Film Set Walkie-Talkie Etiquette

Crew members who are new to a film set struggle with using walkie-talkies. Only those with Secret Service aptitude like wearing them, but many crew members need their earpieces in place to support their department. Listening to a person speaking in front of you while listening to a conversation on the radio takes time to adapt.

The adjustment period is significantly reduced when the crew follows the proper radio communication etiquette. While there are rules on radio use that vary between productions, here are the six most common rules I’ve encountered.

Select the Right Channel

Most departments have their own channel. However, channel 1 is shared by ADs, Art, Costume, Makeup, and Safety. This results in channel 1 being restricted to essential and necessary conversations only. Any lengthy or specific chat should move to channel 2 or another designated chat channel.

The goal is to keep the unnecessary dialogue in people’s ears to a minimum. The crew benefits when the channel is kept clear for immediate and important contact. Most crew members use the radio as a listening tool when department heads give instructions.

The last thing a crew member wants to do is ask a question that was already answered over the radio. The crew must train themselves to pick out and listen to their department’s voices.

Push to Talk

The timing of when a person speaks and the speed at which they click and hold down, or release, the talk button makes the difference in whether their comment is understood. To ensure that your voice is heard, hold down the talk button for half of a beat before speaking. Also, finish your complete comment before releasing the talk button.

If a person asks you to repeat your comments, do not get nervous and speak faster or before the radio is fully clicked and engaged. Instead, slow down and make sure the button is completely down, then speak clearly and concisely. Keep in mind that the repeat request might not be about you, but the noisy environment the other crew person might be in.

State the Players

When you click the talk button to begin a conversation, state your name and the person you need to speak with. A couple of examples include “Jeremy to Maverick,” or “Sound to Transport.” If there are too many Jeremys on set, state your department with your name, like “Make-up Jeremy to Maverick.”

Once you’ve released the talk button, listen for the response. The person might respond in one of several ways. This might include:

  • “Jeremy, you’ve got Maverick”
  • “Maverick here”
  • “Go ahead, Jeremy”
  • “Hi, Jeremy”

Be patient if the person can’t respond right away, as you won’t know why they’re delayed.

Keep It Brief

Conversations on the main channel must be kept brief. Anything beyond a couple of sentences requires the conversation to be moved to channel 2. This is done by saying, “Switch to channel 2.” The proper response is “Switching to 2.”

While channel 2 is off the beaten path of most conversations, it isn’t a private channel. Make sure you don’t say anything you’ll regret later.

Speak Clearly

Speak slowly and clearly, holding the microphone 1-2 inches from your mouth. Any closer and your voice will distort. Any farther away and you might not be heard. There is no reason to yell into the radio.

Part of clarity is knowing what you want to say before speaking. Crew members don’t want to talk on the fly and find themselves saying something that comes across as odd and makes everyone laugh. They might never be able to live it down.

Clarity might also be achieved on windy days by cupping your hand around the microphone so the wind doesn’t distort your words.

Care for Your Radio

The battery will eventually die. Fresh batteries are typically available in various locations around the set. If you find yourself in an urgent situation, ADs often carry a spare battery, but you didn’t hear that from me.

Also, do what you can to keep your radio dry from the rain. Having a faulty radio due to rain will make your day miserable.

The best way to protect your radio, regardless of the weather conditions, is to get familiar with it. Just as sharpshooters are able to assemble and disassemble their guns blindfolded, you need to know your radio as an extension of yourself.

Make sure you can turn it on and off, adjust the volume, and switch between channels, all without looking. Use the properly assigned channels and know when to move between them to facilitate longer conversations.

In no time, you’ll be able to have a conversation with the person in front of you, while listening to the person calling you on the radio. Your walkie-talkie communication skills will make for a successful production.

Copyright © 2023 by CJ Powers

Princess Cut – Husband vs. Wife Directors

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

The Princess Cut franchise has birthed two directors:  Paul Munger and Sheilah Munger. My curiosity got the best of me. I needed to learn which one of them was the top director in the family.

To make that determination, I decided to review a few critical actions a director must take to make their film successful at the box office.

This is the second of several blog entries exploring which Munger makes the best director. If you want to follow along, you can find the films at Watchman Pictures and Amazon Prime. And for those who have VUDU, at the time of this writing, the first film in the series is free with ads.

For today’s entry, let’s start in the beginning. To craft a successful cinematic story, the director must accomplish certain tasks, or they won’t build and keep their audience. The first task is creating an attention-getting opener.

