You will want to find a crew that has a positive attitude and sticks with you until the end of production. But this is not always an easy task, especially when your budget is limited. Although your finances play a part, keeping a crew together has even more to do with keeping morale high.
You need to give your crew a good reason to want to work for you. This detailed article will break down how to find and hire a great a film crew for your next project.
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Before you can start hiring your film crew, you should have a budget. Your budget will determine how many people you can afford to hire, and if this is a union or non-union production.
Union productions have minimum wage requirements, overtime, meal breaks, and turnaround rules. As a non-union production, you may or may not have all of these benefits. The main difference is that as a non-union production, you have not signed an agreement to follow these rules and regulations with a union. To find out more about film unions you might like to read our previous article – film unions for producers.
Your budget, in many ways, will determine how professional your film crew will be. However, a highly-skilled person might be willing to work with you on a low-budget if you give them a good reason. Here are some reasons experienced film crew might work for lower pay:
- You are only asking for a few days of work
- The scheduled daily working hours are short (no more than 10 hours)
- You can provide full travel expenses and catering on set
- The project provides them with unique showreel material
- They have the chance to work on new equipment/experiment
- Your story/cause is of a particular interest to them
- There is a highly regarded actor/crew member attached
- They know you and trust you, you are a reliable friend
If you can’t afford to pay people for their time, you need to offer them something else in return. It’s possible that by working on your project your crew will miss out on another job opportunity, so your offer must be worthwhile. Shallow offers such as a copy of the film on DVD and an IMBD credit just won’t cut it. You will need to check off a few of the points above to convince an experienced film crew to work on a low-budget.
On projects with no-budget, you should cover travel expenses, lodging, and provide catering at a minimum. If you want to keep crew morale high, you need to make sure that working for you is not costing your crew money.
To sum up, if you can’t afford to pay your film crew in full you need to offer other perks that make this job worth their time. Next, we will look at how to begin the hiring process.
The Hiring Order
Your first hires will be your above-the-line film crew. Above-the-line is a term given to the part of the film crew hired before pre-production begins. There is a good chance you might fall into one or more of these roles yourself. These roles are in order: screenwriter, producer, director, and lead actors. You might also include the director of photography and production designer.
Once you have filled these roles finding the rest of your crew will become more manageable. Your above-the-line staff will make suggestions on who to hire next. Heads of departments often have assistants that they can bring onto a project. For example, your director of photography may employ their camera team.
Getting these first few hires right is essential so everyone else can fall into place. It’s also a good idea to hire editors early on in a project, especially if you have a low-budget. Competent, experienced editors can be hard to find, and you will want to book them in advance.
Next, we will look at how to find a film crew and where to place job advertisements.
Finding Film Crew
There are many different options and platforms available for hiring a crew. You will find both experienced and beginner filmmakers on these platforms. Focus on hiring your above-the-line team first and then start to fill in the gaps. Be sure to hire any heads of departments before you hire assistants. Here is a breakdown of how to find a film crew –
Recommendations – This is the easiest and most common way to hire a crew. If you already know someone who can fill a position, you are likely to hire them first. Many film producers have a list of past clients they can contact when needed. Your above-the-line team will also have plenty of recommendations for you.
Crew Dictionaries – There are several types of film crew dictionaries that you can use to find crew. Film commissions can be found in most states and include lists of local film crew that you can contact for hiring. Film commissions are mainly for foreign production companies shooting abroad, but you can use these on independent productions too. Find a detailed list of film commissions and resources on SAG Indie. There may also be other crew dictionaries created by individuals online that you can use. Many film job sites also feature film crew dictionaries. FilmUp or ProductionHUB are great examples.
Film Job Sites – There are job sites out there that directly advertise film crew work. As previously mentioned, many of these websites have crew dictionaries that you can use to find people. These dictionaries feature crew profiles with show reel links and perhaps a resume download. You can post job advertisements on some of these websites as well as searching for film crew in the dictionaries. Just be aware that some of these websites charge you a small fee to place job advertisements.
Here is a list of film job sites to get you started – Mandy, Media Match, NYC Film Crew, Stage 32, Staff Me Up, and Star Now.
