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No Phone Rule on Set?


silvertonesx24

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I personally don't spend a lot of time on commercial sets but when I do it seems like most of the crew spends half the time tapping away on their smartphones.

I have spent enough time to know that filming is the ultimate hurry-up-and-wait setting.

Would it be considered acceptable policy to blanket ban phones on my set except for emergencies? I feel like if my company is paying fair day rates for (non-union) crew, that they are focused on the work and even in down time working on consolidating gear, prepping for next shot, etc. Most of my crew are freelancers so I understand that they essentially running their own businesses, but the time I pay them is my time not theirs and time is the most valuable commodity on any set

Or is it just considered acceptable like surfing social media and playing fantasy football at your office job

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I would say it depends, I can certainly see it backfire, but also if it's a problem then I don't see it as an overreaction to have no phone policy, at lest during shooting or right before/after.

Due to the way some ppl use social media, you could actually make them less focused if they can't check there phone notifications, which is kinda weird concept for me since I don't have that addiction.

At some places it's fine to check facebook during work since that increases productivity, at least according to a study that I never bothered to verify or find. I can imagine how professional that would look through the window tho.

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1 hour ago, silvertonesx24 said:

Would it be considered acceptable policy to blanket ban phones on my set except for emergencies?

I don't think so.  In addition, it is often helpful for crew to be connected to the world outside the set, as, for instance, they might be expecting delivery of gear/expendables or waiting on the arrival of other crew, or if they are consulting a technical expert on a new piece of gear outside the set, etc.

 

 

1 hour ago, silvertonesx24 said:

I feel like if my company is paying fair day rates for (non-union) crew, that they are focused on the work and even in down time working on consolidating gear, prepping for next shot, etc.

Are you certain that  they have not consolidated gear nor prepped for the next shot?  With pro crews, a lot of that work is built-in to the process and is muscle memory.  Would you rather have pros who do their job without thinking and who, consequently, have free time to deal with any unexpected eventualities, or would you rather have inexperienced crew who must constantly focus on every detail and might miss something important or strike out when thrown a curve?

 

If you are genuinely concerned about whether or not they are prepped for the next shot, you can merely have your AD remind the department heads what's coming next.  If you do so, you will probably find out that the crew is several steps ahead of you.

 

By the way, consolidation of gear is usually automatic and built-in, because it it makes the work much easier for the crew and makes it easy to deal with unexpected problems,  and, most importantly, wrap goes much faster!

 

If you see a pro crew sitting around on their phones or twiddling their thumbs, it's probably because everything is done, dressed, staged and prepped, and they are waiting for the department head to give them their next order -- it's usually a good sign.  Also, if there are any sudden, unexpected changes, there is a free pro crew on hand to roll with the punches.

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2 hours ago, silvertonesx24 said:

Most of my crew are freelancers so I understand that they essentially running their own businesses


I'll admit I spend far far too much time on my smartphone. But often it is doing things like reviewing the shot schedule, or brushing up on the lines from the script (so I can cue the boom accurately on time, or figure out how to prioritize handing out the lavs for the next scene), so these are all very necessary things to do for the production happening right now. (on this topic, I'd like to mention how very handy it is when production gives out physical copies of these to you at the start of the day! Rather than having to be flipping through a PDF on your smartphone)

However yeah also it is sometimes figuring out some business related things such as doing a bit of pre production or figuring out tough sechudling issues. (for instance in about a fortnight away, I'm in a tricky spot where I have THREE feature films I'm working on all at the same time!! Yikes)

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My policy is all phones off when we're shooting. Phones can easily ruin a take, and if it's a good take there will be blood. Cast and crew can play with their phones during breaks. The only time I might need to use my phone is to calibrate my Ronin-M or get a light reading, but it gets switched off immediately afterwards.

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My son's (he is 4) school has a no phone policy for both the students and the teachers. Seems like a very good policy to me.

However, I was discussing this with a CEO of an international brand a year ago. He simply said it was impractical. If they implemented such a policy then word would get around (presumably by smartphone) and noone would work for them (as they would be seen as a bad employer.)

