew in the meantime. Save their backs, and they’ll appreciate it.

  • Darren Suresh Francis

    never lose focus on unnecessary things like flirting, bitching, fucking around etc… always remember we’re hired for a reason. Be a team player and motivate each other.

    Assistant Director

  • Donald Montgomery

    I had great eye-contact with Ms. Lopez last week and even got to meet and chat with her when Harry, Keith, Ryan and I (at their request, of course) mini-pranked her on the AI set. She was lovely and gracious and we all had a laugh. They even gave me a picture which I can’t release til January (contractual obligation, of course). They are all nice, happenin’ people with HUGE talent.