Overcommunication is Good Communication
TL;DR - People can’t read your mind, so tell people what you’re thinking and doing - especially on a film set.
When first getting on a film set, talking back and forth with your team, the crew, and the client can seem overwhelming. Everyone has an opinion, your boss tells you not to talk to this person but be sure to talk to this person. On a film set, there are a lot of moving parts - equipment, people, and egos all in one place. It’s a mess - but it doesn’t have to be.
If you’ve had the chance to work with me on a film set, I’m always saying, “Copy that.” Whether it’s verbally, email, text, phone call - you tell me something or tell me do something, you’re going to get a “Copy that.” Overcommunicating to your team, let’s them know that their message has been received. We all hate the unanswered text message or email. Replying that you at least received the message is better than radio silence.
Loading in gear, rigging up heavy lights or running long power cables all have a huge potential for getting hurt on a video shoot or damaging property or the equipment itself. Overcommunicating your intentions gives the rest of your team a chance to avoid any potential safety hazards. Simply blurt out loud what you’re doing. Walking around the corner with a tripod, yell out, “Coming through.”
Another scenario happens when a mistake is made in private and not told to the rest of the team. Someone on the team forgot the camera batteries or memory cards, and no one says anything. The longer this is held a secret, the worse it gets. Tell someone about your mistakes, so the rest of the team has time to course correct.
Production Assistants fall victim to this scenario because they’re afraid of getting fired.
Watch More on Being A Production Assistant (PA) https://youtu.be/bbKwJ1Xtnoc
Life comes with ambiguous situations, however, these should be avoided on a video shoot. Not knowing what your camera operator is going to do can lead to a missed shot. A quiet director on set means missed opportunities back in the edit suite. On set, speak your mind, be concise and be direct.
You, your producer, your director, the client should never need to guess or assume what is going to happen on a video set. If you’re going in for a close-up or you need to move a light say so. Overcommunicate to the point where you’re almost talking to yourself out loud.
Having clarity of intentions and actions makes for a smooth video shoot. During my first few days working in Louisiana, my producer, Jordan Lewis told me this:
“On set, there are so many variables and Murphy’s law is always in play. Communication is vital to a success. It sets the tone of the shoot, eliminates ambiguity, and allows the crew to complete the intended vision.”
Jordan Lewis, Executive Producer at MuteSix
Let’s talk about feelings.
No one likes being ignored. We take the time and effort to craft an idea. For that idea to go unnoticed or unacknowledged leads to team friction and eventually team failure.
When the team is pissed off, creativity falters and mistakes are made. Much of this friction can stem from a lack of communication. Having a film set that’s open to sharing ideas keeps everyone’s egos and emotions in check.
Another reason we get upset is by making assumptions and having those assumptions break. Not knowing what the client wants or the producer assuming we got the shot can be solved by a constant flow of communication. A conversation starter is “Tell me what’s on your mind?” or “Tell me what you’re thinking for this scene.” Play off people’s love of sharing their own ideas.
Lastly, under a high pressure video shoot, emotions are amplified- mild irritation turns to anger, being direct seem like you’re being blunt. I, myself, find it difficult to balance that line of direct and professional versus blunt and rude. Say it with a smile, crack some jokes, keep it light but don’t avoid hard conversations.
Overcommunication is crucial
Talk out your intentions
Acknowledge that you received the message
Being direct doesn’t mean being blunt
More Resources on Communication
Walkie Talkie Etiquette - https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/walkie-talkie-lingo-everyone-on-set-should-know/
Brené Brown - “Clear is Kind” - https://brenebrown.com/articles/2018/10/15/clear-is-kind-unclear-is-unkind/
Keeping it Professional - https://www.themuse.com/tags/conflict-resolution