I talk a lot about what to do when you’re not booking, regular life outside of set, etc. So let’s chat today about being on set. Specifically, being a costar or guest star. This is also a semi-piggy pack to Max Greenfield’s podcast episode!
Let’s begin with this: this is a HUGE deal. Actors shrug this off all the time and it makes me so sad. The amount of obstacles you’ve conquered to get this far is incredible! From reps, to headshots, to auditions, this is no small feat! So please, take a moment to enjoy it! Celebrate it! I mean…maybe not the night before you film, but ya know what I mean.
There is a great quote in The Actors Lifewhere Jenna Fischer says, “the person on set with the least lines is usually the most prepared.” Truer words have never been spoken. You probably don’t need to be reading and rereading your scenes in your trailer (if you have one). So like…what do you do on set?
1. Listen. Being on a set is such a privilege and something you also worked so damn hard for. But it’s also FREE CLASS. I have learned more on sets than I ever have in class. Quietly listening to whats going on around you (in a non-creepy and out-of-the-way way) is an experience that can’t be beat. Of course there is the obvious of listening for your own role: marks, director, camera angles, lighting, audio, etc. But also, listen to how the other actors prep, how the director works with others, what the scenes look like in the monitor as opposed to what they look like on the set. All these things can influence your work in a positive way.
2. Stay curious. Most people on a set have a certain job to do and they are there for a reason: they do it very well. When these people have the time or space, they are also knowledge bombs you can learn from. I learned everything I know about sound (hello podcast!) thanks for befriending the audio guy on a movie I did in France, he also ending up getting me hooked on meditation and is one of the coolest people I’ve met on set. I also picked up some lighting lessons from a previous stint on a feature and now know how to light myself and my friends for self-tapes.
3. But also stay out of the way. I will emphasize this now: time is money and as great as these things are, you are at work on a set and so is everyone else. Always be aware of where you are (blocking lights, in a shot, etc) what you’re doing (talking on the phone while they’re rolling, or snap chatting when there is no social media allowed), and who’s around you (critiquing anything at all is not a great idea nor is this the place to do it. the writer or producer is literally a whisper away…and so is the sound guy so don’t Robert Durst yourself).
4. Make new friends (sort of). If you’re in a feature and filming multiple days, there is a greater chance to develop what I have heard called “summer camp syndrome” where you spend so much time with the same cast and crew, it becomes like a small (often dysfunctional) family. That is in itself a form of networking. So just….be fuckin nice. If you’re on a big budget show, especially for only a day or so, there is less chance of this happening. There will be an awkward high-school like feeling where you’re on the outside of this cafeteria-clique world….and it will be very prominent during lunch. I am always very chill about this and take a seat where it’s offered or available (often with the hair or makeup folks because I got to know them during my first few hours on set). Don’t try and schmooze. If you have made a friend on set, fan-freaking-tastic. But if you feel weirdly isolated during lunch, well just know you’re not alone and also it’s 2018 so if you are on your phone for a little bit, I support you.
5. If all else fails, bring a book. You should do this anyway actually. Your phone will most definitely die on a costar shoot. Why? Because you may not have a trailer available to you (a place to easily charge it) and you will no doubt have a fuck-ton of downtime. Bringing a book is a great way to kill time while not napping (I don’t know about you but that makes me totally out of it) and not snacking too much (also a large issue for me: Craft services). It is also a nice conversation starter because it’s not super common these days.
Ok that’s all I have for today! If you got any value from this, let me know on the gram ya’ll!