Untitled Diary Part 4: To Crew or Not To Crew

8 09 2005

Anyone who thinks (s)he can get away without a crew to make their film is nuts! The value of a good crew in any film is…well, priceless. If your vision is to be realized with the greatest precision, you need a good team of crew members. Then again, notice I said ‘good’ before I said crew.

What do I mean by a ‘good’ crew? Great schooling? Excellent background? Knows their sh…tuff? All of the above would be great, but would it be affordable for yor pre-Spielberg phase? I’ve heard a story and, it seems, so have a lot of other people, about an NYU student who spent $30,000 for a 10 minute student film. I’ve even heard that number to be just slightly, oh let’s just say $70,000, more. Bless that person for buying that MegaMillion ticket the previous year.

Getting back to the point here. Finding a good team of crew members who’ll work for ‘exposure’ and ‘great experience’ is very unlikely. Do you really think good gaphers and grips are sitting on their behinds and wondering, ‘How should I say no to Ridley Scott when he begs me to be in his film?’ (A lot of actors, writers, directors, on the other hand, do.) No, they are constantly working, networking, and working it. Is there a ghost of a chance you will get to work with them on your film?

And please, show some respect to Sound Recordists and Boom Mic operators. Even before you start filming, if you can. It won’t hurt you to consult with them while you go location scouting. Never say ‘we’ll fix it in post’…it’s obnoxious, and is akin to Wofgang Puck frying your steak and saying ‘ve’ll feex it at ze dinner taybol’…or something like that. Provided, again, if you’re working with a good sound crew. I’ve always thought yelling cut on a ‘bad’ sound take is as important as the ‘bad’ picture take. Maybe I love the aspect of sound too much, but if you disagree with me in saying that sound is not 60% of a successful film, then stop reading this post right away and go take off your speakers and watch everything silent. A lot of filmmakers tend to put a music bandage on bad sound in their films. It’s like putting bandages on a triple bypass cut. It’s obvious. Don’t the filmmakers listen to their favorite movies? Even better, don’t they listen at all? Music on film is almost always simultaneously playing with the ambient sound. You heard me?

Am I ranting here? I should really talk about what I’d started to. And that is, when do you not crew? When you possibly can’t afford to. Or when crew members won’t return your calls or answer your emails or postings. A lot of people think they can do crew work, but a lot of people think they can act too. Would you get people who think they can act in your film? I didn’t think so.

I have been proudly saying how I’ve filmed this project without a crew. Do you really think I would have done that if I had a great DP, camera operator, lighting designer, and a sound recordist available to collaborate with? Collaboration doesn’t mean getting your name on a separate card during opening or end credits. It seems everyone talks of collaborating because it makes them feel important. To collaborate means to bring in and share an aspect of individual filmmaking expertise to the set. It means being creative in the best and worst circumstances. It means to think of the film first. How many people have we worked with who think they’re incredibly talented with nothing to show for?

Therefore, if you can’t find the right crew, don’t crew at all. Sometimes the right crew person is the right person with the right attitude and drive, minus the experience. That person will do their best to learn on the job, and you’ll know if they’ll be helpful on the set. There’s nothing wrong with learning on the job. I’ve done that with radio and I’ve done that with this current project. In the end, I’m glad I didn’t have a crew. The amount of sweat I’ve let trickle down my forehead is testament to the hours I’ve had to put in to get it right. Learned a lot during the process. Best of all, learned my own shortcuts and…secrets. Thanks for asking, but not sharing them with you.

Do it yourself, and as much as you can handle, if there’re no options. The worst that will happen is, you’ll not get quite what you want. Any experience, whether or good or bad, teahces you something good, nonetheless. The best thing to learn from any experience is what NOT to do in future projects. Also, every project is a way to learn about your own self. You are bound to surprise yourself, but it has to be a challenge. “And that’s”, as Miss Martha would say, “is a good thing.”




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