View Full Version : NO CREW FILMMMAKING - True or Not?

10-27-2004, 11:08 AM
I have been shooting a feature for the last few months.

What I have learned is that I can shoot the movie having only 2 people as a CREW:

Me (director/cinematographer/lights) and my friend (script super/continuity/boom oper).

I was not even so hard. What are your experiences?
Do you think we're entering the age of NO CREW FILMMAKING?


10-27-2004, 11:20 AM
So how did you shoot the car chase scene with explosions and 150 extras watching by, as the main characters jump out of the car, flip, pull out their guns and start firing at each other, while hitting objects nearby?

And how did you do the location sound for that scene?

;) I'm just being a shit - but in all seriousness, I think that in most productions a crew is definitely necessary.

10-27-2004, 11:54 AM
This is my production crew for my feature (shooting in March)

Writer/Producer/Director - Me
Sound Person
Lighting Person
Production Manager/First Asst. Director
Production Designer
Hair/make up person
Wardrobe person
Two PAs


10-27-2004, 11:56 AM
It all depends on who you are and what you can do. Rodriguez says in his book "Don't have a crew -- they'll just slow you down, plus you have to feed them so they're expensive."

On the other hand, having the right crew is the greatest blessing you can have on a film shoot. Having trustworthy people taking care of their jobs frees you up to think about your job. I've done spots where I've been the writer/director/producer/DP/gaffer/makeup/wardrobe/props/editor... and I've done jobs where I've been just the DP. I'll guarantee you the footage looked a *lot* better when I was free to focus on just shooting.

10-27-2004, 12:26 PM
Barry, if I could afford few more people on the set I wouldnt mind sharing responsibilites but if you have NO MONEY youre kind of forced to limit your CREW.
I did limit it to two people and it worked but I agree with you that having a small crew (for me it would be max 10 people) would speed up the process etc etc etc etc...

So, actually NO CREW FILMMAKING may be just a first step in our filmmaking career/life I suppose.
Do you know if Robert Rodrig. is shooting with a big crew or it is just him doing everyting El Mariachi-style?

10-27-2004, 01:39 PM

No money - count me in! Money is always a problem. But I find that many talented people will work for very little (still have to feed them). Crews make a huge difference in productivity and keeping your shoot on schedule. You want to change a setup? It may take fifteen minutes with crew of 10, but you'd need two hours with crew of two. Never mind the physical exhaustion that takes away your energy from actual shooting...

10-27-2004, 03:06 PM
Barry I agree with you.

I've made mistakes having barely any crew and now I go for the more people in the crew the better.

You can tell in the footage and how the whole project turns out to be.

Jim Brennan
10-27-2004, 10:02 PM
I think doing it all in the beginning is not a bad thing. It makes you learn, hands on, about all that goes into a film. Of course, it probably won't be a great looking (or sounding) film. As time goes on, you begin to realize that having competent people helping you not only frees you up to focus on directing, or DPing or whatever, but you also can get good collaborative input. Someone that has focused on only sound, or lights for a while is going to know a lot more about what works than you. YUou can put that knowledge to good use. But I never let not having a crew stop me from shooting something.

As far as Rodriguez, he still does a lot of his own stuff. Writes, directs, operates the camera, writes at least some of the score, helps with some of the post and stunt choreography. He's like a kid in a candy store. It saves the studio money, which makes him a little more bankable I suppose. In the end, he might make better movies if he didn't do it that way. But he does it because he likes it, and because he can. But he is the exception.

10-27-2004, 10:19 PM
Jim, as far as doing it all in the beginning -- that also lets you find out what you like to do. Of course everyone "wants" to be director, but not a lot of people are actually good at it. You may find, when doing all the jobs, that you're superb at something, and maybe not so good at something else. Best to learn that, and the earlier you learn it, the happier you can be...

Jim Brennan
10-28-2004, 07:49 AM
Good point. Sometimes you really enjoy an aspect of production that you didn't expect. And the joy you get from doing something often comes from doing it well.

