A Day On Set of a $100 Million Hollywood Blockbuster – My Personal Experience

Through my many years in the film industry, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a lot of awesome projects. Whether it’s one of my personal favourite shows, or getting to travel internationally, it’s hardly ever a dull moment. However, a couple years ago I was asked to come onto my biggest show yet, a massive $100 million Hollywood blockbuster. Unfortunately, I won’t disclose exactly which film it was (we have to sign NDAs so I’m just going to play it safe) but it did have a wide release in 2017 all over the world and more likely than not, you’ve heard of it, if not saw it. Before we get started, if you’d like to read about other, more grounded, film articles you should take a gander at our Local Films section!

Breakfast

No, this part isn’t to tell you what you should eat prior to going to work on set. This section is to tell you when you do go to work on set, show up early! Most productions (all if you’re unionized) will have breakfast for the cast and crew in the morning. This entices the workers to show up early to get free food rather than showing up on time, which increases the chances of them being late. Plus, it makes the crew happier. Let me tell you, this was the best breakfast I’ve ever had on a film set. Practically anything you’d ever want for breakfast, and if they didn’t have it today, you’d get it tomorrow.

Pre-call

For those of you who are unfamiliar with what pre-call is, I’ll give you a quick lesson. A set will always have a specific Crew Call. A Crew Call is the time when every member of the crew must be on set to start the day’s scheduled work. Now, pre-call is for crew that are supposed to be on set before the day officially starts to make sure all the gear and everything is ready to go when the higher up people come in. This process is the same no matter the size of your film (no budget – Hollywood blockbuster). The biggest difference I noticed is the gear. There is so much more gear, gear for any and every situation. We had 5 Red Weapons on our truck at all times, all built for different situations. 2 of the cameras were built in studio mode for the A and B operators, 1 was built for steadicam, another for handheld, and the final for our daily 50′ Technocrane. Along with prepping those cameras every morning we had 14 carts to offload, organize, and bring to set. Each one of these 14 carts were filled with gear. One for each camera, 1 DIT cart, 1 DIT support cart, 2 lens carts, 1 head cart, 1 miscellaneous cart, 1 trainee cart, 1 battery cart, and 1 camera building cart. Once all carts and every camera were on set, we were ready for Crew Call.

Crew Call

Now that everyone is here, it’s time for the days work to begin. Typically, it will start off with the blocking of the first scene. In some cases, such as stunts or a dangerous location, there will be a safety meeting held my the 1st AD and anyone else of authority. This meeting will make sure that everyone is on the same page and know of any dangers that might be before them. After that, it’s time to block. With movies like this they usually do a private blocking first before doing a crew blocking. A private blocking is where they block with the most important people; DP, operators, cast, producers, director, 1st AD, stunt coordinator before they block with the dozens of other crew members. This gives them time to finesse the scene until it’s perfect. When it’s crew blocking everyone will come in, a 2nd AC will mark the scene as the actors go through it, then the actors will leave to finish their makeup and the crew will begin setting up the first shot.

Shooting

The shooting process can change dramatically from day to day or it can be very straight forward, it all depends on what the scene calls for. You could be doing a sweeping 50′ Technocrane shot with an Oculus head over the side of a building or simply a tripod shooting a green screen in a nice, cozy studio. Whatever the director wants, the crew will make happen. The bigger shots are worked out beforehand so the crew generally knows what is expected from them that day but if it’s just a basic scene of a couple people talking over a table, you won’t really know what’s in store. The main thing I’ve noticed between this Hollywood blockbuster and small indies (other than clearly more budget for gear, sets, etc.) is the slow periods. With big budget movies the producers want everything to be perfect, and it takes time to make things perfect. So, I found myself waiting around for the next shot a lot longer than usual. This can be nice after a busy set up but it can also drag on for what seems like forever. 

Behind the scenes of a Hollywood blockbuster.

This only happens everyday when you're on a movie directed by Michael Bay.

Lunch

Finally, lunch is called. It’s time to eat… again. But, before you can we cover up all of our gear and power everything down. Make sure every piece of equipment is safe from rain, dust, wind, or anything else that can cause potential damage while we’re gone for about an hour or so. If you’re quick, you’ll make it to the line before the dozens of other crew members who are equally as starving as you. Just like breakfast, this is the best lunch I’ve ever had working on a set. Not to mention Last Meal Day. Last Meal Day is the lunch they serve on the very last day of a production, and they go all out. Crab, oysters, sushi, escargot, steaks, every type of salad ever, basically anything you can think of, they had it. It was amazing. If you finish lunch before you have to go back you’ve got some free time to do whatever you want. Usually there are some crew members playing hacky sack somewhere.

Post Lunch Routine

They call lunch and you start making your way back to set and get ready to start shooting again. This means taking covers off, freshening up you gear, and powering everything up. As this is happening, a new scene will be blocked or a new shot figured out. You keep going until all of your scenes are shot.

Wrap

First the Abbey, then the Martini (or Window), now the 1st AD calls wrap. It’s time to pack everything up, do the timesheets, and go home. Other than the amount of gear needed to be dealt with, there’s nothing special about this wrap. It’s essential the same across the board. Except you get to go home with the feeling that you just helped create a few scenes of a movies in which millions of people will see. They might even see your name in the credits! I have to say, seeing my name in the credits of a big Hollywood blockbuster like that was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Your Experience on a Hollywood Blockbuster

Have you ever worked on a big budget project or Hollywood blockbuster? Let us know your about experience below!

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