Filmmaking / Directing : Not Answering Questions On Set A Good Thing? by Ian Anderson

Ian Anderson

Not Answering Questions On Set A Good Thing?

What's up Stage32 I'm back with another interesting question. So I was an assistant director for one of those short film/ music video films. We were shooting in a restaurant/ bar at night. Some of our extras didn't show up so we just all got drinks and just started talking to people. We got about 80% of the people near the bar on board. However, during a scene one of the new extras wanted to know what we were shooting to and asked the director and he didn't respond. I told him they wanted to know but he told me on set you don't have time to answer any questions except the ones from your most important cast and crew members. I get it reduces production time which saves money but morale is important on every project. Personally I wouldn't want my extras having second thoughts on why they were here mid way through production. I told her eventually though. My question is that is it worth it to ignore your less involved cast and crew to save production time? Thoughts?

Edward Goree

As a writer and director and a former (EXTRA/BACKGROUND) I don't have a problem answering questions when time permits. I've been on both sides before, so I know what it's like. I treat people how I want to be treated. I don't believe answering a few questions will jeopardize the production cost at all. That's just my opinion. No EXTRAS, NO MOVIE, especially if you need them. It's all about how you approach things. Some people are just natural jerks and don't know how to treat people. But, this is just my opinion...

Dan MaxXx

It s the 1st Assistant and 2nd Assistant Director's job to handle crowds and Extras. The director, under lots of pressure, is busy with main cast.

M L.

I think if you're using non professional actors as background, you're not allowed to treat them like background talent. Meaning you can't expect them to sit quietly and be professional. You have to expect them to have tons of questions and be very annoying on set. That's why you book extra professional background players cause many won't show. It's best to use professionals and then if they break protocol the A.D. can remind them they're job is to "do as they're told and stay quiet between takes".

David Barckhoff

Damian Brennan, your advice is fine if you are working with a very small cast, crew & extra;s, but I've worked on movie productions with 400 to 10,000 (Warrior, Dark NIght Rises) extra's on set a day for filming. The Director will go insane if he had to stop & answer all the questions from these extra's. Handling the extra's are the job of 2nd AD, 2nd 2nd AD, Key Set PA, & His assistant along with extra's casting assistants. The 1st AD is responsible for rehearsing the main speaking cast & running the set while Director (I or another Director) is in video village.

George Pierson

I am throwing my two cents in this one. I get very aggravated when I have questions and "professionals" do not have the courtesy to answer my questions, or, if I am talking to someone, someone interrupts either talks or me over me as if I was invisible. Therefore, regardless of the number of people involved, either you have a question and answer session before the shooting actually starts or you have someone available whose only job is to answer questions for anybody who has a question. It does not matter who you are, rudeness will not get you anywhere.

Ian Anderson

Thanks for the input guys all of the responses I really appreciate.

Jorge J Prieto

Bad judgment on part of director. I did over a dozen Extra years ago and not once was I not answered such questions.

David E. Gates

There's never any call for that kind of ignorance. When you're on the way up, be kind to everyone! They'll be the people you pass on the way down!

JD Hartman

If you treat your extras like cattle, don't be surprised when they walk off leaving you with potential continuity problems. No excuse for being rude.

Kelly Sherwood

An extra should absolutely know the name of the film and why they are there. If you are worried about confidentiality, have them sign a confidentiality agreement. But do be nice to these people. They are working for free or almost free and your film depends on them.

D Marcus

It depends, doesn't it? There isn't one answer that solves this. One extra asking one simple to answer question isn't a problem. What if the question involves a long, detailed answer? What if another person sees the director is open to questions and stops them? How many people should the director respond to? Even 60 seconds with 10 people can slow down the production and disrupt momentum. There is NEVER any excuse for rudeness. And I understand that any type of brush-off can feel rude, but not stopping to answer questions on the job isn't always done out of rudeness. It does seem in this situation the director was rude - people enjoying an adult beverage at their local watering hole agreeing to "work" for free should be told what is going on. If the assistant director doesn't have the time to tell them then the producer should have taken the time to thank them for helping out and explain everything. Perhaps the director thought the AD had already done this.

Nicholas Jordan

I forgot exactly what the situation was but an extra walked up to an A/D or something thinking it was going to be the start of a career. The A/D and me just looked as we both wished we could help him, but it gets to be difficult to say it correctly. I go with D Marcus. If no one has the time to tell them to do disclosure then should go back to planning and take it if persons are to appear in a film as background extras—then they can only give informed consent if they know what they are consenting to.

Ernie Lijoi Sr.

Being rude is never acceptable unless called for specifically...All that needs to be said is that any questions will be answered after the shoot is completed....and that should be stated up front to all involved before he starts shooting. That's just common sense....

Kim Wozniak

I will take a different stance to the above topic. Directors can be rude, but one thing an A.D. should be aware of is that if an extra gets any kind of "direction" from a director they can then put in for an upgrade in pay. I don't know if your shoot was union or not, but be aware of this especially with extras. I have had many grievances in the past from extras wanting an upgrade in pay because a director happened to speak to them in passing. No film direction, just a conversation. An extra is supposed to be directed only by an A.D. As a line producer and former accountant, it's something I pay attention to.

JD Hartman

@Kim Wozniak True on a union shoot. Doesn't sound applicable to the shoot described in start of this topic. Seems the AD failed by not telling the extras they shanghai'ed what they were going to be doing, how long it was going to take, etc.

Stephen Olson

I guess that is why there are ADs.

Shadow Dragu-Mihai

If you're an AD then how did you even think to let background bother the director??? Your job is to manage set but the POINT to that is so that the team can do their work as efficient as possible and to the best of their abilities. So no one has to be rude, but it is YOUR job to make the background person feel good while not bothering the director or otherwise impacting production.

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