How to Build a Crew for a No-Budget Short

6Q6A2013.jpg

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.

Casting Call For Short Film 'Hangry'

50641899_367790767133611_7138749667637985280_o.jpg

Right now I’m in pre-production on a new short film that I’ll be directing for The Memphis Film Prize. Hangry is a comedy about one elderly man’s attempt to right a lunchtime wrong. The shoot is scheduled for May 4-5 in Collierville, TN. In addition to an actor to play the main role of The Reverend, I will need extras to portray staff and residents of the nursing home location. If you would like to participate, please use the sign up link below or send an email to hangrymovie@gmail.com.

Recommended App for Film Scheduling

Image courtesy of  IndieWhip

Image courtesy of IndieWhip

I'm currently in pre-production on my next short film project Big and TallWe are scheduled to shoot later this month and I just finished the shot list and production schedule using the ShotLister app.

I don't know how many of you currently use, or have used this app, but I encourage you to take a look you haven't had the chance yet. I found it incredibly easy to use.

From the welcome screen, you can create a new project.

Once the project is created, you can start adding scenes, specifying the location, whether the scene is interior or exterior, the page of the script on which the scene takes place, how long the scene is, and which cast members are needed.

After the scene is created, you can then add specific shots within each scene, specifying which camera will be used (on a multicam shoot), the focal length, the gear needed (sticks, steadicam, dolly, etc.), which lens will be used, and any other notes you need to add.

When you are finished adding your shots, you can arrange them for your shooting day. Just tap and hold on each shot and drag it to reorder it.

Once all of your shots are ordered, tab over to the Shoot Day section and start adding individual scenes into your shooting day.

You can then specify how long each shot will take, add in time for set-ups, lunch, company moves, etc. You can also set your call time, sunrise/sunset times, and your wrap time. 

When you have added all your scenes into the shooting day, ShotLister will automatically tally the number of pages, shots, and camera setups you have scheduled for the day.

ShotLister is available for iOS and Android and costs $13.99. You can also purchase a Pro membership, which unlocks additional features, like the ability to import storyboards to your shot list.

What has your experience with ShotLister been like? Do you have any other app recommendations for filmmakers? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section.

Coming Soon

I'm currently in pre-production on a new short film project called Big and Tall, about a young girl named Molly who believes in the existence of a mythological creature that supposedly lives in the woods near her house. So, she recruits her friend Devon and the two set off into the woods to find the proof no one has been able to find.

Big and Tall is light-hearted, fun, and adventurous, and centers on themes of family, friendship, and a commitment to one's beliefs, even with faced with uncertainty. I really believe that the story captures the spirit of imagination and the longing for adventure so many young people have, and I'm excited to start production.

In the coming days, I will be launching a crowdfunding campaign on Seed & Spark, in an effort to raise the funds necessary to offset my production costs. Please consider contributing to show your support for independent filmmakers. However, if you can't contribute, don't worry. There are two things you can do instead:

  1. Share the campaign with your contacts and tell them about our project and ask them if they will consider contributing.
  2. Sign up for a free Seed & Spark account and simply Follow our campaign. If the campaign reaches 500 followers, Seed & Spark will provide me with a filmmaker "goodie bag" with tools and resources that can help me through production and post-production.

The crowdfunding site has been built and has been submitted to Seed & Spark for approval. I will write a new post once it launches and will include a link to the campaign site. 

In the meantime, enjoy the crowdfunding pitch video below. Then follow Big and Tall on Twitter and Like the Facebook page.