What Every Actor Needs to Know About the On-Set Crew

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The “crew” is a collective noun that wields a whole lot of power for actors. It refers to just about everyone on a set not on the creative side of things, meaning those responsible for making the actors look, sound, and perform at their best. With stakes like that, it would probably help to know how best to work with them, right? Here, Backstage Experts and real-life crew members weigh in on what all actors should know.

When the actor isn’t working, that means the crew is.
“There are 1,001 things on set that can injure you if you are not paying attention. When a grip yells, ‘Make a hole!’ or ‘Points!’ they're saying it for your safety so you don't take a piece of dolly track or a c-stand to the face. Dental work is expensive. Also, doorways and entrances/exits are not good places to stand and have a conversation. When you're not acting or working, we are. Be courteous and step out of the way so we can do our jobs.” —David A. Hoffman, key grip

You better know what “hot points” are—and watch out for them.
“This is a safety term used by grips to let those nearby know they are carrying some equipment, like a light stand for example with its tip pointing forward. It can also mean some heavy equipment in the vicinity that could be harmful or dangerous.” —Sevier Crespo, producer

Actors and crew are all equals.
“I have seen so many examples of a cast working in perfect synthesis with a crew that I now cringe whenever I see the opposite, sadly including certain crew members bossing around younger, less experienced actors. The crew does not work for you and you do not work for the crew. For what we do to really function, everyone must work together. That also means sometimes looking out for what others need before they themselves realize they even need it.” —Paul Barry, L.A.-based acting teacher and Backstage Expert

Making the crew wait for you is a cardinal sin.
“[One actor told me], ‘I had to pee for at least an hour, and when I finally did jump off set, I failed to tell the AD. When I returned, I got the “Where the hell were you?” vibe and they never hired me again.’ Relieve yourself before being called to set. Always inform the first or second AD if you need to leave for any reason, and pay attention in case your name is called. Everyone’s tired; they don’t want to wait for you. See also: wandering to craft service for a latte without telling anyone; heading to base camp when everyone else is returning to set.” —Lana Veenker, casting director and Backstage Expert

The crew are artists, just like actors.
“Be nice to the crew! Be respectful of the people who are making you look beautiful. We work very hard day and night to try and be as stealth as we can and not be in the way of actors as artists. We’re just as much artists as they are, and we take our art very seriously. If the lighting looks bad on a show, we’re like any artist who is unhappy with the painting they’ve created.” —Chris Birdsong, key grip

It only serves actors well to be nice.
“I have to have a good relationship with the actors; I’m often the closest one to them while they’re acting. I’m in their space a lot. Depending on the actor’s temperament, I either have a nice relationship with them or I have a relationship where I try not to talk with them at all. It’s really up to them. What’s not up to them is the fact that I’m pretty much in their face while they’re trying to work, so how they want to deal with it is their business—but generally they’re good about it.” —Kira Smith, boom operator

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