5 Stupid Things You Should Never Forget on Location
Here’s the situation. It’s super early in the morning on production day. You’ve barely made a dent in that drive thru coffee but you’ve got to pack up and hit the road to set. You were smart the night before and put together a checklist of all that fancy equipment you’re going to need for the day.
It’s all packed up and ready to go. Time to get to set! Let’s do this!
But chances are while you’re a little sleep deprived and focused on the audio equipment, cameras or lighting package, you’re forgetting something.
NO. It’s nothing flashy: Though if you’re going to be in dark spaces or filming a night scene flashlights are generally helpful.
NO. It’s not electronic: But hopefully amidst your electronic equipment gathering you’ve thought about how you’re going to power everything up. Extension cords are your friend.
And NO we’re not talking about sandbags but don’t forget those either.
Nothing like these things were in your filmmaking 101 books. But you can find them at your local hardware store. And you will feel stupid on location with your high tech, expensive equipment packages realizing all you really need in that moment is one of the following 5 items.
Item 1: Tape
Admit it. How many times have you been on set and heard the phrase…
“did anybody bring tape?”
Chances are you’ll need a quick set dressing fix or mark camera and actor blocking during rehearsals. At the least you need to tidy up cables so nobody on set has a nice trip. Don’t just hope someone remembered that one roll of warped tape you swear you saw in the production van a month ago.
Have a whole case of it in different colors and types. That way you’re not worried about heavy duty tape damaging the walls of your location. Or masking tape not holding up anything that weighs over a pound because... duh. And wouldn’t it be nice to “greek” or set dress something with a closer matching color than black?
Not only does it save you time on set, it’ll save you time in the editing bay as well.
With all that time you’ll save on the back end, take the time to make sure you have tape. It does fix everything. Almost. Of course it would be nice to have something to cut that tape with. Or anything for that matter. Right?
Item 2: Knife/Scissors
You know you’ve been on set before trying to tear something with your bare hands wishing you had a knife or pair of scissors handy.
Stop wishing. Bring one. Bring five!
Sometimes best laid plans don’t work and a little macgyvering is called for. Don’t let the solution involve your teeth or the sharpest key on your keyring.
And don’t rely on the location to have something handy, especially in somebody’s house.
Chances are they do. But how does that make your production look? What if the owner’s not there to bail you out? Then you’re going through their drawers without them knowing. It’s kind of creepy.
Don’t be creepy. Have something on set that can cut stuff. Unique situations arise all the time that go beyond the camera and the script. This even comes down to the cleanliness of your filming venue.
Item 3: Cleaning Supplies
More than likely you want the location you’re filming to look its best. And with the demand for higher definition picture, every dust bunny, smear or streak will show. Even if you want your location to look like an uninhabited hoarder’s den you and your equipment will end up filthy. So yes cleaning supplies are essential.
Even just paper towels, a universal cleaner, and a broom opens up the possibilities of your location. You can rearrange chairs, couches or shelves without worrying about the nastiness they've been hiding and get the best shots possible.
And if you make a mess of your location on purpose or accident the property manager will be much happier if you were able to leave the place the way you found it. Happy property manager equals less expensive location fees.
But after you sweep or wipe up the craft services you spilled, don’t forget how you’re going to throw that stuff out.
Item 4: Black Trash Bags
Yes. I’ve been on a film set with no trash bags. The budget wasn’t a thing either. And yes that Production Assistant felt bad when they had to go buy a bunch and then lunch was late. Double whammy!!
This should be an obvious one. You tend to acquire garbage while on set and leaving it for your property manager to deal with, while convenient, is unprofessional.
But here’s why specifically black trash bags are your friend. They double as a much less expensive way of controlling light spill than duvetyne. And they’re lighter so you can just tape them up to the windows. (If you remember to bring the tape!)
Plus at the end of the day when you’re striking set and just want to go home, those trash bags can pack a lot of the materials you don’t feel like packing as neatly as you did the night before. Just remember which bags to keep and which ones are garbage. That could be an expensive mix up. Of course being able to mark and label things on set is really helpful too.
Item 5: Pens/Sharpies
So much relies on technology today. People don’t even bring hard copies of scripts, storyboards and schedules anymore because they have it right on their phone or tablet. There’s even document signing apps you can use for releases. With everything going digital you’d think the pen is no longer mighty. Think again.
In the middle of blocking and rehearsing scenes, the simplest thing to do is write down a quick stage direction on the floor with tape. (I told you tape is actually really important on a film set!)
Sharpies are even better. You can color code and they’re easier to see.
And sharpies can also be a great set dressing hack. If you’ve got a rainbow of colors they can fill in almost any paint chips on your props or scratches on your furniture.
Besides do you really think you can log into your tablet or phone, pull up a doc and type a new dialogue or action line faster than just jotting it down on a piece of paper? Come on.
BTW…. honorable mention of stupid things to forget… scrap paper!
This all might seem like common sense. It might even border on ridiculous. That’s why they’re the stupid things you’ll hate yourself for forgetting or feel shame about when asking your location for them.
Keep all these items in one big bin called a Field Kit and make it an essential piece of equipment to always bring with you. It’ll actually make you look more professional and keep your shoot days running smoothly.Have a question or need consulting on this topic?
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