PROTOCOLS for film Directors -: Bristol Film and Video Society.

The Director answers to the Producer - however for the purposes of the type of filming that the BFVS are involved with, the Director is the main authority.

In any drama, it is the Director’s vision that is being brought to the screen.

The Director is telling a film story, for which there is a well tried and tested language. The experienced and professional film makers have found that these principles work, while instilling confidence to the cast and crew.

The word amateur does not imply unskilled, or that one should not benefit from the experience of professional. Use it with assurance.

The fact that we are amateurs means that we want to use the medium, have fun and stretch our capabilities. Professional translates as expert, skilled, trained. A professional amateur is not necessarily an oxymoron.

For the CREW in general

The Director is the total authority in the room and whilst at the location all of us should defer to him. No matter what job you have agreed to take on (props, Boom op, Camera Op etc) it is that job that you should do to the best of your ability and even though you may have as much, or even more experience than the Director of the day, this should be put to one side and you should do the job, and only the job that you have volunteered to do. By all means help with fetching and carrying and generally muck in, but then return to your station and be aware.

You should take responsibility for your set task. You should make sure that your job is done.

For example, if you are boom operator and the camera moves then you should move with it, watch quietly while the shot is set up and when appropriate, work out with the cameraman where is the best place to be. The Director should not have to say ‘Where’s the boom operator?’.

Do your job as quietly as possible. The Director may be talking with the actors and should not have to shout over any noise. A noisy set is an unruly set, where valuable time is wasted. To an outsider it sounds bad. Chattering should be a hanging offence!

Watch what’s going on. Be aware of what is needed, always keep one eye on the Director.
Take responsibility for your specific task.
By all means draw attention to something if its not right - a prop out of place, a camera in shot, a lamp stand in shot etc.
As far as the actors, dialogue or stage movements are concerned - Keep Your Opinions to Yourself! It is the Director of the Day whose vision we are bringing to the screen.


Regardless of how many films you’ve directed, sound tracks you’ve laid, or sets you’ve dressed, it matters not a jot. As a camera operator on the day, the camera is you sole concern. It is a very important job, and if you are doing it correctly, that is all the Director asks.

The Camera Operator can discuss shots, framing and angles etc with the Director but ONLY when the Director is ready to set the shot up.

Do not but in if he is talking. He will address your camera position eventually and that is your time to discuss your thoughts regarding the shot.

This does NOT give you permission to re-direct the actors to suite your camera. You may suggest an angle etc, but you should refrain from long discussions. Do not take advantage of your privileged position.

Watch the rehearsal so you are as familiar with the movements as is the Director. It is a waste of time if he has to explain it all over again to you!

Once the Director has set his shot size, leave it. Make a note of it in case you move accidentally.
Remember, only you and the Director know what the shot looks like.

If you make a mistake, own up to it and tell the Director. NEVER let a bad shot go.

If you find an Actor hit the wrong mark to what you were expecting, or the framing went wrong or the boom was in shot, then you must relay this information to the Director, along with a possible solution to the problem AFTER the shot is called "Cut".

  • NEVER talk whilst the shot is being taken, even if the shot has gone to pot.
  • NEVER start the camera until asked to do so by the Director and only the Director.
  • NEVER cut the camera unless you hear the words from the Director.
  • NEVER talk until the word cut is called
  • Hold the shot until you hear the word CUT. You may think the shot is finished but you are not the Director so do not know why he is taking so long to call ‘cut’. Assume there is a reason.
  • If it becomes obvious that the Director has forgotten to call ‘Cut’ then inform him in voice loud enough depending on his distance by calling ‘Camera Still Running’.
  • Again, do not stop the camera until you hear him call ‘Cut’
  • The Director’s word is FINAL.

As Camera Operator you are totally responsible for:

  • The setting up of the camera, that the batteries are kept charged and close by.
  • That you have enough tapes.
  • That the white balance is correct at ALL times.
  • That the camera tripod is horizontally level.
  • That it is in the right place and at the right height.
  • If the lights have been moved or changed - redo a white balance.
  • Do not do a white balance with effect filters in place on the lights.
  • And that once the action is being shot, that the best possible frame is kept at all times.
  • It is not considered good practice to rewind in camera to review shots.
Liase at all times with the sound department. Keep them informed of where the edge of frame is and where it will be best to stand if he is unsure.

