Understanding Changing Call-Times and Shoot Dates

I write this as I await my email confirming which day I will be on set. See, I have been scheduled to be on set for today, since the beginning of this month. Last week, I got a text from the Second Assistant Director (2nd AD) that day might be changed to the following day.

Well, that’s kind of inconvenient…but it’s just one day “Sure, that works” I reply. “Okay great, I’ll confirm ASAP.”

So in my head, I’m on set in a few days, so for sure I’ll hear back in 48 hours…then it’s the weekend, so for sure on Monday? Okay, so now I need an update. I am used to not knowing what time time I’ll be on set until the night before, but never the day?

So I text the 2nd AD back. No response. I find another email and email that AD.

Sorry, we may need to move the date to later in the week now. I’ll call you.”

What?! Less than 24 hours until I’m due on set and I had to reach out to THEM to find this out?

In any other industry–this would be outrageous. But for TV/Film production–it’s actually quite typical.

This is just one of those things that you can love or hate about this job. It would’ve been a real kick-in-the-pants had I’d arranged for a babysitter that day weeks ago, only to have it change last minute, or worse–If I was scheduled to be on a different set. But in these situations, I also, remind myself that if it’s frustrating for me–it’s likely that much more frustrating to the people trying to coordinate all of this. I’m glad that I get to just show up, play, and then just leave.

I’m happy that this shoot is really close to my home–so in the event I had to make it there last minute, I could hop in an Uber and get there. So, instead of stressing them (and me) about it, I’m just gonna leave the ball in their court. I’m sure they’re trying to coordinate a million moving parts (including Covid test for cast/background), drafting up new paperwork etc. etc. etc. And they wanna’ get things back on track more than anyone else.

The key is also to keep in mind–no matter how big you think the world of TV/Film is, IT ISN’T. If you act like a jerk, or keep stressing them–they will remember. You don’t want to be that person that is remembered as one who couldn’t deal with scheduling changes.

I’m not saying you need to just stand by and let them do what they want with you. If you really have an issue, then you need to be reaching out to the appropriate people. In this case, if I had a scheduling conflict I couldn’t work out, I would let my agent know. Let them deal with the negotiating part–that’s what you pay them for.

Now, to explain the more common issue of not knowing when your call-time is. I was in a project once that was shooting in a different city, and the day before I had to be there, I still did not know if I was getting a ride, or whether I needed to rent a car. I was stressing because most car rental places need 24 hours notice, and I didn’t want to pay for an Uber for that distance. I was emailing my agent, production, other actors–What I realize now is that I looked very amateur.

See, most people who have been on a set or two, understand that when you’re on a multi-day shoot (read TV/Film that shoots over many days vs. a one-day commercial shoot), is that production will have an outline of when they plan on shooting what. It is meticulously coordinated and blocked out. But what is out of their control, are weather/equipment/late to set cast & crew/health & safety issues etc.

So lets just say, they plan to wrap the day at 5pm, but they don’t end up doing so until 8pm because it rained in the middle of the day for an hour, someone’s Covid test results didn’t come in on time, and there was a wardrobe malfunction. Production now has to push the following day’s call-time to ensure that the cast and crew have adequate rest. So instead of coming back to set at 7am, they can’t come in until at least 8am.

It’s much easier to simply put out the call-times once they actually know, rather than putting it out early, then having to contact everyone and tell them that the call-time has been pushed.

I hope this little explanation can help you cope a little bit better with scheduling changes in the world of TV/Film. The best thing to do, is leave yourself room for change. Even if you are only in a small role and think you’ll be in-and-out, don’t make plans for the day. And if you do need to plan for a caregiver, let them know that schedules can change and to have a back-up person in mind.

That’s it for me.

Published by Jinny Wong

Actor/Mom of Boys/Promoter of Positivity

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