Filmmaking is never a one-man job. It’s an endeavor that requires several passionate, hard-working, and determined individuals set on making a great film.
If you’re a producer — whether for a low budget short film or a large scale feature — it’s your job to construct a solid crew of filmmakers. You must know how important and critical this job is and how it ultimately determines the success of your film.
Assembling a film crew takes place during the pre-production phase and is where you start to think about hiring key department heads and actors for your film. If you’d like to learn more about what needs to be done in pre-production other than assembling a film crew, check out our previous post where we dive deeper into this topic.
Every film production is different. Depending on the budget and scale of your film, you may not need certain crew members, equipment, and resources other films need. In this post, we will explore the process of assembling a crew, the specific members you may need, and where to find them.
What Does A Typical Film Crew Look Like?
Many beginner producers and filmmakers wonder who they will need to shoot their project. Like we mentioned before, this depends entirely on the type of film you’re planning to make.
It also depends on your budget. Typically, when filmmakers are just starting, or if they’re looking to save money, they will reduce — either drastically or slightly — the number of crew members needed for their film production.
We will further discuss how producers determine their film crew down the road, but for now, let’s talk about some of the key crew members in your typical, lower-to-medium budget short film.
Here’s a typical short film crew list, or skeleton crew, for smaller budget film productions:
If you’re a producer looking to make a movie, you need a story a tell. Nothing is possible without a polished script. In many cases, producers will search for and hire writers to write the script.
The script can either be about the producer’s idea or it can be an entirely new idea the producer is interested in. Once the script is secured, you can begin looking for the necessary crew to bring the script to life.
Finding a director should be the next crew member you hire. It’s important that you find the right director for your film before any money is raised, or any other position is filled.
The director will be in charge of every creative decision for the film and will often times have a network of filmmakers in his pocket that can be of great help for your film crew search.
The director could potentially have a DP in mind who worked on several projects with him in the past. This is great because having good chemistry between your film crew will make the production process much easier and more successful.
Director of Photography
The director of photography, or DP, is one of the most, if not the most, important position to fill in any film production. This is the person in charge of setting up camera shots and lighting setups, as well as making sure the director’s vision is successfully displayed on the big screen.
Some film productions and directors work without a DP and shoot scenes themselves. Typically, this is either because they weren’t able to hire a good DP or the director prefers to shoot the film himself.
The second reason can be okay at times if this is what the director prefers, but it is strongly recommended that you find a solid DP so that the director can worry less about setting up shots and lights, and focus more on his creative vision and directing talent.
10 times out of 10, your shoot will run much smoother with an experienced DP.
Sound is another very important department to have on a film set. It’s also a department that’s often overlooked in smaller independent productions or not given the same amount of attention that other departments get.
Many professional filmmakers stress how crucial having good sound is and how it makes up a large percentage of your film. Even with the best visuals and special effects, poor sound can make your film go from super engaging to really hard to watch.
Picking up a sound recordist is a great way to secure professional-sounding audio for your film production. This person should be someone who really knows and understands sound, and will get the best sound recording equipment and gear for the production.
This person can also act as the boom operator if low on hands.
Having a grip or gaffer on set may not be an essential position needed for smaller production, but if you’re able to hire a person for this position, it can make life on set way easier.
This grip position is in charge of all equipment, gear, and anything else on set used for the shoot. They work closely with the DP and handle any equipment — such as dollies, cranes, lights, drones, etc, needed for the shoot.
The gaffer is similar to the grip as they also work closely with the DP. The gaffer, however, typically works specifically on the lights and lighting setups needed for the shoot.
In smaller productions, the key grip and gaffer position can sometimes be morphed together into a single position.
Smaller film productions mean smaller film crews. Oftentimes, everyone on set will need to put on multiple hats and act as the DP but also do PA work, like breaking down all the camera equipment and lights, as well as driving it all to the next location.
The director may need to buy everyone coffee in the morning, or pick up an actor/actress from the train station and bring them to the shoot.
