I was walking with an actor (Stephen Baldwin) to set one bright morning and we began to have a conversation about one of the lines in the movie we were currently shooting. The line was “You have to go slow to go fast.” Stephen began to explain that in the sport of Nascar, drivers have so many controls at their fingertips and yet they have to be extremely precise and methodical when making the best choice. Essentially the driver has to slow down the options in their head (while cars are whizzing past them) in order to push the right button that allows them to both maintain speed and go really really fast.
This metaphor really got me thinking about how I can use this value and process as an Assistant Director and weave it into the fabric of how I work.
In the words of Ricky Bobby “I want to go fast!”
Going FAST on a film set is important, however slowing down at the right moments throughout the day can be paramount to maintaining speed and making your day.
Going FAST on a film set is important, however slowing down at the right moments throughout the day can be paramount to maintaining speed and making your day. tweet
Below are 5 ways that ADs can slow down to go fast…
1) Insist on blocking rehearsals
This seems counter-intuitive to go fast sometimes, however 9 times out of 10 a good blocking rehearsal that last no longer than 10-15 minutes can really make things go so much quicker. There have been times a Director will tell me it’s very simple and they don’t need a blocking rehearsal, however often in this scenario the blocking changes when the actors come in from HMU which forces the DP to spend more time re-lighting because the rehearsal was never properly done. Whenever possible do a blocking rehearsal, especially for the first scene of the day. There are exceptions if basecamp is miles away…. than this may not be feasible, but the more you can slow down, let everyone take a deep breath and watch the actors rehearse a few times, the faster you will go.
The more you can slow down, let everyone take a deep breath and watch the actors rehearse a few times, the faster you will go. tweet
2) Find your halfway point
When I work as a 1st AD I typically look at the call sheet for the day and find the halfway point. “Where do we want to be at by lunch?” I ask myself. Once I find the halfway point I either speak to the Director and DP together or separately but I let both of them know the goal of what we have to accomplish before lunch. This tone sets a since of urgency at the beginning of the day that is critical for them to start moving quickly knowing what they have to accomplish in the next six hours.
3) Make time to analyze tomorrow’s prelim call sheet
Make a point at lunch or during large setups to really analyze the next day’s prelim. Make it a goal to ask yourself a list of questions:
- Do all the Actors call times work? What about BG?
- Do I have any minors and when do I loose them?
- Do any departments need a pre-call?
- Is this the best possible scene order?
- Does the DP or PD have any thoughts regarding the scene order that make the day go quicker?
- Are there any critical dept notes that need to be double checked to see if there is a certain prop or special camera lenses?
- Is the call time the best possible call time? Will this time affect any actor or crew turnarounds?
4) Have impactful crew meetings
I like to have departmental and crew meetings on occasion. I find that these meetings can really let people feel a sense of unity and connection to the shared goal. Here is a list of possible meetings:
- Safety Meetings – Standard safety meetings are held at the start of each day and before major stunts. These meetings are great to go over safety bulletins and remind crew members of any precautions needed for the location you are at.
- PA Meeting – At the beginning of each film I like to meet with all the PAs and ADs and go over standard basic operating procedures. We talk about walkie etiquette, expectations, who is running 1st team etc. The goal of this meeting is to leave everyone inspired and empowered to really think and be proactive at all times.
- Lunch Meetings – These are never fun, however sometimes lunch is the only time where you can get someone’s attention for five minutes. If there is a situation such as you are really far behind in the day, than having a lunch mtg with the Director and DP to discuss the rest of the day may be a good idea.
- AD Meeting – During pre-production I love to have a meeting with all the ADs to discuss workflow, preferences and expectations. This meeting allow us to all be on the same page and know who is going to handle what when the time arises.
- Director / AD Meeting – During pre-production I sit down with the Director for an hour and we discuss how the set should be handled once on set. During this meeting we talk about any preferences the Director has and any preferences that I may have. I have found this meeting to be very critical especially when problems arise on set or we get behind in our schedule.
- Crew Meetings – There are certain times when it is critical to have a crew-wide meeting and get everyone on the same page. Oftentimes I have this meeting before a company move or at the start of a very complicated scene or stunt. Even though everyone has a call sheet, it can be helpful to remind people of the next location’s parking restriction or the danger zone for the car crash that is about to happen. Different than safety meetings these stand-up meetings can be quick and informative.
Crew meetings can really let people feel a sense of unity and connection to the shared goal. tweet
5) Communicate about the next scene
One of the most painful things to experience on set is waiting 5-10 minutes for an actor to arrive to set to block the next scene. You have the DP, Director and a few of the cast there….but everyone is waiting for that one actor to arrive. I’m not talking about the 1st scene of the day, I’m speaking about every scene after the first scene. In an ideal world the 2nd AD has all the cast ready for a blocking rehearsal before the previous scene is finished. For this to happen successfully the 1st AD and 2nd AD must be in good communication. Having all the players ready for the next scene’s location will save 5-10 minutes, which over the course of the day can add up to an hour of time saved if done properly. This is one example of thinking about the next scene.
Other things to consider when thinking about the next scene…
- Is there clear signage to the next set?
- Is Art Department ready?
- Can G&E do any pre-lighting?
- Have the actors that work in this scene changed over yet if they are not currently shooting?
- Are the BG dressed and ready to go?
Brandon Riley is the founder & author of AssistantDirecting.com, a site he created to help other professionals in the pursuit of learning the craft of AD work. For more awesome AD tips check out AssistantDirecting.com.