Category Archives: Crew

Keep It Down On Set!!

Whether you are producer or director, one of the biggest mistakes you can do on a set is to publicly give a direction or a note. Particularly with directors, if you need to give a direction to your actor, you always want to get up of your directors chair and approach the actor and give him the note face to face so that nobody else can hear it. The days of the directors sitting on high chairs with mega phones are over. Actors are put in the most vulnerable position on the set out of anyone and you as a director want to make them feel secure in their craft. Never scream out a note. Never give a direction that everyone can hear. Then what happens is people start to judge the actor and the performance and because the actor is aware of this, it will undoubtedly affect his/her performance.

Same thing goes for key crew members. If you have directions or instructions, always pull them aside and tell them privately. This will always make for a better tone on set because it makes the crew feel that their work is respected and valued. TRUST ME!

A studio film director once told me, the best directors and producers are the ones that are able to EMPOWER all the creative people they work with in a way that makes them all feel like the project belongs to them.

What is a Unit Production Manager?

A unit production manager, better known as the UPM, is crucial to a smooth running film set. The role is very similar to that of a line producer, and a lot of times, the two terms can mean the same role, which is to manage the cost of production. A UPM will help the producer and director derive the budget, but once the budget has been created, it is the UPM’s job to make sure that the production stays on budget. During pre-production, the producer will usually deal with hiring the above the line talent, the direct will look after hiring the key heads that work below the line  (cinematographer, editor, production designer etc), but the UPM will usually look after hiring the other below the line crew members. The UPM will also work with the first AD in securing equipment and locations. During production, the UPM is in charge of managing below the line crew members, approving expenditures, approving call sheets, and maintaining the schedule. The UPM’s are represented by the Director’s Guild of America.

What’s the difference between Special Effects & Visual Effects?

To put it simply, special effects are carried out on set during production, and visual effects are done in post-production. That isn’t to say that the visual effects team isn’t involved in production and the special effects team isn’t involved in post, but the creative decisions made by each team generally pertains to their respective phases in the film-making process.

Special effects can be broken down into two categories: optical, and mechanical. Optical effects are done by manipulating the camera and lighting which in turn will make your scene look different than what it looks like to the naked eye. This could involve working with camera lenses, types of lighting, or camera movements that give a certain look to the shot. The special effects supervisor is in charge of making the creative decisions and works directly with the director on set to achieve what he/she wants.

Mechanical effects involving working during a live-action shot and usually pertains to making things look/seem like something they aren’t. For example manipulating weather conditions like wind and snow is a huge part of mechanical effects. Pyrotechnics and working with scale models is another aspect of mechanical effects.

Visual effects has emerged as a paramount part of modern-day film making. You will rarely ever see a film without visual effects. This could be filling in a green screen,  creating computer generated imagery (CGI), 3D rendering or animation. The visual effects supervisor (not to be confused with the visual effects producer or coordinator) makes all the creative decisions and works directly with the director off and on set to make sure  he/she gets the visual image desired. The visual effects coordinator works for the visual effects supervisor in post-production, and the visual effects producer works like a line producer and manages the cost of the visual effects which can get outrageously high (sometimes over half of a film’s budget).

What is “Post-Production”

The industry likes to simply call it “post”. Editors hate it when someone during production says “just fix it in post”; in essence creating more work for the editor. Post includes all the process that happens after the footage has been captured. In other words, the cameras have been put away and now we put the footage, and sound together into a meaningful motion picture. Initially when you think of post you think film editing and this, of course, is a huge part of post-production. A the entire story can be told in many different ways depending on how it is edited, and that’s why your editor is one of the 5 most crucial people you hire for a film. In addition to film editing, there is also sound-editing, which include sound effects, ADR, foley, and music. Post-production can also involve visual effects if your film requires it.

What is “Pre-Production”?

This is the second phase of the film making process. You engage in this phase once you have secured financing for your film. The main objective of this task is to assemble your team, and secure your locations. The first thing you want to do is hire your director. This is crucial. Your director will basically be the man in charge of all creative decisions in your film. You want to find someone who is capable, likable, and shares the same vision as you. Once you find your director, you need to hire your casting director. Have him/her start searching for and narrowing down the actors to approximately 5-10 for each major role. While your casting director is doing that you will assemble your crew. Of course, every crew member is important, but if you had to narrow your crew down to the top five most important people, most directors would say: DP, Production Designer, Editor, Script Supervisor, and First AD. Once you have secured those people then start recruiting the rest of your team. After this is done, you are going to work with your director, production designer and first AD to scout for locations. After securing locations, you will work with the first AD and the director to develop a shooting schedule. Once you know how many days your actors and crew members will be working, and how long you will be spending at each location, you can start building your budget. You should have already started working on your preliminary budget during the development phase in order to secure financing, but now that you have more details ironed out, you can start fine tuning your budget. During this time, as a producer, you are also working with your UPM to get permits and sort out all legalities involved in shooting at certain locations. Your production designer is preparing all the set designs, art work, and props. Your DP and director are working on shot lists, determining the visual tone of the film, and sorting out all the angles needed for thorough coverage. After your casting director has narrowed down the field to 5-10 actors for each major role, the director – and sometimes the producer – will watch the tape of all the actors and see if there is anyone that can be cut just from watching tape. Then the casting director will call in all the remaining actors to read for the director. The director ultimately chooses which actor will be chose for each role. Some times the director will narrow it down to 2-3 candidates for each role and have them do chemistry testing. Finding the right actors can be a long and daunting task, but having a great performances in your film is arguably the most important aspect next to the story. Once all this is achieved, you are ready to move into production and push “record”!