Poetry v. The World: Set-talk

This weekend, I spent over 24 hours on a set as an AD (that’s Assistant Director). Everybody likes to joke that film school is easy, (which it kind of is, the classes at least). But this is not the first and surely not the last weekend I’ll lose because I’m “busy shooting”. Voluntarily. But I love it. A lot.

When I started studying film, I had barely any prior experience on sets. I knew there were cameras and sound and lights and a director, but that’s about it. As soon as I arrived, I knew it was something I wanted to do. It’s a high-energy, high-stress atmosphere that benefits the person who never sits down. Half the time, I want to pull my hair out, and I don’t think I could be happier anywhere else. (I mean that in a good way!)

But yeah, part of the gig is saying things differently than one would usually communicate. For example, “eyes on slate” is just another way of saying “does anyone see the slate anywhere?,” (“slate” being the piece of whiteboard that they hold in front of the camera and makes the clapping noise). Another, “hold for gaf” means “everyone wait to start because the gaffer is adjusting one of the lights.” Do all of them save that many words that its crucial enough for everyone to know this weird lingo? No! But it’s fun and it makes everyone who says it feel more professional and accomplished, so we’ll do it anyway.

It’s worth noting that there are some people who don’t like it. I’ve encountered a few who think the more niche ones just aren’t necessary, and I sympathize with their sentiment. However, I think there’s real, tangible effects to them besides the efficiency part:

  1. It sets the right atmosphere for a set. There’s a definite difference between my 423 Short Film Production Class and your friends who are making a YouTube video (no offense), and that difference is professionalism. Shouting these quick, snappy phrases to your crew and them coming back with an equally snappy response makes everyone feel just a little bit more like they know what the heck is going on, which in turn makes us all more professional.
  2. It shows experience. When you know and use the vernacular properly, people respect you more on set. That’s something I’ve seen in practice many a times. And especially in my (usual) job, AD, you need people to listen to you and follow up quickly.

So yes, I will keep using my fancy-shmancy code speech on set, and yes I will make fun of it and yes I love it.

Jonah J. Sobczak


P.S.: (The footage was taken during a shoot in a studio at the Walgreen Center. Super interesting set with a super amazing crew, the project is entitled Emotional Creature and it’s about genuine female experiences. Here’s the link to the YouTube Livestream airing at 8:00 this Friday!)



Last year, I began my first year of college as a film student. However, my artistic style is something I've been trying hone for my entire life. I think my focus lies mainly in honesty and understanding, both of others and myself. My tones can range wildly, but no matter what it is I like to add at least a taste of humor whenever I can.

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