‘I Didn’t Get the Call Sheet’

The call sheet is perhaps the most important document issued throughout the production period.  Circulated daily, the call sheet outlines ­­the following day’s schedule, informing everyone where they need to be at any given time, issuing departmental notes and reiterating prep for the next shoot day.  Everyone due on location, plus one or two others for reference, needs a copy.  There is the occasional, rare day where a cast or crew member rocks up late to set – or worse still, calls in from home – saying they ‘didn’t get the call sheet’. It’s terrifying when this happens and it invariably sends the 2nd AD in a frenzied run to the production office to check their outbox, while the 1st paces backwards and forwards on set like an expectant dad, mentally preparing for the worst and doing a quick schedule rejig in their head.

First of all it happens.  There are technical glitches; not enough bandwidth when it got sent, a full inbox at the other end or any range of reasons involving pushed emails/pop emails, servers being down and whatever else. Or it could be due to human error – someone was missed off due to tiredness, or the email address was typed in wrong.  Bottom line is it doesn’t really matter why they didn’t get the call sheet, they didn’t and it’s happened. It needs to be worked out promptly and decisively, taking every precaution that it won’t happen again.

There is however a rather extraordinary phenomenon that exists around someone who ‘didn’t get the call sheet’.  By an exceptionally cruel twist of fate, or some remarkable type of coincidence, the non-recipient is usually someone who’s been the focus of a few problems on set within the last day or two.  Often it’s a disgruntled actor who’s fallen out with the director – typically the very vocal one who tries to direct each scene themselves, or the older actor who isn’t very happy with their career trajectory (often this is one and the same).  I once heard this astounding coincidence likened to scatolia, a very sad but common phenomenon in nursing homes and something of the original form of ‘dirty protest’. ‘I didn’t get the call sheet’ seems to be the best form of protest there is – no one can be angry at someone for not being in the right place at the right time if they are not given the information.

Except that actually you can and should. While it is ultimately the 2nd AD’s job to send out the call sheet and ensure all relevant people get a copy, cast and crew do know their working days well ahead (often with advance copies sent out) and if a call sheet hasn’t arrived it is their responsibility to follow it up. I worked on a production where an actor suddenly announced that at no point in the three week shoot had he received a single call sheet and he’d simply relied on having the information text to him from another cast member. The truth of the matter was never ascertained but if it was true, it was his responsibility to inform the 2nd AD the moment he realised someone else had got it and he hadn’t.      

The most important thing is to minimise the potential for someone ‘not getting the call sheet’. There are a few sure fire ways of doing this, the most simple being to press a printed call sheet in troublesome cast/crew members hand the day before.  This should be standard practice anyway but isn’t always possible as so called ‘guerrilla’ film making means you often have to do without absolute basics such as adequate production offices and therefore printing facilities. If this is the case, the best thing to do is to casually catch them before they leave and let them know their call time, the location and how long until they should receive the call sheet.

After a while, a good deal of ADing starts to be about reading people, about seeing familiar patterns and putting suitable precautions in place to prevent future problems.  When the spider-senses start tingling that someone ‘isn’t going to get the call sheet’ it’s not a bad idea to email the call sheet just to them, BCC-ing two other people into it, say the 1st/Producer – although there really is a fine line between taking precautions and being antagonising.  An ‘I didn’t get the call sheet’ incident can cost someone their job, and it means the 2nd AD can have something to present to an angry producer. At the start of a project, the best thing you could possibly do is send your introductory email to everyone with a request that they email back to confirm their email address. Anyone you don’t hear back from do a quick ring round.

Essentially, a great deal of care needs to be taken to ensure everyone gets the call sheet and to keep a constant flow of information running throughout the cast and crew. On the rare occasion that someone doesn’t receive it and has not followed it up promptly, it’s worth taking a look at working conditions and improving potential morale problems as that could be where the problem really lies.

‘We’ll pay your expenses and feed you lunch.’

