Before I get into the tips, it is important to differentiate between two different types of crews.
- Big Budget Crew
- Micro Budget Crew
When you read the credits after a big budget film, often the scroll will last fifteen minutes. There are a vast myriad of different people who do many different crew roles on the set. Recently I was invited by Director Michael Apted on to his $140 million film "The Chronicles of Narnia The Adventures of the Dawn Treader."*. The Film was shot at the Gold Coast Warner Brothers Studio in Australia.
The crowd on set resembled the entrance to a football stadium on Match Day. One could hardly move. The set was packed. So many crew were doing different jobs. One lady I spoke to was the Dialogue Coach for specifically one of the young actresses. She probaly did ten minutes work all day. The rest of the time she was on call and doing nothing more than spectator. That is the big end of town
The other end is the Micro Budget Film Crew which is all about efficiency and effectivness. Everything is about working smart and hard. Many crew roles are double ups and one crew member could well be doing three different roles.
Here are my top five tips.
1 Keep the Crew lean mean and keen.
What I mean by this, is keep the crew to the bare minimum to effectively shoot. An effective crew is about 10 - 15 members. However some crews are smaller. There were days on The Makeover where we had only seven working crew members and that included me as the Director Producer and DOP. On my Online Film School and Weekend Film School, I outline the Crew needed and where to find them. I also show you how I have designed my Crew Contract. This Contract motivates and inspires crews to work smarter and more focused. In fact many of my crew treated "The Makeover" as if it was their film.
2 Keep your shoots to five days per week and no longer than 12 hours per day.
Twelve hour days are from arrival on set to conclusion. This is so important. Every crew member is keen to be working on the film and no one wants to be seen to be tired or a whinger. Give your crew two days off per week. When you do the above you will have a happy crew and not a bickering crew. As a Producer or/and Director, please do not take advantage of your crews enthusiasm. Do not flog your crew.
Just as an aside, time on set goes so fast. There are many times the First AD calls lunch and I will say to him" Why are you calling lunch at 9am" He will reply. "Look at your watch. Its 1pm" Time accelerates and goes so fast on set. The reason for this is that as a Director, you are fully in the moment and a 100% focused.
3 Treat the crew with respect and love. Feed the Crew exceptionally well Good healthy food that nourishes the crew is like filling up your car with grade A Petrol (Gasoline). Your crew will work so much better and they will appreciate your efforts. This ultimately results in a better film. Do not welsh on this area. Be generous and if you are smart you can feed a crew really well for about $200 per day. You can learn all the tricks on our Online Film School or Weekend Film School
4 Ever Crew member must have a written contract or agreement and agree willingly to the terms set in the contract. This is so important. The crew feels secure knowing that you will pay what is owed when the film is successful. Also it will protect the producer from unwarranted claims when the film is a big hit. Everyone will know what they are owed. I always add in a clause that our bookkeeper will update crew on Sales for the film. This is very important at the micro budget end of the market.
5 Always keep the crew informed about the progress of your film in film festivals and sales. Most micro budget crews are paid in shares and a small cash payment. They work on your film for fun and career advancement. Many times, they are seeking experience and credits so that they can get the next job. Long after wrap, they will wonder what ever happened to the film. Keep them informed of the progress via regular email updates.
6 Throw the best parties mid-shoot and on the final day at wrap and at the Cast and Crew Screening. This is important because it can be a time to promote the film and celebrate the amazing achievement of shooting your film.
If you want to set up a career as a regular film crew person, work your way up via working on the micro budget films. Over time you will find yourself on the bigger budget film crews where you will be paid exceptionally well. Work begets work, so always accept the lower budget jobs when starting out.
If you want the best start that money can buy please look at our practical film courses on http://www.australianfilmbase.com/ or at our Online Film School on http://internationalfilmbase.com/ This way you will effectively attract work on micro budget films or/and create your very own film production.
Till next week have a great one.
Director International Film Base.
Author Details: Colm O'Murchu is the owner of International Film Base in Sydney Australia. He is currently written directed and produced The Makeover Feature Film. The Film screened at the recent Cannes Independent Film Festival in France and won Best Film at the New York City Film Festival. The Film is currently on release in Australia and has sold to Pay TV in Europe. Colm has created the Online Film School that helps emerging film makers produce their own films with no budget. For more about Colm O'Murchu please go to International Film Base.com
* "The Chronicles of Narnia The Adventures of the Dawn Treader" was the 12th highest-grossing film of 2010 with over $415 million and received a nomination at the 68th Golden Globe Awards. The film was released by 20th Century Fox
Preparation is everything for a Film Director.
When you are starting out , it is a challenge to direct on a film set.
Everytime I work with an emerging Film Director, I see similar problems. The biggest problem by far is "Lack of Preparation"
So here is a little on Film Directing 101.
Preparation is paramount. Preparation is the number one most important duty of the Film Director.
Here are some pointers.
Know your script inside out. Study the script and break it down so that you understand the story intimately
Cast the film with the very best Actors that you can get. You will need an audition process which we teach on our Film Schools.
Make sure that you have a rehearsal with your actors. This is so important
Make sure you do your reccies.( Reconnaissance ) In other words, prepare on set or at the location. Go to the place where you will shoot a few days in advance.
It is great if you can have your rehearsal on set, as you can lock off your blocking. Blocking is the movement that a director plans for the actors on set.
Once you have worked out your blocking, Shot List. A Shot List is a list of shots that the director creates to cover the scene.
If your DOP is present at the Reccie, make sure that he or she works out their lighting plan.
If your Production Designer is present, work out the look of the set. On low budget films, you usually work with an existing location such as a lounge room in a friends house. Make sure that your Production Designer works with you on the look of the lounge room. It must look like the character in your story, lives here. This will require sourcing props and set dressing.
Visit your costume designer or wardrobe person and work out the costumes for the actors. Wardrobe will usually meet the actors in advance and measure them for the costumes. In many low budget films, the actors bring in several outfits that they own and the Director picks the best one. However this is prone to produce a poor costume as the actor may well be broke and have tatty St Vinnies clothes. In this case run to the nearest clothes shop and borrow some clothes. This same situation happened on a student short film shot last Saturday. In fact the Make Up artist went to designer shop and found a beautiful fitted out executive clothes for our actor. The shop was delighted and all they wanted was a credit in the film in return.
It is amazing how people will help out a low budget film maker. If the film maker is putting their heart and soul into the film production, minor miracles will happen all over the production. However there is one most important factor in every film. The bottom line is the more preparation that the director and producer does in pre production, the better for the shoot. What is the best way to learn this? On our Film Schools. There is nothing like doing this for real and our film Schools teach by shooting a real film.