Walkie Talking Around

imagejpeg_3“Yeah, breaker one-nine, this here’s the Rubber Duck; you got a copy on me, Pigpen? C’mon.”

C. W. McCall, Convoy

There are quite a few film blogs on walkie-talkies.  So I why am I writing another?  Well, it was shown to me the other night by one of my day calls that we need to have just one more… one that maybe just us costumers are reading.

We don’t use trucker talk on the walkies.  But I do think it would be tons of fun to say:

“Breaker-Breaker, this here’s Costume Chick, you got your ears on Camera Dude?”

But really, we film workers use the walkies all-day everyday.  They’re wired directly into our ears for upwards of 15 – 18 hrs a day and I am sure that all the non-useful chatter would be hard to take after two hours!  So we try to keep it down to quick pieces of information that we need to pass on fast.   If the conversation is a little longer… we take it all to channel 2.

Okay, channel 2… what?

Walkie-talkies usually have 16 channels.  Number 1 is for the running of the set and has a constant flow of information that keeps all departments on track.  Channel 2 and sometimes 3 are used to have longer conversations about an item that is needed or information that is being passed on.

The other channels are for individual departments like Grips, Electrics, Locations, AD’s, Props, SPFX and Camera.

Nope, we Wardrobians don’t get our own channel.  In my entire career I have only been assigned a department channel one time, and that was because our costume crew had forty people on it.  No worries though!  Our circus or base camp is often so far away that the walkie signals don’t reach anyway.  This is where cell phones come in so handy!

photo 1

Love my walkie holder made by Colin Mayhew!

Have I mentioned how good I’m getting at texting!

Okay, so if you are new on set and are assigned a walkie.  Here are some basic rules to know:

1. Walkies are not toys so do not play with them… or use as a hammering device.

2. Swearing and abusive language are not acceptable under any circumstances.

3. Keep in mind that walkies are like a film set Internet… no conversation is private.  If you need to have a private conversation use your phone or speak in person.

Most important…

LISTEN!  Ear_14439206

Yep, capitals.  Listen for your name or the department.  If someone says, costumes go to 2, then go to channel 2 and listen in on the conversation.

Nope, this isn’t eavesdropping… this is information gathering.

If you overhear that the extras need help, or the umbrellas are needed at the door or so many other things… and you are not doing anything at the moment, be proactive and go see if you can help.

Sometimes when I get called to channel 2 and asked for help, but my hands are already full, I will ask if anyone is listening in and then delegate the job appropriately.  When my team is listening in on those conversation, not only does information get passed on quickly, but the many on-the-spot tasks that come up so frequently get taken care of so much more efficiently than if I have to go back to channel 1, call for my crew to go back to channel 2, then explain to them about the conversation they just missed!

Okay, you are now a walkie listening expert!  Knowing how to use your walkie for listening will make a ton of difference to your day and how your job is done.CP_YodaWalkieTalkie

But now you need to be able to speak into it!  Don’t worry, it doesn’t bite.

Basic walkie conversation etiquette:

1. Take a moment to make sure that you are not ‘stepping on’ someone, that is, queuing your walkie (pressing the speak button) or starting your conversation before someone else is finished speaking.  Only one person at a time can speak on any given channel.

2. When you are ready to speak, push the button, wait one beat, then call the name of the person you want to with their correct department attached, like; “Dawn Climie, Costumes?”  Waiting a beat before speaking gives time for the walkie to engage and to make sure that you are not cutting off the first part of the information you’re sharing or the name of the person you are calling.  You’d be amazed how many people habitually start speaking before they have the button pressed.

3. Once you are done speaking, let go of the button!  Nobody can answer you until you do.

4. Speak in a normal, clear voice.  Don’t yell or whisper into the walkie!  Those of us on headsets have to turn up and down our walkies all day to hear the whispers and save our eardrums from the yellers!

5. Now, wait for conformation that the person you are asking for has heard you… then start your conversation.

EG Conversation:

Me: “Hey Stacey Costumes….

You: “Ah, go for Stacey costumes…”

Me: “What’s your 20 Stacey”

You: “Go to 2”

Click over to channel 2

Me: “On 2.  What’s your 20?”