My phone is my life and the moment it rings, especially with an unknown number, I’m immediately fumbling for a pen and paper to scribble down details for a potential project.  I’ll eagerly listen to the spiel – how they got my details, what their company has done in the past, what they’re working on now, who’s on board. They pause for breath and I add some words of encouragement, before they continue. ‘He’s a very talented director.  And we’re hoping to get so and so on to play the lead.’ Then there’s the bullet. ‘We’ll feed you and pay your expenses of course.’  At this point I’ll politely thank them for thinking of me, but tell them my daily rate and wrap up the conversation.

Everyone’s seen the adverts, replied to them in the past, worked on them. Moved on.

‘Aimed at top end film festivals.  Already received interest from major sales agent.’

‘With top director/DOP.’

‘Excellent showreel piece.’

‘Every penny we’re spending is literally on screen.’

It really is worth taking a long cold look at a lot of these ads and think of them in terms of a conman trying to sell you something you don’t really want.  No one wants to work for free and very few people can even afford to.  The adverts are all the same – they’re selling new starters the promise of moving into more mainstream, more professional filmmaking in exchange for their time.  They usually highlight how experienced the director is, that they have an award winning DP or a shit hot producer.  If a producer is that hot, why are they taking a script into production when they can’t finance it? Similarly why are all these exceptional filmmakers working for free?

By far and away the most enticing promise is having named cast involved and people tend to jump a little at this, knowing that distributors will be more likely to take a look at the film.  I’ve come to realise it doesn’t really make a difference if the film itself is of poor quality.  They may be more likely to watch it, but if the films bad it’ll be bad with or without XYZ as the star.  A lot of known actors are keen to make their own projects or help a friend and it’s really no reflection of the project’s professionalism.

So why are they asking people to work for free anyway?  The reality is they don’t have enough money to cover the production.  There’s a lovely fake ideal going round at the moment that filmmaking is getting cheaper, which frankly is nonsense.  Digital filmmaking, as such, is getting cheaper; cameras are more affordable, you don’t have to pay for film stock and you can use a DSLR (if that’s your thing).  People’s time doesn’t get cheaper. Food doesn’t get cheaper. Locations aren’t cheaper. Petrol isn’t cheaper.  Vehicle hire isn’t cheaper.  Insurance isn’t cheaper.  Makeup, costume and art department requirements don’t get cheaper.  If anything, these working costs should be rising in line with inflation.  Essentially, kit may be getting cheaper, but nothing else does and weirdly a lot of smaller projects seem to have a production budget consisting of kit hire, food and a little contingency money.  In short, they are neglecting to factor in the production itself.

In some of these cases – not all, I hasten to add – the reason there’s no money for crew is a lack of confidence on behalf of the producer. Often they have worked out the bare minimum in terms of kit hire, plus a little extra, and have fundraised to that brief.  Believing, rightly or wrongly that they’ll be lucky to raise that much.  Labour costs have often never even been totted up, never mind included when financing the project. While it would be easy to feel back stabbed, young producers regularly work for less money than anyone at this level in terms of the actual hours worked and the payment offered.

There are a lot of reasons people will work for free or for such little money.  Needing additional experience or to test the water in the industry are good reasons, although in reality people can learn extremely bad habits very fast if working in low budget film.  Anyone who’s been out of work for a long while may find it useful to take an unpaid gig, just to stay motivated and to keep the spirits up.  But by far the biggest reason cited for taking unpaid jobs is to make new contacts. It’s a small industry and every day you work it becomes a little bit smaller.  Personally I think this is counter-productive.  In this industry so much of your work comes from word of mouth recommendations and if you work for free once, most of the jobs you’ll be offered off the back of that will also be unpaid because they’re within the same circle of professionalism.  I have got paid work from unpaid projects, but I’ve found it to be comparatively rare.

