How to survive your first year working professionally in TV and film

How to survive your first year working professionally in TV and film.

One of the key things is to have a bag kitted with the essentials.

Breakfast bars – Quick and easy and will give you a much needed energy boost until it’s time for lunch or whatever meal is next. Film/TV work can be very tiring at times so it’s essential to keep your energy up. Also helps to keep your mood up.

Wipes – These have many, many uses. Good for resetting takes that involve getting blood (and other things) on the actors and props. Good for removing make up, food, spillages and general hygiene too.

A Lighter – Good for burning frayed edges and threads from clothing. Very handy to have on hand for anyone who smokes too. Those are the most basic uses but you’d be surprised how often you need one. More reliable than matches too.

An army knife or multi-tool – Has a variety of uses. Worth getting a decent one. These are so useful I wouldn’t know where to start.

Gaffer tape – Good for everything really. Taping down wires, covering what needs to not be seen, providing a quick fix (very good for holes in umbrellas), covering things you don’t want paint on. A myriad of uses. Anything else can be forgotten, this however, is probably the most useful - and essential - thing in your kit, whatever department you’re with.

Coloured sticky notes – useful for reminders, for scripts, all sorts.

Sharpies – good for notes, writing on walls and in general very useful. Can get any markers but Sharpies tend to last the longest and don’t dry out as easy as some others do.

Chalk – useful for marking the set for actors stop/start points, aim points if you have to throw something on set and also if you need to look at something that doesn’t exist and it isn’t permanent so it can be changed if (when) the director changes his/her mind about something.

Plasters – always have a few. I learnt this from an AD who always kept a few in his wallet.

Torch – essential. It gets dark at any time of the year and even if you don’t need it on set you might going home. Useful for looking around places that don’t necessarily have lights connected anymore or if you have to find something in your car/van and it’s dark. For setting up marquees when it’s 6am and you’re in a cornfield. For the walk back to base so you don’t fall down a rabbit hole.

Bin bags! – Three or four stashed away are usually enough. It saves the set getting trashed and means you’ll be allowed to come back which you won’t if you leave a place trashed.

Phone charger – you tend to use your phone a lot on set if you need to get in touch with someone and walkie talkies won’t always have the range, especially since not everyone will have one if anyone. Location is important too. Runners especially, because they might be off-set fetching someone or something.

For females – feminine hygiene products. Always have a stock because even if you don’t need them someone else might and how awful is it to not have when you need it.

Another thing is to get a flask. Early 6am starts are no fun without a cup of tea (or coffee). And if you get a decent flask you can still have a hot cup of tea towards the end of the shoot AND you'll be everyone's best friend. Especially when it's the middle of October and it won't stop raining, ruining the continuity. Be prepared!

Other things that are useful are pretty obvious – pens, pencils, notebook, rubber, sharpener, umbrella (seriously useful), tissues, deodorant, sun cream, painkillers and a pack of cards. A bar of chocolate. And anything else you would consider essential. Just remember you will be carrying it.

With a properly kitted bag, you can survive anything on set. Just don’t lose your head and you’ll be fine. It makes life so much easier. There might be a few department specific things as well but you’ll soon learn what.

However, the most important thing of all is to keep working hard, even when it's been a 13 hour day and all you want is bed. Directors, ADs, whoever your boss happens to be, will remember that. They remember who works consistently hard and those are the people they will want to work with again.

Even if your feet are falling off, try to stay cheerful. It makes you feel better and you won't be remembered as a miserable person. Make a good impression basically.

Oh, and to reiterate, always, ALWAYS have gaffer tape!!