Things I've Learned From Producing My First Episode of Television

This past month, I've been on set for my episode of Westworld. It's my first time being behind the camera. What an eye opener. I was incredibly lucky to have whip smart showrunners and a generous director guiding me, and the opportunity to watch a thoughtful and talented crew. Here's what I've learned:
  1. Wear comfortable shoes. Like, really comfortable.
    Going from a writers room (2,500 steps on a generous day) to being on set (all the steps) is murder. Fashion will not be a priority when your back is screaming on the drive home.
  2. Bring earbuds.
    Bring your own headphones instead of having to use the old school flimsy headphones they have on hand. It's what all the cool kids do. And the sound is better.
  3. Make sure everyone's on the same page about upcoming scenes.
    You may think certain parts of it are obvious - the hair or a character's motivation - but it might not be. Better to confirm early than have to hold up shooting.
  4. Bring a book.
    Lighting takes a long time. I liked to bring on theme books, like Making Movies by Sidney Lumet and In the Blink of an Eye by Murch, but you do you.
  5. Don't say, "I don't know," if you can say, "I'll find out."
  6. Try and learn everyone's name
    I'm terrible at this. Look at the crew list if you have to. But it's mandatory.
  7. Know how much latitude you have going in.
    People will ask you if things can be changed. That decision may not be ultimately up to you. If you're not sure, always better to email your showrunner.
  8. Don't ignore your actors' instincts.
    I'm bias on this one -- but they've probably done quite a bit of thinking on their character, and if something feels funky to them, make it a conversation. Appreciate what they bring to the table.
  9. That being said, don't be swayed away from your intention.
    It is very easy to just want to make everyone happy, or save money or time. Know what's important and protect those things passionately. Try and get everyone excited about the room and the showrunner's vision of the show.
  10. Speak up if you see a problem.
    Yes, everyone is very smart and talented but occasionally things slip through the cracks - there's a lot to keep track of for everyone - so don't be afraid to ask a question or make a polite comment if you spot a mistake. These shots cost a lot of money - protect the show from having to do reshoots.
  11. Take responsibility for the atmosphere
    Sets can get tense, especially when you're running behind. Try and help maintain a calm and positive mood - every little bit helps. Personally, I like to dance in between set ups. Keeps the mood light and manages my anxiety. Shout out to props for always being down to groove.