When starting out in production, there are a few simple things to remember when on the job:
- Common sense is your best friend. If that doesn’t work…
- Ask questions.
- Be proactive.
All producers, directors, photographers, and videographers have different styles of managing their workplace. Don’t feel silly if you don't know off the bat what that style is. Take your time to observe the way your boss operates. Jobs can be short (1 day, 2 days, a week) so you may not have too much time to devote to the observation phase, but getting to know the work flow can set good groundwork for being hired again by the same person - thus avoiding those first day jitters in the future! Also, employers are used to working with people they don’t know - the more you do it, the easier it will become to adjust to different approaches.
In your initial conversation with your employer, find out basic information such as what time do you need to be there each day, the dress code, important addresses, if you need your computer, what applications does he or she use (i.e. Word vs. Pages), what is expected of you and what you will be paid. Even if you think the question sounds stupid, it’s better that you know the right answer than start out on the wrong foot.
If you’re working in an office setting, take time to look through folders on the computer to see how files are logged and saved (even if that means getting there a bit early). If, however, you see an organizational problem, it could be helpful to offer to organize files in a consistent manner - just don’t be pushy. Throughout the day, watch how your boss conducts business with his or her vendors and crew and follow suit (unless of course they are being rude!). If you find yourself with nothing to do, make sure the space is tidy: restock the fridge, ask if any coffee, snack, or coconut water runs need to be done, organize files, print documents for the next day - basically, dot “i”s and cross “t”s. If you’ve been asked to do something once (i.e. call the caterer in the morning), continue doing it every day.
Whether in the office or the studio, be respectful, play nice, and be yourself - you never know what skills you have that your producer has been looking for or how your personality will be appreciated by others on the team. And, if you're just starting out and looking for your production niche, your boss and co-workers can be some of your best resources. If you’ve established a good rapport, let them know the area of production that interests you - most of the time people will be happy to help steer you in the right direction.
Lastly, have fun!
Words by Christine O'Leary