Capture the Audience

The audience has spent good money to show up for the film. They expect the director to give them confidence in their buying decision within the first few minutes of the movie. Hollywood directors often give an immediate pay-off to the audience.

Some reveal the uber-bad guy and the threat he brings, while others create a bond between the main character and the audience. This is often done with a touching or cool moment, shared crisis, or funny experience.

When the unique connection is made, the audience wants to see the story through to the end. They want to know what happens and how the main character experiences it. They’ll even consider how the main character’s choices might fit their personal life.

Presenting the Film’s Genre

In the opening, directors must demonstrate the story’s genre, tone, and pace. Genres all have certain tropes that signal what you’re watching. To prove this true, all I have to do is suggest a western, and you instantly have a sense of what you’re about to see—which includes horses.

For instance, sci-fi might include lasers, aliens, space ships, or time travel. A romantic comedy might include some form of hilarity, awkward circumstance, or hopeful adoration. A horror film might open with a startling moment, blood-slashing action, or creepy circumstances in an eerie setting.

Creating the Film’s Tone

The mood or the tone of the film must be in keeping with the genre. A piece of sweet, bubbly music won’t work in the opening of a horror film. Nor would an intense score with low rumbling bass satisfy the audience watching a child’s film.

The tone and the mood of the film are often set by music and visuals. There must be harmony or stark contrast to establish an emotional tonal quality at the story’s onset. This can be happy or sad or land anywhere in between. The key is ensuring it fits so naturally together that the audience feels it but doesn’t acknowledge it.

Setting the Film’s Pace

The pacing of the show is critical to its success. You don’t want a fast-action pace for a romantic drama—it won’t make sense to the audience. Nor do you want a long, thought-provoking pace for a cutting-edge adventure film. You must find the proper balance based on the genre your story fits.

Pace can also shift speed at specific times within the story to demonstrate relevance or alternating life patterns. A roller-coaster ride of a film becomes boring if things don’t slow down enough to reset the audience before the next thrill ride of the story.

Princess Cut 1 Opening

In Princess Cut 1, Paul opens with an intensely dramatic night scene of a man burying a wedding ring. This tells the audience that the film is a drama. But he then contrasts with a dreamy-eyed upbeat girl staring at wedding rings in a jewelry store. This suggests the story fits a romantic genre.

The audience wonders if this man and girl will get married or might collide in an emotional scene that dramatically alters their lives. The bottom line, Paul withholds the overt expression of the genre.

Princess Cut 2 Opening

Paul opens Princess Cut 2 with a harmonious mix of setting, music, and movement. The audience immediately knows who the main character is, and her life seems to be ideal. But to better grab the audience’s attention, Paul has the main character react to pain in a way that drives concern.

The main character seems to overcome it in time to move into a romantic moment. At this point, the audience thinks the film’s genre is romance, but that’s when the story shifts. Paul raises the drama levels with an emergency at the free clinic.

The audience starts to wonder what ties the emergency and the main character together. Again, Paul holds back from making a clear genre statement.

Princess Cut 3 Opening

Sheilah opens her story with the pace, tone, and setting that speaks to a romantic comedy, but she counters it with dramatic content—setting up a romantic drama. After a quick splash of title cards, she moves back to the drama, void of any possibility of romance.

At this point, the audience knows the story is a drama and who the main character is. The audience shares a concern for the main character’s circumstances, but we haven’t yet bonded with her enough to cheer her on to a better future.

Who Wins for Best Opening?

This is a tough call. Paul purposely withheld the establishment of the genre on purpose. This means he knows how to do it but chooses to keep the audience guessing. Maybe his flair for surprise overrides the audience’s need to confirm the genre they are watching.

What Paul may not know is how his choice makes the audience feel about how open they will be to his story’s message. Audience members who are unsure of what they’re watching tend to close their minds to new ideas. This kills the director’s cinematic argument.

If I were directing the film, I’d start with the jewelry store and not introduce the man until the second half of act 1. This would solidify the genre and help open the minds of the audience to the message I’d want to share. The man’s introduction would then become a tool for me to recapture the audience’s attention later in act 1.

Sheilah stays consistent with her leading character. The audience knows who she is and hopefully bonds with her through the opening crisis. Sheilah chose a crisis to start the film to symbolize the ashes of her life reflected in the PC3 title: Beauty from Ashes.

