9 Tips for Surviving an Independent Film Shoot
1. Know your lines cold. Rehearse your lines over and over and know them backwards and forwards. You don’t know how many takes you are going to get because of the inefficiency of the production, and lack of time and budget. Knowing your lines down cold ensures that your best work makes the cut.
2. Take control of how your character is going to look. Finding your costume can be as easy as taking a trip to the local thrift store. Taking control and bringing options for your director will help him, your character, and how your character looks on screen. Be open to the director’s ideas but have your own in case he has none. Own the character you are portraying from the start!
3. Be nice and focus on yourself. Don’t talk badly about anybody on the set. Remember everyone is under a lot of pressure. Focus on yourself by either working on your lines, rehearsing with your scene partner while they set up the next shot or thinking about how you want your scene to go. Focus on the task at hand and hold yourself to a higher standard than everyone else. Add to the project, don’t subtract.
4. Give the director different takes of your scene. After you do the scene and the director says “Great, I got it!” Simply and politely ask “Do you mind if I try something different just to give you some variety?” I doubt he will say no. In fact, I have found they always appreciate you helping them have options to choose from when they cut the film.
5. Listen and talk to the director. When you are on set and you and the director are having trouble communicating focus on listening. Reply back with “Ok, let’s try that” or “Yeah, let’s give it a go” and just try what they are asking you to do. This approach shows that you are listening to them and are wiling to try their direction, it also defuses any potential situation and ensures you stop the vicious cycle of you and him trying to defend your positions.
6. Bring food. Take some of your own food to the set. Nuts, apples, and protein bars are great. This way you always have something healthy to eat, and you need to feel your best so you do your best.
7. Easy on the caffeine. Don’t drink caffeine all day on set, which is easy to do when you are just sitting around. Caffeine can sap your energy—especially late at night—and it makes emotional scenes much more difficult. Caffeine can also make sleeping difficult. Remember that in indie films, there is no eight-hour turnaround rule, so you need to be able to sleep immediately when you have the chance. Drink water, eat apples and nuts to keep your blood sugar up and to give yourself energy late at night.
8. Get your work. Once you wrap, get both the director and producer’s contact info and in eight months to a year, begin asking for your work and don’t stop till you get it.
9. Don’t get drunk the night before your scene. Enough said.