Aliena on Set

From Chaos to Coordination: My Journey from Software Engineer to Production Assistant

The first day on the film set was an eye-opener. As a software engineer from the structured world of the creative industry, I was prepared for anything—or so I thought. In software development, clear structures and well thought-out processes are the key to success. I was used to managing projects with a precise schedule and defined milestones. But everything seemed different on the film set. This world seemed chaotic and unpredictable at first glance, but I was soon to find out that there was a deeper order here, too.

With my background in interface design and scrum methods, I curiously entered the world of film production. I just wanted to be on a set “in my spare time”, maybe as a set runner, I thought to myself. It couldn’t be that difficult. I had already learnt from society, my family and my close environment at the time:

“Making films is just a hobby anyway. Films are art and culture and therefore not really a profession.“

When I stepped onto this film set, I silently thought to myself: “Yes. I see. This is such a mess. This can’t be a real industry.” Somehow, incredibly little was happening. Everyone was constantly running around and doing things, but the camera was rarely rolling. At the same time, I quickly realized the passion and commitment behind every scene.

I wondered if I would actually see a finished pilot episode of a series later on. It was a mess that seemed impenetrable to me, but I was determined to understand more.

And soon I began to recognize the precise coordination and silent interplay that lay behind the apparent confusion. I watched the people and listened to the conversations being held quietly over walkie-talkies. During the breaks, I spoke to various people from different departments and learnt about the importance of every little cog in the production process. Everyone seemed to have a well-defined role and although it looked uncoordinated from the outside, everyone knew exactly what they had to do.

I was rarely directly involved in the filming, spending a lot of time in the car running errands, going shopping or simply waiting in the car until I got an instruction. It was often cold, wet, and exhausted. The challenges I encountered strengthened my respect for the work on a film set and the people who bring this world to life with passion and commitment.

These experiences had a lasting impact on my career. I realised that there is much more to every successful production than just the visible aspects. The long preparation time and intensive work that goes into every scene are often not visible from the outside. I learnt that good planning and communication are essential to ensure a smooth production. During my time in the car, getting materials and in the breaks between instructions, I began to recognise the finely tuned processes. These small moments of waiting gave me the opportunity to see the bigger picture. The apparent disorganisation turned out to be a well thought-out system in which everyone played a vital role and the interplay between departments was essential.

The conditions on set were often tough. Long working days, unpredictable weather conditions and the constant pressure to get perfect shots were the order of the day. Despite these challenges, the team remained committed and focussed. I was deeply impressed by the energy and perseverance shown by each individual.

My training and experience as a software engineer had honed me for efficiency and structure. But on set, I realised that flexibility and the ability to react quickly to change were just as important. Requirements were constantly changing and the ability to adapt was crucial to success. These realisations were not only instructive, but also inspiring. They showed me that behind every successful production is a combination of rigorous planning and spontaneous creativity.

These experiences sharpened my respect for film production. It became clear that it takes much more than just a creative vision to realise a successful production. I realised that behind every successful production there is careful planning and extensive preparation. A well-organised set is the result of months, often years, of preparation. Every step, from the script to the final shot, requires meticulous planning and co-operation.

I remember a conversation with the first producer I ever met. He asked me: “How much preparation time do you think went into this pilot series episode?” My naive answer of one to two weeks only elicited a smile from him. Today I know that it took ten months of preparation and three years of script development. This long preparation time was necessary to take all the details into account and ensure a smooth set.

All those insights have changed my perspective on film production immensely. I now see the huge amount of work that goes into every production and understand the importance of planning, preparation and collaboration.

Since these first impressions, I have worked on many well-organised and friendly sets. Conditions improved noticeably: basic needs were met and a positive working atmosphere was the norm. These sets showed me the importance of good planning and clear communication to ensure a smooth production. The careful preparation and respectful interaction created an environment where everyone involved could feel comfortable and give their best.

I remember one set where we were shooting in the middle of the night. Although it was cold and dark, there was a palpable camaraderie among the team members. Everyone knew what to do and there were rarely any unnecessary delays. This experience confirmed my belief that a well-organised set not only increases productivity, but also fosters creativity. When everyone involved can rely on each other, an atmosphere is created in which great films can be made.

The combination of technical precision and creative freedom is crucial. My technical skills as an engineer and my creative passion for film production complement each other perfectly at this point. This synergy allows me to organise projects efficiently and creatively at the same time. I have learnt that structure and flexibility are not opposites, but complement each other. A well-thought-out plan provides the framework in which creative ideas can flow freely.

During my time as a software engineer, I learnt to appreciate the importance of clear structures and processes. But on the film set, I realised that flexibility and the ability to adapt quickly to new situations are just as important. This combination of planning and improvisation is what makes film production so unique and fascinating. Every day of filming is different, and it’s this variety that keeps me coming back for more.

With dirAct, we want to bring a balance to flexibility, planning and hard work on any film production and enable a smooth process. Our goal is to help filmmakers realise their visions efficiently and creatively. We believe that the future of film production lies in the seamless integration of technology and creativity. By utilising technology such as project management tools and communication platforms, I have found ways to increase efficiency on set while creating space for creativity to flourish. These tools help to maintain an overview and ensure that everyone involved is always on the same page. They make it possible to react quickly to changes and still keep the focus on the essentials.

With dirAct, we created a tool which is tailored for these film projects and therefore even enhance the understanding of the tool beforehand. We have the opportunity to revolutionise the way films are produced and finally coordinate the set efficiently and thoughtfully.