When I decided to pursue screenwriting I didn’t have a friend, family member or associate that I could consult pertaining to how that journey would look. I had no formal training outside of being an avid journal writer and a published author. I just had a dream and I knew I needed to pursue it.
I opted to take the traditional route and went to school for my Master’s in Screenwriting. I was the lone woman of color who was proudly raising her hand saying I’m a screenwriter (even though I didn’t have a clue about the world of screenwriting).
I survived that process and found myself with my eyes wide opened to the distant fairy land of film and desiring knowledge and experience on the production end. So that meant more school, more loans but still not exact hands on experience.
I knew I had to get some experience in directing and knowing what went into making a film before I started my final project and directed my first documentary. So I decided to reach out to someone who was in the process of producing her film.
In reaching out I kept it short, sweet and to the point. One I didn’t DM her asking to get put on (newsflash DM’s aren’t professional) I showed genuine interest in her project along with letting her know who I was.
After exchanging pleasantries with her I was given the opportunity to be the script supervisor, working on the film set for a week.
Here are some of my takeaways for those of you who are seeking to get your foot in the door.
There are so many local production moments going on in your city. Ask can you work on the set. Even if it’s just assisting with food services. You still can learn so much by paying attention.
The first shooting day it was windy and downright cold. Hoodies are your friend with pockets. Pockets are important because you have so many random things that you need to toot along with you. Layers of clothing are a plus and comfortable sneakers or shoes are a major key.
Know Your Job.
When in doubt reference google. The day you step foot on set you should have a good idea of what is expected of you. I also suggest looking at what other jobs do because you may be pulled to assist beyond what your duties are.
Know the Lingo.
Of course everyone has heard quiet on the set. But there are other key terms that are just good to know. So you won’t get blinded by the lights as they are being turned back on.
I’m sure you want to ask a million questions but this isn’t necessarily the time to pick the creative brain of the director or the director of photography. They won’t be in the mind frame to do so. Instead pay attention to the gems they offer. Pay attention to the instruction they give you specifically as well as others. During your break, but the notes in your phone and go over them at the end of day. Arriving early may also afford you time to gain more gems.
Don’t think you’re above any job.
If you’re the script supervisor and they need you to work the boom then do it.
Follow the rules.
You are a professional. If you signed an agreement and they asked you for no pictures on the set or disclosing information about the film. Then don’t break the rules. You are not there as a fan put a professional.
Thank goodness I had a great experience while working on the film set. It was an awesome crew and cast. However, on my journey as a screenwriter I have run into people who don’t want you to win, those who are rude and others who believe they have arrived. Don’t let someone else stop you from getting to where you desire to be.
And some will be demanding to see if you can handle the pressure. So don’t take it personal.
I could go on and on about my first experience working on a set. But these are some of the keys that stuck out to me. Getting the hands on experience will show you if this is for you or not.
Shivawn Hill is currently in pre-production with her short documentary, Lifting Crowns. She is also trying to figure out how to form a team to help her be the voice of so many women’s untold stories. You can follow her on INSTAGRAM