8 Things Every Indie Director Should Bring on a Film Set

Recently Filmmaker Magazine posted an article about what women filmmakers wear to set. Think about that for a second. Why is there an article written about what female filmmakers wear to set? Is there a similar article detailing what the style choices are of male directors and what they wear on set? Of course not. To be fair, the Filmmaker Magazine article was in part a parody response to Refinery 29’s post about what different women should wear to dress for the job they want. One of those jobs was “film director.” Their idea of what dressing for success for a female filmmaker included; “you'll likely be on your feet for long days on set, but still don't want to look sloppy, so opt for a thick "grandma"-style heel that can last you the whole day.”

Rachell Shapiro with the cast and crew from her film,  From Hell to Here.

Rachell Shapiro with the cast and crew from her film, From Hell to Here.

Um, right. If the people writing the Refinery 29 article knew anything about the business of actually making a film they would know heels would be the last thing most women would think to wear on set – grandma or otherwise. But that’s beside the point because what women filmmakers wear on set is irrelevant. Unless someone wants to write an article interviewing both men and women and what they both wear on set then this type of article has no place in either online magazine.

So, in response to this I’ve decided to make a list of eight things, some non-traditional and in no particular order, that we at FLOWSTATE Films think might actually be helpful for anyone who is making an indie film to bring to set:

  1. A Good Attitude – This before anything else can make or break a production day. If you’re in charge on set, you set the tone. If you have a bad attitude no one is going to respond with their best work. Conversely, if you have a great attitude and project that on set – you’ll create an atmosphere where everyone wants to work their hardest and do their best.
  2. Detailed Shot list – this seems obvious but not every producer/director does this. Some like to go in with just a general outline or loose idea of what they want to capture. Occasionally that might work. But if you want to be efficient and make your day, plan, plan, plan. And then if you have to change your plan (which inevitably you will) you’ll be OK because the work-around will be obvious with all of your up-front planning.
  3. Call Sheet – Bring your call sheet to set and put it in your production binder. It's your catch-all for info. If someone’s late – go to your call sheet. If you can’t remember the name of your grip – go to your call sheet. What time is lunch – call sheet. And bring extras, that way when actors or other crew come up to you and ask you questions that you don’t have time to answer, you can tell them to check their call sheet and if they don’t have it, give them another copy.
  4. Water/Coffee – Hydration is KEY for lasting a long day on a set. If you’re lucky enough to be on a set with craft services than great, you don’t have to worry about getting water or coffee because they’ll have it. If you’re on a super low budget indie where you are responsible for pretty much everything, BRING WATER for your crew and cast. It’s a must. And if you bring coffee it will make everyone your best friend.
  5. An Extra Pair of Socks/Shoes – Sometimes shoots call for 12hr days standing on incredibly hard surfaces with little to no time to sit down. I learned this trick from a gaffer on a shoot in Indianapolis - if you change your shoes or socks half way through the day you almost feel like you had a little foot massage. It’s pretty incredible how refreshed you will feel.
  6. Deodorant – Whether you’re inside or outside and whether it’s cold or hot. Most likely you’re going to be moving constantly over 10-12hrs and after about 4-5 of them you’ll notice you don’t smell as fresh as you did in the morning. And when you have to cram into a corner with your DP, AC, Audio Tech and Gaffer – you’ll appreciate that everyone threw their deodorant into their set bag in morning.
  7. A Sense of Humor – Production days are long and usually hard and stressful. As much as you can as the leader of the set, keep it light and have a sense of humor. The more people enjoy themselves on set the better performances you’ll get out of everyone. And they’ll love working with you and want to work with you again. Which is key in this business.
  8. Confidence – When you are running a set you’ll probably be working with a crew and cast of mixed experience. You’ll likely be working with men and women who have been doing this for more years than you – and there will be skeptics about your ability. But as long as you are confident in your vision, plan well, speak with authority and don’t take BS if someone tries to dish it out – you’ll earn respect quickly. The respect of your crew and talent can make for a smooth or turbulent production.

So, when making your set check list think about being prepared for more than just what you have to shoot. What do you need to keep yourself sane and happy throughout the day? What would your crew need to stay sane and happy - from your AD down to your PA (if you’re lucky enough to have one.)

Overall, be kind, be prepared, have fun…and leave the grandma heels at home.


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