Having a PA, or production assistant, can allow you to shoot your film much more efficiently and quickly. It reduces the amount of stress and work main department heads have, and will allow them to focus most of their energy on important tasks suited for their positions.
Determining Your Film Production Crew
Know that the film crew members listed above aren’t always going to be the exact crew members needed for your film. This entirely depends on the type of film you’re working on, the amount of money you have, and the personnel you wish to shoot with.
There’s a much larger film crew list if you’re interested in hiring a larger crew for your production. Positions such as 1st assistant director, 1st assistant camera, script supervisor, production designer, make-up artist, etc, are also common in short film productions, as well as any other type of film production.
If you’re the producer, you will need to determine the roles needed for your movie crew.
The first thing you should do is read the script.
Go over the script several times — breaking it down scene-by-scene. This will inform you of all the elements needed to create the scene — such as props, locations, talent, equipment, etc.
This important information will give you a better idea of who you will need to create the film.
Are you shooting a horror film? A sci-fi adventure? Or perhaps, a romantic comedy? Different types of scripts will require a different crew. For example, if you’re shooting a horror script, you may need to focus more on lighting setups, production design, make-up, and audio.
Once you’ve figured out who you will need to make your film happen, the hiring phase begins. But before you start looking for a potential movie crew, you should have a solid idea of the type of people you wish to work with.
Make a list of requirements for each position and what you wish each person to do. Do you want your crew members to have prior experience? Do you want trustworthy and passionate people involved in your movie? People that are available and flexible?
You get the idea. Just make sure you know what you’re looking for before you start your search.
Check out our previous blog post where we discuss how important your film crew will be to your film production.
11 Ways Your Crew Can Make Or Break Your Film
Finding Your Film Crew
Once you’ve created a list of crew members needed for your shoot, you’re going to need to reach out to filmmakers within your community.
Production Crew Websites
You have a few options for finding crew members for your film — one of them being online production crew websites. There are plenty of websites out there that allow you to search for the film crew members you need.
Some popular film crew websites are Production Hub, Mandy, Backstage, ProductionBeast, and Staffmeup. Each one of these websites offers great resources for finding and hiring the crew members you need for your film.
The second option you have is using social media. Social media site — such as Facebook — is where you can find and join local filmmaking groups and communities. Oftentimes within these groups, independent filmmakers are posting production crew listings and are constantly asking around for people to help with their shoots.
Search Within Your Network
The third option you have is to look within your own network. Who do you know has a camera? Can draw amazing storyboards? Design really cool sets? Direct really well?
These are questions you should be asking yourself when searching for a potential film crew. You may have friends from film school looking to gain some experience, or friends of friends that could potentially help.
If you’re interested in learning more about finding and hiring a film crew, take a look at our previous blog post.
Once you’ve found your film crew members, you may need to communicate with them about rates, hours of availability, etc. Sometimes, you will get lucky and have an entire crew working for free.
Other times, especially if you don’t know the people before you hire them, you are likely going to need to pay whatever their rate is.
Check out our previous blog post if you’d like to learn more about negotiating film crew agreements and contracts.
Negotiating Film Crew Agreements
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of movie crews are assembled. One of the most important jobs a producer has is finding a great film crew. Without a crew, it’s virtually impossible to bring your story to the big screen — so don’t overlook this crucial pre-production step.
Remember, your crew will either make or break your film. It’s important that you take your time during the searching process, even if you’re working on a micro-budget short.
You want to make sure you have the best possible crew working for you. Everyone knows about the classic “film crew horror stories” that turn film productions into nightmares.
Don’t let that happen to you. Take you’re time and find people well-suited for your film production. You don’t need a ton of money to have a solid film crew — you just need to put yourself out there and network with the right people.
Lastly, make sure to be respectful to your hard-working and passionate crew working under you. Everyone should feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed during your shoot. If everyone’s getting along and having a great time on set, you will have a much better chance of producing a successful film.
If you’re in need of funding for hiring crew members, or for any other aspect of your production, check out our funding opportunities for a chance to secure up to $10,000 in funding for your film.