Modeling in Japan: On-Set Etiquette

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Photo by Roberto Spigarelli
August 2, 2013

You’ve booked the job- YAY! You know where you’re supposed to be and what you’re supposed to do. So let’s talk about a few do’s and don’ts for working with a crew in Japan. Unlike in the U.S., you’ll likely go with your booker to the shoot to make sure you’re there on time and know what’s expected of you. You’ll likely meet your agent at a station and the two of you will head to set. If it’s a multi-day shoot, your booker will likely go with you on the first day to make sure you’re set up, and then leave you for the remainder of the shoot.

If it’s a commercial, you’ll be introduced (or re-introduced from the audition) to the director and production staff. You’ll also meet any fellow actors you’ll be working with that day. There’s usually a talent holding room (or rooms) where you’ll find the makeup artist and wardrobe people, as well as craft services. Once you know the lay of the land, the booker takes off and you prepare to work.

Do this:

Prepare.

Obviously you’ve prepped at home, but once you’re on set you can make adjustments now that you’re in the set space. If you have a character with emotional changes, build them out. If you have props, know how to handle them. If you’re modeling crazy clothes, work with wardrobe to get comfortable and be able to hit a range of poses. Use this time to get everything you need in place so when you’re up, you’re ready.

Bring something to do.

It’s a “hurry up and wait” business: you’ll spend a lot of time hanging out while the crew sets up and other people shoot their scenes, so now is a great time to read or practice Japanese. While preparing is important, you don’t want to drive yourself insane, so relax and make sure you are accessible, but out of the way.

Meet you scene partner(s).

It’s good to chat with your fellow actors or models so that you’re not super stiff on camera. Develop a professional camaraderie to smooth the chemistry and make working together more fun. This is super important if you’re doing couple or group work.

Don’t do this:

Be in the crew people’s faces. 

In my experience, Japanese crews are super polite, and they won’t tell you to go away like they do in America. Lighting and cameras are super interesting, but you need to get out of the way so they can do their job. If you’re supposed to sit tight in the green room, sit tight in the green room.

Disappear. 

I’ve been on so many sets where bored models wander off to other areas of a building to take a phone call, or even just stroll around out of boredom. If you’re needed on set and you step out “for five minutes” you’re stopping production. This is a great way to kill a career, especially in a small market like ours.

Become the director.

Actors, especially new actors, who start directing other actors, talking over the actual director, seriously? Please. Just stop. Don’t pull this unprofessional and super-douchey move. The director has a vision, the AD knows how the final product is supposed to look—you are a conduit for all of this, you don’t get to decide.

Make it easy for your scene partners to get to where they need to be by delivering the best performance or poses you possibly can. Telling actors and models what to do can be construed as insulting, and makes you look like a control freak.

Obviously, there are tons of other do’s and don’ts, but these are my top contenders for immediate consideration. Most of on-set etiquette is common sense, but understanding how a set works, as well as your place in it, helps you become more professional and build a lasting career. Break a leg. 🙂

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Writer, actor, beauty junkie, smart aleck.

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  • Daisy mae Tantuan says:

    hi! im daisymae, im 19 years and i am a filipino. im so interested to be a model in japan and i dont have experience to modeling. can you help me what should i do

  • Eija Niskanen says:

    I would add: be on time for audition and work meetings. I did TV/movie extra/modeling in Japan, and numerous were the occasions, when the talent agency manager and a bunch of us models were waiting at a subway station for some latecomer to show up. Usually it was the same people, who were chronically late, with always some excuse.

    • Cynthia Popper says:

      Of course. I thought this went without saying. Early in on time, and on time is late. 🙂

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