On Set Best Practices


Learn by Doing

As a new production student one of the best places to learn about making movies is on other students’ sets. You can (and should) volunteer as a Production Assistant, which is an entry-level position. This role is a great way to gain experience, meet people, and learn how and with whom you like to work. 

As you begin your production journey, the following guidelines will   help you develop professional work habits that will serve you well throughout your career. 


  • Honor your commitment. Refer to the crew deal memo
  • If you’ve volunteered to help a classmate with their film keep your word and give them a full day of honest work.  Quid pro quo is Latin for “You work on my film; I’ll work on yours.” When you need them for your film, you will expect the same. Expect to work up to 12 hours. 
  • Be prepared. Read the call sheet and the script pages for the day’s work.  
  • Be pleasant and enthusiastic. Follow the Golden Rule and treat others the way you would like to be treated. You never know who might be able to give you your next job. Be willing to do anything to help. Don’t say “No, it’s not my job.” 
  • Pay attention. Don’t stand in front of the camera when the D.P. is trying to set up the shot. If you need to leave the set make sure your supervisor knows where you’re going, why you’re going there, and when you’ll be back. 
  • Anticipate and be proactive. The more time you spend on a set the easier it will be to do this. The filmmaking process is highly repetitive. You will get the hang of it pretty quickly. Anticipating what will be needed can save you a lot of extra steps. 
  • Don’t assume anything – if you are in doubt, ask. 
  • Don’t play with the props. They’re not toys. 
  • Don’t move equipment that is not your responsibility without permission. If something is in your way, ask the appropriate crew member to move it.  
  • Work quietly.  
  • Cell phones should only be used for work-related texts, calls or emailing. Always keep it in silent mode! 


  • Wear close-toed, comfortable footwear. Keep in mind that you are going to be on your feet for a long, long time. Shoes, boots or sneakers with good support is a worthwhile investment. Need ideas for shoes? Check out Shoes for Crews! 
  • Wear work-friendly, dark-colored clothing. Dress for maximum mobility and comfort. Clothing that is too loose can become a safety hazard. 
  • Make sure to bring protective equipment with you like gloves, sunglasses and a hat. It’s not a bad idea to carry sunblock, Chapstick, Visine, aspirin and the like. 
  • The weather can change. You should carry a “set bag” with you that contains rain gear and cold weather gear. 


  • A film set is organized in a hierarchical structure. It is not a democracy. As a crew member, you are expected to observe proper protocol.  Direct your questions and suggestions to your direct supervisor rather than to the director.  This is called “following the chain of command.” It is an effective way of avoiding confusion and miscommunication. Questions like, “where do I park?” or “where do the water bottles go?” should be directed to your 1st AD or UPM.  Assume all logistical matters are being handled by the producers and ADs.  


  • All professional sets employ the use of radios. They are an inexpensive device that improves efficiency and communication. We highly recommend the use of “walkies.” 
  • Someone needs to be responsible (usually a P.A.) to distribute, charge and collect the radios at the beginning and end of the day. It is highly recommended to put a piece of tape with the crew person’s name on the radio. A sign out sheet is used to track who received a radio. One of the most common lost items on any set is walkie-talkies. Keeping fresh bricks (a.k.a. batteries) on hand is necessary. The battery charger should be kept close to set to allow for changes.  Using headsets or surveillance ear buds are a good way to keep the set quiet.  


  • If you are a P.A. you will be expected to help with “locking up” the set when it comes time to do a take. You will be assigned a position at the perimeter of the set. It will be your responsibility to keep everyone in your area aware of when the camera rolls and to make sure there is no noise that will ruin the take. 
  • When the AD calls “PICTURES UP” repeat the message in a loud, clear voice so that every- one knows that the camera is about to roll.  
  • When the AD calls “ROLLING,” repeat this loud. Rotating your index finger in a circle is a universally understood signal for “ROLLING”. Your crew should know to be quiet, unfortunately you will have to remind them. At that point, you should be on the lookout for “bogies” or non-crew persons that could ruin the shot.  
  • You will come across people who do not want to follow your pleasant request of, “We’re filming a movie. Would you mind waiting a minute.” In all cases, treat “civilians” (anyone not involved in the production) with respect and politeness. Remember, the shooting company’s presence is probably an inconvenience to them and you may need to return to the location. 
  • When you hear “CUT”, repeat the message so both crew and the public will know they can resume work or walking. 
  • P.A.’s or other crew members are never permitted to control vehicular traffic. Only designated law enforcement officers are allowed to stop or direct traffic. 


  • Put your tools and equipment away – then help others.   
  • Clean the area and pick up and dispose of any trash. 
  • Make sure you’ve filled out all the necessary paperwork before you leave the location. 
  • Make sure you have the next day’s Call Sheet and map before you leave the location. 
  • Make sure all cast and crew have transportation. 
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