Sean K Berry is a casting director and videographer in Toronto. He is the host of Casting Couch Radio, a radio blog for entertainment industry pros, independents, amateurs and everyone in between. Sean has contributed to the Zooppa blog before with his post, “Want Corporate Clients to see you as a Pro? Dress Like It.”
Now, he addresses the top ten things that bug him on set and even shares hidden tips on how to prevent some major set disasters.
1. People who are late
Not the client – they can be as late as they want because it’s their show. But an actor or crew member who is late, without a good reason, probably won’t get another phone call.
2. Not enough plugs in the walls
This happens a lot. Most of the time, the best shot is over there, while the wall outlets are over here. Extension cords solve the problem, but you have to tape them down like crazy or else someone is guaranteed to trip over them.
3. Actors that flub a line at the end of the script
It isn’t their fault. Long scripts can be a hassle, especially when you know that you can’t hide some cuts with b-roll. This pressure, along with the subconscious thought of “I’m almost home,” usually leads an actor to stumble on the last paragraph.
4. The sun
If there’s not any drapes on a window, the sun can make you paranoid. “Where’s the sun right now? Where will it be in an hour? Where will it be in two hours?” Wherever it will be, your actor will be standing in it when the time comes.
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve used the same teleprompter with the same computer. When you plug it in at the beginning of the day, the teleprompter doesn’t work. You check the connection, reboot the computer, use the “find displays” option in the menu, on and on. And still the computer won’t talk to the prompter. Then the client shows up, and you’re sweating bullets. Finally, as if by magic, it works! You’ve done nothing differently – it just works.
I remember one shoot from a while back. Someone else was running the prompter and he brought his own gear. I was working camera that day. When the guy plugged in the prompter, I left for a cup of coffee and came back a half-hour later. The producer said, “You missed all the excitement. We couldn’t get the prompter working and we were flipping out.”
That was the whole reason I went to get a coffee in the first place. I didn’t want to be there for the nail biting.
6. Air conditioners
They keep the place cool, but they can play hell with your audio. If you’re in an office building, you might have a hard time turning the AC off because not every room has a thermostat. Sometimes you just have to live with it and take the sound out in post, which leads me to…
7. “We’ll fix it in post”
Those five words can lead to disaster, not to mention a whole bunch of extra time sweating away in post-production with the deadline looming over your head. I like, “Let’s do it right, while we’re here.”
8. Construction crews
Having a shoot on the second floor of an office? They’ll be putting in a new sidewalk outside.
9. Too many directors
This happens when you’re on one of those, “We’re not in this for the money” shoots, like a short film. Suddenly everyone’s got a great idea for a shot, and nobody wants to smack someone down in case free ham sandwiches aren’t enough to keep them from quitting.
10. Being unprepared
Not being prepared is what leads to all sorts of problems, including all of the ones listed above. And it sounds great to say, “Be prepared,” but unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about it.
On fast shoots, there isn’t time to do a lot of scouting, and someone may not know how many plugs there are in a room, or whether an office is having a new door put in that day. You just have to go with it, and use the number one rule of production: do the best you can do at any given moment, and things will work out fine.