FTI held a roundtable event yesterday evening, covering the topic of “Film Etiquette”.
The speakers were:
- Producer Susie Campbell, a formidable West Australian presence who has worked on numerous television programs and films, including the award-wininng Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello,
- Up-and-coming writer-director Karen Farmer, who also conceived the idea for the ambitious and gripping Caravan, a short science fiction film set in the desert,
- and Chris Toovey, an animator who is also an FTI alumnus. Chris was in the second group of animation students at FTI. He now works at lastpixel, a company that specialises in 3D visualisation for a diverse range of industries, including architecture and mining.
Susie Campbell and Karen Farmer.
Ebbie Williams, our lovely and talented animation training facilitator, and next to her, the equally lovely and talented Chris Toovey.
The session was definitely an eye-opener, and we have Graeme Watson to thank for organising the event and its assortment of social lubricants civilised refreshments.
Notes and quotes are grouped below according to subject matter, rather than chronological order.
Major breaches of etiquette in film and animation?
According to Susie, this can include: mobile phones ringing on set (this will cost you a slab of beer, and since most crews prefer to drink James Boag, expect to pay to the tune of $50 to $60); no drugs; no stealing; safety regulations mean that closed-in shoes are essential. No one is allowed on set without closed shoes (sneakers, at a minimum), even the director and producer.
Being a distraction. Save your questions for after the action. “Don’t talk while on set. Wait till after the shoot, when people are eating and drinking.”
Chris: “Not washing your coffee cup.” (It is interesting that this was the first comment that sprang from Chris’s lips. I too, have trouble understanding how some grown men and women lose the ability to clean up after themselves when they find themselves outside their homes. Chris, if you’re interested, I’m thinking of taking out a patent on heat-seeking exploding coffee grounds that target non-washers.)
“Be able to take criticism, and take other people’s ideas seriously.”
Areas of conflict when working in a group?
Chris remarked that in their office/animation studio, lighting was often a source of conflict, as different animators had different ideas of what comprised an effective work environment. He added, “Be prepared to compromise for other people.”
Susie emphasised the fact that film and television sets are stressful environments, where everyone is conscious of how wasted time means wasted dollars. Big dollars.
Directors and producers are constantly communicating under “extreme pressure and tension.”
It is important to not be offended if someone speaks to you curtly (there should be no excuses for rude behaviour, though). “People have to make very quick decisions and give quick instructions. They sound like they’re shouting, but they’re not … people cry.”
But meekness won’t get you anywhere. “If someone barks at you, bark back!”
Finally, how to succeed in the industry and be asked back to work again and again?
Play nice. “Be nice to people, because someone might ask someone else about you.”
Keep on top of news, trends, and events. “If you want to get in, you really have to keep your ear to the ground.”
Meticulous planning in pre-production. “You need a lot of prior planning, and good storyboards. You really have to be on your toes. Before you come in you have to know exactly what you’re going to be doing. And always have a backup plan.”
Be good at several things. “You definitely need to be multiskilled in Perth.”
Network. “Go to events and meet people. Through ScreenWest, see what productions are funded and what productions are coming up.”
Know what you want. “Don’t just say, ‘I really want to work in anything.’ Say [for example], ‘I really want to work in Documentary and Camera.”’
Be passionate, truthful, tenacious and prepared. “… personally, I respond to passion and sincerity. The fact that you will not go away. Passion and thinking ahead. Being useful. Just being there at the right time.”
“The film industry in general is not a place for the faint-hearted. If you haven’t got an enquiring and observant mind, then you shouldn’t be hanging around a film set.”