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If you're hiring people who you can't trust to keep their phones from ruining takes, then you need to ask yourself why -- not to treat crew like school kids. If I've caught up on what I need to do and I'm ready to roll at a moments notice, but we're just waiting for one thing or another, I see no reason why I shouldn't check my email. Besides the fact that quick responses to emails gets you more work, I wouldn't work for a producer who can't trust me to know when I should look at my phone or not. 

Also, if you see the time you pay as "your time", then it's your responsibility to make sure that there is as little down time as possible. If you can't keep your crew occupied, then that's your fault, and it's frankly unreasonable to demand your crew not check in on the state of their own business when they have nothing else to do.

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Philosophically I agree with you. I also think even if the phones are 1-2% distraction from their work, it could impact the end results. 

However, many equipments now are controlled by smart phones or iPads. From sound mixing to light control, etc. So it's going to be impossible to dictate that rule. 

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2 hours ago, jhnkng said:

I wouldn't work for a producer who can't trust me to know when I should look at my phone or not. 

But really 'the problem' is much more complicated than this. For instance it may not 'aggregate' - while he may 'trust' you, can he trust everyone? And the problem of excessive smartphone use is that it is an 'addiction' - which inherently means that they dont understand or have control over using the smartphone in a manner that is always in their 'best interests'. 

Look there are main board directors of Facebook who you can see on youtube saying they will never buy their children a smartphone (their children can buy one for themselves when they get a job). 

When I go out to dinner with my GF, we leave out mobile phones at home. I know it sounds a bit pathetic and we are only trying to enhance a personal relationship but I see many reasons why banning smartphones from a set will enhance productivity. And I see whining about it as really a symptom more akin to an alcoholic complaint the bar is closed.

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I started working with a lot of old school types in the late 90's, and the set was a holy place. We had the same conversation yesterday, when phone calls started to ruin our takes, when all the young presenters of the TV show we were making started to receive phone calls. Most of them were related to the show, but nothing we could do while in an island a lot of hours by ship from our base and finally it cost-ed our lunch brake, which it was an issue for us, the technicians, that had left our home at 5 o'clock in the morning.

When we work in short/feature film there is a no phone policy, and pro people immediately understand this, but younger people just starting in business, it is difficult for them to comprehend.

As a sound man, most of the times I impose this policy to myself, because I have to show people that phones can't be used while filming, also it can be problematic for microphones or wireless systems on set. I do a lot of in-car sound gathering, and mobile phone waves on a car work exactly like a wicro wave oven, and creates huge problems with sound. On a car definitely they have to switch to airplane mode.

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While there's no outright, one size fits all reason to not ban phones on set, prohibition never works. It will just generate distrust and people will spend 20 minutes in the bathroom surfing instead, which is way worse. There's a guy I often work with who does this and it very frustrating, but I'm not exactly going to tell the producer that I'm keeping track of his bathroom schedule haha!

Another example I've had is when I was filming while my wife was 8.5 months pregnant. There's no way I'd turn my phone off, even if Spielberg asked me to. I made sure to remind our director, producer and talent of my situation, so if I had to, I could dash out at any given moment. Thankfully it never came to that and the job was finished before baby came. I realise this won't be the case for 99% of people on the set at any given time, but you don't know who's mother is in hospital or who's trying to buy a new house. Everyone has their personal stuff going on, and a blanket ban of phones isn't going to be appreciated. 

I'd just ask everyone to put phones on silent and at least pretend to be professional about it. Check an email or write a text, but do it between takes or setups.

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3 hours ago, Anaconda_ said:

While there's no outright, one size fits all reason to not ban phones on set, prohibition never works. It will just generate distrust and people will spend 20 minutes in the bathroom surfing instead, which is way worse. There's a guy I often work with who does this and it very frustrating, but I'm not exactly going to tell the producer that I'm keeping track of his bathroom schedule haha!

Another example I've had is when I was filming while my wife was 8.5 months pregnant. There's no way I'd turn my phone off, even if Spielberg asked me to. I made sure to remind our director, producer and talent of my situation, so if I had to, I could dash out at any given moment. Thankfully it never came to that and the job was finished before baby came. I realise this won't be the case for 99% of people on the set at any given time, but you don't know who's mother is in hospital or who's trying to buy a new house. Everyone has their personal stuff going on, and a blanket ban of phones isn't going to be appreciated. 

