On-Set Etiquette

You have been scouring the Internet in search of opportunities for a first job in the film or TV industry. You have been applying for many of them and finally, it happened. You got that email, the job is yours.

Landing your first on-set job in film or TV is a very exciting time. However, how to behave, what to do, what to say and even what to wear might be some of the questions going through your mind. Hopefully this article will point you in the right direction and put you at ease so you can go off to a wonderful first day.

Chances are your first job will be that of a runner-like role, be it camera, floor or otherwise. If for some reason this is not your case, I’d like to encourage you to read on as you might still find the rest of the article very useful. There are things stated below that might sound very obvious, however they don’t always come across as such.

General behaviour

Being as helpful as possible is a no-brainer, but you should also be aware that sometimes too much assistance can be considered interfering. Sometimes we want to be so helpful that we get in the way of other people, which is evidently not well-regarded. Along the same lines, you should only speak when you are spoken to. Don’t try to look or sound smart by demonstrating your skills and just focus on completing the tasks you are given. One thing to keep in mind is that a production always runs against the clock so everyone is always very busy doing their part and no one has time to waste.

Be proactive about offering help if you don’t have anything to do at a given time and never do something you haven’t been asked to do or touch anything you haven’t been asked to touch. Conversely, always ask about things if there’s something you don’t understand or if you are not sure about how to do something. It is much better to ask again and get it right than not asking and getting it wrong. If you do make a mistake anyway, apologise, try to find a solution for it and move on.

It’s also very important to always be jolly, polite, respectful and never complain. Shooting days can be very long (sometimes even 12 or 16 hours) and occur during the so-called “unsociable” hours. Therefore, you will normally spend a very long time working with the same people. This can be great if people get along but also uncomfortable if you have to put up with someone unpleasant for so long. For this reason, many would go so far as to say that they’d rather work with someone nice that doesn’t know as much than someone who is a tech wizard but not likeable.

The same goes for complaining. You will get tired and possibly hungry and thirsty. In any case, keep it to yourself and never complain. No one likes a whiner.

Nevertheless, don’t think that you have to do everything you are asked to without question. For instance, if you are told to go buy lunch with your own money and they will reimburse you later, it’s okay for you to politely decline if you don’t feel comfortable doing it. There might be reasons why the company hasn’t sorted out some of the meals, however it is not included in the runners’ duties to financially take charge of this.

Also, don’t attempt to lift anything that looks too heavy for you just because you have been told to do so. It’s perfectly fine for you to state that a determined load is too heavy for you and ask for help.

In the same way, it’s okay to admit you don’t know something if you’re asked for technical advice or told to do something beyond your knowledge or that you have never done before. The important thing here is to not try to “save the day”, especially if you are going to go about something by guessing. Again, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Along these lines, never overestimate your skills by suggesting that you are able to do something beyond your duties. For example, if you are a camera runner, don’t walk up to a camera assistant and ask if you can pull focus on the next take. Anything like this would be considered very rude, even if you can pull focus.

Productions are organised in a very hierarchical way. Always be respectful of everyone but especially more so the heads of department and talent. Try not to be nervous around talent, they are normal people too and are pretty much in the same boat. If you know who someone is without having met them before, don’t talk to them unless you have to or if they approach you.

What to wear and carry

The dress code may vary from production to production, but it will be usually indicated on the call sheet if there is one. Take the weather into account, especially if you are going to be working outdoors. Since weather can be unpredictable (particularly in the UK) it’s a safe bet to wear a waterproof jacket and shoes. The latter should be as comfortable as possible, so a pair of nondescript trainers would probably be a good call. Also think in terms of temperature, you don’t want to spend the whole day shivering or sweating.

In regards to the rest of your attire, a normal pair of jeans or trousers and a basic t-shirt should do the trick. Tracksuits can be a grey area, but it would be safe to say that most of the times they will be considered as “too casual/comfortable”. Just make sure that the clothes you’ve chosen are not noisy when you move.

