On an indie film, your crew is your backbone.
On the set of “The Closet”.
Some general notes about crew before we define each member’s role/job. You will have to wear many different hats so be ready to jump in. However, trying to everything at once will not work. On the day of the shoot, there is too much going on to do it all yourself. A good producer knows how to delegate tasks to the right people.
What about pay? If you can get dedicated, loyal, and driven people to work for you for free, good for you. But in general, we find that if you want people to show up on time, not cancel, and give you good work you have to pay them something (this goes for actors too). Define what your budget is for crew and take it from there. That being said paying crew will be your BIGGEST expense. So it is a balancing act.
On the set of “Fall Apart” at the farm.
Here are the basic roles/crew you will need on your film. Like stated above you and your crew will have to be able to do multiple jobs, within reason.
Producer: The Producer is the boss. Runs things. Coordinates all crew. Should be available at all times during the shoot.
Director: The Director is the creative boss of the shoot – he makes the creative decisions about how the set/props look, the actors act, etc. When someone talks about a Director’s “vision” this is what they mean – he is trying to make sure that all the different creative aspects of the film fit together into one cohesive whole. On set, his main job is to get the best performances out of the actors and to film what was worked out in the storyboards and script breakdown.
Assistant Director (AD): The Assistant Director does all the hands-on work for the director. Keeps on top of what is being shot from the script breakdown. Takes notes about each take. Makes sure people are ready for the next shot. Usually, yells “quiet on the set”. The AD is not a timid person.
Director of Photography (DP): The Director of Photography is in charge of the camera and what is shot with it. The DP will work closely with the director to make sure they are getting the shot from the storyboards. The DP works directly with the lighting crew to make sure they stay on schedule.
Director and DP Michael Neel looks through the camera on the set of “Fall Apart”.
Gaffer: The Gaffer sets the lights in accordance with the DP and Director.
Sound Recorder: The Sound Recorder is in charge of recording all dialogue, sound FX and room tone. The Sound Recorder should work closely with the DP so noise can be avoided on the audio takes (and to see where he can hide microphones so they won’t be in the shot).
Catering: Food is the most important thing on your shoot. No, really. If you can’t pay people a lot (or anything) and you ask them to work long hours, you must feed them and pump them full of caffeine, sugar, and water. Seriously, food goes a long way – no one can work when they are hungry. Plan meals out ahead of time and try not have pizza for every meal (pizza is very heavy and can make your crew tired).
Make-Up: A Make-Up Artist is great. Can add a lot to production value but be sure none of your actors have allgeries. Most actors will do their own make-up and most are pretty good at it so depending on your budget you might not need a Make-Up Artist.
Make-up artist Rob Fitz applies make-up to Kelly Rauch on the set of “The Meat Man”.
Special Effects: If your film calls for them, there are a lot of good people doing effects out there and you get what you pay for. Ask for resumes and demo reels. There are lots of ways to make effects yourself and places on-line to learn – just do some tests before you try it on an actor. Better to burn your skin then an actor’s.
Script Supervisor/Continuity: This is an incredibly important job. This person makes sure that you’re filming what is in the script and not forgetting anything. They also make sure that continuity is maintained with props/makeup/costumes from shot to shot, and scene to scene. Taking photos for quick reference is essential. In the heat of the shoot, little things can be overlooked and the Script Supervisor makes sure that they aren’t.
Still Photographer: You don’t need one on every day of your shoot, but great professional photos can go a long way after your film is done. Anyone who writes an article or reviews your movie wants good still photos – these are the first impression for many people in your potential audience. Many filmmakers don’t take photos and have to use stills from the movie itself, which don’t look nearly as good. Pick some of your most exciting shooting days and get a Still Photographer to capture it (behind-the-scenes too).
Production Assistant (PA): Production Assistants are great. They can get coffee or food. Drop off an actor. Do that odd job that will come up during the course of your shoot. Make sure they have a car and valid license. Pay them. Treat them with respect. If they are not good, fire them right away (be nice about it). You don’t have time for people who are there to goof off.
Filming at the Mendon Twin Drive-In, what an awesome place.
Crew will be your biggest expense so it is worth it to put the time in and hire people you are comfortable working with. You will be working long hours with them for many days.
A word of caution: If you have experience on a Big-budget film set (say, as a Production Assistant or intern for Hollywood or Network TV production), you may be tempted to create a crew like the ones you worked on.
We strongly advise against indie crews like this. Keep your crews simple. You won’t have enough for everyone to do, and some people will get bored and may lose confidence in you. You don’t want anyone like this on set. And if you have people that aren’t doing anything, then you are wasting money by having them around. That is the last thing you want to do! So keep things simple. You are not a Hollywood production. You are an indie production!
Go forth and assemble your crew!