It takes a village to make a film, and, as the filmmaker, it’s up to you to find your village.
But how big a village do you really need to make a film?
A very, very independent film, with little to no budget, short or long requires crew, just like any studio film, or film with real money.
So once you have some crew to choose from, how do you decide how many you really need?
How do you find a balance between saying ‘yes’ to everyone who wants to help you, as well as their second cousins who are visiting from out of town, having only the essential crew, with little to no cost, or not having enough help, and therefore making it extremely difficult to achieve your vision and make the film.
I have shot films with no crew, just me running camera, and with too many people and everything in between, and I can tell you its a constant balancing act, at any budget.
It is very tempting to say yes to whoever shows an interest, one, because you don’t know if they will even show up and two, because you may think that more is better when it comes to crew.
But, in my experience, ‘more’ is sometimes just ‘too many,’ and if you can’t keep an eye on everyone, or have someone who’s job it is to do that, (Production Manager) or if you turn around during the shoot and see someone looking idle or in the wrong place or heaven forbid, chatting to someone who should be working because they don’t think they have anything else to do, then you have too many.
There is also the additional cost of having extra PA’s or whatever, remember, you are feeding these people, or trying to, and one more person is one more plate of lasagna.
So I always ask myself the question, “is this person so essential that I want to buy them breakfast, lunch and possibly dinner?
Usually, however tempted I may be to have a large crew, the answer is ‘no,’ quickly followed by, “actually let’s ask everyone who is coming if they can bring a packed lunch”….just kidding.
Seriously, food is the one part of the budget where I am happy to spend some money and if you knew my measurements you would understand why! If you can’t pay anyone, then give them great food and be lovely about it and they will be happy to help you and come back for more, hopefully, and by ‘more’ I don’t just mean second helpings of bread pudding!
Even though I know all about the “too many crew” rule, I did actually end up with just that happening on my last shoot.
It’s something you should be careful of not just for the food reason, the last thing you need to be worrying about while directing etc is wether or not people have enough to occupy them. This also applies to people you hire bringing “friends” with them…
The other thing you should be aware of is the flake factor….it’s not just an LA thing either!
Everyone is very keen at the beginning, before they realize that this will entail them getting up early on the weekend, or actually returning emails about stuff they actually have to do, or attending production meetings…
Things happen, we all understand that, but not on the night before a shoot please, or even a couple of days before when they are in charge of something very important that you are then required to take on!
It’s a lot of work making films, in every department, and that can’t be stressed enough when someone with great intentions, but little experience is a potential hire.
Even at our end of the filmmaking world, with nothing but the thrill of creating, the invaluable experience and the IMDB credit as compensation.
That said, some of my greatest collaborators and most loyal and brilliant crew have been hired with no experience, no references, no car and even an Irish accent!
It really is a privilege to be able to give people their first jobs in anything, but especially in something that you love. Very, Very independent film can offer invaluable experience and connections to further work and a chance to find your place in the ‘below the line’ universe.