We here at How to Film School think it would be fun to start sharing some of our crazy and ridiculous on set horror stories. Everyone has them, some of us more than others; we want you to share your most ridiculous film set stories with us in the comments section below.
The first story that I want to share takes me back a few years to one of my first jobs as a second assistant director. I took the job as a favor to a friend who had a very low-budget and not a lot of help. I came onto the project the day before shooting started. The film had a schedule of 14 days straight of overnight shoots. The schedule itself was the first warning sign, it also didn’t help that there seemed to be very little pre-production done.
On the first day of shooting we found ourselves slightly disorganized and a little overwhelmed with the band of misfits that were assembled as the crew. It was a rough first night and by our 2nd day our First Assistant Director quit on us for a better paying job and practiced poor etiquette when he didn’t find himself a replacement. Our Production Manager stepped into the role of 1st AD and I picked up the rest of the work.
Our crew was made up of about 50% professionals and 50% friends of the director who had never done their jobs before. Each night was an event, we didn’t role the camera until hours after call time, crew members would walk away from set without letting anyone know, we blew through our meager budget in the first couple of days of shooting and that’s just the beginning.
We had an art department that found it fun to destroy property unnecessarily, they decided to paint on walls and doors in rooms that were not sets, they glued shoes to the ceiling because I suppose they thought it was funny and they thought having fire extinguisher fights would be the funniest thing of all. Unfortunately this made the air quality in the building unsafe and we had to evacuate the set for an hour.
It was amazing that we actually got anything shot in the 14 days we had scheduled and of course we didn’t finish. For a lot of the crew they thought they were coming to set to have fun and for the other half they were coming to work. The divide in attitudes made the project fail.
Our producer was a great guy who only wanted to see the project succeed but he was met with a lot of hostility from our director and the cinematographer. The battle between them is really what killed this project, the director and cinematographer really had no idea what they were doing and they screwed it up for the rest of us. They were unruly and arrogant which I guess is fine if you are Michael Bay but they weren’t, they were more interested in fighting with the producer and having fun with their friends than they were in making a movie. Unfortunately they ruined it for the rest of us.
On top of the fighting and the looting, there was drug use and stealing. Most of the time you only encounter one or two of these things on a set and usually people are discrete about it, not so much on this one.
We also had extras every single night of the shoot, some nights as many as 50 people and it was my job to keep them wrangled. I think by the fourth day of shooting I was the 2nd AD, the Production Coordinator, taking care of craft service and assisting our Production Manager beyond my coordinating responsibilities. Did I mention that I came onto the project as a volunteer. It took me 2 days to negotiate a rate or else I’m not sure I would have survived until the end.
I feel like I could go on forever about the insane things that I encountered on this set, I’ve only named a few of the instances where things didn’t pan out exactly how they were meant to. Things got worse on a daily basis but I think you get the idea. The one good thing I can say about this set is that I learned a hell of a lot of what not to do!
This is just the first of many on set horror stories that I have encountered over the years, please feel free to share yours in the comments below. Everyone loves a good story about a crazy set!