Getting Over a Bad Set

Working in the film industry is tough. It’s not glamorous. There’s some good days, some horrible days, good sets, and some very ones, but you can get over a bad set.

If you’ve worked in the industry – even if you just stepped on set for the first time you already know there are so many different elements you encounter. How people interact with you, how people treat you versus how they treat others. You’ll notice favoritism, cliques, attitudes, stress factors, exhausted crew, and some people who don’t give a fuck. You have outside things happening, but (at least for me) you’ll also have a lot going on inside. Maybe you’re hesitate, or confused, insecure, or nervous. Your mind will be buzzing with multiple tasks that have to be done within minutes. You’ll have a walkie in your ear, you’ll be getting texts, while also getting phone calls. That’s not even accounting for whatever you got going on in your personal life. There’s a lot being thrown at you at any one time.

People Quit the Industry

I bring that up because so much is asked of anyone that works in the film industry, producers really try (if they’re good ones) to treat the cast and crew the best they can. Sometimes even spoil them. Working 12+ hours everyday is tough in the body, mind and spirit. Many people in production were just pushed too much and that caused them to just leave the business. They just left! The industry broke them. They weren’t treated right. Being mistreated set after set, gig after gig get to a person. A string of bad sets is a horrible experience.

Which it’s very important to make sure to look out for you. You have to look out for number 1. I could get into what to do to make sure your doing that, but that’s another post. I’m here to make sure you don’t quit the industry after a bad experience. I’m here to make sure you continue to pursue your dream, or work toward whatever film goal you have. A bad set experience is hard to recover from, especially when you may be pretty new.

There have been some projects that made me contemplate whether or not I wanted to be on set. I’d ask myself, “Am I in the right business?” I hate when I have such bad sets that make me doubt myself, and my career choice. Set is my happy place. It always will be.

What’s a Bad Set?

Well, there could be a number of things that happen that could make it a very crappy experience. Maybe they ask you to do something unsafe, maybe unethical, maybe they don’t  feed you properly everyday, (my problem most of the time because I’m celiacs) maybe they promise you you a bed, but then they said “Hey, take this air mattress and sleep in that hallway.” Maybe you don’t mesh well with the key players you need to work with. For me if I don’t get along with the DP and Director as a 1st AD it is going to be a tough or bad set! There are so many people and things that can make your life a living hell on set.

One project was a tough one for me. I adored my DP(director of photography) and I had fun with the Director. The producer that signed the checks—not so much of a fun time with that one. It was a constant game of figuring out what I was going to eat every meal bc they “forgot” my dietary needs. The accommodations they provided were a constant puzzle everyday. Too many people, and not enough beds, or even actual space. It got to the point the crew booked their own Airbnb at their own cost! To me a cast or crew member should never pay anything. Not a dime. Yes- it was low budget, but clearly a case of a “bait and switch.” Promising one thing, to deliver another. There were so many other factors on what made this set toxic, but I can’t rehash all the details.

Break Time

The above happened to me. I had a bad set experience. It was a 21-day feature film nightmare. After that bad set I needed to take a little break, but more importantly get on a set to cleanse my palate. I needed something light and fun to do. Luckily, I have friends shooting things all the time. If I want to jump on a set to AD, even if it’s a freebie, or super low day rate I definitely will do it if I like the people making whatever it is. Simply because I know it will be a fun set. It’ll bring me back to my happy place. We all know set can become very serious, and almost military-like., but we need those fun jobs. The picture at the top is on that small, but very fun set.

Don’t quit because of a bad set. Move on. Recognize who not to work with again. Recognize that you don’t have to say yes to every gig that comes your way. Remember that sometimes you’re going to have to work with miserable and yes, sometimes very inexperienced people.

Just remember:

“This too shall pass.”

Tell me about your bad set experiences. We can commiserate! Feel free to contact me here, or just comment below.

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