How Directors Work with a Film Crew

– Posted in: Producing Film / Video Productions Working with Investors & Crew
Dick xmas

By the time you get to the end of this post, you’ll come to appreciate how directing is similar to making gravy. It’s true! 🙂

One of the most important questions in filmmaking is: “Did you make your day?”

This is important because if you don’t make your day on a consistent basis, you won’t make your movie. You have a schedule that outlines a certain number of days for your shooting and this means that each day you have a certain number of scenes to shoot.

Making your day means you finished that day’s list of shots or you shot enough footage to cover the scenes for that day.

With this in mind, it’s easy to comprehend that when we’re on set we want to spend more time shooting and less time talking about what we’re going to shoot or how we’re going to shoot it.

In this post, I’m going to share some basic methods for empowering your crew so you can not only make your day but have enough time and resources to react to those magically found opportunities that arise when good people come together.

It’s all about finding more time!

Camera Rolling Time versus Preparing to Shoot Time

We obviously want to spend as much time as we can with the camera rolling, but that’s not as easy as it sounds. To do this we need time to communicate our vision and avoid bottlenecks.

Sooo, where is the most common bottleneck?

[bctt tweet=”For new filmmakers the bottleneck is almost always the director. Why?”]

Because “when onset” – all roads lead to the director and if he’s not prepared “your day” is in trouble. This is most apparent when it’s time to shoot a new scene on a new location.  This is true even if the location is a different part of the same house.

Let me preface this by saying I’m not talking about gorilla and backyard filmmaking with available light and zero production design. I’m talking about a film with production value. Films that have been designed to stand-out. As I mentioned, the above problem is especially acute when the film crew moves to a new location.

Again we must ask why? (If you continue to read my stuff you’ll come to see it’s always about asking why.)

Let’s take a closer look at some of what happens at this critical time.

New locations mean people have questions and if you haven’t taken time during pre-production to empower others with the knowledge needed, you’ll immediately get a barrage of questions flying at you like:

  • Where can we stage equipment?
  • Where do we park cars?
  • Where did you pack the extra batteries?
  • Where can we set up craft services?
  • Where is the electric breaker panel?
  • What time do the extras show up?
  • Where should I hang this painting?
  • Should we move this ugly desk?
  • How do you like this color dress?

Unfortunately it never stops, aaaaah!

How can you camera-block and work on performance with actors if you’re bogged down with answering questions?

You can’t – that’s the bottle neck! That’s why we’re dropping critical shots, burning our crews out with sixteen hour days.

I’m writing this just after hosting a holiday meal so I want to create an analogy. Those of you who are familiar with “What can I do to help?” will relate. The rest of you will get your turn – I promise 😉

“What can I do to help?” happens when people arrive and you’re still setting up.

You still have to make gravy, mash the potatoes and set the serving utensils. At first this seems like having help is a great idea.  That is, until you realize it’s taking you longer to explain where things are and how you want things laid out than it would if you just do it yourself.

Dealing with numerous people asking for things at the same time is frustrating and time consuming. Worse yet, this makes you fall further behind and now your feeling stressed and getting cranky. You overhear your not so favorite Aunt comment on how things a a little chaotic and you snap.

In a not so calm voice you say, “Hey folks I’m doing the best I can. So, pleeeeze give me a break!

Oooouch – why did this go bad?

It goes bad when we set ourselves up for failure.  When we don’t plan and solicit key help early enough in the process, we can’t empower them. If you want time to focus on making good gravy, then bring help in early show them where things are, discuss how you want them laid out.  They’ll take care of the urgent matters and you’ll be the host with the most!

Hopefully the moral of the story is obvious and easily transferred to filmmaking. But if you want me to wrap it up nice and tie it in a bow, here it is.

If you want to be taken seriously you’ll need to make films that require bigger setups and that means bringing in help. As noted, generic help isn’t really help at all.  So plan things in detail and early so you can empower your peeps with enough information to deal with urgent matters and keep things moving forward. This will allow you to do what only the director can do – Make the Gravy 😉

Happy Holidays!

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Thank you for your support. I hope you enjoy these posts. If you do then please leave a comment. I’d love to hear if you’ve had a holiday or film shoot experience like the one I just described.