10 Irritating Things You Should Never Say on Set

10 Irritating Things You Should Never Say on Set
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If you work regularly in the industry, you probably spend more time on set than you do with your family members.  With the long hours we work, things can get stressful, and we may say things that we should never say at work.

I’ve heard my share of irritating things on set and may have even muttered a couple of them myself.  However, I would advise discretion in your set talk, or you may find both your job and your reputation gone.

Here are my picks for ten things you should never say on set:

  1. I assumed.

This phrase sounds harmless enough, but it can be a formula for disaster in our industry.

We don’t have the luxury of assuming anything in our business, as things are constantly changing on set.

Making an incorrect assumption can cost time and money and make you and your department look bad, so ask if you’re unsure about something.

  1. That’s not my job.

Film production is a collaborative effort, and you may be asked now and then to do something that’s technically not part of your job.

This is especially true if you work on an understaffed show, where every department is shorthanded.   While I do not suggest anyone do work they aren’t trained for and haven’t been hired to do, it doesn’t hurt to do a favor for another department occasionally.

Your profile rises when you show empathy towards your coworkers and help out when you can.

Building goodwill on set is a win-win for everyone.

  1. I never look at the call sheet.

If you want to see an a.d.’s head explode, tell them you never read the call sheet.  There’s no surer way to announce to your coworkers that you’re not a professional than to say you don’t read the call sheet.

The people who disregard the call sheet are usually the same ones who ask me a dozen questions throughout the day, the answers to which can be easily found on the said sheet.

You’re also announcing that you’ve come to work unprepared and may look like a fool by day’s end.

Just sayin’.

  1. We’ve always done it this way.

Part of every industry job description is creative problem-solving.  That’s what we do every day in our business, no matter the department in which you work.

We have to be able to adapt to every situation in all kinds of locations, so the way a task gets completed on stage may not work on a location.

Nothing great was ever created or discovered by doing things the same way they’ve always been done, so ban the phrase from your set vocabulary.

If you want the comfort of sameness, you’re in the wrong business.

  1. I have to leave early today.

Sorry background actors, but this one’s on you.  You can’t make plans to do something else on workdays in our industry.

If we can release you, we will, but you know you’re booked for a full day when you take the job.  Your plea to leave early will fall on deaf ears.

So make arrangements for your kid’s school pickup and other essential things on your to-do list beforehand.

Ours is not a ‘leave early’ business.

  1. Would you like to go out?

Let me put this bluntly: asking out someone you work with is not only awkward, it could also get you fired for harassment.

I was warned never to date anyone I worked with by the a.d. on my first job, and he was right.  At least today, you have dating apps.

With the long hours we work, I know it’s not easy to meet anyone to date other than at work.  But in the current climate of #MeToo, it’s just not wise or even feasible to date a coworker.

The repercussions can be severe and threaten your long-term career.  So do your dating elsewhere.

  1. Please buy these candy, cookies, magazines, etc., to help my kid’s school.

I’m not unsympathetic to the current funding problems of public schools.  However, that doesn’t mean I or anyone else wants to be hit up for money at work.

Asking people to buy things at work puts them in an awkward situation and causes resentment.

Please do your fundraising and sales elsewhere.

  1. What time are we wrapping?

I usually get asked this doozy in the morning before I or anyone else has the slightest idea when we’ll wrap.

There are rarely, if ever, any short days in our business, so if you’re asking so you can make plans later, forget it.  You’re out of luck.

When we’re on the martini shot, I can usually give you an estimate of wrap time.

‘Til then, be ready for anything.

  1. Are you pregnant?

Asking someone if they’re pregnant is not an appropriate question for the workplace, and it’s not an appropriate question in any setting.

Pregnancy in the workplace is a fraught subject, and in the past, women routinely lost their jobs when their bosses discovered they were pregnant.

So keep the personal questions to yourself, or you may find yourself looking for another job.

  1. This director sucks.

Yes, we’ve all thought it from time to time, but those feelings are best kept to yourself.

In episodic television, the crew generally knows within the first few minutes whether a new director knows what they’re doing or not.  If they don’t, it’s wise just to do your job and make the best of it.

I know it can be tempting to shout it out at the end of a brutally long day that could have been avoided with a more competent director, but resist the temptation.

The director has responsibilities we know nothing about, so try to think charitably about how they do their job, even if it’s affecting everyone else negatively.

Remember, we have to be adaptable to all situations on set.


There are many more irritating things never to say on set, but these are the ten I’ve chosen for now.  Most readers know better than to say any of these, but we can all use a reminder from time to time.

What things would be on your list of what not to say at work?  Leave your comments in the comments section below.

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