For the sound man of the day, the above protocols hold true but in relation to his own responsibilities. Sound is a very important aspect of a film.

Know the equipment and it’s limitations.
Know its power requirements.
Liase with the camera operator.
Watch, listen. Speak softly.

THE DIRECTOR: HE IS THE APEX OF THE PYRAMID, he must have a clear idea from his storyboard of the shooting venue; as if the cameramen were unaware of the script.
The director should give a briefing to the actors, technicians and bystanders at the start of each day’s shooting, with a reminder of the basic commands he proposes to use.

Everyone in the room must be waiting for his instruction.

Be aware of the crew and what instructions need to be given for the shot in hand.

Deal with each department in turn in order of priority. IE.

  • Get the set dressed.
  • Get actors on set.
  • Instruct the cameras where you want them.
  • Block the scene with the actors.
  • Set the shot/s
  • Rehearse the shot if needed by the cameraman or the sound man.
Although people will and should take responsibility for their own jobs, it is up to the Director to go through the check list in his mind. If he sees people looking lost, he should ask himself why - and then address the situation.

The Director’s word is final. He must know what he wants.

The Director may take suggestions if he wants to, but should not let this turn into a free for all. This is his vision that is being made. He must stand by his own convictions.

  • His instruction to the camera and sound must be precise and clear.
  • He must set the shot by looking through the viewfinder (or monitor).
  • He must let the camera know if he wishes him to pan with the action of to let the action move out of the shot, or pan and stop and let the frame clear.
In short. What the Director sees in his mind MUST be explained to the Cameraman and soundman.
He must be clear in his direction, be aware that everyone is waiting for his instruction.
He should not forget or ignore any of his crew.

Ready to roll - The shot is set, the actors are ready to go. The Director glances around as a quick check that all is where he wants it to be. This routine should become second nature.

Director; Ok - we are going for a take, QUIET please! (Wait for quiet.)

Director: Sound ready?

Sound: Sound ready!

Director Camera ready?

Camera. Camera ready!

Director Run Camera!

Camera Speed (or Running)!

Director Mark it! (clapper operator calls and marks the shot and moves away)

(short pause, quick check on noise)
Director Action! (This pause gives cutting space in the edit.)

When the Director decides to end of the shot, he should count two seconds then call ‘Cut’.
(This will give end space in the edit.)

Now! The Director should.
Compliment the actors on the take.
Turn to camera(s) and ask ‘Was that good?’ (was the shot good, no wobble etc etc)
Camera operator(s) should say either confirm it was good or, if it wasn’t as polished as he would have liked, discuss the problem.
The Director then ask the same question to the sound man.

Now he must make a decision on whether to run again. It is always worth going again if there is any hint of doubt about a shot. (Never do just one take. Even if it is perfect.)
If the Director decides to go again the instruction is:-

Director OK . Re-Set, we are going again!

When everything is set the instructions as above should be repeated.

When you have the shot and enough takes.

The Director must let everyone know what is in his mind i.e.
‘Camera stays where they are - we are going on a close up!

Loud, clear, and positive directions are the easiest to understand and acknowledge. If an operator does not answer then the Director should ask again. Never assume they have heard. He may have called all the right terms and then find that the camera was not running, because it was out of film! (It actually happened in the WarLover with Steve McQueen, when a radio controlled B17 bomber was flown into the White Cliffs of Dover - in the final film it was dubbed in with a model---)



The crew will need breaks - drink and food are very important.

The Director is dealing with human beings, they need fuel!

They also need praise, encouragement and fulfilment.

There is no place for sarcasm - this is a sure way of losing the cooperation of the various operators. (They may even plot revenge!)

At the end of the day’s shooting, it is the camera operator responsibility to give his film to the Director. At this juncture a load of characters may revert to being a load of characters.

If a task is well worth doing, it is worth doing well.

Thanks to Stewart Mackay, with help from Julian Baldwin.
Frank Bond - October 2004.