Last week I very gratefully got the opportunity to work as a 2nd Unit Video Trainee on a shoot day for Tom & Jerry at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden. This all came through a mutual friend of someone I knew who needed cover for their night shift (5pm-3am), and I was put forward as a reccomendation. The person messaged me and it all went from there. The role was more specifically as a DiT assistant on the 2nd Unit Video crew. It involved running video cables from a reciever to the DiT desk and monitors on the set and it was a paid shoot which was great. The shoot was on a Friday, I was contacted on the Wednesday about it, and got a crew booking confirmation the night before the shoot so it was all very last minute. I had some experience in DiT, mostly in the data wrangling department so this would all be a brand new experience for me. I read and filled out some paperwork that evening and made sure to make myself familiar with the non-disclosure rules. It was a large production that had a lot of interest around it (which is understandable) so there was a strict no photos on set rule – if you were caught taking photos you could have your phone conviscated and risk losing your job. We were also not allowed to discuss any details of the set, what we had seen and what was going on to anyone.
I booked my train that night and made my plans for the next day. The next day, I travelled down to Watford and the journey was pretty smooth for the most part. Upon arriving at the studios, I checked in, got my accreditation and made my way to the site. I got a little bit lost as the loaction on the call sheet wasn’t very specific, but with the help of a few people I managed to make it on set.
I met my head of department who was very friendly as well as everyone else on our team. I realised that I was not dressed appropriately for the wet weather, with everyone else wearing waterproof gear but I ended up borrowing some spare trousers and the director even offered me his spare rain jacket. After being given a quick crash course and site tour, I quickly realised how big of a production this really was, and had a lot to catchup on and learn very quickly. It was quite overwhelming at first because I felt a little bit like a small fish in a big pond as there was so much I didn’t know about the production, but the video playback assistant showed me everything I needed to know and I assisted him for the whole shoot. I learnt how to run BNC cables from a terradeck to the DiT desk, the playback monitor and checks monitor. The terradeck was a essentially a reciever on a stand that recieved signals from a transmitter attached to the camera. We ran video cables from it to the desk and monitors so we could playback video, let the director see and playback video shots and in another location makeup and costume could check to see if anything needed adjusting. Our role was also to move the terradeck everytime the location changed on the set, meaning we had to recable every time the scene changed. We had to make sure the cables were not in the way at all, and to comply with health and safety when setting up, meaning we couldn’t run cables across the road where cars that are part of the scene may drive over. We also had to make sure that no cables were visible in the direction the camera was shooting, so we always worked with the cables running from behind the camera and when that was not possible we had to hide the cables and dress them in the scene so they were not seen.
It was a complex task at times, and it was a completely new experience for me. I had never worked in that job role before so I learnt a lot about it and began to understand how these things come together. I was probably the most under qualified person on set, but I took it as an opportunity to learn new things and develop my skillset. I spoke to a lot of people on set and spent a lot of time talking to the director. I tried my best to be as helpful as possible, making sure everyone was fed and had coffee and helping out wherever I could as I knew that it was a very late shoot and people may start getting tired. I also made sure to ask a lot of questions, out of my own curiousity and to show my interest. I also found it very strange seeing a few well known celebrities on set but I made sure to act in a completly professional manner.
Everyone I met on set was so friendly, making sure I was welcome, always saying hello and getting to know me. I think if I had worked a few more days on set, I would have really been able to become fully involved in the production and get to know everyone much better and build good relationships with them. Nonetheless, I was very grateful for the opportunity to work at Warner Bros, it was definitely a highlight of my year is far and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again!