On-set FAQ’S

I am on a shoot tomorrow, when do I get the details?

Agents and agencies often get all the shoot details (call time, exact location) very late on the evening before the shoot. The bookers will try to get them as soon as possible but it isn't always possible due to the nature of filming. However if you haven't heard anything before 5pm the day before, please get in touch with the specific agent/agency responsible for the shoot. Be ready with the name of the project and your character.

What should I do if I have an accident on set?

Please report the accident immediately to the AD responsible for you on this particular shoot. An accident report should be completed and signed by production, you may be asked to sign it too. Contact the agent/agency that booked you to let them know what has happened as soon as possible.

What should I do if I have to leave set early due to illness?

Make sure the AD is aware of this and it is reflected on your chit or chitless wrap-out time. Let the agent/agency who booked you know what happened within 24 hours.

What should I do if my property was damaged on set?

Please report the incident immediately to the AD responsible for you on this particular shoot. Ideally you need to try and get something in writing confirming what has happened and signed by an AD. Similarly let the agent/agency who booked you know as soon as possible.

What should I do if I have any other problem while on set?

Examples include an extra long shoot with no, or inadequate, food or drink supplied. Although shoots are not necessarily the most comfortable situations there are guidelines around how background artists are treated. Query it politely with an AD and if you feel there is still a problem let the agent/agency who booked you know.

What does it mean to be on a pencil?

When a brief comes in, suitable artists will be sent enquiries to see if they are available for work. As soon as you respond to an enquiry to say that you are available for the given shoot day/s, you are on a PENCIL. You must then stay available for the given shoot date/s. If something else comes up that you would like to do on a day you are pencilled for, you must first check with the agent/agency you are working with if you can be released BEFORE taking the other opportunity. At that point the agent/agency will either confirm you for the job or release you. Artists who wish to work often through the platform, should be sure to honour pencils.

What does a fitting involve?

If you are booked on a fitting for a job, it means the costume department needs to see you prior to the shoot day to fit you for a costume. The costume department and hair and make-up departments will see you and prepare your look for the role you are playing on the shoot day. Fitting payments will depend on the type of shoot and this will be outlined in the availability enquiry sent to you. For certain projects, like commercials, the payment for the fitting might be covered by the fee for the shoot days. Generally you are paid to be at your fitting for up to four hours although the fitting often takes less time. However, you should be prepared to be there for the full four hours.

How long are shoot days?

Scheduled shoot days tend to be 12 hour days but an artists' start time is often a number of hours before the shoot begins (to allow time for artists to get dressed and ready for the shoot) and there is usually some time taken to wrap out at the end of the day (travelling back to the unit base, de-rigging, signing out etc). In addition to this, shoot days can also run over. On this basis, it is not unusual for artists to work 14 hour days and sometimes longer. The point at which over-time kicks in, depends on the specific deal under which the production you are working on is operating. You should always be told how many hours the basic rate covers (ie when you go into overtime) when you are offered the job. If the film is operating under the Pact/FAA agreement this will cover a 9 hour day and over-time will begin after the 9th hour and is calculated on a half-hour basis.

What happens on first arrival on set?

When you first arrive on set, there will be someone there to tell you where you should go. Generally speaking you will need to have your hair and make-up done, be dressed in a costume and eat breakfast. You will be directed to the various stations as appropriate. Please always follow the directions of the AD and other production crew.

It is likely that you will be placed in a holding area before the shooting starts and in-between takes and scenes. Make sure you stay where you are meant to be, you must NOT wander off as you may be required at short notice and production will not be willing to search for you.

I signed an NDA, what is this?

An NDA (non-disclosure agreement) is an agreement confirming that you will not disclose any information about the shoot that you are on and the legal consequences of breaking the agreement. These are often comprehensive and include social network sites, so please be mindful of the terms of the agreement and take seriously the commitment you are making. This is normal and a necessary part of being involved in the media world and your agent will usually have reviewed the document prior to the shoot. However, if you have any questions about the content of the NDA, feel free to contact your agent and check with them before signing. You should not accept any job as a supporting artist if you are not willing to keep the confidentiality of the project.

In summary, do not mention any projects you are working, or may be working on, on Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking site, anywhere online and background artists should not as a general rule list themselves as cast members on IMDB.

Why have they taken my phone from me?

Some productions use very tight security precautions to protect confidentiality. They may require you to hand in your phone in order to stop photographs being taken of the shoot/props etc. Please be prepared for this. You will usually be informed about this before attending the shoot.

When you arrive, a member of staff will take your phone and label it with your name, and will keep it in a secure place until you wrap at the end of the day. Please switch your phone off before handing it in.

Please note that even if you are permitted to keep your phone you should not take any photographs on set, if you are seen taking photographs you may well be removed from the shoot!

What will I be wearing? Should I bring a costume with me?

You will be informed before the shoot if you will be required to provide your own clothing (at the latest you will get details in the check-in email).

If you are required to provide an outfit, try to bring at least three full options, which are clean and pressed. Avoid any logos or crazy patterns, but be sure to read the brief fully and follow that information.

If production are providing a costume for you to wear, it is normal for you to attend a fitting before the shoot date. (You will normally be paid a separate fee to attend the fitting).

Be aware, some costumes are uncomfortable, and you will probably be wearing them for the entire day. Please try not to complain about this, production will attempt to make you as comfortable as possible. Remaining positive in the face of discomfort is always appreciated by production.

It is a good idea to bring clothes appropriate for the weather, as you don't always know when you will be shooting outside. For example, if you are working on a night shoot or in winter, bring a warm coat and waterproof shoes to wear over your costume in between takes or at lunchtime etc.

Will there be somewhere secure to leave my bag and other things?

