Today, our Digital Filmmaker Ailsa McCaffery tells us her thoughts on camera assisting.
Having just completed my third shoot for Enterprise Screen, I thought it would be useful to get down some of the things I bear in mind while camera assisting. As with other roles, you need to be a quick learner, a team player, and a creative thinker. You need to be reliable, helpful, and be willing to do whatever that is needed to aid the shoot. More specifically though, a camera assistant needs to:
Whether this is when to sort out and set up equipment, when a lens change is required, what shots will need a light, etc. it’s always better to be ready for something than having to be asked. Listen to what the Director or camera operator is saying - if they’re thinking about going in tighter, it’s a good idea to bring the lenses closer in case you need to swap over, before you need to be asked. This improves the efficiency of the shoot. Things like checking up on battery life and card space is also important to anticipating the needs of the shoot. Having a good knowledge of the kit will be incredibly helpful for this.
Keep track of shots
The shot list will always be kicking around on a shoot, in bags, in notebooks or pockets. It’s your job to keep on top of it. Make sure your director gets all the shots they wanted. During the shoot, some ideas for shots might be discussed - write these down as well, and remind the director and camera operator of them when it’s appropriate. If you’re filming in a specific area, make sure all the shots for this area get done at the same time, to save time later on. Have a look out yourself for interesting areas or objects that have potential for the shoot.
Your roles and responsibilities on small shoots will be varied. Assisting the camera operator, speaking with contacts at the location, moving the lighting, recording sound, speaking with the public, marking your subjects, keeping track of equipment, focus pulling, time keeping, etc. The most important thing to do is stay organised. I recommend having a pen and paper at all times, and keeping some rolls of tape attached to your belt. Pockets are a must!
Manage the area
Keep an ear out for radios, air conditioning, or (more likely) heaters making a noise if you’re recording audio. Keep an eye on all the gear and equipment, especially in a location with members of the public - obviously in case something goes missing, but also to make sure nothing is in the way or that nothing is a trip-hazard!
And as with anything else, experience is invaluable. Learn from previous mistakes or previous successes, and move forward during your next shoot!