(Article published in StudentFilmmakers Magazine.)
What to Wear and Not Wear to a Film Set
How to Dress for the Job
By Scott Spears
You’ve got a call time of 7am tomorrow and you’ve got whatever gear you’re responsible for lined up, so you think you’re ready to go. Have you thought what you’re going to wear on set? In my over 30 years of making movie, I’ve seen all the do and don’ts, so let’s go over some of them. (And this is not going to be about fashion. Function over fashion is my rule for filmmaking.)
Before you go to bed, check the weather forecast for tomorrow. Will it rain? Is there a cold or warm front coming through? This will help determine what kind of clothes you’ll need to get through a long day on set. Your day could start cool and get warm, so think about layers that you can shed as the day goes on. If the opposite is happening, make sure to have jacket, hat and gloves handy.
Years ago, I had a shoot on beach north of Malibu, and this was in October. Everybody is thinking I’m going to the beach and it be warm sun and sand. Again, this was October and it was sunny, but we had a very cool, verging on cold breeze coming off the Pacific Ocean so it was brisk. After less than hour, our poor boom guy, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, was shivering and the boom was rattling around. Luckily, I had a sweat shirt and some spare jeans in my car. He was mighty thankful.
Think about your feet!!! You will be on your feet for 10-12 hours minimum, so you need comfortable shoes. Once I wore some Converse High Tops to set and they have no arch support and by hour 10, my feet were screaming at me. If you’re on stage, wear good sneakers or light hiking shoes. If you’re out in the woods, bring the hiking boots. And please NO OPEN TOED SHOES. Things fall on sets feet and you could lose a pinkie toe really easily.
I’ll swing back to those spare jeans I carry in my car. Why do I do this? I have shot a lot of horror films with fake blood and that stuff goes everywhere and it is a sticky mess, so I carry a set of spare clothes with me in the spare tire well of my car. Also, I carry a raincoat in back seat at all times.
Hats. I wear hats because I’m follically-challenged, but you should always have one or two to protect yourself from the sun. I’ve seen old grip that have had to have growths cut off the top of their heads. That’s no fun.
Don’t forget some gloves. They can be light weight, but you might need them if you’re asked to move props, set pieces or hot lights on set.
A word on about appropriate slogans on t-shirts or hats. Film sets are a haven for self-expression, so I’ve seen some catchy and sometimes offensive t-shirts. I don’t want to be a killjoy, but you represent the production if you have to go ask somebody if the film can shoot in front of their house and your shirt has some questionable four letter words on it, you may cost the film a location.
Finally, don’t forget the bug spray for the woods or summer nights with biting bugs and sunscreen for those long days in the sun.
So, check that weather report, get those comfy shoes by the door and be prepared for all forms of climate.
Scott Spears is an Emmy Award winning Director of Photography with over 18 features under his belt. He’s also written several feature screenplays, some of which have been made into movies. You can learn more about him at www.scottspears.net.