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iPOP Tips: Things You Should Know Before Being on Set

When you finally make it on set, it’s important to know how to make the best experience of it. Aside from making a good impression, you also want to be comfortable with your work. By preparing for your on set experience, you’ll help pave the way to your success. Read below for things to know before being on set.

1. “Cut! Moving on!”

There are a number of reasons why TV sets move very fast. Budgets, daylight, and even the lead actor’s contract can be a factor why they have to get shots quickly. You have to show up ready to rock even though you may not have had a rehearsal. TV acting assumes you’re working on your craft before you show up to set so you’re limbered up and ready to go. Oddly, the speed that a TV set moves is also the reason why you may wait in your trailer for five hours. Because they need to make sure that you’re all ready to go as soon as they need you, they may call you to set early just to have you there. Either way, you have to be ready at a moment’s notice to knock it out of the park the first time.

2. Show pace.

Sure, the set moves fast, but often the dialogue does as well. To fit the confines of the medium, each show has to fit within 44–52 minutes for an hour-long show or 22 minutes for a half-hour. To pack as much show in, there often isn’t time for long, dramatic pauses for thought or transitions. And if you do include them in your work, the editor will likely cut to the other actor. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to speak quickly. Pace does not equal speed. If your intention is clear and your moments full, it will be harder for an editor to cut away from you. But you have to understand that your job is to move the story forward. So get to the point and move at the pace of the show.

3. Be a size queen.

You have to have a sense of what the camera operator is seeing so you know the frame in which you’re working. Before you get to set, you need to know about the camera, its angles, lenses, etc. You should know how close or far each lens size will put you in the frame. A cowgirl, medium shot, close-up, extreme close-up, etc. They all inform your performance.

4. No direction is good direction.

A TV director is busy. Every department on set needs their time and input. So, if after your scene or after a couple of takes they don’t redirect you or tell you that you did a great job, don’t sweat it. Rest assured that if you weren’t giving them what they needed, they would tell you. In a professional setting, personal validation is not a reasonable expectation. They expect that you’re going to know your lines, have a clear point of view, be ready to go, and deliver. When you do, they move on. If you get a chatty director who wants to work with you, great. If not, it’s not an indictment of your work, so no worries!

5. Let go.

Working in television is the art of doing the best you can under the circumstances. You prepare as much as you can but the nature of collaborating with 130 artists and technicians on set, on a fixed budget, with time constraints, and at the mercy of a myriad of elements that are beyond anyone’s control, means that you have to roll with the punches. You’re going to have to be kind to yourself. You did the best you could. In order to show up on set the next day present and open to reveal your talent, you’re going to have to let yesterday go.


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