by Rachel Hauck, @RachelHauck
Just as I finished a book where the contemporary story revolved around a script and movie, I traveled to a movie set!
Maybe that’s more like irony than serendipity.
Once Upon A Prince is wrapping up as I type, a soon-to-be-aired Hallmark Channel movie.
Who knew when I woke up at the crack-of-before-dawn to watch Prince William marry the lovely Catherine Middleton that I’d have the spark of an idea which would one day come to life on the Hallmark Channel.
There’s my serendipity.
Beyond the honor and sheer emotion of seeing characters life that only lived in my head, I learned some things about being on a movie set.
If you want to set your characters on a movie set, here’s some tips.
First let me say just say the language may vary from movie company to movie company, but the tips I put down here should suffice for your story book movie.
First team – the main actors.
Second team – the stand-in cast. This could be one or more actors who play bit parts or background cast who stand in for the stars during staging and lighting.
When the director calls for the second team, he’s calling for those stand-ins. When he’s ready to shoot, he calls for the first team.
Also, he calls the actors by their real name or character name.
If you’re writing a scene with characters on set, you could call for the first team, or call for the actor by name or character name.
Background – the crowd. Those folks sitting in the restaurant or standing around in a park or ballroom. We see them in every movie.
You can also call them extras but often when the director was setting the scene for filming, he’d cue, “Background,” and it was our call to “Action” and start pretending!
When the background appears to be talking, laughing, whatever, there is literally NO sound. The set is quiet except for the speaking characters and if 50, 75, 100 background actors even whisper, you’d get a hovering din. No es bueño.
So the extras just mouth pretend conversation. They look engaged but it’s all made up.
I was an extra for Once Upon A Prince and was schooled by professional background folks how to look real without making a sound. We actually worked out a routine and used it for every run through and the actual filming.
First positions – the beginning. When a scene is rehearsed, people move about, so when the director wants to rehearse again or is ready to film, he calls, “First positions.” Everyone goes back to the start.
Usually a scene is shot 2, 3, 4 however many times the director wants. So remember your first position!
We’re locked – wha??? I never really under this term and I can’t find it on any film term list but I think it means, “Ready to go.” Everything is set.
Picture’s Up – the shot is framed, ready to roll.
Sound – Quiet! All talking, sound, movement must stop. Actually, there are different terms for sound but in our case, when we heard sound we stopped talking.
Sound can also mean Sound Speed which might mean the camera is rolling.
Speed – the camera is rolling. Filming is happening!
Slate – also known as the clapper. The device that records a scene number and sync point as the camera rolls and before the action begins.
Playback – music. The director will call for play back if the scene has accompanying music or other sounds. This allows musicians, singers, actors to mime to the music that will be added later. 😉
Notes – feedback. A script is given “notes.” An actor is given “notes.” In Hollywood, that’s nice speak for feedback, critique, help, review. So your characters should ask for “Notes.” The scriptwriter will “Review the director’s notes.” The producer will give notes to the director. I think you get where this is going…
Touches – does everyone look good? I loved this one. The director or assistant director would call for “Touches” which launched the hair and makeup folks into action. They’d check the faces of the on-camera actors to make sure they weren’t shiny, and that their hair styles were lasting.
Every time I came off the floor as an extra, I’d call for “Touches.” But ha, no one ran over to me. What gives?
The term Finals is also used.
So, if you’re writing dialog, you might write something like this:
“Okay, let’s rehearse this. First team, take your positions. Playback. Action.”
“Okay, this is a take. We’re locked. Picture’s up. Sound, Speed. Action.”
The slate person jumps in without being called.
Of course you can vary the terms. I heard a variation of those terms with each shot.
Director – the guy in charge of the filming. Works with the AD (see below) and DP (see below) to execute the project. The film will have a lot of the director’s vision. He will map out the scenes in pre production and systematically work through them while shooting.
P.S. Scenes are not shot in order.
AD – assistant director. He or she will do a lot of hands on with the crew and make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be. Kind of the Master Sergeant on set.
In my experience, the AD gave the directions right before filming. “Picture’s up. Sound. Speed. Playback.”
Then the director may call action. Either one could do it.
The director also said, “Whenever you’re ready,” if the scene was just one or two actors.
DP– director of photography. He works with the director to get the shots framed the way they want, the best way to tell the story.
Producer – the one who made the movie happen! Of course movies can have many producers who play different roles. In my case, the producer acquired the project and sold the concept to Hallmark.
A producer can touch all aspects of the process from the script to filming.
The producer may be on set for the entire process. She gives input and consults with the director.
I think you can have fun with this character in a book.
Say goodnight – a principle character is leaving the set or the movie.
The Circus – trailer location. I’m sure this term is different per movie set but for this movie The Circus was the location of the trailers for the main actors, wardrobe, hair and makeup. Transpiration moved the cast and crew from the Circus to the set and back again.
From this point, the list is endless. 2nd AD. 3rd AD. Assistant DP. Production crew. Hair and makeup. Transportation. Unit managers. Camera men. Security. Set crew. Wardrobe folks. Craft services. Or as we called it, “Lunch!”
In fact, here’s a list of terms.
Filming days are long. Twelve, thirteen hours. Sometimes the shortest scene may take an hour or more to film between staging, rehearsing, then filming from different points of view.
Speaking of Point of View. They use that term in movies too!
They entire crew breaks for lunch at the same time.
They get weekends off. But this may vary per director, location, union rules, etc.
The main actors have a “green room.”
I had a blast peeking behind the scenes of a movie set. 🙂 Hope these tips help in your writing journey.
Go Write Something Brilliant!
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It Only Takes A Spark. . . Or Does It? by Rachel Hauck
Tenley Roth’s first book was a runaway bestseller. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who has run out of inspiration?With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.
A century earlier, another woman wrote at the same desk with hopes and fears of her own. Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams she doesn’t know how to realize. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has taken extreme measures to manipulate her future, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds, but fate has bound them together in a way time cannot erase.
New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a past ACFW mentor of the year. A worship leader and Buckeye football fan, Rachel lives in Florida with her husband and ornery cat, Hepzibah. Read more about Rachel at www.rachelhauck.com.