10 security principles of film set etiquette and bonus terminology
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
Things I have learned about working around film sets and production staff is that things can get very hectic very fast. It is a fast paced environment with a lot of different roles, many A-type personalities barking out orders. You learn quickly to pay attention to your surroundings and who's who on the set. Make no mistake yes you are doing security and yes you have your own boss, however the production staff will really take a supervisory role as it is their set not yours. If you are asked to do something by the staff do it quickly and efficiently. Every second counts while filming. If you are asked to do something that is unsafe or concerns you, speak up. Contact your supervisor. Have a notepad to write things down because if you are asked to do things and the words are coming at you rapidly you don't want to be the one that forgot what you were told. I focus on the Assistant Director as they seem to really be the ones making the operation happen. You want to please them. Here are 10 things I feel any security staffer should know working a film set.
1. Don't talk during rehearsals. Just because the camera isn't rolling doesn't mean that they are not busy with work. Don't gossip or talk about the crew to another you don't know who is listening. Be silent and out of the way.
2. Stay professional on the two-way radios. Whether it's your security radio or one provided to you by the production staff ALWAYS stay professional you never know who is listening. Use an earpiece as to not have your radio noise in the background of the film set.
3. Don't touch gear not in your department. There are many interesting things on film sets from equipment to props to costumes. Keep your hands to yourself and just observe.
4. Don't argue with the production crew. If you have issues with the staff or the process contact your supervisor. Remember the set is theirs. If they want you to stand in a different location do it. Show them respect and they'll show you respect. Value their job.
5. Don't use your cell phone while working near the set. Don't text, don't play on social media, don't call anyone, don't play games. It looks unprofessional and you are not doing your job. If a supervisor needs you then they should physically go to your location to communicate.
6. Don't walk in front of the camera. Not even if they're not filming. Go around the back of the camera because you might not know if the camera is in play for something else.
7. Don't be late. The production crew does not expect their staff to be late so as a security professional you should NEVER be late. You should always be early. Being right on time is also considered late. So be early.
8. Don't ask for autographs and/or photographs. You are not there as a fan you are there as a security professional. You cross that line and you will be treated as such. Maintain your integrity as a professional and keep it business related.
9. No sleeping on the job. It might be a long day of filming. Stand or walk around if you have to but do not sleep or they'll be wondering what they are paying security for.
10. Do not sit in chairs that are obviously not for you. Don't be kicked out of a chair by the staff. Yeah it's a long day and your legs are tired but know your place.
Many security professionals have been fired from the set for violating these hidden rules. Hopefully this helps. Now as promised I picked out bonus terminology I found might be useful while working as security on a set.
"Moments Away!" This let's the actors and crew know that the team is almost prepared for the next take.
"Martini shot!" This is a great phrase as it is the last shot of the day and it lets people know it's almost time for some drinking.
"Hold the work!" It is telling people to be quiet and stop working because they are ready to film the next take.
"Crossing!" As a security professional I already told you that you should not cross in front of the camera but if it is absolutely necessary this is the verbiage that you would use.
"Striking!" This is a warning to the crew to look away from the lights because the bright lights are coming on and you don't want to get blinded. If you are facing a light pay attention to this word. Do not look directly at the light.
"Room Tone!" A command given for a 10 to 30 second recording to capture the tone of a room. For example, air conditioning units, any room sound that might be picked up on camera.
I hope this helps and if you get the opportunity to work on a film set be professional and stay vigilant. Also have fun and enjoy the experience.