In terms of colours, you can never really go wrong with dark clothes –except for maybe those occasional hot days in the summer.  However, don’t wear light or bright clothes as these cause reflections on the actors, scene, or sometimes in windows.  The plainer, the better, and it is best to avoid wearing big logos. This can cause some trouble depending on the nature of the production, so best to make sure this is alright or avoid it altogether.

A torchlight can be very useful – the one on your phone should be alright but remember to silence it! – and if you want to be extra helpful always carry a couple of Sharpies and pens, even some blank paper sheets and some gaffer tape.

What to expect

You have to be aware that “runner” is the lowest of the roles in a production. This isn’t anything bad, it’s just a matter of hierarchy. Don’t be offended if someone explains something to you that you already know, just listen and learn. Practice makes perfect, so hearing about something one more time can never be a bad thing.

As a runner you won’t be (shouldn’t be) treated any differently. However, you might find yourself having to carry out what might seem like menial tasks, such as breakfast/lunch runs, making tea and coffee, fetching objects or water and conveying messages. Again, this is not a bad thing. There is always something to learn from everything and completing allegedly easy and boring tasks in a timely manner with efficiency and a good disposition will eventually get you noticed as a hard-working, reliable and pleasant individual, which can earn you good references that will lead to roles with more responsibility in the future.

Another excellent skill to have on set is the ability to remain calm when something goes wrong –it will happen, more than you would think. In these situations, people get nervous and stressed and therefore you can expect to be yelled at as a result of high stress. If this happens don’t take it to heart, just carry on with your tasks and be as helpful as possible. However, if by any chance you had a truly unpleasant encounter with anyone that shouldn’t be ignored, leave it for the end of the day and make sure to report it to the head of department.

In terms of food, it depends on the arrangements that have been done for the day. You can expect at least one catered meal and complimentary water throughout the day.

In terms of working time, as I stated before you should expect to work long hours and to have some breaks during the course of the day. How many will depend on the intensity of the work and the schedule.

Last but definitely not least, you should always get paid for your work, unless it’s clearly stated beforehand that the role is not paid but you still decide to do it. Unpaid jobs however, are luckily becoming more of a rarity. In any case, always go on a job having clarified compensation matters beforehand.

Do’s and Don’ts

Here is a list of some additional do’s and don’ts that can help you on set:

  • Be polite, respectful, pleasant and helpful.
  • Never sit down unless you are on a break. In this case, make sure to stay away from the set and any busy areas.
  • Don’t carry copies of your latest script/film to show people, especially not to heads of department or the director, producer, etc.
  • Don’t ask for anyone to let you do anything beyond your duties/capabilities.
  • Never brag about your past work and preferably don’t mention it unless you are specifically asked about it.
  • Always keep receipts if you buy anything, whether it’s for yourself, the production or someone else.
  • Never give your opinion about the work that is being done unless you are asked to. If this is the case, always start with something like: “I’m not sure, what do you think?”
  • Use your common sense.

Tips on How To Get a Job In the Film and TV Industry – #1 Email Signatures

We sit down with Tom Piamenta, cofounder of WiseStamp,to discuss the importance of formatting and presenting yourself to potential clients and branding techniques.

BC:  Why is it important to have a well-formatted email signature?

TP:  A good email signature serves 3 major goals.

 First, it sets the tone of the email. It shows who you are, your persona (e.g. serious vs fun) and promotes your personal brand.

Second, it lets your recipients easily see who you are and take the conversation into a friendlier place while removing hesitations and obstacles. People are also less likely to ignore a “personal” outreach. This is why adding your personal photo or a favorite quote is a good idea.

Third, an effective signature can be a powerful ally of the content of your email. Let’s say you wish to setup a meeting with someone, you can add to your signature a distinct button saying “Let’s schedule a meeting” that allows the recipient to book a time online.


BC: Why is it important to put links to my website and social media profiles?

TP:  People who take the time to view your email are likely to Google your name and gather more data about you. Adding links to your website and profiles makes sure they will come across the content that you want them to see and not random stuff they can found online.


