What An Actor Needs To Do Before Turning Up On Set

Attention Actors: Congratulations on getting the role.

This article is for any actor who may not be quite sure what to do before turning up on set, or for those of you who may actually have gone to set before without realising you missed a memo or two.

There’s a few things you may need to do / be aware of before your presence is required, more than simply knowing your lines (which is of course one of the things you DEFINITELY will need to have prepared for – you’d be surprised at how many sets I’ve been on where the actor(s) had barely even looked at the script yet).

I’ll start with a given:

  1. Know your lines.
    More so, know the script. It’s important you’ve prepared yourself for your character and understanding the story. The director may give you great direction on set but you’ll still need to understand where you are in the story since it’s very rarely filmed in chronological order.

  2. Prepare yourself emotionally.

    Of course, it’s important to have a good attitude on set, but usually on a professional set there should only be a few people who will be talking to you (the director, makeup, AD’s etc) and they should understand you’re not simply there to make friends.

    That may sound a little harsh, but in order for the shoot to go smoothly, it just makes sense to only have certain people permitted to interact with the talent. If you are someone who likes to socialise, just know many of the crew will assume you will want to be left alone to continue emotionally preparing, they’re not antisocial.

    Many people may have different ideas on method acting, but getting into your character before turning up, like listening to music to put you in a certain mood, etc. is not a bad idea.

  3. Know what is expected of you.

    On a smaller set, you may be expected to bring your own costumes / do your own makeup etc. So you will need to have communicated beforehand with the director or a producer on what you need to bring and what will be there waiting for you.

    On larger sets where they have the costumes and makeup tent waiting for you, you should just wear something comfortable. No need to dress up in a tux with high heels.

    When you are going to be getting your makeup done, please don’t already turn up with your own makeup on your face – even if you think you look ugly without it. The makeup artists will not enjoy having to remove it all just to apply more.

    Another important thing to remember is not to wash your hair beforehand. It may seem like a good idea, but it’s actually easier for the hair/makeup department to do what they need to do with your hair if it isn’t washed.

  4. Make sure you’ve organised transport well before the day of the shoot.

    A set I was on recently, the lead actor called the director late the night before the shoot asking if they could get a ride because they didn’t have a car and they lived about an hour away.

    If they had mentioned this week in advance when they received the role there could have been necessary arrangements made, but since it was such a last minute thing it just wasn’t possible for us to pick them up for a number of reasons.

    This sort of predicament could have been avoided if the actor made it known long before to organise transport. Usually, you will be expected to make your own way there, unless you’ve made other arrangements.

  5. Be friendly and have a good attitude.

    I may have mentioned it’s not quite normal to be a socialite when on set, but as an actor, you do have the power to talk to whoever you want, just remember to stay professional, but also friendly, the film crew will love you for it.

On a film crew, it’s important for everyone to know their role, this is no different for actors.

Without actors, there can obviously be no film (with the exception of a story with no human characters/subjects), so being prepared and knowing your expectations before turning up can make or break the vibe of a set.

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  • Jay Evans

    Editor

    Jay Evans has spent the last 8 years working as a film editor, 4 of which have been with The Initiative Production Company. In his spare time he enjoys music, comedy, experimental cooking and getting lost in the woods.

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