10-28-2004, 12:09 PM
A lot of it is about mindset for me.

Sometimes I approach it by shooting guerilla-style just with my two buddies. We just have a blast. Other times I put aside a couple thousand dollars and get a crew. It depends on the projects.

I sometimes like to get away from the 25 person crew and just have tons of freedom with my little DV cam.

10-28-2004, 06:07 PM
As you know my lead actress letf the project when we had only 10% of the footage to go (vide:"you better love filmmaking") - yesterday a friend of mine told me that this may happen when you dont pay your talnents.

Do you agree? I thought that having an opportunity to be The Lead in the movie (even a no-budget one) should be such a great experience for starting actors you know...I am thinking if I was thinking about becoming a star in the future I would do everything to GET the part in ANY project and FINISH IT. But maybe it just me.

Also I was told that if I had a buget to shoot the movie the actors would TREAT THE PROJECT MORE SERIOUSLY.
Hmm, maybe I am just not experienced but...how the hell is that?! Nobody is experienced now, even the actors who want to be payed. They put some of their time to the project -that is true. But producer puts thousadns of dollars and about a year to acutualy start shootign the movie.
Oh, well, I better learn from this experience...but anyway I cant pay my talens so hopefuly I will find my dream actors for the next attempt to shoot my first feature in spring.


Jim Brennan
10-28-2004, 06:45 PM
A true professional will honor their commitments, regardless of whether they are getting paid. *On the flipside there are people who will flake even if they get a big fat check. *To some degree, I guess getting paid can give more of an illusion of commitment to some people. *But ultimately you just want to find people who will do what they said they were going to do and not change the rules 90% through.

But always remember that you will never find anyone who is excited about what you are doing as you are. *They get involved to further their own agenda, so make it worth their while. *A featured role for a new actor can be a great motivator for them. *But the challenge with inexperienced people is that they often do not realize the level of commitment and work it takes to do a film. *All you can do is be totally up front about what you need, what you expect from them and use your judgement.

10-31-2004, 10:32 AM
When a director doesn't pay the talent, isn't a message being sent to them about how much their contribution is worth?

I think it is very important to pay something to everyone involved in a production. It often isn't much, and it often can't be much; just a pittance. But that token can make people who are going to be working hard for you feel that their contribution means something to you.

I would also suggest that you seriously consider doing deferrals: "If the movie makes $x, you get y% of that." Then, they have an actual investment in it, and have a motivation to talk about this *great project* they were in. After all, they might hit the big-time before you do, and having a known actor talking about this great indie filmmaker they worked with before they got noticed is one of the best things that could possibly happen to you.

And feed them. Always feed them. :-)

(Oh, and on the original topic, and IMHO of course... Unless you are shooting MOS, you need an absolute minimum of two people: one to run the camera, one to run the boom / monitor sound. It's not impossible to do both, but I would offer that it is nearly impossible to do both *well*, especially when recording dialogue.)

Jim Brennan
10-31-2004, 04:20 PM
For some of us it's unrealistic to pay the talent. We just don't have any money for it. I still use work lights and a home made boom. Feeding my family comes first. You could offer them some points, but most of them are smart enough to know they will never see dime one. I have found a good number of talented people who are willing to work for food, as long as you are up front about the deal, you treat them with respect, and they find interest in the project. There's nothing wrong with asking for help. Most people that I know feel that we are all trying to accomplish something together. Now if I had a budget, and I wasn't paying, that would be a different story.

Rich Lee
10-31-2004, 04:39 PM
not having a crew can only take you so far. it all depends on the kind of films you make and how quickly you need to make them. i shot my first music video not to long ago, i could not have done it without a small crew.

honestly, the rodrigez film standards are getting a little tired to me. im tired of hearing aobut him. if they guy actualy broke down and got him self a crew, maybe he could concentrate and make better movies. its so annoying too when he puts his name down for every f-ing job title....i cant stand seeing that on short films on the net, and i cant stand it even more from RR.