Social Media – You can use social media platforms to advertise and find people. LinkedIn and Facebook are the easiest way to do this. On LinkedIn, you can search for people and advertise job positions. On Facebook, search specifically for filmmaking groups and place advertisements directly in these groups. Many filmmaking groups are location focused.
For example, here is a list of filmmaking Facebook groups – Los Angeles Filmmakers, Chicago Filmmakers, New York Indie Filmmakers and Georgia Film Industry Circle.
Networking – Filmmaking is all about networking and making contacts. Whatever your job role, you should be going out of your way to meet people within your film community. Although you can network online, in-person networking can be more productive. You can find networking events held at film festivals, local cinemas, film commissions and advertised on social media. As a film producer, you should be consistently networking and meeting people in the film industry.
The Hiring Process
Now that you have more ideas on how to find a film crew, you can begin the hiring process. In this section, we will look at how to find the best candidate and advertise effectively.
When you are looking for crew, you ideally want to find someone that has previous experience. This experience should be within the exact job role you are hiring. For example, a focus puller should have previous focus pulling credits.
However, if you are low-budget, you might find that your best candidate is a rank below that position. Such as an art director looking to move up to production designer. For low-budgets, you might have to compromise.
Many filmmakers also have resumes with lists of past film credits. These resumes might be attached to their online profile or personal websites. A long list of credits, within their job role, is a good sign. For visual jobs, you will also want to see a showreel or portfolio. For example, job roles such as director of photography, production designer, make-up artist, and costume designer. You might also wish to double-check reliability by asking for references.
When posting a job advertisement, give details on the project type and working dates. A few sentences on the story, genre and project type (feature film or short) is enough. You might wish to mention if it is a union or non-union production and if you are providing a full wage or operating as a low-budget. The production dates are essential as you want people to be free for the entire production time. If you are low-budget, you will want to list your incentives to attract experienced crew. Short working hours, covering travel expenses and providing good catering can all help bring an experienced team onto a low-budget project. At the end of the job advertisement, you can ask people to send over their resume or a link to their showreel.
Next, we will look at how to negotiate film crew work rates in detail.
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You will have to decide if you have space in your budget to negotiate working rates. Film crews typically work on daily rates rather than per hour. But the film crew will also expect additional compensation if working overtime. A typical workday in film production is 12 hours with a 1-hour break in the middle, but your workday may look different.
If you are low-budget, you might work out how much you can offer per job role before hiring. For example, you might only have enough to pay $250/day for the head of departments and $150/day for assistants. Depending on your budget scale, you might have very little room to negotiate. Keep in mind that by doing this, your choice of film crew can narrow.
Film production crew are self-employed freelancers, and they have individual working rates. While hiring via phone or email, you should ask them what their going rate is for a 12-hour workday. You might find their price is very reasonable, but if you find it too high you will need to suggest a lower rate. When negotiating, be sure you talk about expenses. Most filmmakers expect their travel, equipment purchases, and catering to be covered.
Another thing to look out for are crew members with higher rates than expected, but whose rates include their equipment. (This is often referred to as a “kit rental fee“.) In this case the higher wage might actually save you money. Finding, hiring and negotiating rates is a crucial task for producers. By getting this part right, you can save money and be on your way to making a good film.
No matter what type of film you are making, you will benefit from having contracts. Contracts are legally abiding agreements that can protect both you and your employee. Contracts make sure that everyone is on the same page. A contract can be as simple as an email agreement, but a formally signed copy is best.
On the contract deal, you will list the complete job role and what work they will be doing. Most importantly you will also outline their compensation, how much they can expect to be paid and when you will pay them (for example, 30 days after receiving an invoice).
You also need to include any additional payment terms such as covered expenses and overtime pay. Depending on your production you might offer a share of profits to your above-the-line crew. You will need to decide and negotiate these terms before contracts are signed. For low-budgets, you can create these contracts yourself. But for more complex productions you might want to seek advice from an entertainment lawyer.
Finding an experienced film crew will take time, but it is possible even if your budget is low. For film producers, hiring crew is one of your primary responsibilities during pre-production. And you will find that this task becomes more effortless every time you do it.
We hope this article has helped you understand how to find a film crew. What methods will you be using when crewing up your next production? Let us know in the comments section below.