You: “10-1”

Me: “Copy that!”

Lingo too much?  Don’t worry, you’ll pick it up and there is a glossary at the bottom of this blog.:)

It is super important to attach the department to the name when you are calling someone.  There are often many crew members with the same sounding names, if you just say John go to 2 you can get a lot of John’s, some Shawn’s, a few Tom’s and a Dawn thrown in!  It can become very frustrating for everybody on walkie!


Hello! That’s me in the pink hat! Dawn Costumes hanging with Dawn Transport… Can you guess how many times we answered the walkie for each other!

On most sets, you will probably be required to wear a headset with your walkie-talkie.  The production will usually supply Take-Out style headsets… you know the kind you see folks wearing who work the fast food take-out windows.  These can be tricky to wear, tough to keep on your head and downright painful when your hair comes off with the headset!  I find the trick to wearing them is the effective addition of a baseball cap.ux_a11120500ux0264_ux_g03

Saying the above… most film veterans have purchased their own headsets.  You can purchase discreet comfortable in-ear headsets… yes, like the Presidential security detail ones… and even customize the earpiece like musicians do!  These can be expensive and you will need to take care of them or you will throw money out the window… film sets are hard on gear, even ear pieces.S69-1428

Walking around with a your walkie-talkie chattering away in your ear for the first time can be very overwhelming.  It is all a lot to deal with, especially the constant chatter, the urgent tones and diligently listening for your name to the detriment of all the other tasks you need to accomplish.  It doesn’t take to long to learn to just let the noise wash over you.  Gradually, your brain will learn to pick out the important details; your name, your department or even a mention of a costume piece.

Okay now you know it all!  You have your walkie… you are plugged in and ready to go to set.

So the final piece is the lingo… most of which has actually been passed down by our CB chattin’, long haul truckin’ friends… that you will often hear on your walkie-talkie while you are on set!  Here are a few that are important to know about:

  • 10-1 (10-100): This is the standard walkie chat for a bathroom break. Other websites list 10-2 as well but I have never heard a costumer go into that much description.  Really I don’t care what you are doing in the bathroom, just that you are running away from set for a bit!
  • Copy or Copy that: This is used to confirm that you understand the request that came over the walkie.
  • Going off Walkie: Some people will shut off their walkies during lunch or on a bathroom break.  If you need to turn your walkie off this is a great way of letting the other costumers know that you are no longer listening in.
  • Stand by: This is used when you are busy or have your hands full.  It lets people know you are occupied and they will not continue to call you over and over again till you answer.
  • Standing by: This confirms that you have heard the request to stand by.
  • John, Transport or Dawn, Costumes – I prefer to call a person with their department attached when you are looking for them.  Some people may say “Dawn for John” – This is something that I find a little confusing when heard on the walkie.  As discussed above, use the person’s name AND department to avoid confusion.
  • Go for John: When someone calls for you over the walkie you respond with “Go for *your name here*”. This lets them know that you have heard them and are listening.
  • What’s your 20: This means ‘where are you?’.
  • Eyes on John: ‘Eyes on’ is used when you have someone or something in your sight. Often you will hear, Do you have eyes on the cast? or Do you have eyes on the director?
  • Flying in: If you have been requested to come to a certain area or bring something to a certain area, ‘flying in’, tells the requestor that you are on your way.

Your walkie talkie is an essential piece of film gear and used properly, can help you and your department run like clockwork.  As with all pieces of valuable film gear… protect your walkie, keep it dry and clean and it will serve you well.  Abuse your walkie and you are liable to get an earful of squelch… from the walkie and your producer!

Have fun out there!

Costume Chick, Over and Out!

Paul Brandt – Convoy

2 thoughts on “Walkie Talking Around

  1. Great post!!!! I remember the first time I was on set + left with a walkie that I had NO IDEA how to use! When someone called me to 2 I nervously responded, “H-h-h-h-ello???? This is Shelli???”. Walkie speak is definitely it’s own language! I LOVE your walkie holster!!!!!

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