Having just finished a tiring but exciting spring term, I wanted to tell you a little bit about what I’ve been up to. In second year, every Film and Television Production student gets to make their own short film. This starts with developing your idea in autumn term and ends with editing and delivering the finished product in summer term. Spring term was all about pre-production and production. I finished the final draft of my script, went location scouting, held auditions and did a lot of paperwork. Oh boy, the paperwork. (I secretly love doing it though – it makes the world go round). Most importantly, in the second half of term, we all had two and a half days to shoot our films. Over the last 5 weeks, I’ve worked on 8 different film shoots and I wanted to share some of my observations on the set life.
Everyone gets tired
After about a week into our shoots, pretty much everyone was getting really tired – be it due to early call times, late wraps or sleepless nights you spend worrying about that one continuity error you made the previous day. Being on set will mess up your sleep schedule in one way or another. Although as much fun as it is seeing the bags under your eyes grow larger every day, sleep is important. If you’re ever faced with weeks of continuous shoots, make sure you get as much sleep as possible. I found that a day of shooting will go much smoother when everyone has had enough rest. I’m aware that won’t always be possible, but there’s nothing you can’t get through with some caffeine and a little bit of willpower. If you ever find yourself making your own film, plan your schedule so your crew can get enough sleep – they will love you for it.
Everyone is hungry
Over the last few weeks I’ve spent almost every day on a shoot and I pretty much had to rely on the catering provided. There is only one thing that will be more important to your crew than sleep – food. A well-fed crew is a happy crew and a happy crew is a productive crew. The same applies to actors – odds are, you’re on a tight budget and you might not be able to pay your talent, but at least you can make sure their stomachs are full. You don’t have to spend tons of money – fruit, snack bars and sandwiches will suffice to give your team that energy boost.
Be well prepared, but flexible
You can really underestimate the amount of planning that goes into a film shoot, especially if you have to do it all yourself. The effort you put in beforehand will show on the day. If you’re well organised, have a realistic schedule and contingency plans, your shoot will be much more relaxed. However, you also have to be prepared for unforeseen situations and adapt accordingly. Not everything is under your control and no matter how much planning you have done, sometimes it just won’t work out. In those instances, I found that it’s best to consult your team to find a quick solution. During my shoot, I had to constantly re-arrange my shooting schedule due to transport issues. I am by no means a spontaneous person but shooting my own film has certainly taught me to be more flexible.
Things will go wrong
All 8 film sets I’ve been on have had at least one thing go wrong. Maybe you won’t see it coming, but it will happen to you. From missing batteries and broken equipment to a really loud buzzing on location we couldn’t get rid of – I’ve seen about everything go amiss. In some cases, there will be a quick fix, but more often than not, you’ll have to live with it. When you’re on set, you’re on a tight schedule and that means you can’t spend hours trying to fix the tiniest problems. Move on and learn from your mistakes.
It’s a lot of fun
Being on set might be exhausting, nerve-wracking and unpredicable, but you’ll still have a brilliant time. Not only is it a great opportunity to refine your practical filmmaking knowledge, but also to hone your social skills. Coming together as a team and bringing someone’s creative vision to life is an amazing experience. And while you might all be stressed out and tired, there is always time for having a laugh.