This is not guaranteed. But production should have somewhere secure for you to keep your items. If in doubt, ask. It is recommended that you do not bring valuables with you on a shoot.

What do I do in-between takes?

Stay switched on between takes. Just because you are not filming at that point in time does not mean that other takes aren’t happening. Please ensure you stay quiet and listen out for instructions that are given to you. You may be required to return to the holding area or stay by set ready to shoot again. Be like a coiled spring, ready to go at anytime!

You may be waiting around for some time, so bring something to keep yourself entertained, like a book, or some cards etc. Due to confidentiality and security precautions, you are unlikely to be allowed to bring a phone, iPad or tablet on set, so a book is always a safer bet.

What do I do if I don’t know what I’m meant to be doing?

It is very important that you pay full attention to the instructions you are given, and only ask the ADs questions if absolutely necessary, as they are very busy people. Ask a fellow artist and see if they can answer your question before troubling the production team.

If you are told conflicting information by the crew always go with the last instruction you were given and remember the name or description of the person who gave you the directions in case you are asked.

When/where should I meet transport to the shoot?

Often production companies lay on transport to get people to set if there is a very early call and the shoot is at a studio or a hard to get to location. All the information for the pick-up will be in the check–in email that you will receive from your agent/agency the day before the shoot. (Make sure you respond to check-ins ASAP.) Pick up points will usually be central and easy to get to by night bus or cab, for example Charing Cross or King’s Cross stations. You will still have to get yourself to the pick-up point, so ensure that you plan your journey well in advance and that you arrive at least fifteen minutes before the transport is due to depart, to give you time to find the bus, sign on etc. Your pick-up time will be earlier than your call time, so make sure you read the details of the check-in information thoroughly.

What should I do if something goes wrong on my way to the transport/set?

Emergency contacts both for the agent/agency and an on set contact should be provided in the check-in information. Only contact these numbers if totally necessary and pay attention to who is best to contact as per the check-in. Generally speaking you should contact the agent/agency with any issues in the days leading up to the shoot and the on-set contact the day of the shoot.

Will I get a meal on set?

If you are working a standard working day/night under the Pact/FAA agreement, you are due an hour-long unpaid meal break. Meals may be provided on set. If this is not possible, you will often be given a meal allowance, this is usually a payment added to your chit (not cash). Because of this you should be told in the check-in if food is not being provided, so that you can bring food with you or money to buy food. If this meal break is interrupted to shoot and you do not get the full hour, under the Pact/FAA agreement you are usually due a broken meal payment.

Under the Pact/FAA agreement if you are working a continuous day/night, there are no meal breaks, but you will still be given an opportunity to eat, it will just be a shorter break, or you will be given food-in-hand on set.

If your call is early, breakfast is usually provided. Breakfast is not a relaxed affair, as you have to be readied for the day on set and the schedule is usually pretty tight, so please listen to the directions of the production team and willingly leave your partly eaten scrambled eggs if they require you in hair and make-up!

Always be sure to dispose of your plates/cutlery accordingly and clean up after yourself. It will be much appreciated.

What if I want to drive to set?

If there is parking available on a shoot, you will probably be asked if you are a driver or reliant on public transport either in the availability request or the check-in. Be sure to follow the instructions in the check-in carefully and arrive with plenty of time to park and make your way to set.

Please be aware, that there may not be parking available (if for example the shoot is in Central London) or production may prefer you to use transport that is provided, so please do read each check-in carefully, all transport information will be provided there.

Something has happened and I can’t make it to set, what should I do?

Although this is not ideal, you must get in contact with the agent and let them know ASAP so you can be replaced if required. Try to avoid any situation where this would occur. If it is the day of the shoot, in addition to attempting to inform the relevant agent/agency, you must also inform the on-set emergency contact.

Do we get bathroom breaks?

Scenes can take quite a while to set-up and shoot, and there will be opportunities for you to go to the bathroom. Please check in with the AD responsible for you before leaving for the loo. They will be able to tell you if you have time or if you need to wait because a take is about to happen.

What is shooting a scene like?

Large budget films do multiple takes of many different shots in order to fully capture a scene. This can be very laborious and you will probably be required to repeat your actions several times. Please do this as professionally as possible, remember your marks and stay positive.

Positivity is always welcomed on set and production often feed back the performance of artists and their attitude, to the agent. Keeping a positive attitude will help your chances of being booked for future work on that production and future productions.

Will I be on camera?

It is likely that you will appear on camera, and in the final cut of the film. However, this is not guaranteed, and it is not your main purpose for being there. You are a background artist; you are there to help create the atmosphere of the scene for the film. Please do your best to follow the instructions and do your job well.

Can I talk to the actors?

You should never approach the actors. The set is their workplace and a professional environment and should be respected as such. They have a lot going on in the scenes and often their time between takes is spent preparing for the next scene. In some situations, supporting artists may be removed from set if they inappropriately approach actors.

On the other hand if you are approached by one of the actors, always be friendly and engaging, but keep it professional.

Should I speak with the other background artists?

YES! We encourage you to engage with your fellow background artists. You may end up working with them again on other productions and you are likely to meet all sorts of interesting people, so get mixing. This is also a way to learn from their experience (if they have done this type of work before) and improve your own skills as a background artist.

I’m not happy with the way I’ve been treated on set, what do I do?

You are very unlikely to be treated poorly by a production. However, if for some reason you are unhappy with how you’ve been treated, please get in contact with the agent/agency that booked you and explain what happened. They may be able to explain the situation and if not they should follow up on the issue with production. Remember, they are on your side!

I’m tired and I am not enjoying the shoot, what should I do?

Shoot days/nights can be long. It is very important that you maintain a positive mental attitude and be professional.