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Rayan Zomorodi

Tips on handling the physical toll of working on set?

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I’m quite young qurrently working mostly camera and gaffer assistant jobs. I can honestly feel the effect heavy physical and high intensity work has on my body after long days, weeks on end. 

I kind of feel like this is definetly going to have an impact on my body after years have passed. It can’t be super healthy right?
How do you cope with it? Workout routines?

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Sean Bobbit Camera Image: 

This is a good video showing some preventative measures you can take to stop irreparable damage to yourself. Operating a camera on a shoulder has to be one of the funniest feelings however it is always much much more comfortable with back support. 

Lifting things as a grip, spark etc. Follow basic workplace safety such as 'lifting with your legs, not your back' (something I'm sure we've all heard before). Workout routine wise look for one aimed at fitness and core strength. A lot of workouts are designed to improve the 'look' of ones body not its capability. As far as I'm aware there a very few downsides to a good well rounded workout. 

For me personally lifting items such as larger fixture or being on my feet for 12 hours is not as detrimental to my health as a camera on my shoulder. The spine and the body is designed pretty well putting a 5kg brick on one half is well...

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Protect your knees and your back, once they’re gone you never really get them back. Always be aware of your surroundings. Lift and bend from your legs, stay balanced as much as possible. 

Ask for help with heavy awkward pieces of gear. When in doubt, it’s always safer to two-man it. That goes for pushing heavy carts as well. 

Drink lots of water, get as much sleep as you can, don’t drive home if you can’t keep your eyes open. Cut back on the drinking and socializing after work. Wear sensible shoes. Stretch regularly. 

Take days off when you really need them. Get a cover for yourself if necessary. As a freelancer, you need to stay healthy to keep making income. Act accordingly.

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Here are my thoughts:

  • Don't pick up smoking and try to quit if you already smoke
  • Engage your core when lifting anything
  • Always lift with your legs
  • Wear gloves
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Know your limits. Tell your boss when you think you're too tired and you can hurt someone. Ask for help if you need it when lifting things
  • If you feel sleepy, DO NOT DRIVE.
  • Stretch when you can
  • Eat right. Sets notoriously have bad food, but they also have the option for healthy food. It may sound so delicious to pile on the tasty yet unhealthy food at lunch, but trust me the salad with meat is your best friend. You won't feel tired AND you're treating your body right.
  • Consume less alcohol.
  • Only drink coffee when you need it - this is a mental health decision. Most psychiatrists will tell you that drinking too much coffee and contribute to anxiety
  • Wear comfy shoes like sneakers or hiking boots; shoes that were designed for long walking.
  • You can get a great workout on set naturally, especially when doing G/E, but continue to exercise on your downtime. I can't remember where I saw it on Roger Deakins's forum, but he mentions that on his off time he would run five miles a day.

Okay, I've rambled enough. 🙂

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Exercise. Move. Build some muscles. And someway, somehow find a way to maintain some of it whilst in production.

The difference it makes to your days when your body is strong is something you simply can't fully appreciate until you go to work in  good shape.

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I'm sort of surprised that only one person has mentioned getting as much sleep as possible.

For a job of more than a few days, if you can't get six to seven hours a night you can't do the job.

There is a horrible tendency, at least in the UK as far as I know, to pretend that sleep is optional. It isn't, for all sorts of reasons related to competence and safety on the job.

People honestly go out drinking on work nights here then turn up looking freshly exhumed the following day. I don't understand.

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Exercise. Push weights, do crossfit, whatever floats your boat.

Avoid alcohol on a school night.

Be conscious of your diet. Set food can be great but can also be really bad.

Lastly, and you'll amazed at the difference this makes, have a pair of comfortable sneakers that you can change into at the end of the day before you drive home.

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OP...guess that is what separates the men form the boys. Beside ADD, I could never take it. I need to work on my schedule not of theirs. 

A.J.  & Stuart gives you a good list.

Basically it is exercise - food - sleep + genetics.

That is where the boys to men come in. No matter how your train, you can never beat those with the generic propensity for toughness or whatever. You can improve, but not surpass.

Same with art. You can train and improve, but it is only an act when compared to the real artistic genius. 

Good luck!

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What Satsuki said,

On 8/12/2020 at 11:17 PM, Satsuki Murashige said:

Protect your knees and your back

A key grip and good friend in Florida once told me to "stop jumping off the grip truck, it's bad on the knees." Ever since then I've taken my time to move in a fashion that doesn't impact or possibly damage myself. Take your time so you don't strain your body, especially when you are rushing for a shot. Don't destroy yourself to save 30 seconds on set. I know a working DP and director both who have a bad knee and needs a replacement. Not fun stuff.

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I see what Phil is talking about on set and I just don't get it. There's a weird over macho thing on some crews. Inducting new crew by taking them out drinking the night before then have them spend a work day hopelessly hungover - "if you can get through today, you can get through any day" nonsense.

There's also the idea that you need to be the biggest burliest bloke to get the job done. Carry an easy up in one hand and a camera coffin in the other. Really is no need. Being fit enough to get through a day, only carry what you're strong enough for, split everything else or put it on wheels.

What Gabriel said about core strength is spot on though.

I switched to eating plant based on set and the quality of my food in general has been so much better. Occasionally I have to ask for double portions but overall I feel more alert after lunch than before where I'd want to curl up and sleep after the meal.

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On 8/13/2020 at 3:17 PM, Satsuki Murashige said:

Ask for help with heavy awkward pieces of gear. When in doubt, it’s always safer to two-man it. That goes for pushing heavy carts as well. 

This. 

And in general, try to work on well resourced productions where you're not rushed for time, as you try to do multiple jobs at once. 

I know for myself when I'm doing jobs where I'm the entire sound department by myself, it is a LOT more physically draining than when I get to focus on being just the boom op or just the mixer. 

Edited by David Peterson

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This question is incredibly astute and oft overlooked, good on you for having some foresight.

First, I would recommend using good body mechanics when loading/unloading gear from vans and trucks, learn to stretch, and live a healthy active lifestyle outside of work.

The most athletically inspiring crew I worked with was the team on the Survivor series. Everyone lived a rugged, physical lifestyle in their off season.

Eat well, sleep well, protect your back, shoulders and joints, and drink water like it's your job.

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