Crewing Up Online: How to Hire a Professional Production Team
By Lena Strothe | 06-Aug-2019
The deeply collaborative nature of filmmaking can be both beautiful and terrifying. When the chemistry is right, the crew is on their game and the creative juices are flowing, being on set is a high like nothing else. If, on the other hand, directions are unclear, departments are scrambling and frustrations start to build, being on set can be a trying experience... to put things mildly. Because of all the moving parts and varying talents required, one weak link, one bad attitude, or one person lagging behind, can have an immediate ripple effect that is felt throughout all departments.
In an ideal world, we would only hire crew who we've worked with before or that comes highly recommended by people we respect. In the real world, this isn't always possible: demanding deadlines, tight budgets, unusual shooting locations, shifting availability calendars, are just some of the reasons why we might have to reach beyond our pool of immediate, or even second-hand connections, and into the great unknown. When so much is riding on hiring the right team, we understandably do not like to take gambles. Fortunately there are a couple of ways to cut down on the risk factors associated with new hires:
Use Reputable Sites
There are some rare instances where Craigslist may be a viable option (namely when sourcing a VHS recorder) but for the most part you'll want to stick to directories and job boards that are reputable and industry specific. Mandy, Production Hub, and Staff Me Up are all good examples of this, but can be a be a bit overwhelming because of the sheer volume of listings. Try to be as specific in your search or job listing (genre, unions, kit requirements etc.) as you can. For a more vetted database, you may also want to check out Wrangle, an invite-only community and staffing platform for media freelancers, that relies on recommendations, user feedback and a verifiable professional work history when selecting for members.
Find Local Production Companies
If you have to hire in a location you are unfamiliar with, do a quick search of production companies in the area. You may not have the budget to support a local producer or stringer, but oftentimes agencies will list work they've done along with project credits. Simply browsing through their portfolio and hires will oftentimes give you some fantastic leads.
Carefully Review Portfolios
When reviewing potential team members' websites and portfolios, beware of a long list of commercials shot "on spec" or a resume that consists mostly of student films. These are not always clearly marked and while there's absolutely nothing wrong with trying to get ahead in the industry or getting hands-on experience, you don't necessarily want your film set being the training ground. Of course, if you are okay with someone a little green, feel free to give ‘em their shot!
Check Social Media Accounts
Good news, stalking people online has never been easier! Certain professions naturally lend themselves a little more to thriving social account than others: makeup artists, directors, cinematographers, colorists, production designers etc. are often very good at routinely showcasing their work in pictures (Instagram) or videos (Vimeo & YouTube). It's a great way to gain some additional insights on their work. Even those with less visually exciting jobs usually have an online presence you can pull up for added verification and peace of mind: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr are all worth searching for anyone who falls more into the writer-, producer-, development-, or assistant-categories. Want to know who someone really is? Look for their Reddit account... you've been warned.
Go Oldschool: Call
Remember, you and/or your crew will likely be spending a good amount of time with this person. So once you've done your research, do yourself a favor, pick up the phone and just have a quick chat before pulling the trigger on a booking. You'll feel much better knowing there's a real person behind the resume and you'll have a better idea of how their personality might mesh with your team.
Alright, that's all we got. Good luck out there. Break a leg. May the force be with you. Buckle up. It's gonna be a terrifying and beautiful collab.