We live in a world where the rules of engagement can change overnight, especially since the pandemic. Those changes can be especially noticed in the workplace.
The film and TV industry is certainly no exception. With tensions running high due to COVID challenges, mastering your on-set etiquette skills are as important as ever.
Some say knowing how to behave around others and having good manners is just common sense. However, it’s not uncommon for productions to be halted or disrupted by those who either don’t understand good set etiquette, or don’t have enough regard for others.
Luckily, there are experts like Zoë Yeoman, who founded and ran an etiquette school for 13 years in Phoenix, Arizona. She’s also a highly accomplished actress and producer with numerous theatre, film and TV credits.
Yeoman, who’s been on sets most of her professional life, has a solid understanding of manners and civility and she’s continuously helped others in the film, television and theatre industry operate with more behavioral awareness on the job.
When in doubt about navigating an on-set situation or circumstance… ASK the experts. We did that by compiling a series of questions about situations where the best behavior may or may not be so obvious.
Zoe, when one has a disagreement with the director over a scene, what’s the most appropriate way to handle the situation?
If possible, take the conversation away from everyone else OR at least hold it in a closer fashion and hopefully at an appropriate time. Disagreements can start at a place of agreement first and then move on to the next step. Remember, it’s not necessarily what you say, but how you say it. Professionalism and diplomacy being at top of mind.
When or should you ever offer advice to director, producer or AD?
One word: never. That said, I have gently pointed out a costume issue to a costumer while on set, or when I’ve seen something amiss, while offering a “just so you’re aware”. It’s always been appreciated in the past.
How would you handle passive-aggressive behavior from a coworker on set? Sometimes you might question if it’s only in your head, because they’re not being overtly toxic toward you or others.
I do my best to stay away from people (on-set and otherwise), whose energy I read as troublesome. When that’s not possible, it’s best to withhold judgement and simply do your job. If you are really having issues, please contact your Union for assistance. That can be done anonymously on your end and they will do their best to address your concerns.
What’s good social media etiquette in regard to coworkers on a new project; whether it be crew or costars?
It’s always fun to do a group selfie, as long as you’re not breaking any NDA you may have signed. The same goes for any posting. Please take photos on breaks or pre or post-shooting and always ask your coworkers for their permission. If you’re working with a Star, see if the 1st or 2nd AD is comfortable making those shots happen for you. Just remember, it’s best to wait; don’t let the excitement of the situation get the better of you. It could cost you your job.
What’s good etiquette in regard to method actors, who wish to stay in character the whole time they’re on set?
One should always respect another actor’s process. Quiet can be imperative–keep the horseplay down–it can really make a huge difference for some actors. This is just as important in a backstage theater setting, while auditioning or during any breaks; especially when we’re in tight quarters. Take your phone conversations elsewhere, please.
What’s good etiquette in dealing with set onlookers, who might be a bit star struck by you or someone else on the movie?
Always be kind to people. You never know whose heart you’ll break or how you might embarrass someone by being rude or dismissive. I do my level best to speak to extras, take photos with onlookers, etc. If you’re going to be in the public eye, you’ll always want to come across as decent. Who wants to meet a hero of theirs and be disappointed by their rude demeanor? I say, if the time is right; make the effort. If you can’t talk in the moment, make it quick, keep it brief, be genuine and make your apologies while walking.
You can learn more about Zoë by visiting zoeyeoman.com
or follow her on instagram @theogetiquetteexpert