If I were directing the film, I’d take less risk than Sheilah. I’d have the opening of the film reflect a positive kindness shown by the lead to endear her to the audience. Then I’d follow it up with a series of crisis moments that place her life in a proverbial pile of ashes.

As for the winner, I’ve got to say they both win for taking chances as a director. In the long run, they will be better directors, having taken the chance on their openings. And, if their core audience loved the choices made, they’ve positioned the audience for their next film.

But do their choices lead to a stronger or weaker film? Read the next follow-up blog to find out.

Copyright © 2022 by CJ Powers

A Look at the Princess Cut Franchise

I seldom enjoy faith-based films. In fact, many are so poorly made that they rarely draw enough people to the box office for the film to break even. This is why faith-based franchises are rare.

You can imagine my surprise to learn of the Princess Cut franchise—the result of a husband and wife’s thematic storytelling of real love.

The first go at Princess Cut was a short film. Soon after its release, the filmmaker decided to expand the story and give it a second life as a feature film. Two sequels followed.

Having watched all three features, I thought I’d take advantage of their uniqueness and discuss them over a few blog posts. This won’t be your typical film review, as I’ll share my director’s view or perspective.

Producer/Director Paul Munger

I talked with producer/director Paul Munger, who was happy to receive any and all reviews for the films. He was passionate about the stories that he and his wife, Sheilah Munger, created. He pointed out that she even directed the third film.

When I heard that, I instantly knew I was going to review the films.

Why? Because my curiosity got the best of me.

I had to know if Paul or Sheilah was the better director.

You’ll be surprised by my answer.

The Logline

But before I dive into these family films, let’s start with the premise. A strong director always works from a logline. This is not a tagline. Nor is it a TV-Guide listing.

Loglines play out the overarching storyline in one to two sentences. They can be crafted in many different ways, but most reveal the main character, the uber bad guy or major conflict, and what’s at risk.

In the second film, Princess Cut 2: Hearts on Fire, Paul used a logline similar to the following:

Two expectant couples that are best friends face crushing upheavals in their lives which force them to make life-altering choices.

As a director, I find this type of logline too general. A logline is a blueprint for ensuring the story doesn’t morph into something it’s not supposed to be.

I would’ve focused the story more singularly. Here’s the specificity I would’ve given the story:

Expecting her firstborn, Lauren worries if she’s capable of being a good mom while managing the expansion of her business.

Not Right or Wrong, But Different

Neither Paul’s version nor mine is right or wrong. They are artistic choices that breathe vision into the entire production. In Paul’s version, he sees the story as an ensemble production, with no single person dominating the screen.

My version is very much about one person struggling to find a balance between work and family.

Paul’s version makes it clear that the battle is focused on man against nature or mankind. As a director, he made sure the words “face crushing upheavals” played out in clear ways, including an incredible storm with excellent special effects. Every upheaval raised the stakes in the film.

My version suggests the conflict is within the main character, who must find a way to overcome the incredible stress of giving birth while managing the risk of opening a second store.

At this point, you’ve decided on whether you prefer Paul’s version or my story blueprint.

But before you tell me whose version is of interest, let me clarify that we both built the logline from vital elements in the story. That’s right; when you watch the film, you’ll see both plotlines.

Driving the Story

The key question is what scenes best make up the throughline of the story.

A good director knows how to take the written word and translate it into a visual story on the screen. The best throughline of the story is something that has action or choices made by the featured character.

The director makes sure the audience knows what the main character’s goal is upfront. Then, they work hard to give the audience a reason to cheer the person on through til the end of the story.

If we never know the person’s goal, we never know if their ending is satisfying. Nor will we know when the film is over, except for the hints given by rolling credits.

I find single-character stories more compelling to watch. The audience can relate to the main character and face the same struggles. The audience can even try on the main character’s choices in their own life.

An ensemble piece shortens each character’s story and makes it harder for the audience to buy into a character’s choices. There is also less development time to cover the pros and cons of the suggested way of life. But, an ensemble almost always guarantees that you’ll relate to at least one of the characters.

In either case, the main story must run the entire length of the film for the audience to embrace the theme or message. This is not possible with an ensemble unless you feature one character above the others.

What’s Next

Now that I’ve introduced you to the Princess Cut franchise, I’ll explore several angles on these three films over my next few posts. Stay tuned to learn if Paul or Sheilah is the better director. And no, they do not know what I’m going to share.

©2022 by CJ Powers