Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Dealing With The Late-Comers


While you'd think that cast and crew tardiness would be strictly a problem for volunteer projects, that's not necessarily the case.
Many a low-budget film on a tight schedule has had to rush through scenes thanks to a few people who think that an 8am call time translates into "sometime around eight-ish".

Often these folks don't think that being late is really a big deal. They don't think about the daily expenses and careful planning that goes into shooting even just a short film.

One method that seems to cut down on these problems is to schedule call time at least 15 minutes before you actually need everyone to be there. The extra time allows your cast and crew to grab some coffee and chit-chat while the habitually tardy are more likely to arrive in time to start the day proper.

If you are the director and/or producer, being early is a must. As a rule of thumb you should be the first one in and last one out.

 Another trick to thwart the habitually late cast member is to schedule his/her scenes later in the day and set their call time an hour earlier than you normally would. That way your crew is busy doing something rather than flirting with diabetes with the donuts of the crafty table while waiting to get started.

The possible downside to this is that if someone begins to catch on that they are doing nothing for the first hour or so, it may encourage them to just arrive later anyway.

The hard truth is that you can often identify your troublesome cast or crew members before the cameras start rolling if they are always late to meetings and rehearsals. It may be a very hard call to make, but if you are on a really tight schedule and can't afford to tack on extra hours (or days) to accommodate people who don't seem to care about making people wait around for them, you may want to consider replacing them before you start shooting. 


 Have a topic you'd like us to cover? Or a question? Or even a criticism? Feel free to let us know by commenting below!


Saturday, May 1, 2021

The No-Budget Production Survival Kit

 When a production has very little money you can expect that it won't have some of those creature comforts that would otherwise be expected on a set.

One of the most-overlooked essentials on an micro-budget production is a first aid kit. With all kinds of equipment scattered around and the general craziness around a set, it's not terribly difficult for someone to get hurt.

It's always a good idea to keep a first aid kit in your car. You can purchase basic first aid kit at drug stores or even create your own using an old bag and whatever medical supplies you can anticipate ever needing.

Make sure you always know where the nearest hospital is located in case of emergency, especially when shooting at locations where cell phone reception is not reliable.
Pssst... Film-makers! If you are working on a project that involves a lot of action, stunts, or takes place in exterior locations such as in the woods where risk of injury is higher, consider hiring a paramedic or nurse to stay on the set. You may also be able to find one to volunteer their time in exchange for film credit.

If you are going to be working outdoors, especially in wooded areas or in water, your survival pack should include insect repellent,  hydrocortisone cream, a snakebite kit, and a planned escape route to get to a car or enclosure.

Remember, there are many things in the woods that will try to murder you.

It also pays to learn how to identify spiders, snakes, and other nasty critters that are indigenous to the area. Investing in a snake hook and learning how to use it is also a good idea to handle uninvited visitors.

Always bring a change of clothes, paper towels or baby wipes, and a bath towel if you are on the crew of an action-adventure or horror movie set.  Or pretty much any type of project where blood, goo, mud, and who knows what else is going to be slung around. There's a good chance that you can get very messy, even if you are behind the camera.

This also comes in handy in the event of rain on an exterior location.  Having a dry pair of clothes to change into can keep a miserable day from becoming an unbearable one.

Productions on a really tight budget may skimp a lot on craft services (if they have it at all.) Remember, no-budget films are notorious for going long past the scheduled wrap time.

It's a good idea to pack a few snacks and drinks in your car just in case. You can also pick up a small ice cooler at a thrift store if you want cold drinks ready for you.

When we go on sets where we suspect there was no budget for meals, we  always pack enough snacks and water for a small army. It never goes to waste on a set full of hungry people who haven't eaten in ten hours.

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Thursday, April 1, 2021

Don't Lose Your Keys!

You know how it goes on the set of a project that has a budget that wouldn't buy a decent meal in L.A.  Everyone is running around doing multiple jobs and eventually that must-have-now item is locked in somebody's car. (Or worse, somebody's car has to be moved) and that somebody is completely indisposed at the moment. 

So the car owner hands over the keys to a very busy PA and by wrap time they have not made it back to the owner. Somewhere there's a PA walking around with several sets of keys in his pocket and with any luck he hasn't already left for the day.

This isn't fool-proof, but investing in a key fob with your name clearly marked on it can save you a lot of headaches.

