My entry into the film making world was different and a bit unique. After completing a course in film making, I set off as an independent filmmaker, offering short films to startups and other business organisations, for their promotional campaigns on social media. I did this for a couple of years and was quite happy with the way it was moving; but somewhere deep inside me, I always wanted to be part of something bigger; and the Mumbai film industry was one place where I wanted to work.
I had often wondered how large commercial film productions work. I had heard stories from some friends about the work style in commercial productions. I was quite intrigued and curious to see and understand how people behaved on a set and what all goes into creating the large film.
Commercial Film making Projects
Finally, my turn came to work on a large film set. I was fortunate enough to be part of a web series project; as an assistant cinematographer to the director of photography. Since I was a newcomer, there were many things I was unaware of, in terms of the rules, processes and the work style that were involved in a large scale production. I took this opportunity to watch, observe and learn how every department works in tandem with the other and the director.
Working on a commercial film set gives many interesting and happy experiences; but it can also have some unexpected, bad moments, which can be very hard to digest. The most important factor is that, unlike typical organisations, here there isn’t a long term team that works. Teams come together for the specific project and then disband. You may or may not work with the same people again. Working hours are long, with no fixed starting and finishing time; unlike the 9 to 5 culture in organisations. There is a constant sense of unpredictability; one never knows what one is suddenly faced with. This therefore needs a work style different from other jobs.
At the early stage of the career, there are two objectives of working on such projects – (a) ensuring one gets maximum experience and learning in every aspect of the job and (b) ensuring the seniors in the project make note of and appreciate one’s work, so that more assignments are offered.
Learnings about the work style
There were many things I learnt from my first experience on the sets; from how to get things done for my team, to being present at the right place and right time for the call and the nod of the superiors.
In a short-term project, when one joins for the first time, there are so many apprehensions. How does one get into the groove quickly? How do we build an understanding with the teammates to ensure work happens efficiently? Will people be tolerant of one’s mistakes? Will they be open to explaining and guiding?
My experience taught me some valuable things, not just about the techniques, but also about managing my way around the sets and ensuring I get the best exposure.
Some of the learning’s I got about the work style requirements in a short term project, are
- Be active – One must make sure one is visible to the immediate superior to be called when he/she needs you. One also needs to stay active and agile. This means running around on the sets to quickly finish the assigned job of the moment. To get the best experience, you have to be the person who is called out the most on a given day.
- Be Alert – We have to keep our eyes and ears open at all times. It may be a very simple task of shifting props to fit the frame, but that is what will help us in improving the quality of work, make it easier for other departments to get their work done and be ready for the next task ahead.
- Be Patient – We must be patient, not getting restless over small issues or criticism . The project works on tight schedules. Every one needs to be seen as composed and cool despite the pressures.
- Understanding your team members – From my experience, giving credit to your team colleagues for a particular task done better than you is crucial. This shows maturity and good understanding; and this helps in creating a better bond amongst the team members. Issues come up when one tries to overpower the other to get the work done quickly. Such things are common, but can be avoided by giving them space and taking turns to do the same work differently.
- Be Humble – In an environment like this, it is important to be grounded and behave normal. Your status or your personality must not carry you away. Leave your old experience at home; do not carry any baggage to your new work place. One must behave like you are new and are here to learn. People will respect you for the way in which you handle pressure at work and how you build yourself to go ahead in life.
- Have the right attitude – Working in the film industry is not easy, both personally and professionally, but can be made easy if we have the right attitude at the work place. Learning work, gaining experience and gaining relationships should be the main motivators. So being positive, open to criticism and strong listening skills help sail through the project.
- Networking and having the perfect timing – Meeting others in the field and engaging with them is a really important takeaway from such projects. It’s not necessary that every interaction or conversation is about work. The important thing here is to become friends with them and having fun through the project. This starts building a network which one taps into for later assignments.
More and more people today are moving into professions which don’t have permanent jobs. Short term assignments is the norm here; and these need a work style very different from the organised sector.
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