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Christine McDermott

First timing ACing for a feature

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This summer I'm working on my first super low budget feature film as a 1st AC what are some helpful tips for a first AC on a feature film?

 

Thanks.

 

Christine McDermott

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Hey Chrissy, while I have the utmost faith in you doing this (hence why I hired you) it's nice to see you finally posting something on here and I'm sure you'll get much better advice than I could ever give.

I'm surprised David hasn't suggested "Film Lighting" yet ;) (how are you David anyway?)

From me, just cover my ass and make sure I don't screw up too bad on set and remind me to feed you the numbers for the cam reports.

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Here are a few things that helped me a lot on my first feature (which, incidentally, was shot on a stock HVX-200, so not a lot of difference between our experiences):

 

Find an EX1 manual and learn it all. Memorize the menus and each function, if you can. Adrian should know how to do all that, but it allows him to say to you, "Please change the shutter speed to 60fps" and you can do it without thinking. Some DPs like to twiddle all the buttons themselves, some don't like to do it at all. Find out as early as you can.

 

Stock a healthy supply of Kimwipes, Panchro fluid and Dust-Off, even just the Walmart brand if you don't spring for a chrome-nozzle deal. My first DP was fanatical about keeping the lens clean. It's a great habit to get into.

 

Buy a bunch of self-adhesive industrial-strength velcro (the good stuff will stick to your fingers so hard it almost takes your fingerprints off). Use it for everything from keeping cables attached to the camera, keeping a clipboard for reports on the back of the slate, storing the lens cap, to sticking down his coffee cup to teach him not to leave open liquids near the camera...

 

...Stake your territory. Make sure everyone understands that under no circumstances are foods or open liquids allowed near ANY of the camera gear - camera and monitor especially. I don't care if it's the producer himself - a drowned camera is a useless one. They should know better anyway.

 

The sooner you can afford to buy a complete kit (if you haven't already), the better off you'll be, but you will probably survive just fine with just the bare necessities. A good list for 35mm is in the second post on this page; more exhaustive lists can be found all over this forum. My own digital kit breakdown is here.

 

If you're five minutes early, you're already ten minutes late.

 

It's a good idea to have the camera unit ready to go within fifteen minutes of call time. With a barebones EX1 that should be no trouble at all if you're on time.

 

If you're doing the data offloading, develop a workflow before you start production. Don't leave it till lunchtime on the first day. If someone else is doing it, be nice to them. They can make your life miserable if they want to. Same goes for Adrian. :) Also, never eat meals before your DP does. Wait for him.

 

Overall, if you do your best and enjoy your work, you'll do fine. My personal rule of conduct is to make myself invaluable wherever possible, just for the joy of earning my wage; however, I don't tolerate laziness by other people. Remember that mental work counts too (that's mostly what the DP does, but don't let him get away with being lazy just because he outranks you)!

 

Speaking of which: don't pull rank just because you can. Remember that as a 1st AC on super-low budget indies, you don't outrank too many people. In fact, if there are no PA's, you ARE the bottom of the chain of command. Only pull rank it when you have to, when it becomes necessary and valuable to production for you to do so.

 

Learn the box. Then think outside of it. Become ingenious.

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Go to the rental house and spend days with the camera. Be able to assemble it in the dark. Go through the menus and know where they all are. Be sure you know how to deal with the media with out screwing up. Learn to look at key information on the camera. Like white balance and gain. Be constantly checking them like a helicopter pilot checks his instrument. Get a tape measure out and practice guessing distances. The main key, however, is to try to read the mind of the DP and anticipate what he needs.

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The main key, however, is to try to read the mind of the DP and anticipate what he needs.

 

Best advice ever. I love the face on DPs when they ask for something and I can answer, "Already done, Sir." B)

Edited by Chris Keth

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To Chrissy's benefit (and of course the primary reason why I gave her the job) is the fact that she knows how I take my coffee ;)

Thanks for helping her out guys. You all know far more about ACing and offer much better advice than I ever could!

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Thanks for the advice everyone. I really appreciate it and I'm sure I'll be better off at the shoot because of the great tips!

 

And yes Adrian, you take your coffee with lot of half and half and an obscene amount of sugar. :D

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And yes Adrian, you take your coffee with lot of half and half and an obscene amount of sugar. :D

 

 

That is, in the parlance of a DP I worked with in New York, "wussy style" coffee. :lol:

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That is, in the parlance of a DP I worked with in New York, "wussy style" coffee. :lol:

Some would say that anyone that "needs" coffee is a wuss. ;)

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Some would say that anyone that "needs" coffee is a wuss. ;)

 

True. I have learned that I feel a lot better when I don't drink it every day. My coffee intake is mostly reserved for calltimes after 4pm. The rest of the time it's tea, which I kind of prefer anyway.

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Are you recording on cartidges?

This is one tricky menu, especially when you don't won't to delete yesterdays scenes...

Check it out. Be sure that is unloaded before you erase it... :lol:

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Some would say that anyone that "needs" coffee is a wuss. ;)

 

 

What can I say, one of my many little flaws ;)

As to tea, while I love it, Chris, too hard to find good tea 'round here. With my luck when production has it it's Liptons or the Tazo stuff from Starbucks, which just doesn't sit right with me. Oh for want of some Twinnings.

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We are recording on cartridges so thanks for the tip. I know the process but the last thing I would want to do is lose priceless hours of work because of a silly mistake so thanks again!

 

Ps Adrian, the Italian market has amazing loose leaf tea. You can find some good tea if you know where to look. :)

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