When that flustered PA realizes that he's jingling around like Christmas and pulls out his new key collection, you'll be among the first people he looks for.

Another keychain trick is to get a bunch of cheap plastic tags from a hardware store and write your name and crew position on them. This is really handy if you  change positions from one production to the next.

In a world where a lot of people drive cars that look the same at a glance, another time-saving tip is to put something visible on your car to identify it as yours.

Just telling the PA that "it's the white Honda" could have him out for quite some time trying your keys in the half-dozen white cars scattered around the location.  There are many people who aren't savvy to make and models too, so saying "It's the white Honda Accord." might not be as helpful as you'd think.

You can get a custom bumper stickers made for around $8.00 (or less) at any number of online print-on-demand shops.  Just attach it to a magnetic strip and slap it on the back of your car when you're working on location.

You can use just your name or get creative with a slogan. Anything that stands out so all you have to tell the PA is the color of the car and what the bumper sticker says.

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Monday, March 1, 2021

Casting a No-Budget Production

 Producers with a minuscule budget will often cast their projects using friends and family because they believe that experienced actors would cost too much money. While this usually does hold true for SAG actors, there are thousands of unaffiliated trained actors out there who are dying to work for a different type of currency.

Yes, we're talking about film footage that showcases their talent and is used to build up an actor's sizzle reel. It's worth its weight in gold to a novice actor who is serious about pursuing a career in the movie-making business.

One way to weed out the seriously ambitious from the sorta-interested in acting is by utilizing casting sites that charge actors to view or submit to projects. These sites will allow productions to post their casting calls for free, and some even have filters to make sure that only those that fit the criteria for the role can submit. Candidates will send you their resumes, headshots, and whatever demo videos they have. You can choose which ones you'd like to contact with information about sending in a video audition.

When using a casting site, keep in mind that they are used by both unrepresented actors and talent agencies. Be very clear about being a strictly voluntary project and list any type of non-monetary compensation that you are offering such as meals, credit, and that all-important sizzle reel footage.

While it seems to be a standard pitch, don't just say "credit and copy". Many films never make it out of post-production (or even through filming) and more actors are getting keen to this. Offer footage, even if it ends up just being raw.

Don't think that you can attract "better" actors by promising things like deferred pay or back-end points upon the film turning a profit. These are sometimes called "monkey points" because most films never turn a profit able to accommodate this.

You are just as likely to find very talented people who have been through a lot of training just by simply being honest about your budget and offering footage.

Most importantly, deliver on this promise to your actors as soon as possible, even if the film gets stuck in post or the project derails altogether after the scenes are shot. Remember, a minute or two of footage is all it cost you to cast your production.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Craft Services: Don't Skimp on the Grub!


It can't be stressed enough how important providing good meals on a set is. It doesn't matter if it's a multi-million dollar picture or a micro-budget short, feeding the cast and crew a nutritious meal is an investment that pays off even long after the project has wrapped.

When planning out your budget, allow ample funds for craft services and/or catering. You don't need to hire a fancy service to cater. With a little planning ahead and talking to managers, you can get some great discounts from local restaurants while arranging to have a PA pick up a feast to deliver to the set.

Pizza and fast food are common standbys. However, with the wide variety of special diets and allergies that people have the chances are good that you'll have at least one person who can't eat it. Always provide a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy on the menu so your crew can choose what's right for them.

Finding out about allergies or special dietary needs ahead of time is always a good idea, and it makes the job of planning the menu a lot easier. Add a diet and medical info sheet to your paperwork when signing on cast and crew. That way you'll know exactly what type of diets you'll have to accommodate. 

For very low budgets, consider having someone cook meals and deliver them to the set.  A few bags of groceries can be a lot cheaper than restaurant catering and there are hundreds of simple dishes that can be prepared quickly and set out as a buffet for meal times. 

And don't forget the beverages! Asides from the bottled water, it's always a good idea to provide coffee, iced tea, and maybe even lemonade or a fruit punch. You can get large beverage dispensers pretty cheap at discount stores and keep a cooler full of ice nearby.  If you shoot frequently, a commercial chilled drink dispenser might be a worthwhile investment.

Providing good meals does a lot more than just feed people. It boosts morale, makes the crew look forward to working with you, and can even boost up your reputation in the long run. It is not uncommon for Green Room chatter to include discussions about who offers great meals and who just serves cold pizza every day.