BC: Is putting a profile picture next to my email signature a good idea?

TP: This depends on the outcome you’d like to achieve. A profile picture makes the email more personal and harder to ignore, while adding a logo makes matters a bit more formal. Personally, I use a profile picture, since I prefer to keep the conversation light and amiable rather than strictly professional.


BC: What other ways can email signatures help me as a freelancer or business?

TP: Your email signature is a powerful piece of real estate you are leaving untapped. That’s actually the reason we created WiseStamp – to allow you to make your signature more effective using a variety of Email Apps.

A physician can add a call to action to his signature (“Book a meeting with me”), where an eBay seller will add a promotion (“Click here to enjoy our holiday pricing”) and an actor can add the cover images to showcase their filmography.


BC: Are there any rules to how long an email signature should be?

T.P: I’m a devout believer in the saying that less is more. A good signature should include your profile picture or logo, personal data (name, title, company), icons to your social profiles (Linkedin, Facebook, IMDB  etc.) and a concise call to action relevant to the outcome you wish to achieve.


BC: What about font selection?

TP: The only thing to remember is to never use fonts that are not websafe. If you do you have no idea what the recipient will actually see. We only allow websafe fonts at WiseStamp so no need to worry about that.


BC: Is it important if I work in a business that everyone’s email signatures are consistent?

TP: When WiseStamp started we only had a solution for individuals, but since consistency is of grave importance our users drove us to develop a team solution that does just that – allow for central management of the company’s email signature. Signatures that aren’t unified reflect badly on the company and sometimes cause actual harm (e.g. if the legal disclaimer is omitted by some employees).

A big advantage of a centrally managed solution is that the company can push its marketing messages in all emails sent with a click, thus promoting webinars, sales, launching new products etc.


WiseStamp is the leading growth platform for micro businesses and freelancers, helping over 700,000 professionals grow their business.

On top of the email signature solution, WiseStamp offers tools to create a personal webpage with a click, promote and list your site in search engines and directories etc.

No matter what your business or profession – we’ve got the apps and services to help you achieve your goals: get leads, brand your business, distribute your content, showcase your portfolio, build a community, all while looking super professional – we’ve got the features and tools to help you do it.


WiseStamp is offering a 20% off discount to all IMIS members.  Head over to the Members Section to access it.


Six Ways Film & Television is Embracing Women and BAME


The most prominent debate in film and television in the present day is the representation of women and BAME. In this article, I hope to present schemes and organisations that are dedicated to creating diversity and equality in the industry.


ONE: NFTS Directing Workshop

The National Film and Television School provides teaching and training for those wishing to work in film and television. They run several diplomas; masters; certificates and short courses.

This new initiative for directors has been launched by NFTS aiming to increase the number of women, BAME and people with disabilities.

The six selected directors will take part in a 2-day introduction in March followed by an intensive 4-week workshop during summer culminating in the production of a short film.

The course is free and the deadline is 19th February.

Apply here: https://nfts.co.uk/directing-workshop




Founded in 2012, Creative Access aims to provide young BAME people paid training opportunities in creative companies and supporting them into full-time employment.

With over 200 media partners offering opportunities including ITV, BBC, Channel 4 and many more. This organisation is paving the way to creating an industry that truly reflects British society.

Want to sign up? Check out the website here: https://creativeaccess.org.uk/


THREE: Women In Film & TV UK Mentoring Scheme

Women In Film & TV is a membership organisation run by women supporting women working in the creative media in the UK.

Every year they run a mentoring scheme designed for women with more than 5 years’ experience looking to take a significant step in their career. Over six months participants receive six hours of mentoring contact with an industry figure. There are also seminars, training workshops and networking opportunities.

Free to apply and participate. Find out more here: https://wftv.org.uk/mentoring/


In 2019, BAFTA will be adding the BFI Diversity Standards to the eligibility criteria for the Outstanding British Film Award and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.

