Tag Archives: break into TV

TV Runner – A Long How-To List

I’ve done 2 professional Running jobs at the BBC – so obviously this qualifies me to write a big pretentious post on how to do a good job.

IT DOESN’T. I just wish I could have read something like this when I got that first job back in July… I didn’t have a clue what a TV Runner really does. I learnt all of this through my own experiences, so here we go folks!

One: What do I wear?

  1. The comfiest shoes you own – a good runner does not sit down EVER (except at Lunch if you’re lucky). Being a runner = painful feet.
  2. Comfy socks. To help your shoes be comfy.
  3. Comfy jeans/leggings. Are you sensing a theme here? Shorts are fine on a hot location shoot. Ladies avoid the skirts.
  4. BELT!! So essential. You’ll need to hang your talk-back unit on it and you don’t want this to happen >>>>>
  5. T-shirt – this is where you can show off your personal style, you don’t want to look boring after all.
  6. Bring a jumper or even two. Even when you’re indoors, coz studios are chilly.
  7. Coats – if it’s a location shoot you want a rain coat (drizzle to torrential downpour), a ski coat (freezing and raining) and a jacket (wee bit chilly). Trust me. You can never have too many coats stashed in your car boot.
  8. Wellies. This is England – on location, you will need wellies at some point.
Basically, imagine every possible weather condition for that day and prepare for it. If you’re on location, nothing is worse than being uncomfortable.

Two: What do I bring?

Location Shoot

  • Rucksack. This is where you will store the following: note pad, painkillers, plasters, pens, tape, tissues, phone charger and spare call sheets, spare socks, sunglasses, sun cream, scarf, gloves, hat, water bottle.

Location AND Studio Shoot

  • Satchel/long strap bag/fanny pack – it doesn’t matter, as long as it means you can have all of this on your person at all times: pens, plasters, tape, paper, call sheet, sides/script, phone, dressing room keys.

Three: Any prep?

  1. Figure out your start time – Call Sheets rarely say when the Runners are needed, but you can figure it out. Usually, there will be a ‘Unit Base Up & Running Time,’ approx 2 hours before UNIT CALL (the time everyone is meant to be on set). This ‘Up & Running’ time is when you should aim to be there by, already working.
  2. Memorize the Call Sheet as much as you can. You want to know how many actors will be needed, when they’ll be arriving. Also take note of any special crew for the day – stunt men etc. Handy is to know as much as possible about the scenes being filmed, so if you can get a copy of the script or the ‘Sides’, read it thoroughly.
  3. As soon as you get the Call sheet, enter all the names and numbers you’ll need into your phone. Particularly helpful ones include  security, the drivers, the caterers, the head of each department, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd ADs, the Production Manager and the talents’ PAs. This will save you so much time when some one yells “Get me a minibus NOW!!!!” at your face.
  4. REMEMBER all Call Sheets/Scripts/Schedules are strictly confidential. Be careful of where you leave them lying around.
  5. Plan your journey. If you have to drive through London to get to location, calculate the time it will take on Google Maps, double it, and then add 30mins just to be safe. So if you need to be in Ealing for 6.30am from Clapham, you want to be out your door by 5.15am. If you’re early to base you can nap in your car and impress the ADs by starting your job before they even get there.
  6. Sleep. It may be the last time you do.

Four: What are my duties?

This varies on every production, but these are your main ones.

Morning/On Arrival

  1. Making sure the talk-back sets have charged over night and putting yours on, ready to be its slave. Take a spare battery too.
  2. Fetching coffee for the tired crew and being smiley & enthusiastic even though it’s 5am.
  3. Ensuring the arrival of the Talent and informing the AD team as it happens via talk-back. Show them to their dressing room/trailer and get them whatever it is they want. If they want a baby unicorn, better get searching. Usually though, they’ll just want a sausage sandwich.
  4. Prepare and restock the tea/coffee table and pack ready for transporting to location. Bribe the caterers for biscuits. No biscuits and the runner (i.e. you) will die a painful death.
  5. Help the 3rd AD locate and sign in any Background Artists (extras) for the day.
  6. Help the 2nd AD by escorting the Talent into Makeup/Wardrobe, and then to their cars to be taken to set. Inform the 2nd AD of every step in this process.
  7. Try and grab some breakfast for yourself. It’s free and you will need those precious calories.
  8. Ensure directors/producers/head honchos have cars waiting to take them to set.
  9. Herd the rest of the crew from catering to the minibuses/transport and get them up to set. Camera, lighting and sound have priority over makeup, set designers and you.

*QUICK TIP* Talk Back Lingo

  • “Travelling” = an actor’s journey from unit/dressing room to set. E.g: “Travelling Mr Depp.”
  • “Going 101″/” Ten One” = Going to the toilet (you have no idea how I panicked when my first 3rd AD said this to me – I had no idea what she was on about!).
  • Initials are often used for high profile actors. E.g. Sir David Jason became SDJ on all Call Sheets and via Talk Back.
  • If you are called via radio, wait until they have finished, press your button and reply “Go ahead”. Always wait until someone has definitely finished speaking before pressing your button or they are cut off to everyone listening.
  • To address someone specifically, say “(your name) to (their name)”, release your button and await their response.
  • If you need to ask someone a question, but don’t want to clog the channel for the others/they don’t need to hear it, say “(your name) to (3rd AD’s name) on Channel 2 please.” You then switch your talk back to channel 2 and your conversation will not be heard over the main channel.
  • If you’re going near set, make sure you have an ear pierce in so you can still listen without disrupting a take.
  • Equally, NEVER talk over radio during a take, as someone on set will almost certainly have their volume up and the noise could ruin the audio recording.

