How To Hire (And Keep) the Best Crew for Your Low-Budget Project

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“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” —Andrew Carnegie

Anyone who has ever sat through the credits at the end of a movie knows just how many people it takes to bring a project to life. Since the size of your crew is usually determined by the size of your budget, it can sometimes be tricky to find all of the help you need. And if you’re consulting this article for advice, you probably don’t have a studio bankrolling your idea.

When assembling a crew for a low-budget project, it’s important to remember that “team” and the collaboration experience are usually more vital than any one individual and their level of technical know-how. Chances are that your set will be lacking some of the usual bells and whistles of a more expensive production. However, that can sometimes be a more rewarding experience for everyone involved. No doubt, they will be there for the right reasons, i.e. they either believe in you and/or your story.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind when hiring your crew and building a kinship on set.

1. One fish? Two fish? Determining the number of individuals you need to hire for your project requires careful study of the script and all of its design and technical elements. Will there be a lot of locations? Special effects? Complex costumes? Elaborate lighting? All of these things come into play when assembling a crew that can work within your budget.

2. Get the word out. There’s lots of ways to spread the word that your production is hiring., and Craigslist are quick places to start. Film schools can also supply a number of interested and reasonably well-skilled production personnel who may be willing to work for credit.

3. Get to know people. And their work. Resumes. References. Portfolios. Reels. All of these things are necessary when assessing a potential crew member. It's also important to gauge a person's dedication to the job and their attitude toward the production before pulling the trigger. One bad egg spoils the bunch!

4. Engage people. Let them have a voice. If time allows on set, ask people what they think would work in a particular scene. Ask them how the scene looks visually. Ask them about the story, characters, plot, and setting. If people feel like they are contributing to the final product, they’ll want to do all they can to help make it happen.

5. Don’t be too controlling. People hate being bossed around (especially when you’re not paying them). Treat them like humans, and become their equal. You may be “in charge,” but without your crew, you’re nothing. The best directors are only a member of the crew, not an all-knowing presence on the set.

Matthew Perkins is a filmmaker living in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @_MatthewPerkins