7 Social Norms Learned from Being on the Set of a $100k Video

December 11, 2018

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Dan Mills


Chris Lavigne


Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a big budget ad production? Well, we can tell you that the set of a $100k video shot by a professional production company runs as efficiently as the kitchen at a five-star restaurant. We experienced this all first-hand when we ventured out to California to shoot our original series One, Ten, One Hundred and document how Sandwich Video produced a $100k Soapbox ad for Wistia.

We’re saying goodbye to Soapbox on 9/1, but you can still [record video] (https://wistia.com/product/video-recording) with Wistia.

Watching Sandwich shoot our $100k Soapbox ad was, to put it bluntly, the real deal. Everything and everyone moved like clockwork, and we quickly picked up on some social norms we hadn’t really experienced on a run-and-gun production set, or even while working on the $10k video. Let’s just say, we all had our own “We’re not in Kansas anymore … ” moments throughout the shoot.

We were amazed by Sandwich’s ability to stay super organized and simply get down to business. Naturally, we had to ask ourselves — what was the secret to their success? What made them so good at this!? After some deep reflection, a few things became clear. We learned a ton about the video production process that can be applied to videos anyone creates, regardless of your budget or crew size. So, without further adieu, here are seven social norms we took away from being on set of a $100k video!

“We learned a ton about the video production process that can be applied to videos anyone creates, regardless of your budget or crew size.”

1. Understanding hierarchy

An enormous shared respect for hierarchy made all the moving parts function super efficiently. Everyone knew their proper role during the shoot and never bothered to step on anyone’s toes. With so many creatives in one place who are all passionate about video, it seems like there could easily be hundreds of opinions floating around ("This would look better over there! Let’s adjust the lighting a little. Say it with more enthusiasm!"). However, boundaries were highly respected, and no one threw any new ideas into the ring from the peanut gallery.

2. Keeping it quiet on set

Unlike a rowdy party where taming noise levels is a lost cause, the volume on set for the $100k video never got too out of control. Moments where Dawn, the Assistant Director, had to announce “Quiet on the set!” were rare because everyone understood the circumstances. There was an unspoken agreement between everyone involved — yes, producing a video is fun, the environment is creative, and we may even be working with our friends — but while we’re here we still have a job to do!

3. Respecting time

When one shot ended, the crew knew there was no time to dilly-dally — folks had to move swiftly and with a purpose. That’s where an awareness of all the moving parts on set really comes in to save the day. Despite the hustle and bustle, each member of the crew was aware of what everyone else was doing (and for that matter, where they were standing!). Respect still played a major role in keeping things running smoothly, but no one was being overly polite. Like a head chef exclaiming, “Order up, filet mignon!” to commence the dish preparations, over-communicating “I’ve got heavy stuff coming through!” was necessary to transition from one shot to the next when time was of the essence.

“Despite the hustle and bustle, each member of the crew was aware of what everyone else was doing (and for that matter, where they were standing!).”

4. Going the extra mile

Stepping out for a doctor’s appointment every now and then is something everyone who works at an office or in a somewhat flexible environment understands. Heading out for an hour wouldn’t leave your team disappointed or in the lurch — heck, they may not even notice! In stark contrast, no one on set of the $100k video shoot even dared to see what would happen if they said, “Hey, I’m really sorry, but I’m scooting out early.” Everyone knew the show wasn’t over until the director said it was over. Being in-it-to-win-it until production was finished was a mutual mindset. So, when production for Soapbox exceeded schedule, everyone’s dedication to each other and the project became clear. Folks were willing to schedule their lives around production to accommodate for whatever could happen unexpectedly.

5. Being aware of your surroundings

On set, people were hyper-conscious and considerate of their surroundings — especially around the super high-end Arri AMIRA camera. Given its gigantic size, which required three sets of hands to operate and move around, even Chris, our video gear expert, found this camera rather intimidating. Crossing in front of the camera without announcing you were was simply not cool. When preparing the next take, sometimes four or five people would have their eyes on the monitor thinking through a shot. Saying, “I’m crossing!” displayed self-awareness and deference toward the people working diligently. It might sound like over-communicating to the average person, but this was crucial when it came to keeping the shoot running smoothly (and making sure everyone stayed sane).

6. Respecting the talent

While crew members were always busy shuffling around with expensive gear, wardrobe was hunting for the perfect outfit, and the Assistant Director wore a very important hat, you may begin to wonder what the talent was doing amid all the commotion. Often, the talent just had to wait around patiently until it was their time to perform. But, once it was their moment to shine and deliver their lines in front of a large group, all eyes were on them. The talent was always given respect, and if they made a minor slip-up, no one laughed at them. Any type of bad vibe could completely disrupt the atmosphere of a shoot and get inside the talent’s head.

“Any type of bad vibe could completely disrupt the atmosphere of a shoot and get inside the talent’s head.”

7. Stocking quality snacks

Last, but certainly not least, Sandwich was respectful of everyone’s appetites on full shoots. Making sure their hard-working staff was satiated by tasty meals and a variety of snacks ensured that everyone felt energized, comfortable, and relaxed. Snickers' mantra, “You’re not you when you’re hungry,” certainly applies. For a long day of shooting, having great selections of snacks on set is the standard so tummies aren’t left rumbling.

Lessons learned for the future

We may not always work with a professional video production company on our shoots, but the nuggets of wisdom we learned from being on Sandwich’s set will last a lifetime. Whether it was communicating effectively or being cognizant of moving gear, everyone’s general sense of self-awareness was a huge factor that kept everything running smoothly. And, without respect for hierarchy, and most importantly, one another, the creative atmosphere and passion to make something spectacular would have never existed.

With new knowledge of seven social norms exhibited on set of a $100k video, you can borrow regular practices from the pros to improve the way you produce video at your own company. If you’re filming in your office space, send out a quick message to your team so they know to keep quiet around the recording area. Also, remember your “actors” are oftentimes just your coworkers. Keep morale high by making sure you create a comfortable and positive environment. And finally, as far as snacks go, a fully-catered meal may not be necessary, but having refreshments and things to munch on will remind people you greatly appreciate their help!

Dan Mills


Chris Lavigne


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