How to Survive On a Music Video Set

Hey you! Yeah, you! Do you want to be a world famous music video personality? Well don’t we all? Slow your role and I’ll tell you how to survive on set. A lot of our favorite artists like to put out behind the scenes or BTS videos about what’s happening behind the camera at their music video shoot. Yes, you do see some fun things going on like the star pranking their team members, maybe some celebrity appearances and some old friends that the star grew up with. Other than that the only thing really going on is a bunch of waiting. The point of the behind the BTS video is to make an ordinary day look super exciting; think about it: The BTS has a director so you already know that the material is not organic, then there’s always some person you’ve never heard of with a featured twitter handle talking about absolute nonsense. It’s basically a short commercial designed to make your favourite artist look human but still super cool. Did you see the BTS for BBHMM? All Rihanna did was semi-sing the song and just groove to how good she thought it was with some random people we don’t know. The only person really having that much of a great time is the artist and probably their manager. I’m not saying that being on set isn’t fun because it is; you get to meet cool new people, free snacks, the artist will usually come and meet/greet the extras and you’ll actually get to see yourself on TV when it’s all done. It’s definitely not a picnic though, being an extra isn’t for everyone, but it is a necessary step to take if you want to move up in the music video business.

You’ll arrive to set about 2 hours early just so they can collect all of you. The stylist on the set will want to see if the outfits you brought work for the video so that time also goes to changing/dressing and make up. There will be a makeup artist on set, but trust me it’s not for you. If the artist is a decent person they’ll spring for some actual food for all of you hungry youngsters, if not then expect to be munching on chips, apples and drinking bottled water. As an extra you are a part of the background so no one really feels that they have to tell you the plan for the day. If you are the main chick/guy however you get to be tended to by a makeup artist, some decent pay and you most likely get to go home first which is actually a great thing. There are some music videos that will pay you as an extra/background talent, but most are non-paying (especially if you are first starting out). So here are the basic things you need to know about your survival as a video hopeful.

1. It’s not a party: Everybody getting drunk is just “doing it for the vine” AKA they’re pretending. In all actuality a music video costs lots of money to make so they don’t want a bunch of drunkies wobbling around, arguing and breaking expensive equipment. So when you see music videos on TV where everyone is getting “turnt up” just know that it’s not actually happening. I was once on set for a video where people were being sent home for bringing alcohol.

2. Expect to be there all day: Most video shoots will start after that 2 hour wait/prep time, but sometimes production still runs late. The director also has to figure out the blocking (where they want you to stand) for each scene which can take a long time. Then with each scene they’ll want to film it again and again and again from different angles. They might redo the scene too if the artist makes a mistake or if the extras don’t look like they’re having a good time.

3. Bring an activity that isn’t your phone: Most likely the location will be remote and there will be no free charging outlets because of all the equipment. In these situations you’re better off making friends or bringing a book because they don’t tell you how long the shoot will last and you may have to call a ride. ***Also you’re not allowed to take any pictures of the set, you’re sworn to secrecy until the video drops. ***

4. You won’t know the song: Most times they won’t tell you what song it is due to a whole marketing plan they already have drawn up. This is why you can’t take any pictures or snapchats of the set that let people know what video you’re at and what artist it’s for. They’ve worked hard so they don’t want any social media leaks. Also it’s awkward at first to dance when you haven’t heard the song, but by the end of the day it’ll be stuck in your head.

5. Bring supplies: Unless you have an agent you have to fend for yourself so bring anything you think you might need: Flashlights, sweaters, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, extra juice, lotion, etc. You’d really be surprised at the things they won’t provide for you even though you’re probably working for free.

6. Networking isn’t that easy: Sets are great places to meet other video/acting hopefuls, artists and even friends; just don’t go thinking that you’re gonna wiggle your way into the artist's entourage. I’ve been on a few sets where people were acting all extra because they were trying to show everyone else how cool they were and talk about all the other videos they’ve been in… those people annoy me. Don’t be that person. At the end of the day you’re all still at the same place: You’re not famous (yet).  Networking is still possible, as corny as it sounds though just be yourself and the right people will find you.

7. Take it for what it is: It’s an easy opportunity for exposure so just try to make the most of it and have a good time. - Asha Mullings