Tales from Lock Up

The other day, I tweeted out the above image, from Movie Set Memes, about lock up. I got some interesting responses:

Note the key difference between j.’s and Anthony’s tweets: there were police officers on j.’s set. This is incredibly important.

Cars

You should never, ever, ever try to block traffic without a police officer.1 It doesn’t matter if your film has a permit to film on the street, or if you’re just stealing a shot, trying to redirect or hold cars is super illegal. (Of course, you shouldn’t be shooting on the street without a permit anyway, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)

It’s also incredibly dangerous. You should never be in a public road that hasn’t been blocked by police. Drivers aren’t looking for a lonely PA standing in the middle of the lane, which makes it easy to not notice you until it’s too late.

On a professional shoot, the locations department will have figured out the lock up weeks ahead of time. They’ll get the permits, hire the officers, all that stuff. The cops’ main job is to direct vehicle traffic.

Pedestrians

You, the common set PA, may still be called upon to direct pedestrians. And there will be pedestrians. Even in an industry town like Los Angeles, people love to gather and gawk at the shoot, hoping to catch a glimpse of a celebrity. You probably can’t prevent them from taking pictures, but you can politely tell them not to walk onto set. (Again, always assuming you have a permit that allows you to keep people out of a public space.)

Be sure to tell them you’re “filming,” not “shooting.” That’s a misunderstanding that could lead to a 911 call.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Usually, they’re off-duty or retired officers, but they’re still acting in an official capacity when the studio pays for their services.
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3 Comments

  1. “On a professional shoot, the locations department will have figured out the lock up weeks ahead of time. They’ll get the permits, hire the officers, all that stuff. The cops’ main job is to direct vehicle traffic.”

    As someone who works in Locations, this one made me laugh. I’ve worked on many professional shoots that didn’t have this figured out weeks (or days, or hours, or even minutes) ahead of time. Why? Well, it comes down to poor planning, poor communication, or a poor production, and the problem is most likely compounded by producers, directors, and assistant directors who definitely aren’t poor.

    This is why all PAs should try to dip their toes in Locations at some point: if you think it sucks when there aren’t enough PAs to lock up a sidewalk and you’re getting reamed by an AD, try being a Location Assistant and telling them that they can’t lock up the street because there aren’t enough traffic cops.

    Good luck!

  2. Oh to be sure there were cops–they were handling and redirecting car traffic…the poor PA I spoke with said that they were spread out two to a block trying to keep people from wandering into the fringes of the shot…he said it was the most intense day player gig he’d ever gotten…

  3. 1.) Ped Traffic means people on the sidewalk and not cars.

    Regardless I think this is an interesting post, because having a PA lockup car traffic without a cop present is a real issue that many low budget movies try to “get by.” Pointing out that one production doesn’t have cops is barely scratching the surface of improper safety practices.

    Unfortunately for your post, I am Legend was a professional shoot with the largest lockups the city has ever seen (that movie set a precedent that you can no longer shut down Times Square). I’m pointing it out because by the language of your post, you’re implying otherwise.

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