Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tips for Art Department to live by

This is the art department companion guide to's 

105 Tips for Grips and Electrics to Live by

Because they said it first, and they said it best, but I just wanted to gear their words of wisdom towards my domain :)
Working on set can be challenging. Long days, not a lot of sleep, and in the art department, you will always discover something new and unexpected once you get to set. So you always have to be thinking five steps ahead of what's currently happening on set.

32 Tips for Arties to live by:

  1. Keep receipts for everything: We often have to buy more than we use, so always keep your receipts, in a neat organized fashion and pay attention to store's return policies. 
  2. Learn the voice of your bosses. I have kept ahead of the director, AD and Cinematographer countless times because whenever they group up to discuss the upcoming shots I invite myself into the conversation or at least keep an ear on it.
  3. Listen for the Assistant Director, you can always be one step ahead if you pay attention. They are the heartbeat keeping the set's pace after all.
  4. Pay attention to what is going on in other departments. Much of the support they require can be determined this way. I hate to say it, but eavesdropping is kind of necessary sometimes.
  5. Listen for people in your department and be aware of any support co-workers may require. Often times just flying someone a sandbag, stinger or a larger flag can really speed things up. Remember, teamwork is very important.
  6. When flying in large or heavy items be sure to call it out. Calling out things like “Couch flying in!” or just "Points!" is essential. Never turn a corner or go through a door without calling it out. As an Art department member I will often call out things like "Breakables flying in!" or "Hot coffee!" if I happen to be carrying something hot. I've noticed saying hot coffee will get anyone's head to perk up.
  7. Work safely, never run but do keep up a good pace. And always double check your work. Did you grab the prop from the actor? Or did they put it into their pocket?
  8. Never ever ever plug something in without asking someone from Electrics first. Whether it's a hair dryer for some paint, a sewing machine for a quick fix, or a practical for set dressing- ask first. You never know what circuit might be close to capacity with lighting equipment. So always ask first.
  9. Always wear appropriate clothing and shoes. Closed-toed comfortable shoes, modest tops, and pants or shorts. There is no reason for dresses or skirts on set unless you're talent.
  10. Add some sash chord to things like knives and wrenches. When on a ladder or lift,  wrap the sash around your wrist. The last thing you want is to drop something on someone’s head.
  11. Learn the names of your coworkers. It is understandable that you might not be able to learn all the names on set, but be sure to know the names of the Key Grip and Master Electrian, Everyone in Camera department, the director, AD, 2nd AD, Key PA, and of course everyone in Arts. Basically anyone you will be working along side.
  12. Be respectful to other departments, we are all working towards the same goal, even if we all do it different ways.
  13. If uncomfortable with an assigned task or unsure, always ask! Someone else might be more suited for that job (say climbing a 12step ladder to greek a sign) it takes time to hone your skill and become comfortable with the various situations you might be put in. However, don't be timid, you should always be trying to push your limits and grow.
  14. Although we all love having a fun time on set, keep personal conversation to a minimum or at least away from set. Even work related conversations should be kept fairly quiet. 
  15. Come to work prepared to do your job. For and indie artistic director that means everything from tape, to a camera and saws. I'll post soon about what to pack in your art kit.
  16. Label your personal gear. People won’t intentionally steal from you, but sometimes they just forget.
  17. Although you should have your most important tools on your belt at all times that doesn’t mean you should carry EVERYTHING! In fact, having too much stuff on your belt can be dangerous or a nuisance to the sound department. So your general belt buddies should, at least, be a multitool, walkie-talkie, and safety pins.
  18. Invest in a proper multi-tool. Leatherman is the way to go. You can get cheap alternatives, but a Leatherman is industry standard and will last you years. 
  19. Always be sure to return tools to the original owners. This goes for gear too. If an electric lets you use an extension chord you should try to return the cable in the same condition it was given to you. 
  20. Gear (props, set dressing, ext.) is to be staged neatly. Like items kept together, everything easily accessible. When finished with a piece of gear it can be returned to the staging area, but not returned to the truck until wrap.Staging should be set as close to the set as possible without being in the way.
  21. Learn “Camera Left” and “Camera Right”. These mean from the point of view of the camera. If you are facing the camera “Camera Left” means your Right.
  22. Learn “Up Stage” and “Down Stage”. Down Stage means closer to camera, Up Stage means farther from camera.
  23. Watch every take it is your responsibility to act as a second set of eyes for anything prop, set, and sometimes costume continuity.
  24. Treat all gear with respect. If and when a prop or tool is damaged or goes missing you must report it to the Production designer and/or artistic director.
  25. There is always work to do on set. When not on any particular task you should spend your time cleaning up the staging area or preparing stuff for the next setup. You never want to be caught sitting around. 
  26. Try to Work Smart, Not Hard. Plan things out instead of just diving in. It will save you time later.
  27.  Save your back, get into the habit of always lifting with your legs, never your back. This goes for lighter items too. The key is to keep your back straight and bend at the knees.
  28. Always pay attention to weather, things can change from one moment to the next. Wind can pick up or a storm can come in. I know it sounds unlikely, but I’ve been there before. Safety first. Which is a good reason to always dress in layers
  29. Keep a spare set of clothes and a rain coat in your car. In the art department you will be amazed how many times you discover yourself covered in muck by the end of the day.
  30. If asked for an ETA on your wrap, it might be beneficial to over estimate. Wrapping takes time, you never know what can go missing or other unforeseen issues.
  31. ALWAYS do a dummy check. Missing gear makes you and your team look bad. Two sets of eyes are always better than one.
  32. Leave a location the same or better than you found it. Make sure the furniture and knick-knacksis back to where they started, make sure all the things you flipped around to hide logos are put back in order, take the tape balls out from under pictures. We tend to touch everything on a location, so it is up to us to return it to sorts.
  33. Always have a Head-Mounted Hands Free LED flashlight on you at all times. Best is a bright white/Red combo. 

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