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Have you worked on a variety of film projects, or primarily focused on one type of work? Are there benefits to working on projects outside of your main interest? This week we are looking at a question from a student about how much time to schedule during an interview setup.

STUDENT QUESTION: Should a filmmaker look for work on a variety of film sets?

JOHN-CLAYThere are great differences between being on a film set, a documentary set, or a promo set. There are also some similarities, but there’s a lot of differences, and the choice to me is I will be on any set that will let me be on their set. To me, the goal is to learn, and everybody does it different, and because there’s different ways of filming it, there’s plenty to learn and grow and just see from other people and working with other people. There are different amounts of stress on those sets. There’s different amounts of creativity that’s available on different types of sets, as long as the content of what they’re making isn’t going to be morally compromising or weird or strange, and you generally trust the people. Those kind of caveat things are a given.

If somebody says, we have a project, do you want to come help, you should be there. Watch the way they do it, ask questions, learn to get along with people, because it’s all going to be different.

If somebody says, we have a project, do you want to come help, you should be there. Click To Tweet

I think it’s a great experience if you can get on sets. A film set is more organized, is planned, and is more “this is what we’re doing,” it’s more structured that way, but you’re also usually shooting nonstop for eight to ten, fourteen hours a day, and so there’s very rarely any downtime depending on your department. A documentary, you’re usually shooting like one or two interviews per day, so there’s a lot more downtime, but there’s a lot more intensity of just, it’s so critical because you have one person coming in, there’s no chance to come back and film again.

Whereas movies, sometimes they come back and get the actors and do pick up shoots, but documentary is really almost live event. There’s a lot of mental pressure that goes into those and there’s fewer people usually, so you’re carrying more hats, but it doesn’t go for eight to ten, fourteen hours a day. Promo films are kind of a mix of both. There’s downtime, but then there’s high intensity and so that one’s just kind of a weird mixed bag. I feel like you have more creativity sometimes in a promo film. There’s more time to just kind of try things. Documentary can be that way and movie sets are less that way. They usually planned all of those things in preproduction.

They’re very, very different. The crew sizes are bigger on a movie, less on a documentary, promo is going to be kind of medium. Sometimes there’ll be two people, sometimes it will be 12 people, it just depends. Any set that’s asking or available, I would say do your best to go show up and even be there for a day and just get some experience. I got to be on the Erwin Brothers, who’ve made Woodlawn and Moms’ Night Out. They were shooting in Oklahoma for their latest film, I Can Only Imagine, and I found out about it too late to go be a regular on the crew, but I knew a guy who let me come in and help wrangle extras, so I was there for a total of four days and you’re working 10 to 14 hours a day.

Any set that's asking or available, I would say do your best to go show up and even be there for a day and just get some experience. Click To Tweet

I was making pizza runs or going to Walmart and buying hundreds of dollars of candy and cookies for the extras, so it’s not what I’m usually used to doing on a film set, but what was really cool is that once we got the extras in the scene and they were set, then we had downtime in our department, and I could sit in there and watch them film the scene. That was hugely educational for me to watch these people with huge crews, multimillion dollar budget, film project.

I enjoyed that. For four days out of their two month shoot, I got to be there and it was worth making pizza runs and going to Walmart and they were great. They treated me great. The crew was great. Their set was great. I really enjoyed doing that.

My point is, if you can get on a set, even doing odd jobs, do it. It’s worth just seeing how other people do things. You can learn stuff. Ask questions if you can.

Bethany Meckle

Bethany Meckle

Content Curator

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