Having a good laugh when you’re on set can be fun, but every once in a while it’s not appropriate. It’s important to know when you shouldn’t burst out laughing not only because people could get offended, but worse, they could think you don’t care about their production.
In general, when you’re first starting out on a production and you don’t know the crew well, it’s best to let things happen and try not to show too many emotions (unless you have to for the scene). The more emotional you are in real life (whether it’s laughter, annoyance, anger, or sadness), the more people will form opinions about you. And because you don’t necessarily know whether those opinions will be positive or negative, it’s better not to get too involved until you get used to everyone and know who they are and how they think.
I’ve worked on set where new actors can’t seem to get a line right and just burst out laughing in multiple takes. Not only does this look unprofessional, but it can say to the director that you don’t take their project seriously.
Also, be very careful of laughing when someone on set messes something up. I’ve been on set where a steadicam operator ran through a field grabbing shots. He tripped and fell over a root. It was absolutely hilarious, but the camera fell and one of the lenses was damaged. A couple of people found it amusing, but the director and primary crew did not at all.
The behind-the-scenes videographer captured the fall and replayed it for people to their amusement. However, the steadicam operator asked him to delete the footage. His career could be completely killed from a mistake like that getting out!
All of this isn’t to scare you into never laughing on set. It is to get you consciously thinking about when it’s appropriate and when it’s not. Truth is, you’ll never know for sure. Instead, avoid laughing during the first few shooting days unless you see the director or a higher up laughing. If everyone else is cracking up and having a good time, by all means, feel free to join. If the crew seems somber and quiet, it’s best not to be the laughing one in the group.
Martin Bentsen has spoken numerous times at New York University. He has run educational seminars at Actors Connection and other acting studios as well. These seminars focus on branding and marketing strategies for performers. Mr. Bentsen has written an informational book called Get Cast™, as well. It focuses on marketing tactics actors can use to find more consistent work. He is a member of both the National Association of Sales Professionals and Sales & Marketing Executives International, two highly acclaimed marketing organizations in the United States.
Martin graduated in 2011 with honors from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Film and Television program. Naturally, his focus was directing. City Headshots®, which he founded in 2010, is the top headshot studio in New York according to Yelp. Martin’s long term goal is to run major business and actor marketing seminars across the country while expanding his City Headshots brand to go international