I had never stepped onto a film set before I decided to write and produce my feature film Zelos. Because how hard could it possibly be, right? Surprisingly (to me at least) it turns out that there are a quite a LOT of things that go wrong on a film set. This is by no means a comprehensive list:
The neighbours complain about you
When you’re doing night shoots in a small apartment block, you’d be lucky to find neighbours who are cool with listening to a couple screaming at each other from 11pm to 5am several nights running. We warned them all in advance so they wouldn’t call the police on us.
The neighbours below did, however, knock on our door to complain that water was pouring through their ceiling from our bathroom, which every member of our crew was using. This included the three poor souls who were actually living on-set for the duration of the film. We had to go to the public bathrooms down the road for the rest of the shoot.
Not enough extras turn up for a crowd scene
A party scene isn’t a party scene without people. So when it comes to shoot time and you realise the room is only half-full, you need to explore your options. Our quick-thinking Associate Producer decided that our best option was Tinder – which is literally a pool of people sitting at home waiting to be invited out on a Saturday night.
We got busy swiping and managed to source some last minute “extras”. I was so rushed I forgot to tell mine that he was coming to a film set and not a date. Despite his look of shock when the lift doors opened to reveal a film crew, he told me it was the best Tinder experience he’d had. I saw him leave with another extra, so it was a win-win situation for everyone.
You forget to organise the crew’s breakfast
It honestly didn’t occur to me that even if you’re starting a shoot on the beach before sunrise your crew still needs to be fed. I just kind of figured they wouldn’t get hungry until the regular breakfast time, even if it was three hours after they started work. But not to worry – nothing a quick trip to the nearest McDonalds couldn’t fix!
Unfortunately my mode of transport was a scooter. Although I learned to carry many interestingly-sized and shaped things during the shoot, coffee was not one of them. I confidently placed 25 coffee cups in the helmet case on the back. When I opened it on set, my scooter was suddenly awash with a flood of coffee. The un-caffeinated crew wasn’t impressed.
You have a panic attack in Bunnings
As producer, pretty much your entire role involves listening to a flurry of problems from crew members and telling them, “Don’t worry it’s going to be fine!” Then you hang up the phone and panic because it’s not going to be fine at all. So when your cinematographer tells you they need plexiglass, you immediately assure them that plexiglass is on its way.
Until you get to Bunnings to discover there is an ENTIRE WALL of plexiglass, and you have no idea what the difference is between them and come to think of it, what is plexiglass even for? But do you call your cinematographer and ask them? Of course not, because everything is going to be fine. So instead you have a panic attack in the plexiglass aisle of Bunnings and weep down the phone to your Associate Producer.
Your vehicle breaks down on the way to set
My scooter does not take diesel fuel. It has never taken diesel fuel. I know this rationally. That knowledge did not prevent me from filling my tank with diesel fuel on the way to set very early one morning, leaving me stranded without a mode of transport. I called my Associate Producer who told me not to worry and that everything would be fine, which is ordinarily my job.
When I asked him how, he just said an Uber was on its way and my scooter would be waiting for me outside the set at the end of the day. Sure enough, it was. I never found out how. I guess what I’m trying to say is get yourself a damn good Associate Producer.