One of my favourite lo/no pay job adverts goes something like ‘This is a collaborative project.  If money motivates you, this is not the job for you.’ I would dearly love to meet the person who decided that artistic integrity and the necessity for financial compensation are mutually exclusive.  I’m pretty sure that everyone needs to eat.  I also enjoy ‘It’s a labour of love project’ – it’s your labour of love, it’s not mine. And ‘It’ll be a great show reel piece’­ – this is only really relevant to the director, DP, cast and the production company.  There was a time when I allowed myself to be guilt tripped into working for free or belittled into thinking I was greedy for asking for a higher payment.  I’m over it now.  I know my landlord doesn’t feel guilty asking for rent, nor does the lady behind the till in Tesco when I do my monthly food shop.  Why should they?

‘We’ll get back to you by Tuesday’

A few years ago I went to interview for a tv pilot with a company I hadn’t worked for before.  We were meeting in a fairly busy coffee shop and as I was rather early, I grabbed a coffee and read my book while waiting, clocking the interviews several tables over.  When the interviewee left bang on time, I approached the table and introduced myself. Unfortunately so did another candidate.  The producer had double booked.  Rather than asking one candidate to wait, the producer decided to conduct a double interview.  Both eager for the work, we agreed and sat down awkwardly at the table.

The producer started with the other candidate, asking the first question on her list, then she turned to me and posed the same query.  I began to reply and was abruptly cut short as the producer decided to give me feedback on my answer, highlighting that the other candidate’s response was more appropriate and eloquently worded.   Feeling remarkably embarrassed, I flushed a deep red and was further mortified as she continued to give me such tips throughout the remainder of the interview.  I was so flustered by the end that I could barely think straight, so it was with a deep sense of rejection that I returned home to lick my wounds.

‘We’ll be in touch by Tuesday,’ the producer had said, but truth be told I was quite relieved to hear nothing more from them.   I got a few other projects on the go and was happily plodding along until about a month later.  After an evening in the pub, I was merrily chilling out with friends and an episode of Family Guy when the phone rang at a quarter to midnight.  The aforesaid producer was on the line asking me if I could come in tomorrow, that they needed an extra person at short notice.  Through my slightly tipsy haze I could work out the essentials – ‘Could you be in Birmingham tomorrow at 8am? We need a runner. There’s no pay.’  I had originally interviewed at a higher grade, which I was qualified for, and there was a small payment initially offered.  I politely declined and tried to get off the phone for the next ten minutes as she became increasingly insistent.  Eventually she gave up, although she contacted me again several months later with a similar request.

Interview etiquette is really important.  Not only with how the interview is conducted, but with the aftermath.  If there’s a promise to get back to someone by Tuesday, it’s important to get back to the candidate – they may really want that job and be keeping themselves free in the hopes of landing it. There’s nothing more frustrating than eagerly waiting to hear back on a project, then casually finding out someone else has got the job, through Facebook, Twitter or even by seeing the job re-advertised.

Someone may pull out – a very real problem if wages are very low or non-existent and someone gets offered a fully paid project – and the producer may be forced to ring the second, third or even fourth choice to see who’s still available. It’s a small industry and even if everything goes according to plan, the chances of running into each other again are fairly high.  I realise most producers are hugely overloaded in terms of workload, and it is quite simply the least important thing in a very long and urgent to do list.  But it is important too and crew will be more willing to pull favours if they feel valued as people – and pulling favours is sadly what a lot of low budget filmmaking is all about.

Can You Come in tomorrow? Our AD’s Ill

Until recently I’ve never taken over a shoot from someone, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve taken over two. Both were relatively close to the end, both were feature films. On the first of the two projects the crew were very welcoming and worked with me to get my bearings. The second shoot however was very problematic and ended in my succumbing to an already present malady and going home sick.

The problems were multiple. I had been called the day before and asked to do a shoot, including overnight stays for an embarrassingly small payment, which the producer made clear was non-negotiable. The schedule and script were promptly sent out. When I requested the shot list I was informed there wasn’t really one but not to worry. I did worry and pressed the point. A rough shot list was duely dispatched but little communication was encouraged the day before the shoot, although it was clearly to be a logistically challenging day.

