She calls herself a “hall monitor,” but those co-workers who know her best prefer “Nee-nee,” an affectionate nickname her older sister dreamed up when she was a kid in Chicago. By any name, Renée Hill-Sweet says the best tools she brings to her job as a 2nd 2nd AD are abundant humor and a knack for extreme multitasking.
“Most days you’ll find me at base camp with two cellphones, someone on my walkie-talkie, three people in front of me with questions and an actor calling out my name from his trailer,” she jokes. “My job is about making decisions on instinct. The challenge is to correctly prioritize, while ensuring everybody still feels their needs are uppermost and being met.”
No one’s more important to Hill-Sweet than the cast. On Dreamgirls she had to make sure more than 40 actors and dancers, including all the featured extras and leads, arrived at the staging area away from the set and made it through hair, makeup and wardrobe, to get to the set on time. Where most shows will have a single trailer for both hair and makeup, Dreamgirls had five—and Hill-Sweet had to run between all of them to keep her cast on schedule.
Sometimes it takes more than fast feet to get the job done. When a Dreamgirls star was more than an hour late for a set call, Hill-Sweet started to get worried. “It was very early in the morning and I couldn’t get in touch with the manager of the apartment complex,” she recalls. “I had the limo driver climb up onto the balcony and bang on the patio door. It turned out the person had just overslept and was so startled to be awakened, the actor ran downstairs to the car and left the driver to climb back down himself.”
Since going through the DGA Trainee Program nine years ago, Hill-Sweet has jumped back and forth between series television (The Practice) and features (Norbit, Crank). Her day usually ends hunkered down at her laptop doing paperwork—production reports, timecards, and actor’s sign-out sheets—or supervising a DGA trainee. Although she says she’s known for her open, even raunchy sense of humor, Hill-Sweet insists a 2nd 2nd’s job should come with a warning label. “Actors’ trailers are very open and vulnerable environments,” she laughs. “I’ve had to learn fast how to be cool and not react outwardly, even though inside I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my God. I don’t want to see that person without their clothes!’”