HowToFilmSchool’s Film Set Walkie Talkie Etiquette Guide

The Walkie Talkie can be one of the most import tools used daily on a film set. They can ease communication between the crew, various departments and help Assistant Directors run the set. An Assistant Director without a walkie talkie is like a hockey player without a stick. With all that power comes…Walkie Talkie Etiquette.

If you haven’t checked it out yet please have a look at our guide to film set etiquette. It goes hand in hand with walkie talkie etiquette.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when using your walkie…

Walkie Talkie Etiquette

General Guide Lines:

  • Treat your walkie with respect. They are very expensive and in many cases will come out of your pay if you break or lose one.
  • Stay on your channel and do not mess with other departments. Occasionally you will have to speak to someone outside your department, for longer conversations be sure to go to the chat channel with them as to not clog up their channel.
  • When speaking into your walkie wait a beat after keying before you begin to speak. Many people have a habit of hitting the button and speaking at the same time, this usually causes your first few words to be cut off.
  • Be aware of your walkie and it’s buttons. Sometimes you might be carrying something or even standing around and accidentally key it. This is something you really want to avoid. A queued walkie is very anoying, it also clogs up your channel making it hard to communicate.
  • This is another one on walkie awareness. You need to also be very aware of your dials. Most walkie-talkies have an on/volume dial and a channel dial. Often times depending on how you wear your walkie you can accidentally switch channels or turn your volume down. It’s good to get into the habit of checking your dials from time to time. If in a situation where you think you’ve bumped your channel dial and are unsure/unable to check you could just do a quick walkie check and listen for the right voices, ask directly about being on the right channel or very quickly switch all the way down to channel 1 and count up from there back to your channel.

Walkie-Talkie Lingo:

Walkie lingo on a film set is very similar to military or trucker lingo, but has some major and minor differences

  • 10-1 (10-100): Standard washroom break. Although this falls under more than just walkie etiquette and is more a common set etiquette. ’10-1′ or ’10-100′ simply means your going to the bathroom.
  • 10-2 (10-200): Longer break…Not as common as 10-1, but still used from time to time. Some people are a little embarrassed about using, but we’re all human. Don’t be embarrassed.
  • Upgrade: This one isn’t standard, but I find it works well. Often times you ask for a 10-1 and sneak off for a quick pee to then realize you have to do more than just pee…a lot of the guys I work for just ask for an upgrade. “Mind if I upgrade that 10-1, sir?” This tell your boss you wont be as quick as a 10-1.
  • Copy or Copy that: Acknowledging that you have received the information, understand and are doing it.
  • Walkie Check: Is said when you first turn on your walkie. Someone will reply to you with ‘Good Check’ this means your microphone is working properly and are being heard clearly.
  • Going off Walkie: This is what you say when you are talking off you walkie or will not being able to communicate. It’s very important to let everyone know that you wont be available.
  • Standby: Used when someone tries to communicate with you but you are too busy to reply, you simple say Standby
  • Standing by: This is great to use when you’ve completely a quick task, like panning a light and are standing by it for any further instructions.
  • Iggy for John: ‘Iggy’ being your name, ‘John’ the name of the person you are wanting to communicate with. See responding to that call below.
  • Go for John: When someone calls for you over the walkie you respond with “Go for *your name here*”. This tell them that you have heard them asking for you and are awaiting instructions.
  • What’s your 20: This means ‘where are you?’. Often times asked before given a task.
  • Eyes on John: ‘Eyes on’ is used when you’re looking for someone or something. Sometimes you will hear something like “Does anyone have eyes on my wrench” or “Does anyone have eyes on the boss?”
  • Flying in: This tells other that you are flying in to set or bringing something in.

What I have seen a lot of  department heads who work on very indy projects do is get their own walkie talkies. Now keep in mind that these will be nowhere near the quality of the ones pictured in this post, but they are still pretty damn good at a decent range. You can get some pretty good walkies on there are sets of 2 and 3. Think about it next time your going to be on set!

Next we want to share some examples of the type of chatter you will be hearing on set.

Walkie Chatter Examples:


You: 10-1, sir?

Boss: Copy that, can you swing by craft and grab some waters on your way back?

You: Copy that, going off walkie.

When back on walkie.

You: Walkie check.

Boss: Good Check.

You: Copy, waters are flying in.


Boss: Can you toss a double in the 4k?

You: Copy that.

You head to the fixture, climb the ladder and insert the scrim

You: That’s a double down, standing by sir.

Boss: Copy that, can you raise the lamp?

You: Copy that, raising lamp.

Boss: Hold there please, lets see a pan left…nice and slow.

You: Copy that, panning left

Boss: Hold there. Looks good, lock and walk.

You: Copy that, Thank you.

As you can see walkie talkie etiquette all about being efficient and getting straight to the point. Don’t clog up your channel with unnecessary chatter. It slows everything down. If you do need to talk for longer switch to another channel. Often time there will be an empty channel between the grips and electric for longer chatter.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • A walkie holster might be very handy, you can get one on When clipped to belts your walkie can often fall or break, which you might have to pay for.
  • Good walkie talkie etiquette us learning people’s voices. There are only so many frequencies and often times you will hear another set down the block. Learn the voice of your boss and the people in your department, this will keep you from doing unnecessary work.
  • Speak slowly and calmly, constantly being asked to repeat things is a time waster.
  • When necessary don’t be afraid to ask instructions to be repeated. Sometimes there will be static or you might accidentally step on that person. When given a large set of instruction you can repeat it back. This works really well because you are repeating it back to the person that gave it, so they can let you know if you have missed something and it repeating it helps you to remember it.
  • As stated above, Keep your messages brief and to the point. When necessary go into longer detail, but if you have a huge amount of information or something not directly related to the task at hand it might be better to switch channel or just meet up in person.
  • Don’t be afraid to come up with your own chatter, this walkie talkie etiquette post is a guideline. This isn’t a must, but If you work with a specific group of people often it isn’t a bad idea to use some of your own lingo, it can make your department run faster and smoother. Sometimes within crews you develop lingo for specific things, why not use it on the walkie?
  • Try to keep jokes to a minimum. Some crews encourage a bit of joking here and there to keep the mood light. The days are long and the work is stressful, so it nice to break it up a bit, but know when a where its okay to crack a joke.
  • Well, that’s it for walkie etiquette. As always our posts have room to grow, so if I’ve missed anything or you have some comments or suggestions feel free to comment below.

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Currently a Digital Producer for a Television Production Company. Igor also works as a Cinematographer & got his start in the industry as a Gaffer. Join me on Twitch!

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