I'd just ask everyone to put phones on silent and at least pretend to be professional about it. Check an email or write a text, but do it between takes or setups.

Actually my wife call-ed me to tell me that she had to go to the hospital, and my phone was off, and I was working 800 Khm away on a mountain! Thankfully, I went straight from mountain to hospital at 4 o'clock in the morning (managed to finish the job as well, because it was a 6 person's crew and I was the camera operator), and everything went fine, but I maybe have to keep my phone on next time!

There are some times, that things are more important than a scene, I believe that 100% of the professionals can be excused on those, but sending viber messages to your boy/girl friend about last night's pizza, or browsing FB, or playing the Walking Dead, then no excuse at all!

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If you are interested in raising the efficiency of your set then I suggest two things:

  • Look at what is lowering the efficiency of your set by actually looking at what is happening rather than what you think is happening
  • Recruit the people you hire to also raise the efficiency of the set, which can only be accomplished through trust

Most workplaces are radically inefficient, often because instead of actually looking for what is actually going on and trusting their teams to do the same, they think they already know what is happening.

I remember one example of an inefficient set was because filming at a rural location the portable toilet was about a 3 minute walk away, so every time they made a change everyone had a 6 minute walk to use the facilities.  When the schedule got more and more behind the response of the AD and Director was to yell at people instead of moving the portable toilet.  Complete fail.

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8 hours ago, tupp said:

I don't think OP was objecting to phones because he/she is worried about busted takes -- he/she seems to expect crew to "look busy."

This is a big part of it. Clients aren't on set often but I've gotten comments about it in the past about it because ultimately they are the one paying for it.

I understand that there is set work to be done on smartphones. What I am talking about is the delay where the grip could help get hands on something but we have to call him up because he is finishing up typing some email or whatever. If he was paying attention he would have seen that a gaffer needs help and there wouldn't be that dysfunction. That is the part that irritates me. I don't want to be a stickler but I'm paying very fair rates for talented crew and it seems at 80% of the time I look over it's tap tap tapping on the fucking smartphone. Again I get that filmmaking is hurry up and wait but I'm paying you to be there.

Thanks for the comments

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5 hours ago, silvertonesx24 said:

This is a big part of it. Clients aren't on set often but I've gotten comments about it in the past about it because ultimately they are the one paying for it.

I understand that there is set work to be done on smartphones. What I am talking about is the delay where the grip could help get hands on something but we have to call him up because he is finishing up typing some email or whatever. If he was paying attention he would have seen that a gaffer needs help and there wouldn't be that dysfunction. That is the part that irritates me. I don't want to be a stickler but I'm paying very fair rates for talented crew and it seems at 80% of the time I look over it's tap tap tapping on the fucking smartphone. Again I get that filmmaking is hurry up and wait but I'm paying you to be there.

Thanks for the comments

This is unacceptable, if I was acting like this no one would hire me here.

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15 hours ago, Kisaha said:

I started working with a lot of old school types in the late 90's, and the set was a holy place.

As it should be. Anyone who isn't down with that doesn't belong on my set. Nobody has ever complained about or defied my phones off policy, so I must have chosen the right people. And yeah, phones play havoc with sound recording, particularly due to the interference that only we sound guys hear in our headphones. I came to film from a music production background so anything that interferes with sound is particularly annoying to me.

I get that freelancers have to check their email regularly for work, but on a professionally run set there's multiple opportunities throughout a shoot day to do that. It's a good idea to explain the phone interference issue to newbies when you ask everybody to turn their phones off to save them the death stares they'll get from the crew when they inevitably ruin a take because they thought it wasn't a cardinal rule.

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7 hours ago, silvertonesx24 said:

This is a big part of it. Clients aren't on set often but I've gotten comments about it in the past about it because ultimately they are the one paying for it.

It's been years since I worked on a commercial, but the same phones off rule I employ on my films applied there. Phone use was restricted to designated break times, and the director called for "phones off" before we rolled after breaks, that's how I do it. One of the rare exceptions to the rule would be to allow someone with a pregnant partner to check their phone between takes, I''m not an ogre, and I've been there.

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