How to behave correctly on set

I’m writing this from the perspective of an AD who worked on a kid’s movie, with loads of extras. What is it they say about never working with kids and animals . . . This is for children starting out as extras.

OK kids, listen up! There is a very fine line between being cute and being a pain in the neck.

It all seems very glamorous being in a movie, being on camera, but it’s work, hard work, and sometimes tedious work as an extra. Remember that and you will get on well on the set, and with the crew.

Here is something to consider as a child/youth extra – Tip 1:

Take instructions well.

Do: When the director asks you to move an inch to the left – move an inch to your left. When he/she asks you to move an inch to your right – move an inch to your right!

Understand: The crew are trying to create a ‘look’. You are part of that look. You aren’t the “be all and end all”. They are trying to frame everything and make sure the lighting is correct, etc. Just go with the flow. Realize that they know what they are doing, or are working on getting things just right.

True story: We were shooting a scene with three of the main children standing at the back of a steam train. We were looking in the monitor at the shot and something was off. The director asked one of the actors to move to his left an inch. It still didn’t look right. The director asked him the move to his right an inch. The child actor took it into his head to tell the director what he thought about ending up in the same place. The other two actors joined in with their thoughts and in doing so moved from their positions.

The upshot was time was wasted and tension created.

If the director wants your opinion he/she will ask for it. To avoid wasting time, just do what they ask. It might not make sense to you, but it does to the crew. If you are really interested in what’s going on behind the camera, find a time to ask the crew when they aren’t rushing around working.

Remember: Your complaining will be noted. Your lack of cooperation will be noted. Your attitude will be noted. Someone somewhere is making a mental note of your reactions, good or bad - make sure they are good.

If you can’t, or won’t take instructions well, there are many other child extras that can and will replace you.

The successful extras in our shoot were the ones who could take instructions well. Because we made a note of the ones who could take instructions well we used them in more scenes than originally planned. The upshot was they got more camera time!

Check back for more tips on How to Behave Correctly on Set as a child/youth extra.