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If All You Had Were 6 People on Your Crew

Even if your project is strapped for resources – and by resources, we mean money – you can still find talented individuals to fill the production crew. If you’ve selected the right people for the other positions, you should already have good lines of communication ready to go for the crew. Maybe your producer or director knows people, or at least can point you in the right direction. You want your crew to feel like they are working towards a bigger goal. Some of them might actually be working for what amounts to a favor, but this shouldn’t stop them from feeling like they want to be on your set. So what are the essential crew members for a production of any budget size?

Photo: Jfurrer

Director of Photography

A good director of photography can add a lot to your production values. This is the person who literally captures the look of your project. However, even someone who can just hold a camera could be better than an artist who takes too long to set up each shot.

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The most overlooked position on any set is sometimes the sound technicians. There are solutions for bad visuals – maybe it was an artistic decision to go for an amateur or grainy look. However, bad sound will literally make people cringe.

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Hair and Makeup

Part of the value in a good performance is the actor’s appearance. However, you want to avoid overdoing it unless you’re going for a bad porn aesthetic. Sometimes, you might just trust your cast members to make themselves look right.

Gaffer | Grip

Do you know how to use a c-stand? Find someone who can. Do you even know what a c-stand is? At the very least, find someone who does.

Assistant Director | Unit Production Manager

You’ve heard the expression, “it’s all in the details.” The AD or UPM will be keeping track of your production’s details. Find someone who is thorough to the point that it’s slightly annoying.

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The Importance of Being Transparent

Since we’re kind of assuming a low budget scenario here, you want to make sure your crew members are okay with this too. Maybe they are working for less money because your producer called in a favor, but this doesn’t mean you have to make their lives a living hell at the same time. A pleasant on-set environment can compensate for the lack of compensation. A simple two to three minute production meeting at the end of each day will let the crew know that things are going well and what they can expect for the next day’s work.

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It’s Not All in the Resume

Maybe you’re dazzled by the productions your potential crew members have worked on in the past. However, they might not have had full responsibility on those projects. You’ll be doing enough learning on the fly yourself, but it’s better if your above-the-line crew doesn’t have to do the same. Maybe your director of photography worked as an assistant to award winning cinematographers; you still might ask for a reel to see what he or she can do. After all, your production will not have the same capabilities as some of those past gigs.


On big budget productions, everyone on the crew has a specific job, plus a few assistants for additional help. For your more modest project, you might actually want the opposite: crew members who can do two or three jobs without any helpers. Maybe this means your gaffer doubles as the key grip. Maybe your assistant director does script supervision and occasionally holds the boom mic when the sound person has to fill in as a supporting actor for a scene. In the world of low-to-no budget productions, anyone who can do anything is a huge relief, but someone who can do a dozen jobs is a godsend.

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