The Genuine Truth About Working in Film Production
Film production is one of those fields that has an aura of mystery, and possibly even glamour, for those unfamiliar with what the work actually entails. It’s been a challenging 10 months for those of us who work in production. First with the shutdown and months of no work, followed by a return to work and challenging safety conditions on set. While it’s been quite a roller coaster ride, working in production has always been challenging.
Here are 5 truths that people outside the industry or hoping to get into it should know about film production:
- It can be dangerous work.
Working on set is not the same as going to an office. Production involves working in different locations and situations daily. I’ve been knocked unconscious on set by a piece of equipment and fallen down wet stairs on a honey wagon. I’ve seen more accidents on set than I can count, and that’s not even counting the stunt people. Production is not work for the timid and unfit. It’s hard work physically, even for those whose jobs don’t involve the physical labor of moving equipment or building sets. Add sleep deprivation to the mix and the danger level increases.
- The hours can be brutally long.
This ties in to truth #1. Long hours often lead to unsafe working conditions. You just can’t be as sharp and focused after 12 plus hours of work as you are after 8 hours. Many set accidents are the result of overly long hours. There was talk of the workday becoming shorter with the onset of the pandemic, but that has not happened. The hours of work are as long as they ever were, leading to sleep deprivation and weakened immune systems. I won’t even go into all the car accidents crew members have had driving home after excessively long workdays. The risk extends beyond the set when we get behind the wheel exhausted.
- Meals are often at irregular hours.
Depending on the call time, ‘lunch’ can often be at 2 pm, 3 pm or even 6 pm. It plays havoc with digestion and trying to stay on a regular eating schedule. There’s usually plenty of food on set between craft service and the caterer, but regular meal times are flexible, to say the least.
- Call times can be really early and really late in the same week.
As if irregular meal times weren’t challenging enough, call time can be 6:30 am on Monday and by Friday it can be noon. Night shooting is common in the industry, and so is going from a day schedule to a night schedule in the same week. It’s hard on your body and your mind.
- Employment can be irregular.
I seem to be using the word ‘irregular’ a lot in this post, and no wonder. Everything about working in film production is irregular. Anyone afraid of constantly changing locations, jobs and co-workers is probably not going to be happy working in production. Jobs and the paychecks that come with them can end abruptly, leaving you having to scramble for another job unexpectedly. That’s not fun. If you absolutely need a paycheck every week to feel secure, film production is probably not for you.
So those are the truths that stand out the most to me when thinking about a career in production. It’s a unique lifestyle, and many people are not suited to its challenges. If you are, picture’s up!