7 tips for getting GOOD people to work on your no budget indie film
By Cate Carson
When I say #indiefilm, you say _______ ?… Help? Broke? #criessoftlytoself. You don’t want to make another shi*ty indie film. There’s too many of them out there! But the question is why? Why is there a slew of these things? In addition to the age-old problem of #nomoney, there’s also the problem of filmmakers SETTLING on their crew. This camera guy said he’d do it for FREE, sweet! Camera guy doesn’t know how to expose for the scene properly and now everything is blown out. Don’t even think about saying you’ll “#fixitinpost” – which, by the way, leads me to this question: Are you editing the film yourself? Are you the best person for the job? Really? There’s probably a few other ACTUAL editors in your area that you could look up. You never know what they might say. DON’T TRY TO DO EVERY JOB YOURSELF. Rule #1. And you will learn why as we go along.
How do you get GOOD crew to work for you on your #indiefilm project? What you really want to ask instead (I know, I can feel it emanating from your every pore) is how do I get good crew to work on my film when I have such a small budget? There are multiple answers to this question so… proceed to the first:
1. HAVE GOOD MATERIAL
– Oh joy, another film about a girl getting murdered in the woods. Yeah I think I’ll stick to my daily rate because I don’t need your sh*tty material “for my reel”. If your script is nothing new, or just plain sucks, people will be less likely to want to help you (and by less I mean wayyyy less). Why are you going to make a film from a sh*tty script anyway? If you are writing, do some basic research – templates like “Save the Cat” are great screenwriting resources. Think outside the box and genre.
What you can do is:
Make it interesting;
Have great content dialogue/characters;
Ask yourself – Can it be done on your budget and within your limitations in a high-quality way with great production value?
Just maybe, another writer has something better, and they might GASP be an actual writer.
You’re still reading, good. It’s a long one, but you’ll be happy you read it. Now keep going.
2. PRESENT IT WELL
– Putting out an ad for crew requires a little finesse. Don’t just say “need crew to work on low budget sci-fi/action thriller for copy/credit only. Film shoots in two weeks for 4 days. Send me an email at ”. Ugh. No thanks.
What’s wrong with this?
Give a short synopsis of the film.
Pay negotiable (*pay = multiple options).
Start early (the pre-production phase can last for months!).
Have a professional email address for God’s sake.
Are you the director? Do you have a producer? This is one of their primary jobs. In fact, you’ll both work together on establishing the crew – communication is key.
Make a great concept poster/facebook page/banner art, etc.
Film people respond visually. You know that cool, drippy, cheesy, red horror font you’ve seen in sh*tty horror indies?
Avoid stuff like that. If you are design illiterate, reach out to art programs at colleges and partner up with somebody.
3. TREAT YOUR CREW WITH RESPECT AND PROFESSIONALISM
– Don’t be late to anything. COMMUNICATE throughout the entire process and get their feedback. Send out emails regularly with any piece of information they might need (call sheets, location info, etc).
We use a project management site, Basecamp (https://basecamp.com), to help us communicate and keep everything organized. Our crew loves it and so do we (#basecampplug). Keep a portion of your mind for your crew/cast and how they are being treated. The producer/UPM, etc should really have a handle on this so the director can focus on.. directing, but if it’s an overnight shoot, in the woods, for example.. prepping for all normal human things is imperative. Where’s the restrooms? When will we plan 1st meal, 2nd meal, etc and how will that work out here? Where will they park? Do I need to get them more specific directions? What about a Hair/Makeup station? Changing area? The list goes on. And it brings us to the next point:
– As a director you have to prepare a lot of stuff before filming. If you’re working with your production designer for example (YES YOU SHOULD HAVE ONE), give them reference material for what you want. Have a “look book” of your preconceived ideas about the film, how you want to film it, and send it to the appropriate dept. heads. It can be anything- photos, art, music, etc to convey your vision about lighting, mood, color, tone, camera styles, etc etc. As a producer, you are planning every single piece of the shoot. Who, what, when, where, how. And you’re working with the 1st AD to help get things in order. Bottom line, more planning (heres a great example of what I’m talking about
5. WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR THEM
– Blah blah, IMDb credit, meals, copy, blah blah. It’s all the same. WRONG. Half the time, I go to a set (as an actor) and the “meals” = pizza pockets. That’s not a meal. Don’t advertise it. Spend your money elsewhere instead of pissing your crew (and cast) off. Get worthy snacks and a crafty setup. Coffee…plenty of coffee. And many people are health conscious so don’t just have junk. Have a PRODUCER on board that can find you meals (sponsorships). They can pick up the phone and work a little magic. Copy- if the work is good (which hopefully it will be), people will want it for their “reels”. Don’t be so paranoid. Explain that they must not post the film (if unwanted), but that they may use clips for their reels. Dammit, this is another article. Anyway, don’t take 5 years getting it to them. That’s a good way to ensure they won’t work with you again. Another note- Getting more crew on board to HELP them is another way you can give back. The gaffer shouldn’t be running around by him/herself on a project that demands a couple of grips to assist.
6. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
– We have assembled a fantastic core group of crew members that we regularly work with. When we contact a DP about the next project, we talk to them about other needed crew in their department and what we are working with for budget. They recommend so-and-so that they worked with recently that might be a good fit and willing to work on your project. That might not happen first time out of the gate, but if you work hard on all of these other things, it will. You also need to build a good reputation for yourself. Posting photos of you with the “hotties on set, yow!”, etc just makes you look like an asshole, not a serious filmmaker.
ll be well on your way to creating a great crew, which ultimately means a BETTER film.’etc. At the end of the day, be resourceful, and have all the other points in line and you, ”investors“crowd funding, personal funds (we have done PLENTY of this), – s a separate topic. But think ahead of time ’s NO way I can explain in this article; that’deferred or within 30/60/90 kind of arrangements. Where does the money come from? There-up, half-t use it unless you know what you mean. We have done a half’and don” deferred“who also needs to agree to this)? You need to strike an equal balance of experienced and less experienced. Can you negotiate your time on one of their projects? Nobody likes the word – working crew member such as a 2nd AC that is looking to move up to 1st AC and is willing to work for experience (under the guidance of a more experienced department head -s negotiation time. Is there a hard’we have arrived at this. Can you possibly get a decent film from 3 crew members working for free and lots of TLC? Sure. But if you want to keep progressing and getting better, it… at last!–
– at last!… we have arrived at this. Can you possibly get a decent film from 3 crew members working for free and lots of TLC? Sure. But if you want to keep progressing and getting better, it’s negotiation time. Is there a hard-working crew member such as a 2nd AC that is looking to move up to 1st AC and is willing to work for experience (under the guidance of a more experienced department head – who also needs to agree to this)? You need to strike an equal balance of experienced and less experienced. Can you negotiate your time on one of their projects? Nobody likes the word “deferred” and don’t use it unless you know what you mean. We have done a half-up, half-deferred or within 30/60/90 kind of arrangements. Where does the money come from? There’s NO way I can explain in this article; that’s a separate topic. But think ahead of time – crowd funding, personal funds (we have done PLENTY of this), “investors”, etc. At the end of the day, be resourceful, and have all the other points in line and you’ll be well on your way to creating a great crew, which ultimately means a BETTER film.