One of the hardest parts about starting out in filmmaking is finding your team. Maybe you’re still in school, or you’re not based in New York or LA, or you’re the only person you know who wants to make films. Whatever your crew-building challenge, don’t worry. Finding a producer or a camera operator isn’t actually as complicated as you think, not when you’re starting out.
If you’re looking for a producer, ask…
Your most organized friend. For small indie projects, the producer’s major job is organizing everything, from shooting schedules to crowdfunding to what props still need purchasing. The best part is that a lot of producing work can also take place long distance, so if your most organized friend doesn’t live nearby, don’t count them out yet!
Your director. Many decisions your producer will need to make will directly affect your director, and if they’re willing, asking them to help produce will streamline your production process. They get more ownership over the project, and you get help with the logistics.
Your lead actor(s). If you pay attention, on most television shows, the lead actors are frequently credited as producers as well. This is because there’s higher risk in doing a series than a film; it attaches them to a particular project for longer, limiting their ability to seek new roles or change up their appearance too much. As such, having more ownership of the project allows them to get what they need and feel as though it’s an investment rather than just another gig.
If you’re looking for a director, ask…
The writer. This ends up happening a lot anyways, and it makes sense: who better to bring words to life than the person who wrote the words in the first place? Make sure they don’t give line readings though, because speaking as a writer who has transitioned to directing, this can be problematic.
A people person. If you have a plan for what kinds of shots you want but still need someone to help guide the actors, a person who’s good with, well, people is a good bet. They’ll know how to talk to actors without making them feel uncomfortable and get the most human performances.
A good leader. Not your bossiest friend, or the best listener you know, but someone who commands respect on a social and professional level. Someone whose response to conflict is to diffuse it and find common ground rather than getting frustrated or huffy. Someone who has a way of keeping plans moving forward without yelling or placing blame.
Your friend with the nicest camera. More often than not, you’ll need both the human and the equipment, so a package deal already works in your favor. Plus, who better to use a nice camera than the person who owns it?
Your film obsessed friend. Maybe they’ve never made a film themselves, but they’ve mentally gutted every Hitchcock movie ever made and can talk for hours about how the look of Wes Anderson’s films speak to them on an emotional level. A knowledge-base of how and why different movies use different shots and lighting is almost more important than knowing how to use a camera. The latter is what YouTube tutorials are for!
Your artsy friend. If they have a strong understanding of color and design, regardless of medium, designing the look of your set should be a breeze. As long as you explain the tone of the project and the individual character quirks (if you’re designing a room or home for a particular character), your artsy friend should have no problem bringing that to life visually.
Your friend with the great home decor. You know the one. They don’t just slap up a poster from college on every empty wall; their home decor clearly had thought put into it. Their photos are all framed, their throw pillows match their curtains, and their bookshelves are organized in some meticulous fashion, either by size, color, genre, or alphabet. Production design is just as much about how a space is put together as it is about what individual elements are being used.
If you’re looking for a hair, makeup, or wardrobe person, ask…
Your friend that’s super into Halloween or Cosplay. This is a person who makes their own costumes for holidays or nerd conventions, someone who might also know how to sew, do special effects makeup, or at least knows someone who knows how to do those things.
Your friend that’s an expert with their own hair and makeup. Most makeup gurus on YouTube aren’t gurus because they went to school for it or because they work at a salon, but because they like doing those things to themselves. As such, they’re self taught beauty geniuses, having already experimented for years before figuring out what works best. Even if they can’t be on set every day, they can certainly give your actors some tips and tricks to help them look their best on camera.
If you’re looking for a sound person, ask…
Your friend that’s really into music. The mark of a good sound technician is a trained ear. The ability to use sound equipment is secondary and much easier to teach, but a good ear is something you’re born into. If your friend is constantly going on about subtle changes in pitch or key or has a lot of opinions about the producing choices on Kanye tracks, they much just fit the bill.
Your quietest, least fidgety friend. Another great quality for a sound person is someone who can sit still for more than two minutes at a time. Half of sound recording, at least on indie sets, is holding a microphone steady without shifting your feet or tapping your fingers on the boom pole, so if you have a friend who’s almost eerily quiet or still, they’d be perfect!
Do you have other creative crewing thoughts? Let us know in the comments!