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Sawyer Thurston

Building a Team - Life After One Man Crew

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Hello,

 

For all of the people that started off as a "Videographer" or one man crew, I'm curious how you expanded as budgets grew - I mean aside from taking positions on other productions. Also - the work I'm mostly focused on right now is commercial.

 

For instance, for a while I was on the lonely grind of shooting and editing all by myself. Last year however, I began having higher budgets that allowed for a few more crew. The marketing director of whichever business I'd be shooting for would usually act as a Producer. I would share the Director / DP role. Then I would hire someone for grip / gaff (One person sharing both roles). Some projects the clients would supply someone for hair/makeup or even an art director, but because that wasn't constant on most shoots, assume those are fair game for possible next role as well.

 

In post I've also had enough budget for a professional colorist on all projects last year, but I'm still the one editing.

 

From either your experience, or what you've read of mine, what is the next role I should be looking to add as budgets grow that will add the most value to the production? Lastly assume it's MOS because if there was audio needed, that is mostly likely the role I would pull in.

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The first person I added was a great 1st AC I could trust, depending to a degree on what kind of setup youre generally shooting on.

Edited by David McLeavy

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As your crew grows in size, you'd be better off adding a 1st A.D. to handle the logistics and a production coordinator or manager to handle coordinating of the shoot. Take the headaches away and let you focus on the creative side of things.

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It really depends on each project you set out to produce.

 

Something with moving talent and a lot of shallow DOF - get a focus puller.

 

Something with a lot of talent - get an AD.

 

Something with a lot of setups that require good lighting - get a gaffer.

 

One thing I've grown accustomed to is booking crew who are multi-skilled who don't mind swinging. It's common in my market for crew to be expert in 3 or 4 different roles. At this point I don't think I'd hire someone who only did or could only do one thing unless they were amazing at it and it was something I really needed (like a great focus puller).

 

When I was shooting a lot of indie films, I generally insisted on having a script supervisor, in part because I was generally editing, haha.

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One thing I've grown accustomed to is booking crew who are multi-skilled who don't mind swinging. It's common in my market for crew to be expert in 3 or 4 different roles. At this point I don't think I'd hire someone who only did or could only do one thing unless they were amazing at it and it was something I really needed (like a great focus puller).

 

I recognise this situation; I was in it last Sunday and I'll be in it again tomorrow. You may have encountered circumstances under which someone slates a take then darts over to camera to grab the follow focus control.

 

Personally, I don't mind people multi-skilling as long as they don't mind. I know people who don't like doing it and that's fair play; there's value in specialism, but there's also value in being a small, lean operation. Complexity begets complexity, stuff begets stuff, and for every five people you add to a shoot you need another person to manage them, and that person needs to be reasonably experienced even if the people under them aren't.

 

One key thing about this is that it's easier to use nonstandard techniques or equipment when working with a very small group of people. For instance, I've always held that while it's quite possible, technically, not to slate takes when timecode is in use (and lining a take up by eye in the edit is frankly so trivial that it's barely worth the on-set time spent preventing the odd timecode failure.) With a large crew, the sight of someone waving a slate around in front of camera, which tends to be very visible both in person and on all the monitors, is a useful cue that everyone should shut up and stop moving around, so it's still worth doing. With fewer people, this becomes less of a factor; it's easier to explain what's being done, and easier to ensure everyone's familiar with the approach we're using today.

 

There are downsides to this; it's easy to end up with a cohort of people who understand the way one likes to work, and be in trouble if anyone's unavailable. I'm not campaigning for a complete de-standardisation of film and television production technique, though I think it's less standardised than most people think it is anyway, especially if you're moving between genres of production, as many people do. But a smaller crew can certainly move faster, for these and other reasons, to the point where having less people to do things actually costs less time than you'd think.

 

P

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It seems the trend as of late is toward smaller crews. I've spoken with multiple DP's and directors in the past few years who stated a preference for smaller crews at least in the realm I generally work in, which tends to be story-telling (b-roll, and interviews). I just today had a call with a director about shooting some internal pieces for a large bank featuring their staff. We both agreed that having a less obtrusive, intimidating camera rig as well as a small crew (just the two of us!) was the way to go, which of course we can get away with as long as expectation matches our approach, especially if we're willing to share tech duties to some extent.

 

You just have to go into it having your azz covered. Stretching yourself thin means the chance is greater that things slip through the cracks.

 

I've been shooting MOS spots lately with 2 G&E, an AC, PA, coordinator, makeup, a director, and we've been fairly comfortable while also nailing the intended imagery. Of course part of getting the shots with a smaller crew means, yes, eliminating certain things like slating which is a total buzzkill in my opinion, haha.

 

 

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