10-31-2004, 06:39 PM
And he probably had at least 20 people working for him to shoot From Dusk till Dawn. Do you think he built the sets alone? Did makeup? Cinematography? (It's easy to stay behind the loaded camera and flick the switch once everything is set up) Sound Recording? Editing? Sound Editing? Production? Extras? Casting? C'mon. Besides, I don't even think he is that good.

Jim Brennan
10-31-2004, 07:08 PM
I believe he does a little more than stay behind a loaded camera and flick the switch. He writes, storyboards, directs, shoots, edits, does some scoring, as well as some post work. I agree (as stated in my earlier post) tha his movies would probably be better if he had some more creative input. But he does it because he can, and he is a very capable filmmaker. THe downside is that a lot of people think that by using his example, they can become good filmmakers by getting a camera and just shooting. Most of those people will fail under that pretense. The man had been making shorts since he was a kid, is a self-educated illustrator, and spent some time in film school. His career was launched in part because he had the right product (including himself as part of that product) at the right time. He has become a bit of a cliche of a one-man success story. But he paid some dues and is doing what most of us would love to do. Most of us wouldn't do it the way he does, (taking on so much of the process), but that's his choice. At least he is in the position to make that decision, and I certainly don't begrudge him that.

11-01-2004, 01:09 PM
If you have a budget - you pay everyone. Why not?
If you cant pay you have a choice: make a movie and move forward or WAIT FOR THE BETTER MOMENT (money, connections etc you name it).

That is so simple. Come on.

Jim Brennan
11-02-2004, 06:20 AM
It can be that simple, but sometimes it's hard to know when to wait for that "BETTER MOMENT". It's rare that an inndie filmmaker has all of his ducks in a row. It's more a question of knowing how many ducks are enough.

11-02-2004, 07:08 AM
It's rare that an inndie filmmaker has all of his ducks in a row. *It's more a question of knowing how many ducks are enough.

And that, I think, is what separates those who are successful and those who aren't.

Jim Brennan
11-02-2004, 09:30 AM
And it can be a painful process at times. That's why I like sites like this one. Being able to draw on other people's experience is a great tool. The other aspect is your own experience. Having done only three shorts I am still very much a novice. But I've learned from each one, and they have gotten succesively better. Each has also increased in complexity, (bigger cast, more locations, longer script, etc) which adds signifigantly to the learning curve. But, in keeping with the spirit of this thread, I had a lot of help on the last one from more experienced people. The result was remarkably better. I don't doubt the importance of the 2 I did on my own. There were many lessons learned. But having people to draw from, right there on the set was a great advantage.

11-02-2004, 06:02 PM
I would love to have a crew who KNOWS what their doing. I sometimes would have like 10 people on set and only 2 would know what the hell to do. Doesn't matter, I having fun.

Zach Lien
11-03-2004, 05:06 AM
post doesnt really make sense. it totally depends on what your film is. there will never be no film crew in movies. seriously, just look at how many people it takes- havent you seen the end credits? sigh....so many people go un noticed.

Do you think we're entering the age of NO CREW FILMMAKING?

Maybe I'm in a bad mood this morning but thats just f*cking rediculous to me.

Zach Lien
11-03-2004, 05:22 AM
nope, I'm not in a bad mood.

11-03-2004, 04:45 PM
It all depends on who you are and what you can do. Rodriguez says in his book "Don't have a crew -- they'll just slow you down, plus you have to feed them so they're expensive."

On the other hand, having the right crew is the greatest blessing you can have on a film shoot. Having trustworthy people taking care of their jobs frees you up to think about your job. I've done spots where I've been the writer/director/producer/DP/gaffer/makeup/wardrobe/props/editor... and I've done jobs where I've been just the DP. I'll guarantee you the footage looked a *lot* better when I was free to focus on just shooting.

Great point. I think that a "Small" group of people who work well togeather in a Friendly atmosphere is superior to working in a large group. I'd be happy with even a 3 man crew if everyone had the same vision and energy for the project. ;D

*slaps himself* ack, I haven't even shot anything so I think I must be projecting my future wishes into my head.


