It’s hard to think about my worst day on set. I have a tendency to forget how awful the bad days truly are despite the fact that I know, on more than one occasion, that I’ve sworn I’m going to quit the film industry only to be grinning ear-to-ear at wrap.
But there have been some bad moments.
The worst thing that’s ever happened to me is a story I’ve told on this site before. As a green 2nd Camera Assistant (AC), I was jokingly told by the 1st AC to flip a canister of Dust-Off I was using to clean lenses upside down and spray it in the Director of Photography’s ear. Being as stupid as I was, I did just that. The yell from the DP plunged my heart into my stomach. He was fine, but not very happy.
I’ve never felt more guilty for doing something on set than I did that day. I’m lucky the DP was nice about it and we’re still great friends. Every now and then he likes to bring it up and pour more salt in that guilty wound (an atonement I’m happy to oblige).
There have been some other dreadful moments, but overall the good far outweighs the bad. Still, I find that the bad stories are usually the more interesting ones, so I turned to readers of The Black and Blue’s Facebook page and asked them to share their worst moments on set.
Listed below are some of the highlights of their responses…
What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you on a film set?
6am start. Below freezing temperatures. Went to make tea and found the 1st AD banging a carton of frozen milk on the craft services table. It was not a good day. – Jason F.
22 hour day, we had to pay for our own meals, didn’t get paid… – Jeremy W.
1st day of a shoot, 3 main cameras and 7 stunt cam to slate. A couple of bike crashes that almost went really wrong in a very muddy/rainy forest and the Camera truck caught on fire at the end of the day ! The whole kit had to be cleaned after the shoot for the next day (of course). – Raphael B.
Stabbed myself thru the hand with a scalpel. Made a bloody mess of the camera truck. [Then I asked what happened] I was mending some bnc cables and slipped. Don’t use scalpels anymore. – Daniel L.
Someone opened up the take–up side of the mag and exposed all the film Awful day. – Sam N.
Watching our Arri 435 with Angenieux 24–290mm getting accidentally blown–up on the end of a Technocrane by over–zealous SFX guys. That sick feeling in the pit of your stomach as you helplessly watch your camera burn! Not my best day on set. – Jonny K.
Moron tossed a 20 pound weight from the jib and crushed my big toe. – Tim H.
Years ago, 2nd ACing on a low budget feature. Blimped Panavision PSR. A ancient, heavy beast. Shot a scene. Went to lunch, came back and kept shooting. My film count was off by a 1000′ roll. I had an extra roll? No buckle trip on the film mag. We had rolled out right before lunch and shot a thousand feet of air when we got back. Ooops. – Aaron K.
The 1st AC was showing the 2nd AC how to format a card, and forgot the card was still in the camera. Deleted half of the day. No one was happy. – Rick S.
My second big union job i cabled up the DIT feed from camera, long dolly shot. Grips added another ten foot section when I stepped away. Dolly grip goes to the end of the track and I didn’t leave enough slack, snatched the BNC port right off the camera. I wanted to curl up in a ball and die. – Kevin W.
Watched the media card bag fall from a helicopter onto concrete. – Michael K.
As a camera PA on a low–budget feature; whilst running a BNC cable for video village, I tried to open a window. Pushing up twice didn’t do anything, but a third push shattered the pane right under, cutting me just below my palm. The dolly grip had to practically force me to go see the medic, because all I wanted to do was keep running my cable. The worst part was the rest of the camera team (four AC’s, Steadicam op, DP, all union–Hollywood–big–show guys) saw it happen. The embarassment was worse than the cut (which bled a lot, but didn’t hurt at all.) – Lee C.
Was adjusting the wheel brake on the Jimmy Jib base, and the guys hadn’t properly secured the shelf that holds the control box and monitor (a CRT). This shelf, of course, was right above me, and the whole thing came crashing down on my head. I was the DP on this particular shoot (a low–budget short), and needless to say we lost a good bit of time afterwards while my vision cleared and I filled out paperwork. – Jonathan H.
Watching an Alexa with a 18–250mm optimo lens hit the deck. – Scott W.
Upon arriving on set at a bar on 8th Ave. in Manhattan, the Director/Executive Producer informed me (Assistant Producer) at 5:25 am for a 6am crew call, that there would be no catering for the cast & crew…at all…For the entire shoot… – Carlos S.
The crew and I traveled from DC to the very northern part of North Carolina where we stayed overnight and shot for a day. The morning at breakfast, the host of the documentary talked about how the couple in the room above him were so loud, banging the headboard. After some curiosity and discussion, I realized that his room was directly below mine. What he thought was a noisy couple was me doing jumping jacks. – Angelo M.
Was acting for a colleague’s film. Had the bright idea that I can still handle liquor the night before. Spent the next day on set in between takes sitting on a bathroom toilet. Luckily there WAS a bathroom toiled. Classy. – Lauren Z.
What’s Your Worst Moment on Set?
A special thank you to those quoted above and thank you to everyone who shared a story on the post the other day. I love hearing about your unique experiences working on real productions as I’m sure other readers of The Black and Blue do as well.
If you didn’t get a chance to share your story on Facebook, it’s not too late! Let us know in the comments below what your “worst thing to ever happen to you on set” was.
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 don’t post more than once a day and your News Feed will stay safe in my hands — I promise!