Observing how movie and television productions are shot is an awesome learning experience for an aspiring filmmaker. You can check out your own city or state film commission. They usually announce where and when a production may be working in your area.
Observers are often welcome on a set, especially an outdoor location. Here are generally accepted rules for visitors to a production set. Follow them and you’ll be accepted as an observer.
When you arrive at the location, ask for the first or second AD (Assistant Director). This is usually the person who yells “Rolling” or quiets the set just before the camera rolls. Tell him or her you are an aspiring filmmaker and you’d like to observe.
Movie/TV set etiquette rules:
- Stay out of the shot (watch where the camera is pointed)
- Be silent when the AD calls “cameras rolling”
- Turn off cell phones
- Don’t take photos or video when the cameras are rolling
- Don’t talk to the crew and actors unless they speak to you first
- And please, if you recognize an actor, do not ask for an autograph. That’s just not cool! If you are polite and work to stay out of the way, cast or crew may approach you on their own to thank you for taking an interest in their work.
When you’re trying to find the actual location, look for “coded” signs on lampposts or trees. They’re usually printed both right-side up and upside down. These are used to direct cast and crew to the location without advertising to everyone else what’s going on.