How Films Get Made


As I sit writing this from my office in downtown Los Angeles I am looking out the window onto a large film production.  Actually it’s probably television as downtown L.A. is where they shoot most of the TV cop shows that take place in New York.  Castle, CSI, Law & Order, Criminal Minds, any of the big network NYC crime dramas, they’re all shot around here.  I see more New York taxis than I see L.A. ones some weeks.  Right outside my window and across the street is where the production has set up its base camp.  Base camps are basically what they sound like, a sort of center of operations for the production.

From where I sit I can see wardrobe trailers, dressing room trailers, the catering trucks, the production RV and even a few extras milling about smoking cigarettes and talking on their cell phones.

As I sit here watching it all I’m reminded just what a collaborative process it is to make films, television shows or even commercials.  Hundreds of people are working continuously for long hours, day in and day out.  And all of their energy is directed towards those few minutes or sometimes just seconds between when an assistant director calls “action” and “cut.”

It’s a very intense process.  Show business is one of the businesses where when they say time is money they are not exaggerating in the slightest.  On a set everyone has a job to do.  And if you are on that set part of your job is to not interfere with anyone else’s ability to do their job.

Films are collaborative which means everyone’s job is important.  Certainly some people’s jobs are more important than others.  The director, the cinematographer or the leading lady for example.  However everyone has a job to do and that job contributes to the project as a whole.

This means that if you are working in the industry you should treat all of your co-workers with the same respect you would like to treated with.  Beyond that you mustn’t take it personally if the director or the producer yells at you or is short with you in some way.  Unless you are the leading man in the picture, the odds are they are under considerably more pressure than you are.  And the bottom line is that that’s just some people’s style.

Notably the most famous and successful people I have personally worked with in the business have been the most courteous.  The film business is no walk in the park.  The hours can be long, the conditions, trying.  However it remains a collaborative affair.  As someone once told me when I was a young actor, don’t get into the business to make friends.  Get into the business to do good work.  If you do good work, the friends will follow.

That remains some of the soundest advice I’ve ever received.

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