Bowfinger The Career Benefits of Doing Set Visits
By Jessica Sitomer
Robert K Bowfinger (Steve Martin), was determined to shoot his film using A-List star Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy), yet Kit had no interest in being a part of it. Being an outside-of-the-box thinker, Bowfinger, decided to shoot his movie “around” Kit, without him knowing, using his twin brother as his stunt double. They shot on locations like the 101 Freeway and on closed sets in Bowfinger’s house. I imagine if you wanted to visit the set, all you would have had to do is ask… and maybe pay 50 bucks.
Okay, if you saw the movie, you get the joke of that last line. Either way NEVER pay for a set visit. It’s unethical! Which leads me to today’s topic. The benefits of doing a set visit. And just so you know, not only do I do set visits whenever they fit in my schedule, they are probably my favorite part of my business action plan! I encourage you to do them and see why I love them so much!
Here are the top 6 questions I get about set visits, and my answers:
1. What’s the purpose? This question has multiple answers. I will give them to you in no particular order:
a. The opportunity to be around passionate people who love what they do vs. non-working people who complain, blame, and enflame negativity.
b. Re-invigorate your passion by being where the action is!
c. Ever heard the expression “I was in the right place at the right time?” Doing set visits puts you in the right place and could create an opportunity.
d. Take the temperature of the set, so you know what to expect when you get called to work there. Which means, notice the dress code, attitude, and mood of the people working on the set. Is it casual, laid back with a touch of humor or is it more formal, everyone is focused only on the work at hand, and there’s no joking around?
e. Create new relationships and deepen current ones.
2. What would I do there?” If it takes 3 conversations to create a relationship, a set visit can be your first conversation for some great new relationships. You start off respectfully and quietly observing. After a time, which you’ll either instinctually know or someone will engage with you, you can start talking to people in video village (the area where producers, writers, script supervisor, director, some talent, DP, and others congregate to watch the video monitors of what the cameras are capturing).
3. How do I get one? You ask people you know who are working on productions if you can come for a visit. I recently posted on Facebook that “I’m looking to do some set visits, who can I come see?” and the invitations rolled in. Now, if you don’t know anyone, or know anyone who knows anyone who can invite you, seize an opportunity if you see a production shooting on the street. In Los Angeles, people are shooting daily downtown, in town, in the valley. So stop, walk over, and ask for the people who work in your department, or ask for the AD, tell him/her you’re a ___ in the business and ask if it’s alright if you observe for a little while.
4. Can I give out my card/resume/headshot? Once you have created a relationship with people on the set, see where the conversation takes you. The objective is to connect with them again, so you can ask to connect with them on social media or if they have a card. If you know your union (like the camera guild) has an availability list, ask if you can leave your information in the camera truck, should they have need to call the list. This way they will remember meeting you when they see your name. Always carry your marketing materials with you so if you are asked, you have them to hand out. But the goal the first time is not to be there to ask for work, it’s to start the relationships and everything else in #1.
5. Is there any set etiquette I should be aware of? Always ask permission before taking a picture. It’s great to share pictures on social media promoting the production you are visiting. It’s free publicity for them, but be aware of what you are shooting. While I was visiting the set of Jessie, they built an entirely new set for the particular episode I was watching, that’s why I only snapped a shot of me in an already established stage. I didn’t want to give away any spoilers. Also, stay out of the way, don’t make noise or speak while shooting, turn off your cell phone even if people working there don’t, use good judgment before approaching someone you don’t know, especially the director who has the responsibility of the episode on his/her shoulders, or the actors who may have an acting process they are engulfed in even though they just seem to be sitting there. And of course, when in doubt, don’t do it.
6. Will people think I’m there to steal their job? Are you? I’m guessing not. If your intentions are pure, then people will feel that. They can tell the people who show up with shady agendas. And remember, you can’t control what others’ baggage may be, so be respectful and honest if they ask why you’re there.
Being on set will reignite that passion to be working and remind you to implement all the actions you learned and must take to get you working.
1. Create a target list of the productions happening in your city.
2. Check IMDB to see if you know anyone working on them
3. Share your target list with you contacts and ask if they know anyone working on them.
Bowfinger was determined and he achieved his goal. What are you willing to do to achieve yours?