Movie Making Manual/Keeping the crew happy

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This Module is part of the Movie Making Manual

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A few tips to keep the crew happy:

Food[edit]

Never underestimate the importance of good food. If your crew is working for free then you MUST feed them well and at well defined times. If you're going to overrun then stop and ASK your crew if they mind working for another hour before lunch. Always try to provide hot food. Sandwiches are your last resort.

Good food needn't cost a lot. See if you can get your Mum involved or your best friend's mate who's an out-of-work chef. Remember also that some of your cast and crew (especially the clapper-loader) may have to work though their food breaks and so will need easy-to-eat food. Oh, and don't forget to check on allergies.

Check here for advice on good food which is affordable and works on set - Ultra Low Budget production Recipes.

Also remember to have a snack table (called craft services table in the USA). This may seem insignificant, however, film sets bring together very different personalities and egos, both technical and artistic, in very intense situations over a short period of time. Tempers will flare. They always do. Humans when upset or dealing with any extreme emotion in all cultures like to do one thing: put something in their mouth. A drink, a smoke, a chocolate, a thumb... whatever. The craft services table provides this option. Coffee, tea, water, donuts, pastries, water, chocolates, sweets, juice, fruit and water. Don't underestimate it. Try to put the emphasis on healthy food like fruit rather than chocolates and crisps - junk food may give a quick 'high' but wont sustain that high so your crew will become irritable as the day progresses.

Another option (if you're lucky) is to get a deal with a local restaurant or pizza place, perhaps exchanging discounts on food for product placement in your film or advertising in the credits, brochures or your film's website. Local pizza places are a good first stop. This can get costly if done too often. Some consider this option selling out, which is fair, however, it's not a bad way to get some grub for the crew.

No matter what your position on set try to offer others a tea or coffee whenever you can. As a runner you will quickly gain the enthusiasm of others by offering tea and coffee. As a more senior crew member you will show that you aren't a snobby nosed, status-obsessed fool in it only for the power, but a good natured human who likes to get along with people and do the best job possible.

But - be warned - never eat in front of a hungry camera crew. Why? The camera crew don't have the option of quickly picking up a sandwich because their hands must be kept very clean whilst on set and handling camera kit. Once, on my first ADing job, I was casually nibbling on a sandwich when the DoP gave me a loud and public telling off. You have been warned!

Hours[edit]

Don't overwork your crew. Your job as a filmmaker is to get the very best out of your cast and crew - as a producer or director you actually do *very little* hands-on filmmaking. So the best thing you can do is create a productive, exciting and comfortable environment for your cast and crew. The one thing that will destroy the mood on set (and destroy your film) is exhaustion. If your schedule demands 20 hour days then cut the script or increase the number of shooting days.

It is important to remember that the hours worked also include the 'wrapping out' time: not all crew just walk away when 'wrap' is called, spark (electricians), camera crew, grips, makeup, wardrobe and others still have a lot of work to pack up from the day and clean and prepare for the next day. So an estimated wrap time of say, 22.00 hours really means an end of shooting at 21.00 to allow for the wrapping-out. Expecting a 12 hour on-camera day to then be followed by an hour's worth of putting away the gear is a surefire way to spark a mutiny!

Communication[edit]

Give the cast and crew as much information as possible, especially when things are going wrong. If you can then print and distribute the schedule to EVERY crew member at the start of each day, if not far earlier. If you're going run over schedule then first explain the situation to your crew, then ask very nicely if they mind working longer and then tell your crew the new estimate wrap time.

Drugs[edit]

You can't stop everyone from taking loads of drugs but do your best to dissuade your cast and crew.

Drugs and alcohol on set will void most insurance policies. You must get your crew to never ever take any kind of extreme mind altering substances while anywhere near set. I would advise firing anyone that does not heed this warning. This has nothing to do with moral or social issues it has to do with running a business. Until the insurance contracts change no drugs or alcohol on set.

Drinking[edit]

This is a dodgy one. Going out for drinks every night of the shoot is a good way to get to know everyone. But don't over do it. What you do as a director or producer is up to you. You'll certainly increase your chances of getting on well with your cast and crew if you go out drinking with them. But, then again, you've probably got to spend every evening preparing the next day's shot list.

Dealing with abusive characters[edit]