When you’re first starting out as a director, one of the biggest challenges you can face is assembling a crew. How do you guide the people who will support you and your vision — especially when they have zero experience? The good thing is you don’t have to wait until you’re able to hire a team of professionals to bring your vision to life. To direct an inexperienced crew, you just need time, patience, and a lot of trust.
Assembling your crew
The first thing you’ll need to do is find your crew. A skeleton crew (aka bare-bones crew) is a team of 5-7 people who will take on a variety of roles.
Though these roles vary depending on your production, you will need someone to run audio. It’s important to make sure that everything sounds clear. You’ll need someone to set up and be responsible for lighting. Also, you’ll need a Director of Photography to operate the camera. This person will also need to make sure all of your shots look the way they need to. Lastly, you’ll also need a person to oversee hair and makeup, and a production assistant to, well, assist the production.
Pro Tip: BE SELECTIVE
When selecting your crew, be sure you select people who can take direction well. Asking your friends for help is great. However, if they won’t listen to you or take their responsibilities seriously, consider someone else.
As a director, you will be wearing many hats during your production. It’s important to not lose sight of your main role as director. Your role as a director is to direct the actors and communicate your vision to your crew. So, it is vital that your crew knows their roles and responsibilities. Once you have your crew gathered, you want to familiarize your team with all the equipment they will be using. Here are some key thoughts to communicate to your production team.
Make sure the person who is running audio knows what to listen out for and how to communicate any takes that were ruined because of ambient sounds. You don’t want them to ruin a take by yelling in the middle of a great performance “HEY WE’VE GOTTA DO THAT AGAIN!”.
Your cameraman will be vital to the visuals. In addition to teaching them how to utilize the camera, be sure that you communicate your vision to them in great detail. The more clearly you can communicate beforehand, the less you’ll have to do the day of. Though you may be in close proximity to them during the shoot, make sure they know how to focus, move the camera and most importantly HIT RECORD.
The lighting in your project is going to be crucial. Make sure they know about placement of lights, putting down sandbags to make sure lights do not topple over and break, as well making sure they don’t blow a circuit by plugging in too many plugs into the same outlet.
Expensive equipment in inexperienced hands
Assuming you will be using your own or borrowed equipment, it’s vital that the people handling it know how to not only use the equipment but take care of it. Go through every aspect from setup to take down to resting the equipment.
Simple actions that will seem obvious to you may not be so obvious to someone who has never worked with the equipment before. If you’re borrowing equipment, ask the person who owns the equipment to train your crew member on how to use it. Be sure to be patient and thorough.
Pro Tip: Work with a PRO
If you have access to more experienced people to train and supervise others, USE THEM. Empower them to take the lead and be another set of eyes and experience to help your production run smoothly and so you can focus on your vision as a director.
Directing your crew during production
Once you’ve laid the groundwork of educating your crew on the equipment and their responsibilities, now it’s time to work with them the day of the shoot. As the director you are the captain of this ship, so you need to make sure that you clearly communicate what needs to be done and when.
You will have to reiterate information and responsibilities, but it’s important that you account for those breakdowns in communication — they will definitely happen.
A first time crew may not know how long a production day is or how tiring it can be.
A first time crew may not know how long a production day is or how tiring it can be. Be sure you communicate these expectations up front by having a call sheet with a layout of the day ready for them. This will help manage expectations of the day and reassure the crew that there is an end in sight.
Pro Tip: FEED YOUR CREW
If you can’t pay your crew, you can at least feed them. A well-fed crew will work 10x harder for you than a crew you’re not paying AND not feeding. Have snacks and drinks available throughout the day and don’t forget about lunch too. You can never go wrong with pizza.
Directing a crew takes a lot of work. Even when working with professionals, it takes a lot of communication, patience, and trust. The same goes with a crew with little to no experience, only more so. Working with an inexperienced crew is a learning process and one that takes a director who is willing to take the time to train, communicate, and find the right group of people to come together to bring your vision to life.