Nine Tips for Hiring the Right Video Production Crew
As a producer/director, I’ve traveled around the world putting together dozens of video crews ranging from small documentary teams to large commercial productions, so I know how challenging it can be to put a great crew together.
Here are nine helpful tips for assembling the right small crew and creating a good vibe for a successful shoot.
- 1. Take time to find the right DP for the job.
When I’m producing or directing a video, the Director of Photography (DP) is my best friend and the heart of the crew. Every DP has his or her strengths, just as every video has its own particular production challenges that require specific skillsets. Paring the right DP or Videographer for the job is an essential ingredient for a successful shoot. For example, some DPs are particularly good with creative lighting, or hand-held camera work, or documentary-style pieces, or green-screen shooting. Some might have a vast knowledge of lenses and tech specs while others are particularly good with corporate clients.
When interviewing potential DPs, make sure to ask them what kinds of productions they enjoy shooting most and what they consider their forte. Keep your budget in mind when asking their rate, but remember that you get what you pay for! More experienced and skilled crew members command higher rates, for good reason. Ask if the DP is available for your shoot dates but don’t book them until you’ve seen their work, which leads us to the next tip.
- 2. Vet your crew online.
These days every DP or videographer should have their own work on a website. Looking at a DP’s work is not only a great way to see if they have the chops to shoot your video, but also it can be a great place to see different styles that you might want to incorporate. Other crew positions are no different— set designers, make-up artists, sound recordists, etc. all usually have websites with their work and contact info. Check for an Imdb or LinkedIn page as well.
- 3. Ask for recommendations.
Have you found the perfect DP or videographer? Now is your chance to ask for recommendations to fill the other open roles. Perhaps the DP has a favorite gaffer, steadicam operator, or food stylist that they like to work with. And that gaffer probably has a preferred grip, and might know a great local sound guy. As a DP in that situation before, I can tell you that I wouldn’t recommend someone who I couldn’t vouch for. So if you know your DP is good, you can likely trust his recommendations.
- 4. Get estimates in writing that list crew and any equipment rentals.
It’s important to agree on pricing up front, so that you know exactly what you’re getting and so that there won’t be any disagreements about freelancer’s rates after the shoot. Ask them to list if their day rate covers 8, 10, or 12 hours and if lunch is on or off the clock. If your shoot needs to be union due to the location or circumstances, talk to the local union early to learn their working rules and to get any paperwork out of the way. Lastly, if you’re renting equipment from any crew members, a gear list will be helpful to make sure you’ve got all your needs covered.
- 5. Hire enough crew members to get the job done right
Budgets are always tight, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of going too far in cutting costs. Perhaps you hire only two people when you need three or four to get the job done right. It all depends on the shoot, but rarely do you want one crew member wearing too many hats. For example, say your DP doesn’t have a gaffer or grip to help set up lights, and while he’s lighting the scene he’s also worrying about recording audio. Either the quality of the final product or the speed of the shoot will suffer greatly, and you would have been better off hiring that sound recordist and grip from the beginning. Budget appropriately, hire enough people for the job, and you’ll be much happier in the long run.
- 6. Communicate with the crew during pre-production.
Set up a phone call with your DP to talk about your vision for the piece. Talking to them will give you both a better sense of their style and will help to make sure you can work well together on set. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about what equipment, locations, or extra crew you’ll need for your production. Keep crew in the loop when you want to put them on hold and when you’re ready to confirm the booking. If possible, send them a script and example videos ahead of time, to make sure you’re on the same page going into the shoot.
- 7. Create a call sheet.
Send out a call sheet to all of your crew members and talent, including address, call time, parking instructions, shoot schedule, on-set contact, and any other relevant details. Other helpful additions include: weather forecast, closest hospital to the set, lunch details/menu, project title and invoicing instructions. It’s always a good idea to ask your crew to confirm they’ve received it, and make sure to send it out at least a day in advance of the shoot (not the morning of!).
- 8. Coffee, breakfast, and lunch.
A well-fed crew stays happier and more productive, leading to a better product. Grab a to-go box from your favorite coffee place and start the day off right with a quick breakfast and meeting to go over the plan for the shoot. Check with the crew so that you know if anyone has any specific food allergies or preferences. If the shoot goes overtime, serve dinner as well to keep everyone motivated.
- 9. Make sure your crew gets paid in a timely fashion.
Whether you’re using a payroll company or cutting checks yourself, make sure to get invoices and any tax forms you need from your crew members and pay them as quickly as possible. If they don’t get paid on time, they won’t want to work for you again.
Studio B Films provides crew services for SF Bay Area shoots. Don’t want to worry about all the nuances of hiring the perfect crew? The easiest solution is to have us do it for you. You can rest easy knowing your crew will meet the high standards seen in our productions. We’ll cover all the logistics, crew hiring, payroll, gear prep and delivery, meals, and insurance. Just let us know what you need and we’ll handle the rest.