Friday, September 26, 2014

Handling Pressure and Staying Positive on Set

By the time Arturo gets around to reading this post, I will have been on a set 5 times in the span of 8 days.  Two of those times (both of our group shoots for fiction 2) were for 6 hours, and the other three (for my ICTV show, Prerequisites) should each last a minimum of 4 hours. If I did my math right - and hey, there's a good chance I didn't - then I will have been on set either directing, producing, or script supervising for at least a total of 24 hours in the past week. With so much time spent planning, organizing, and figuring out who does what and when they do it, I've found that's it's pretty easy to lose focus on why you're really there. 

Sets, generally, are pretty stressful places to be, particularly if you're in a high up position and have a lot riding on whatever it is that you're filming. I think that sucks. I can't speak for everyone else in the TVR/Film program here at Park, but I know I'm here because I love making films and television. There's nothing else I'd rather be doing. What I'm slowly learning - mostly from working for ICTV - is that when you spend so much time on writing and shot listing and scheduling and everything else that goes into preproduction, when it comes time to be on set, you can tend to get frustrated when things don't go exactly as you planned. I wanted to find ways to help deal with that pressure, and hopefully make it easier for myself - and anyone else - to stay cool and have fun on set. 

I found an article that I really liked, written by Evan Luzi, that talks about five ways to "handle pressure and perform better on set." Most of his suggestions are for ACs, but I think they can be applied to pretty much any on-set position. Case in point: the first step is to be prepared. Probably the most important thing that I've learned over the past few week/few years is that preparation, as annoying as it can be, is by far the most important thing you can do regarding filming. If you're on set and don't have a shot list, you're screwed. If you don't know where your lights are going to go or how your actors are going to block out a scene, you're screwed. Being prepared is by far the easiest way to save yourself from being frustrated on set, and it will also give you a better overall product in the long run. 

Luzi's next two steps are to be confident and relax. These are way harder than they sound. However, confidence comes with experience and preparation, so as long as you stay on top of everything and have faith in yourself, other people will have faith in you as well. Relaxation, on the other hand, is different for everyone. Whether it means leaving set for five minutes to go get a snack and drink of water or just taking a deep breath in between takes, it's really important to not let the stress get to you. People work better when they're relaxed: I think that's a fact or something. 

Above everything else, though, is perspective. It doesn't matter if you're Steven Spielberg or a PA on the set of a CP2 film: all we're doing is making movies here. The worst thing that can happen to you in this industry is that you get fired. In college, the stakes are even lower. We're not making any big, world-altering decisions here (although some people beg to differ). For the most part, we're making movies (or TV, film, art, whatever you want to call it) for the entertainment of others and for our own self-gratification. It's ok if things aren't perfect. Take a break. Go for a hike. Call your mom. As fun/awful/stressful/amazing as it can be to make things, there will always be things that are more important, both for your well being and the well being of those around you. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go make a shot list. 

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