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    minimum crew size for $30,000 - 50,000 indie ?
    #1
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    For those who have produced/directed a feature length indie, what guidance can you give on the minimum production crew size (including director) to film a quality $30,000 to $50,000 microbudget indie horror? Granted, 'quality' is somewhat subjective, but I basically mean clean audio/dialogue, clean footage, non-harsh lighting, makeup so the actors have a good look on video. I want to keep the size as small as possible to keep the cost down (which goes up exponentially with each crew members, considering lodging and food, payroll taxes, etc), but I also want enough people involved to make the film look good, and not kill myself doing everything. Are there ADs and Sound/Boom crew willing to double for hauling equipment or helping with the craft table (to reduce crew size)?
    randall


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    I have produced an indie feature, budget $290K. To answer your question with a question: how long is a piece of string? In other words, it entirely depends on the script and on the vision the director has. Is it is heavy on special effects and makeup and props, or is it mostly psychological? Are there tons of locations? Is it a minimalist type look, or is it a futuristic gothic costume look? Etc.

    But. Sparking off this statement: "I want to keep the size as small as possible to keep the cost down (which goes up exponentially with each crew members, considering lodging and food, payroll taxes, etc)" I'd break it down like this:

    Absolute minimum 3 people in total - this is barely doable, and needs A TON of pre-production work:

    1)One Person: Director=Producer=DP=Lights=Cam Operator

    2)Second Person: Sound (mixer, boom)

    3)Third Person: Everything else

    More realistic:

    1) Director
    2) Producer=Production Manager=Location Manager
    3) DP=Lights=Cam Op
    4) Sound=Mixer=Boom Op
    5) Makeup
    6) Set Decorator=Prop=Costume
    7) Crafts (food prep and serv)
    8) PA (everything else: grip, driver, go-fetch, all-around help)
    9) PA (everything else: grip, driver, go-fetch, all-around help)

    Realistically, I'd say 9 people. But you CAN do it with as few as 3. So anywhere between 3 and 9. "Keeping the cost down" involves some people not getting paid at all - like the Director and whomever the producer and director manage to rope in for free labor (FRIENDS! RELATIVES! STUDENTS!) as long as the folks can manage to do the job (so, for example, the roles of the two PAs, the Crafts, etc.). But even people who don't get paid, will still cost you money in food, transportation and the like.


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    Senior Member gonzo_entertainment's Avatar
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    Never done a feature, but I'd basically agree with the above. If you operate the cam yourself and serves as your own AD (keeping track of the shot list), which a very full plate for a director, then 6 to 9. You'd need an audio person, makeup, a grip, and two or three PAs to do everything else.


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    As many people as you need on each day.

    There were times when it was just myself and a camera (pick up days).
    Sometimes myself, producer, make-up, sound.
    Average day was about eight on crew (mostly what corpse listed)
    Biggest days I feel like were about twelve to fifteen just crew.

    So, when you need it to be big, spend on those days. When you don't, don't spend.


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    Absolutely no chance you're going to get anything close to decent quality with a sound mixer who's also the boom op. Same with AC and DP (or DP and director, for that matter)


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    Quote Originally Posted by sonofaresiii View Post
    Absolutely no chance you're going to get anything close to decent quality with a sound mixer who's also the boom op. Same with AC and DP (or DP and director, for that matter)
    Absolutely not true. For most relatively uncomplicated scenes, there isn't much mixing to tape. You can get great results setting conservative levels into a high quality, 24-bit recorder, giving you clean tracks to mix in post.

    It's also completely reasonable in a budget-constrained environment to pull focus yourself off of a monitor while operating in all but the most difficult situations. While having a double duty mixer/boom op and dp/operator/ac isn't ideal, it definitely doesn't preclude you from professional results if you take the proper time and care on set. Whatever you're lacking in resources and crew, you need to make up for with time, planning, and effort.
    Last edited by stefancolson; 04-28-2012 at 01:02 PM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by gonzo_entertainment View Post
    Never done a feature, but I'd basically agree with the above. If you operate the cam yourself and serves as your own AD (keeping track of the shot list), which a very full plate for a director, then 6 to 9. You'd need an audio person, makeup, a grip, and two or three PAs to do everything else.
    Even if you are operating, I'd hire a first AC to pull focus, move the camera, do lens changes, etc. It's really hard (and wasteful, time-wise) to be messing with the camera while you're also trying to direct. It's pretty dang tough to do both in my experience.

    With a first AC, you can just point them to the new location for the camera, a lens change, and they can spend the next 3-8 minutes moving and leveling the camera, and getting prepped to pull focus while you pay attention to the actual filmmaking and the actors.

    Buzzed takes cost you time and money (and lose you performances you don't have money to lose).

    If you've got your lead(s) on camera with dialogue, IMO you should always have a first AC. As far as crew members go, they're underpaid for what they do.

    Best, Erich


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    Quote Originally Posted by stefancolson View Post
    Absolutely not true. For most relatively uncomplicated scenes, there isn't much mixing to tape. You can get great results setting conservative levels into a high quality, 24-bit recorder, giving you clean tracks to mix in post....
    I have to say I shot a short with a $1500 Sennheiser wireless lav system (2 lavs, wireless, battery powered, 2 transducers, 2 receivers), absolutely mind blowing quality, better than a $300 Rode shotgun boompole mic i own. Those little lav mics were just incredible in the quality of recorded dialog audio. And I simply jacked the two receivers into a Zoom H4n 24-bit portable recorder and the resulting audio just seems to be of professional quality. With two such systems, heck a dancing monkey could possibly record four actors's dialog all without a boompole/mic!


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    Senior Member stefancolson's Avatar
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    A properly boomed shotgun or hypercardiod mic will almost always sound miles better than lavs, but with a little post love you can do a lot with lavs. A good boom op / mixer with a multichannel recorder and a lav kit can cover most situations solo with great results.


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    Senior Member hscully's Avatar
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    I think you need to get some grip help to your DP. On interiors, setups take too long if the DP has to camera op and set flags, silks, bounce and focus lights. It won't be worth the savings. You will lose it in time and the number of pages you can shoot in a day. I also agree with the suggestion of having an AC. While your DP is working with your grip/gaffer on the setup, the AC can move camera and pull focus when you go. Think through those setups and who you need to make them.

    No kidding, one pro grip and one gaffer will cut your setup times in half. They'll wrangle cables, dollie grip, help your set decorator and solve inumerable problems you won't even know you have. They may grumble about lack of gear, but that usually lasts one day. OH! No freakin' pizza!
    Last edited by hscully; 04-29-2012 at 05:23 AM.


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