On the morning of the shoot I had a very clear plan. I was to arrive nice and early, get the producer to walk me round the location and unit base, introduce myself to all cast and crew and then start running through the shots with the director and DP. But it was not to be. I was the first on location and as people slowly trickled in, a running theme of deep seated contempt towards each other started to become apparent – to this day I don’t know what the cause of it may have been.

What I do know is that when the producer turned up he didn’t even seek me out to introduce himself, although I believe I was the only new face on set. I introduced myself to costume, makeup and art department heads who were all very welcoming. By a process of elimination I found him and cajoled him into walking me round the sets, which he did with a rather ill grace. A random person walked up to me, didn’t introduced himself, demanded to know why there were no printed sides or callsheets available and promptly walked away again without so much as giving me a moment to respond. I put a runner in charge of getting the radios together who sneered that there seemed to be a lot missing and did I know no one had put them on charge last night. I got cast started with costume and joined the DP and director to go over the shots.

The director was keen to tell me the shotlist was for guideline purposes only and he would be shooting above and beyond it’s meagre confines. When discussing the shots the DP had an expressive way of starting every sentence with a pained roll of the eyes and an impatient ‘tsk’. A random person cynically wished me luck.

I was feeling rather poorly that particular morning, and while ordinarily I would sit out the malady and keep on trucking, I decided to take the unusual step of going home and back to bed. The whole experience raised one key question. Is it appropriate to bring another AD on for the last few days?

Ordinarily I would say of course it is, you always need an AD and if you don’t think you do you’re a fool. But, for a few remaining days it may better for the second to step up (if there is one, on this shoot there actually wasn’t) or for the producer to get his hands dirty. Most producers, either have a background in AD work or have the over lapping skill set to undertake it for a day or so. Most importantly, they know the script, the project and the logistics better than anyone.

On the first of the two projects mentioned, I had one prep day where I had only been able to have one read of the script, had no breakdown sheets or location lists and was asked by the production co-ordinator to reschedule the last week’s shoot then and there, going off nothing but a printed strip board. I genuinely believe that having someone under take such a task with so little working knowledge of the project is extremely unconstructive as the risk of casual mistakes is very high.

Essentially the 1st AD needs to take ownership of the set. Knowledge of the production (and experience) is what grants an AD the foresight to look ahead for potential problems, and the confidence to take decisive, prompt action when troubleshooting. This is in turn gives the AD the authority to run the set. By the very nature of stepping in for a day or two, you’re going to be several pages behind everyone else, so no one will instinctively look to the AD for leadership anyway.

This is where the producer-AD relationship really comes into play. In a sense, the producer needs to give the covering AD the permission to run the set. They need to undertake a proper and full briefing with the new AD, covering everything they can possibly think of, enabling the AD to decide what’s important. The previous AD will have made breakdown sheets – pass them on, and if there’s a Dropbox link – share it. If a meeting wasn’t possible before the shoot day, due to the urgency of the situation, the producer needs to be on hand to answer any queries in the first few hours. It’s beneficial to take the new AD round and break the ice with a few introductions – at the very least it’s rude for the producer not to introduce themselves. If the producer won’t do these things, they are preventing the AD from ever really owning the set, so you many as well not have them there, and filming is far too expensive to take passengers.

It is also important to stop and think ‘Why are they looking for a new AD half way through the production?’. It may genuinely be down to sickness, or personal reasons, or the previous AD may have left the project or been asked to leave. Frankly it’s no one else’s business but theirs. However, it is essential to analyze the paperwork to see if it’s a troubled production and if you will actually be able to do your job. If there is any hint that the previous AD may have left under some sort of cloud, you need to be asking one question – is it safe? One of the biggest causes of friction with an AD at this level is a director wanting to do a work around stunt that hasn’t been adequately planned, and you need to be sure that’s not the case.