On Set:

  1. Set up tea/coffee table and offer drinks to the crew. Obviously, directors/head honchos and talent first. Then the 1st AD, camera and sound. Then everyone else. Have some water bottles/cups on set.
  2. The Talent will arrive on location after the crew. You must be there to meet them and escort them to set with a cup of tea/coffee. Inform the ADs via talk back when the Talent have arrived.
  3. One of your main jobs is to keep people quiet during takes. Not as easy as it sounds. Position yourself wherever there is noise and be ready to yell/ssshh/beg/bribe/swear.
  4. A take goes like this… The 1st AD yells “Going for a take”  and you repeat this in your loudest voice, followed by “QUIET ON SET PLEASE.” With luck, people will instantly fall silent. Most of the time, you will need to enforce your authority with evil looks, hand gestures and even the threat of decaf coffee. Once “Action” is called, no one but the director and the actors are allowed to make a sound. If the take is interrupted by any member of the crew, a nearby vehicle or even a member of public, it’s YOUR fault.
  5. Between takes, go on set and keep an eye on the actors. They love to sneak away for a smoke/phone call. If they need to take a leak, you need to know. Follow discreetly and just assure that they come straight back to set.
  6. You’ll be waiting around a lot. In this time clear up any rubbish you can find, keep offering drinks, restock the tea table, and keeping asking people if they’d like any help. Avoid the temptations of a seat and checking Twitter/FB.
  7. Vehicles will take up a lot of your time. Usually the drivers will return to base once they’ve dropped off. Ask one to stay at location (with engine off) on stand by in case people need to get back to base quickly. Make sure all vehicles face the way out – turning around could waste valuable time.

Lunch

  1. Half an hour before lunch is scheduled, call each vehicle to set. Between takes, you must get them to turn to face the right way and await the crew. Talent go first, followed by head honchos, then crew in order of importance. NB: never mention the hierarchy on a film set – nobody likes to admit there is one!
  2. Check the tea table and make a note of everything that is low, so you can bring back what you need to restock it from unit base.
  3. Background Artists (extras) must wait until EVERY member of the crew (including you!) has joined the lunch queue before they can. Before you tuck in, check that the Talent and Head Honchos are in the queue or being seen to.
  4. Once you’ve eaten and taken five mins to breathe, go round and ask the make up and costume crew when they would like to see the Talent again for checks. Then make sure that happens, informing the AD team along the way.
  5. Grab everything you need for the tea/coffee table and load it into the van/minibus.

The afternoon is pretty much a repeat of the morning, until it nears Wrap Time.

  1. About 30 mins before wrap time, do one last tea/coffee run, then begin packing down drinks table.
  2. Collect the call sheets from the Production Office. DO NOT give these out until “That’s a wrap on today!” has been called by the 1st AD/Director. Doing it before disrupts the crew.
  3. On larger crews, you may be asked to place call sheets in every production vehicle – i.e. 4 in the Lighting truck for the Sparks, 2 in the Art Department lorry. Put it somewhere it will be seen.
  4. Have all vehicles at location and ready to depart at least15 mins before the estimated wrap time.
  5. When Wrap is called, yell “CALL SHEETS” and make sure everyone leaves with one either in their hand or in their crew vehicle.
  6. Get all Talent and crew to their vehicles.
  7. Pack tea table. Rubbish clearing and tidying of the location is usually down to the Location Manager and his team, but check in case you are expected to do this/give them a hand.
  8. Go round the set/location and yell “Last vehicle!” in case there are any stragglers left.
  9. Get in that vehicle and back to base.

End of the Day

When you get back to base, put away the tea/coffee table and make sure all food and drinks supplies are secure for moving to the next location. Then, help the 3rd AD collect in talk-back units and put them on charge, including yours.

Offer to help the 2nd AD with CHITS – these are the sign-in/out forms the next day’s extras – and any other jobs. Make sure NO ONE needs you, offer to stay late and when they say you can go, GO.

Getting that next JOB

Be enthusiastic never mind the weather, hour or mood you’re really in (gets tricky after a while). Make friends with the crew; banter is the main form of entertainment on a film set so get used to being the butt of peoples’ jokes – and don’t be scared to give it back (appropriately!!). Go to any after-work drinks at the pub so people can get to know you (but don’t get drunk – you’re a professional). Chat with every department and learn as much as you can about the different trades. You might not want to work in costume but any knowledge will be helpful, and you may even discover a new career path.

If you go to the Wrap Party, don’t spend it asking for jobs. By this point, your hard work should have done the asking for you. If they like you, they’ll remember you. Stay in touch, let them know of any other experience you get, and hopefully they’ll think of you as the next crew is assembled.

So there you go! Apologies for the length, hope it wasn’t too patronising. Let us know if this helps you, or if there’s anything you think I’ve missed!

Much love,

A x

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