Careers in film production are often glamourised – before I began working in advertising, I too believed that the world of production revolved around travelling to incredible locations, watching art unfold before your eyes, etc. etc.
While that is not untrue, there is also a lot about being on a film shoot that people don’t really talk about – the parts that require high levels of endurance, stamina and tolerance. In my current advertising job I work on the creative side of things; my team comes up with the concepts that the production team then brings to life. I have occasionally been on film shoots for creative supervision – or in my earlier days, to lend a helping hand wherever needed – and I now know that I made the right choice to be on the creative team (not to say that production is bad, but it just isn’t for me).
If you’re considering a career in production, or just curious about what a job in that field entails, here are a few aspects of life on a film set that are regular occurrences, but don’t often make it to the glamourised spotlight:
Travel is one of the biggest highlights of the job. While I haven’t been on international shoots, some of my colleagues have, and they had a wonderful time shooting in various picturesque locations across the world. However, it’s important to remember that you have no control over where you are going
So while the production team at my agency found themselves in the rolling hills of the tea estates in Coonoor for one shoot, another shoot involved them camping out in the sweltering hot deserts of Rajasthan. By the way, if you’re curious about the outcome of these shoots, you can watch the video that was shot in Coonoor here (I wrote the lyrics for this one), and the video that was shot in Rajasthan here (I composed the music).
Personally, I enjoy having a certain amount of control over my working hours – this would not be the case if I worked in production. Although schedules are created in advance, they often involve very long days (that invariably get extended). Of course, work timings vary from company to company, but having fifteen-hour days is common across the industry.
Needless to say, this requires a lot of stamina (both physical and mental).
I’m rather particular about public bathrooms, so sharing a bathroom with approximately fifty people is always a point of stress for me on shoots. The more people on set, the more you have to brace yourself. It’s not always bad, but sometimes it is.
I can guarantee that the temperature within studios will always be too cold. I’m unsure as to whether this is for the sake of the equipment or not, but I have learned to pack an extra layer in preparation for the frigid temperatures that accompany studio shoots.
Long Waits Between Shots
The most time-consuming part of a shoot is lighting changes. It takes hours to move from one lighting setup to the next. As a result, most of a shoot day involves everyone (except the lighting crew) waiting around for hours on end between each scene change.
No matter how well planned a shoot is, there will invariably be unexpected problems on the set, whether it’s equipment malfunction (this happened in Rajasthan due to overheating), issues with props or costumes, or even the weather. No shoot is complete without a producer having a panic attack.
Production has never been my cup of tea, but I know many people who absolutely love it. If you have high levels of endurance and stamina, don’t mind long hours, and can think on your feet, you’ll fit right in at a shoot.