How to Build a Crew for a No-Budget Short

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You want to make a short film, so, you text a few friends and ask for their help. Then, you reach out to others in your network to see who might be interested and slowly start to build your team.

But did you know that HOW you go about building your cast and crew will have either a positive or negative impact on the overall production experience AND the final film?

It’s true.

Let’s say that when you first contact people you simply ask, “Hey, want to help me make a film?” and they say “Yes.” Then you approach 10-20 more people with the same pitch and they all say “Yes.” At this point you’re feeling pretty good. You have enough hands on set to help out with everything you’ll need during production.

Except…

When everyone arrives on set for the first day of filming no one is EXACTLY sure what they’re supposed to be doing, what they were supposed to bring, who they’re supposed to be helping, and what their essential function is. You have enough people on set to get the job done, but confusion reigns because specifics are unclear. This can affect morale, slow the shoot down, and ultimately compromise the production quality of the final film.

Now, imagine you build your volunteer crew another way? Instead of asking, “Do you want to help?” say this, “I’m producing a short film and we really need someone who can oversee continuity. Can you do that for us?”

ASSIGN POSITIONS

Give EVERYONE a specific job to do, so he/she will know exactly what to prepare for, what to bring, and what to do while on set.

HOLD MEETINGS

The number of pre-production meetings you schedule should be in direct proportion to the scope and complexity of the shoot. You don’t need to meet every single day (Remember, these are people volunteering for your film, so be respectful of their time), but you do need to meet to review on going action items and to ensure every one is on the same page. For my latest short film Hangry, I met with my crew four times prior to the shoot.

PROVIDE A SHOT LIST AND PRODUCTION SCHEDULE

The crew likes to know what’s going on so they have an idea of what they’re working toward and what needs to be accomplished each day. Take the time to make a shot list and production schedule and distribute both to your crew.

SCOUT

Set aside time for a tech scout with your key department heads. This will give them the opportunity to see the space and ask any logistical questions pertinent to the shoot, like where to load in and store gear, what’s allowed/not allowed while in the space, where will all departments set up, etc?

Just because you may be working on a no-budget short doesn’t mean that the set can’t be (or shouldn’t be) professional. Everyone’s experience while on set will be much more positive if you go about preparing the right way.

Have any thoughts to add? Leave them in the Comments.