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Being “The Fixer” on Set

Sometimes, the fires on set will be figurative, but they also can be literal. A good fire extinguisher will do for the real flames; everything else requires the work of a general problem solver who’s equally skilled at damage control.

Photo: Public Domain | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Daniel J. Walls

Tending to the People

Strong people skills can manage some of the most typical crises. Some members of the cast and crew will make their frustration known, but others will let it simmer until it boils over and leaves the entire production in a cauldron of anger. Try to understand who needs to vent their anger, then let them do it in a one-on-one session. Listen, but don’t give in to any unreasonable demands. Maybe the lead actor thinks the key grip is spiking his coffee, but unless you have cause to suspect this, simply assuring the actor of his talent and importance to the project will probably set his mind at ease. Of course, if it turns out that poor falsely accused key grip from before is in fact poisoning people on set, or even just pissing everyone off, fire that individual and find a quick replacement.

Tending to the Rest

And about that food and drink – very few rebellions have started because the people were too well-nourished. Try to have at least one meal available on set (probably lunch); if you need two meals, try to have one be cheaper, maybe even more of a hearty snack. If you can’t afford to have decent meals on set, let people take food breaks as needed and factor those into the schedule. Production crews tend to become a family (if you’re not working with complete douchebags), so maybe you could play into that with a home-cooked meal.

“Not now honey, I’m producing.”

You also want to avoid cast and crew members who like to play through illness – one sick person on set can start an epidemic that will set the production behind schedule or worse, shut it down completely. Remember when you made that schedule in the first place? Try to stick to it as best as you can. One or two late nights will be understandable, but consistently depriving the cast and crew of rest will have an effect on the shoot. In addition to mental mistakes and fatigue, you’ll also just have a lot of unhappy people making the set a miserable place to work. In addition to tempers, hunger and plagues, plain old boredom can also cause some problems. For the people who are sitting around waiting, treat them like the audience at a taping of a live show. Maybe you don’t have a good warm up guy to perform standup in between takes, but you can still make up some games or contests to distract everyone from all the other things they’d rather be doing.

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