The Basics of Radio Speak & Etiquette
You’ve got your first runner job on a big film or television set and you want to make an impression! One of the best ways to stand out as a new runner, is to know how to speak on the radio.
On my first floor runner job, Cuckoo Series 3, I was a complete newbie to running on a big production. I had no idea about radio speak or etiquette. Luckily I had a supportive 2nd AD who sat me down and went through the basics with me.
The most important thing is too never speak unless spoken to on the radio, exceptions are when you need the toilet (10-1) or have been asked to find someone (Eye’s on) or need to do a radio check. Never talk on the radio during a take, if you aren’t sure whether they are rolling then do not say anything until you hear either we’ve cut there or turning over or general chatter.
Keep radio chatter to a minimum, answer instructions clearly with copy that. Or if you have to give an instruction then keep it concise. Never discuss lunch orders or tea/coffee orders on the radio. If you do need to talk with another runner/AD about lunch/tea/coffee, then always radio (Charlotte) switch to 2 (or whichever number is the private channel) and ask your question there.
When you are called (Charlotte to Curtis) always reply (if you are able too) clearly (Go for Charlotte) and listen to the instructions carefully. If you miss part of the instruction, then ask them to repeat the task – it is better to get the correct instruction before executing it. Film and TV sets are fast paced environments so you need to be alert at all times with your radio.
As a runner you will always end up locking off at some point during a shoot so always been aware of being called to lock it up and reply with locked off.
When escorting the cast/talent from make-up/hair; costume or their dressing room to set keep the 1st AD up to date on the radio. As soon as the cast member steps onto set, call it on the radio (Charlotte stepping on).
Please note that this article covers the basic radio speak used by all departments, particularly the assistant director department. However, different departments may have extra terms. As this guide is directed towards new entrants whom will be most likely working as runners, I have only covered basic radio communications.
Setting Up Your Radio
For most new entrants in film and television running, you will not have used a radio before. Possibly when you were a child you may have used a walkie talkie but it’s not the same thing.
On arrival on set you will be given a radio either with a clip or a case – a case only works if you have a belt on.
You will then be asked if you prefer a covert or D-ring ear piece. Covert ear pieces are like in ear headphones, they can be uncomfortable and make you feel as though you are underwater. D-rings ring around your ear. My preference is a covert because I find that the D –rings tend to fall off my smaller ears.
Once you have chosen either a covert or D-ring then simply plug it into the radio. Switch on the radio and set it to the correct channel – the 3rd AD will direct you accordingly. Do a radio check by pressing the speak button on your covert/D-ring wire.
THE DICTIONARY OF RADIO SPEAK
Action – after turning over, the 1st AD will call action when the scene begins
Back to one/two/three – cast and supporting artists return to the numbered position
Background Action – ‘action’ call for supporting artists to start movement
Calling Crew Member (Charlotte to Curtis) – always clearly say your name and the person you are calling too.
Cameras up – camera is up to start recording
Checks – hair/make-up and costume checks
Copy that – you have understood an instruction
DFI – forget last instruction
Eyes on (Charlotte) – radio shout out to find a crew/cast member
Flying in – object is being hurried onto set
Go for (Curtis) – responding to a crew call to say you are listening
Going again/for another take – filming the same scene again
Good check – confirms radio is working
Hold the work – all movement/work on set must stop
Lock it up – stop public/crew/cast entering a shot/room whilst filming
Locked off on one/two/three – numbered roll call of lock off positions
Martini – last shot of the day
Moving on – either moving onto another shot or onto another scene
On the day – usually follows an instruction for a task that needs to be carried out during a take, most likely a lock off
Ones/Twos/Threes – depending on the length of the scene cast/supporting artists may have several starting positions, these are numbered from one
Quiet on set – all movement/chatter to cease
Radio check – checking radio is working
Release lock off – public/crew/cast allowed to enter
Reset – cast and supporting artists to go to starting position
Scene complete – whole scene has been shot
Seconds away – seconds away with a cast member
(Charlotte) Stepping on – cast member is stepping onto set
Still turning/rolling – camera and sound are still recording
Swinging the lens – changing the lens
Switch to (2) – changing to a private channel for a discussion
Switching – confirms that you are switching channel
That’s a wrap – finished filming for the day/shoot
That’s a wrap on (Charlotte) – wrapping a cast member
Turning over – camera and sound are recording
Turning around – camera will be shooting the reverse shot
We’ve cut there – camera and sound have stopped recording
10-1 – going to the toilet
Aspiring TV Producer and Director currently studying at University of Greenwich doing a BSc Digital Film Production.
Working as a freelance production runner, office runner and floor runner.