This decision has been controversial in the industry with some parties believing this is a step too far and restricts filmmaking. In my opinion, it is a bold and much needed move towards creating an inclusive and equal industry. My only issue with it, is the fact this is even needed in the 21st Century to promote diverse filmmaking.

Considering that in the 2015 Oscars no non-white actors were nominated for an Academy Award, a change in criteria for these awards is definitely overdue.


In 2016, Directors UK released a 10 year study on women directors in film revealing the shocking truth that only 13.6% of all directors working in the last decade were women.

They aim to use the findings of this study to improve the industry for women by campaigning for these 3 specific goals:

  1. 50% of films backed by UK-based public funding bodies to be directed by women by 2020.
  2. Development of the Film Tax Credit Relief system to require all UK films to take account of diversity.
  3. Industry wide campaign to inform and influence change

Find out more here: https://www.directors.uk.com/campaigns/gender-equality-in-uk-film-industry#support-our-campaign



In 2016, BFI Film Forever and Creative Skillset launched a workshop called Game Changers specifically for women and BAME filmmakers.

Run by Kymberlie Andrews who is a master trainer and communication coach. The aim of the two day workshop was to boost confidence; teach pitching and make contacts with like minded individuals.

For myself, this workshop changed my game by opening my eyes to my personality strengths which has affirmed by future career goal.

Hopefully this opportunity will be renewed for 2017 but only time can tell!

Find out more here: http://gamechangeruk.com/


If you know of any opportunities for women and BAME in film and TV then please comment below!




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.





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


A Secret Guide to Getting Work Experience

The secret to getting work experience is there is no secret; it is a combination of luck and meeting the right people. BUT fear not even if your dad isn’t Danny Boyle you can still get into the industry.


To get work experience you have to be confident, optimistic and be in the right place at the right time. You only need one good placement and if you work hard enough then doors will begin to open for you.


The downside of work experience is that the majority of placements are unpaid and few offer expenses.


How you can help yourself to get work experience…


  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for work experience – the worst thing anyone can say is NO.
  2. Work hard and be positive – no one wants to work with someone they dislike.
  3. Don’t give up – even if every door keeps closing, if you keep trying then one will open for you!


Ways to get work experience…



Become an EXTRA

By becoming a film and TV extra you will be able to get onto film sets and meet crew members whilst being paid… Not bad.


Make sure you come across as confident and professional when talking to the crew. The best people to talk too are anyone in the production team or assistant director team as they mainly hire runners.


I got my first work experience placement after working as an extra on a comedy TV series!!


FUN FACT: EXTRAS are actually called SA’s (Supporting Artists) by most film crews.




Production Companies (that have dedicated work experience schemes)!


Not all production companies offer work experience and those that do tend to have a system in place to control applicants. These tend to be larger companies such as BBC, Tiger Aspect, Endemol & Hattrick.


It is worth applying to these but remember you need to stand out from the thousands of applicants who are also applying. Make sure you properly research and watch shows/films by the production company you are applying to so you can have that extra edge when applying!


Here are a few links to get started:








Networking Events

Networking is key to the TV/Film industry, as most employers employ people they have know or have worked with before. As frustrating as this is when you are starting out, you’ll appreciate it once you are in the industry.


To find networking events in your area look up film/TV societies and organizations. The International Moving Image Society holds a networking event each month for members and it is a great way to meet like-minded individuals!


Other good places to look are Eventbrite and Facebook for film related events going on in your area.


Film Festivals

There are two ways to do film festivals – volunteering or attending and both ways allow you to network.


By volunteering you get to go for free but do have to spend time volunteering. A lot of festivals will advertise on the website if they are looking for volunteers.


Attending means you can go to all the guest talks and screenings where you will meet many filmmakers who are generally more than happy to talk to you.



University Lecturers

Don’t forget that film and TV lecturers at your University are likely to be making films alongside their teaching. Get to know your lecturers and prove that to them that you are hard working and dedicated. Hopefully this will lead you to being asked onto their next shoot.