Tuesday, August 6, 2013

So You Want to Make a Movie - Hiring the Crew

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

Step 12. Hiring the Crew

One of the most important tasks you will perform as a producer during pre-production is assembling cast members. Finding competent production people who will work for no money or at a substantially lower rate will be a challenge. Remember, you can’t pay everyone top dollar and finish your film. Once again, you must become a deal maker and give potential crew members a reason to work on your movie. Everyone is trying to move up in this business and will look for a production credit. For example, a First Assistant Camera Operator aspires to be a Director of Photography. A First Assistant Director wants to be the Director. The boom operator wants to be a sound mixer. I think you get the point. So the best way to get crew members on your budget is to offer them a credit on the next rung up on whichever ladder they are climbing. As long as you think they can do the job, this is a great strategy.

Another reason why confident production people may consider working on your movie is if they believe you have a great script and that their work will be seen by a large audience. Even thought the pay is minimal, this kind of motivation makes your offer attractive. As a deal maker, you have to understand what buttons you have to push and what type of incentives you need to have to convince professional and experienced crew members to work on our film. The best place to find potential crew members is to call your local or state Film Commission, commercial production companies, and large churches that have media ministries. Get referrals, references, and a demo real. With some research and doing your homework, you will find out “who’s who” in production in your area.

There are various issues you have to think about. (1) How many crew members do I need to get the job done? (2) Which crew members get paid and which ones don’t get paid? (3) How do I mix professional crew with inexperienced crew? (4) How do I get my crew to work as a team? (5) How do I get my crew to work long hours?

You need to be upfront with your crew. No secrets. Here are the paid positions. Here are the nonpaid positions. Believe me; this is going to save a lot of hard feelings and other potential problems down the road. You need to be frank about the schedule and long hours. As a low-budget filmmaker, you are shooting your film on a shoestring budget; therefore, any crew member either hired or volunteer needs to understand this. There is no big stack of cash that you’re hiding somewhere. Make sure they want the job, understand the facts, and are on board with the plan. When you are open and honest, you will have a happy and productive crew. Take care of the trust issue up front. And I don’t care if you have a Christian crew, the same issues will apply.

Hiring crew should start with the department heads, which include the Director of Photography, Production Manager, Assistant Director, and Production Designer. I’m sure by this time you’ve either hired someone to direct your movie or you are planning on doing it yourself. So, doing the math: that’s five key paid positions.

Also, there are three key positions which fall under the department heads that are a must. They include sound mixer/recordist, camera operator, and gaffer. Now we are up to eight paid positions. Here’s how most films work: you hire the department heads, give them a budget, and they hire the positions that fall within their departments. Remember, the money you have is the money you have. If they can stretch it to hire more people, great! Either way, eventually you are going to have to count on volunteers and inexperienced crew members to fill out the roster.

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