10 Big Commandments for Working in the Film Industry

10 Big Commandments for Working in the Film Industry
Design by Judy Moore in Canva
Share this

Every industry has its unique set of ‘commandments’ for those working in that space.  Working in the film industry is no different, as those of us in it can attest.   Anyone just starting out may be wondering about the set rules and etiquette they have to navigate.

Hopefully, newbies will find these tips helpful, and those with more experience may have things to add to this list.   So here are my ten commandments for working in the film industry (drumroll please):

  1. Don’t keep anyone waiting.

Imagine a scenario where everything is ready for a shot.  The set is lit, the props are in place, the actors are in wardrobe and standing on their marks, but the camera can’t roll because of something you haven’t done.  In our business, that’s the stuff of nightmares.

An a.d. told me many years ago that each person’s job was to ‘service the camera,’ meaning that the crew in every department had to do what was needed to make sure the camera could roll.

I could go on and on about this commandment, but suffice it to say you should never be the cause of the camera not rolling.

  1. Don’t talk on or near the set during rehearsal and filming.

This one seems obvious, but people on set are sometimes oblivious to what’s happening around them.  If you want to piss off the director and a.d.s, this is the way to do it.

Background actors, I hate to call you out, but you’re often the worst offenders.  If we tell you more than once to be quiet on set, we’ll be telling extras casting about it, and you won’t be asked back.

The crew has the set after rehearsal.  It shouldn’t be a Herculean task to keep the set quiet during rehearsals and filming.

  1. Take safety seriously and pay attention during the safety meeting.

Yes, the brief safety meeting at crew call can seem a bit disruptive at the start of the day, but it wouldn’t happen if it weren’t crucial that it does.  Everyone on set is responsible for safety in their departments.

Anyone who’s in an IATSE union local has taken numerous safety courses through Contract Services.  However, it’s easy to be lax about safety at the end of a long day when everyone’s tired and ready to go home.

We all need to take safety seriously to avoid accidents and injuries.  This commandment is non-negotiable.

  1. Don’t play hide and seek.

Tell someone in your department if you need to leave the set.  Actors and extras, let an a.d. know where to find you.  Professionals know this.  It’s the others we end up waiting for on set.

There’s no better way to burn bridges than to be absent when you’re needed.  Let’s put this one under set etiquette.

Be considerate and let someone know where you’re going.

  1. Let others do their jobs without distractions.

Yes, you may want to know precisely how the camera works or how to get into the makeup and hair department.  However, people don’t have time for those discussions when they’re working.

By all means, use your powers of observation to see how things happen on set.  But don’t interrupt people when they’re working, or you may not get a polite response.

Work first, socializing later.

  1. Pay attention to what’s happening on set.

What’s that?  You don’t know what’s going on?

The production office probably emailed you a call sheet and a shooting schedule before you arrived on set.  You probably have it on your phone if you didn’t print it out.

So you should be able to follow what’s happening throughout the day.  If you’re working as a background actor, the a.d.s will be telling you what you need to know about each shot that involves you.

If you have a relevant question, ask.  But please come prepared for the day’s work by having read the call sheet and shooting schedule.

Cell phones have proved to be a major distraction on set, especially to those of us who remember the pre-cell phone era.  This leads me to commandment number seven.

  1. Silence your phone on set.

Oh, how things have changed since the days of one stage phone with a red light for a ringer.  It was a big deal to make or receive a phone call.  It seems unimaginable now, but at some locations, there was no phone access at all.

Today, everyone has a phone on set, and the scrolling is endless.  I could write a whole blog post about cell phones on set.

However, I’ll keep it short here and just say to make sure your phone is on mute, or you may find yourself being publicly called out and embarrassed on set.

Your phone ringing isn’t part of the scene.

  1. Be punctual.

Lateness is not well-tolerated in our industry, and for good reason.  Everyone arriving on time is the difference between making and not making the day’s work.

Today we have the advantage of GPS to find even the most obscure locations.  I can’t imagine how we all lived without it before, but somehow, we did.  Everyone managed to get to locations on time, for the most part.

Allow enough time to get to work on time.  Let someone know if you’re going to be late.

And don’t even think about challenging the a.d. who calls you back from lunch break.  We’re meticulous about time-keeping, and it will fall on deaf ears.

  1. If you have a radio on set, you need a headset or earpiece.

No one wants to hear blaring radios on set all day.  It’s annoying and unnecessary.  Some directors will scream at you to turn off your radio on set.  I’ve seen it happen.

And while I’m on the subject of radios, please practice radio etiquette.  That means no yelling, no swearing, and no keying.  It also means to take long or private department conversations to another channel.

And remember to thank the p.a. who changes your radio battery.

  1. Mind your manners.

What’s worse than a brutally long day?  Having to deal with rude, inconsiderate people during that long day.

We all need to be considerate and practice set etiquette.  That means no screaming, belittling people, or loud, obnoxious radio comments.

We’ve all had to work with and for ill-mannered, inconsiderate people.  Let’s not be one of them.


Those are ten of my top commandments.  I could easily write ten or fifteen more, but that would be overkill.

What are the things that drive you crazy about working in the film industry?

There are many wonderful things about working in our business.  We just have to take the negatives with the positives.





Share this