Truth be told I was thoroughly ashamed to play on the relatively mild sickness I was feeling, but it was quite apparent I was not going to be able to do my job without the full and correct information, or without the support of the crew which did not seem forthcoming.  Ironically, while writing this I got a phone call asking me if I could come in as cover for the next two days – I declined.

I Need to Clean My Brushes

About a year ago a young and stressed makeup artist approached me on the second to last day of a short. She looked simply harassed and terribly unhappy with what was at the time her first or second outing on a film set.  She hadn’t expected the days to be so long, for them to be so stop start, for such early calls or simply the occasional intensity and pace of the job.

‘No one understands,’ she lamented. ‘My day’s not over at wrap time.  When I get home I need to clean my brushes.’

I had no choice but to nod politely and comfort the woman, she was very sweet and she really had worked hard. The reality of the situation is however the same for everyone.  On low budget shoots it’s not unusual for the gaffer to undertake a two hour Panalux run in the morning, then work a twelve hour day and not mention it once.  Or for the art department to put in extra hours at the beginning of the day to finish set dressing. DIT stay late to transfer and back up rushes on location. The director, DP and AD will usually run through things quickly for the next day.  The list goes on.

For myself, I regularly don’t have a second AD so there’s sending out the call sheet out, and writing up the next one.  That can take hours.  As well as getting sides together, finalizing the running order of the shot list if there have been any changes (and there often are) and there’s usually a quick update for the producer or PM in there as well.  All in all, once I’m home I’ll often have two or three hours work before I can even think about bed.  For the record, how much time spent prepping for the next day is often directly linked to how early or late I was brought on a project and the strength of the pre-production period. This is a prime example of why preparation is all and trust me, no one really wants to be on set with a tired and stressed AD who is getting four hours sleep a night trying to lock elements which should have been sorted weeks ago. Aside from the grumpiness factor, it’s genuinely dangerous.

Looking after your kit is important, it’s your livelihood.  I’m sure cleaning the makeup brushes is time consuming and probably does go unrecognised by the rest of the crew, but so do their time sacrifices.  No one’s day truly finishes at wrap time and sometimes that really sucks.  Working in film is an all-encompassing job and you don’t really have the option of going to the theatre after work, or even popping down the pub for last orders.  The sad reality is that if you get to spend an hour with your partner at the end of the day you count yourself lucky.

‘I like to keep it a bit loose when it comes to shotlists.’

‘When can I get the shotlist?’

‘I like to keep it a bit loose when it comes to shotlists.’

Go home.  You are wasting everyone’s time.

We’ve all had this, a director who forever delays the shotlist. Or worse still, an overly indulgent producer who rolls their eyes with a smile and says, ‘Richards not hot on shotlists, but he’s very talented’.  The conversation generally ends with a gentle ‘I’ll see what I can do to hurry him along,’ as if they’ve kindly agreed to donate their first born’s kidney to the AD department. 

Let’s not lose sight of the goal here folks.  We’re here to make a film. A good quality film at that. First and foremost you are here to tell a story – the set, costume, cast, makeup, sound and cinematography are here to aid that. Every film lives and dies by what you see and hear on the screen.  The director needs to be completely clear on the vision and the best way of doing this is to create a story board – there’s really no excuse not to do one.  Work it backwards and voila you have your shots.  The director who talks big but won’t provide a shot list is akin to a writer who, in the synopsis, describes a character as ‘sharp, witty and cutting’ but doesn’t write their dialogue or action to reflect that.

So let me break down why the shotlist is so important. The golden rule here is ‘No one can effectively prep for something they don’t know exists.’  This is the same all across the board, for every department.