11-06-2004, 11:38 AM
Of course you need a crew.

For instance: you can't make a dolly from the bottom of an office chair, bungie-cord a StreadyTracker to it, tie the thing to your waist, and expect nice smooth tracking shots.

Eveidence here -> http://www.ChangedCrocodile.com/Films/Dolly.wmv


Zach Lien
11-06-2004, 12:05 PM
OMG LMAO. watch that guys...watch that

11-06-2004, 12:10 PM
Nice evidence. ;D

I'll echo what was said above. I've shot where it was just me and the actors (had to mount the mic on the camera :() Then had times when I was Director/ DP and had a gaffer, a sound person and a camera assistant. The footage from that turned out much better.

Neil Rowe
11-06-2004, 12:34 PM
...i think that doing a feature without a crew is inevitably harder. the screenplay should be written expressly to be able to pull it all off. but its not impossible. ive done it myself. and plan on doing it again this coming summer. again the film was written to be able to pull it off, but i cant look at a film like "clerks" or "peices of april" or "lost in translation" for that matter and think that they would really require a crew to pull off if you just went at it from an angle that required no crew. theres always more than one way to peel the same apple, and as long as you plan accordingly for only one person peeling. you should be able to do it according to plan, and get the same end result. now if your doing "the lord of the rings" trilogy.. well then thats a different story. ..youll need a crew,, a very very very large one at that.

..anyhow, on a side ..but related note.. its my impression that most independent filmmakers fail at becoming anything more simply becasue they set their sights too high at first.. they want to make the next matrix.. or LOTR or star wars, or fight club. and what they end up with at best is a somewhat hokey B movie that goes nowhere. then they rinse and repeat a couple times, and eventually get frustated and quit because theyve still gotten nowhere. IMHO I think people need to be realistic about what they can and cannot do in their current position, and then take a look at what their options are. perhaps you can realistically make a hokie b action film.. or you can make a real knock out A+ simple love story or human story film.. comedy.. or other simple drama that doesnt require all the money, special effects, props, locations, elaborate and intricate camera moves, and all the other stuff associated with taking on a "larger budget and crew required" project thats likely really out of your means at the time.. most people would likely naively take the action flick road cause they want to make action films. I would encourage them to broaden their horizons a little and concentrate on doing something that will be succsessfull enough to earn them a real reputation, and enough capitol so that they can then look at their next film and have alot more in terms of realistic options for making a good film. and the next film even more options.
and then, when youve actually got the money and clout and experience to make the next summer blockbuster ..you wont find yourself sitting around trying to figure out how you can make it look like you blew up your moms car without bad cgi effects or getting caught playing with gas in her garage.

11-06-2004, 12:55 PM
that was too funny! Nice attemps though. Props!

11-06-2004, 01:43 PM
There is no disgrace in offering points and credits and a chance to share in some infectious enthusiasm and creative energy. Everyone needs to feel they are contributing and that their work has value... and oh yeah, feed them.

11-06-2004, 04:54 PM
I started this topic just because most of my friend wannabe filmmakers are only waitning for THE BIG DAY. All they are telling me is that first you got to go to film shool, find connected guys, met this producer, learn how to write the script, network etc etc.

So, I decided to start shooting and I feel great. I see that this is very good way to START LIVING YOUR GOAL right now. Especially if you dont have time or cash for a film school. Same about the script - I just wrote one. It sucked. Wroted another - much better so I shot it. Looks good.

You know, of course you cant shoot the movie by yourself.
But if you love filmmaking you do some thing which sounds like nonsenes.

I m going for 5 days vacation to Vegas on Thanksgiving and not to "waste" time I am going to shoot the feature there. ;)
Right now I am doing "an excericse" with my friend. We are shooting a feature just me and her. We act, shoot, sound and light.

There is a very famous cinematographer attached to this project too.
His name is Bogen Tripod. ;D

I am not saying this is a way to make films. ;D But it is fun excerise before we will reshoot our feature in spring - right?