Let me give you a hypothetical example.  Make up are told they have 40 undead extras to get through, but they’ll all be seen from behind in a wide shot only, being led away from the main action.  The makeup department will need a good bit of time with those extras and will follow that brief – not working the face itself to a particularly fine detail.  Let’s say you get the extras on set and take the shot, at which point the director decides he wants to see the reverse. All forty of their faces will be seen but he simply must have that shot.  Suddenly you have a massive problem.  Make up doesn’t have enough putty to build up certain features on their zombified faces. Every zombie we’ve seen on screen so far is wearing contact lenses and makeup didn’t order an additional forty pairs, because they didn’t know they needed them.  Even if they had, forty additional pairs of contact lenses aren’t factored into the budget.  Nor is the additional putty. Had they known their faces would be seen, makeup would have got an army of dailies in and they would still have been getting them through makeup since dawn.  The number of makeup dailies the budget could stretch to would affect the speed of getting the cast through makeup, and would subsequently affect how late the scene would be scheduled in the day.  Chances are costume aren’t happy about this sudden turn of events either and the DP will already be telling you just how long they need to do the massive lighting reset for the new setup.

Needless to say the suggested shot will probably be subject to a ten minute discussion, then massively simplified to see maybe three zombies from the front, or dismissed as entirely unfeasible.  This is an extreme situation but it’s a good illustration of a typical problem.  The director’s refusal to commit to the shotlist has made a simple shot unworkable, or he has to compromise on it.  Had the shotlist been adequately worked out, it could have been properly prepped for and they could have had the shot. The person who really loses out here is the director.

Next on the list of problems is scheduling. The director who won’t provide a shotlist leaves the AD in the awkward land of guess work.  Lets say I estimate that two people chatting across a table will be a fairly unadventurous five shot setup, plus cutaways; a wide, two over the shoulders and two close ups.  So I’ll schedule that accordingly in terms of time given to the scene. Once on set it turns out the director wants an additional four shots – this time we have everything we need for them, but we’re bang on schedule and two are complex setups.  This is going to set us back significantly.

Cast for the next scene have already been through makeup and are going through costume as we speak. The additional shots will push their scene until after lunch, which means they could have had a later call time.  One of the cast for the scene following that one has absolutely one hundred per cent got to be off set by 4pm, and there’s a sudden danger you won’t get both scenes by that time.  So you have to swap the running order of the next two scenes.  Everyone has been prepping for a different running order and now there’s a dash to get everything ready for the later scene.  The actress whose scene was supposed to be finished before lunch is not particularly happy as she’s just been told we’ll be with her at about 4pm now, but at least it means we can get both the scenes.  A few extra shots can really mess things up, and if that happens consistently you will be dropping scenes daily.

Now seems like a good time to highlight a secondary problem; the director who proudly sends through the shotlist (or a vastly updated one) at 1am, for an 8am call time.  This is better than no shotlist, but not by a huge amount.  First of all you can bet the 1st AD won’t go to sleep that night, or if they do it will merely be for an hour or two.  Our work starts with the shotlist and it takes a long time to carefully order it to maximise the shoot time. It may involve a change in the timings for each scene depending on the number of setups, and subsequently the running order, which in turn can affect the cast call times.  By the time you work all this out it’s 4am – you have cast called for 9am and they’re boarding a 6am train to get to location, they will not be happy with a last minute change – and how do you ensure they get the message in time? Generally it’s best at that point to leave everything the way it is and try to rejig the timings as best you can around the current call times.  Trust is an important thing and you don’t want cast and crew to feel they need to check their email before they leave the house every day.

The biggest reason directors are reluctant to lock a shotlist is because they feel it’s going to restrict their creativity in some way. Frankly, this is a load of codswallop.  If you have a clear and locked shotlist, the AD department can actually do their job.  They can keep everyone posted on where you are in terms of the scene, how long roughly until the next setup, how long until the unit move, how long until a particular cast member is required back on set and keep everyone moving.  Everyone can continue to effectively prep for the scenes later in the day and the whole ship becomes beautifully streamlined.  The shots which have previously been like pulling teeth, suddenly roll out nice and smoothly and everything speeds up.  An extraordinary thing happens at this point – everyone’s in a really good mood and there’s an air of quiet concentration.  Everyone’s thinking about one thing, The Shot.  Rather than being restrictive, the well planned shotlist has sped everything up and there’s time to work properly with the cast. Often you find so much time has been freed up that the director can have a couple of impromptu wish list shots, because we’re ahead of schedule.  

The bottom line is, filming is just too expensive to be stopping for long, protracted conversations to work out your shots on the day.  As a director, do you want to have a long discussion between the DP, AD and script supervisor about how to re-establish the line of action in a particular scene? Or would you prefer to be working with the cast while the shot is being set up for you?  You can almost hear the money pouring down the drain in the background, for a decision which should have been made three weeks ago. The director who’s reluctant to commit to his shotlist ends up making a lot of compromised decisions on the spur of the moment because the clock is ticking and the pressure is on.  Of course you’re going to need to talk through the shots on the days, that’s a given, but those conversations need to be about framing and action, not about whether or not you’re going to get in on the dolly, or which direction you’re going to shoot. There is always going to be the odd moment where an additional shot is genuinely needed, or you find two shots can actually be rolled into one and that’s ok – but it needs to be the exception and not the rule.  

Wrap Time is Sacred

A gaffer once said those exact words to me and they’ve stuck with me ever since. I had to break the news to the crew that we would be going over wrap time by one hour and check that everyone was alright to stay late.  It had been a long and tough day as it was and we had some tricky days ahead.  The gaffer looked at me with dark puppy dog eyes, the disappointment apparent in his face and simply said quietly ‘Wrap time is sacred.’

He is of course correct. Working on small shoots no one is getting paid over time, it’s a fixed rate for the day, the week or the whole project – if they’re getting anything beyond glorified expenses that is.  The first shoot I worked on where people were being paid anything close to a proper daily rate I was shocked to be presented with a breakdown of what it cost to go over by one hour – and for the first time I really understood why for financial reasons wrap time really is sacred.

But let’s look at the all too common scenario of paying the crew peanuts and then expecting to own them for the duration of the shoot.  There is a common viewpoint from a lot of indie producers and directors who feel that if a crew are working below the standard daily rate, then the production itself can exist outside accepted standards of practice. By which I mean, for example, pushing for less than a twelve hour gap between wrap and call times, ignoring the six hour maximum between meal breaks, trying to pass a turn-around day as a day off, and in short, treating the crew like cattle. Financial penalties don’t exist in this world, so as an AD you’re generally seen to be causing trouble needlessly if you flag up these things.  If people are working on a lower than acceptable rate, it’s even more important to maintain standards.  To recognize that the crew aren’t getting as much out of the project as they should be, and to make sure they’re getting a fair deal in terms of working conditions.  They work really hard and deserve to be treated with respect.

I have upon occasion gone over the wrap time – there’s no way around that sometimes.  However, the most common reason for going over the wrap time is a time wasting director. A director who hasn’t put together a story board, who’s not terribly clear on his shotlist and is constantly changing everything.  Watch this space for a full blog post on this one as it’s one of the single most destructive things anyone could do on a film set and it’s a pet bug bear.

If there will be no financial penalty, it will not span into an unacceptable turnaround time and everyone has been working hard and maintained a good focus; I will be comfortable in running to another hour.  Usually in this situation most people would rather get the shots right than rush them through and not short change themselves on the film’s quality.  If the crew have worked hard and the director has been pissing about, I am very reticent to push the wrap time because I feel the crew aren’t getting anything out of it and are being penalized for someone else’s lack of preparation.

The reality is however, that you often don’t get a choice as a disorganized director usually realizes they are contributing to the problem, which makes them overly emotional and if there’s going to be a tantrum at any point it’s going to be now. Which doesn’t help anyone and generally beats the entire crew into silent submission for the next forty minutes.  So next time you’re asked to stay late with little financial gain, think of that brown eyed gaffer with such sadness in his eyes, trust me he feels your pain and so do I.