Finding the right team to work with is crucial for the success of your project. Here are some things to look out for when working in teams, with friends and professionals.
When you imagine the final product or outcome, who do you need to make your vision come true? Filmmaking is double the fun when you work with others, but it can be challenging to create with other people.
Identify early on who is driving the project. For example, if you are delivering a project to a client brief against a budget, it is important to make sure who has final say. You will need to clarify with your team who does what and by when. Can you work as equals or do you prefer a leader who is in control? Both power arrangements have their merit.
Creating a roles / task list can be useful.
Equal teamwork process can be very rewarding, but you need to agree on clear terms, who does what and by when. Identify people’s strength and weaknesses and support each other to build on your strength – agree on what you are good at and have a passion for. Identify where your weaknesses are, [time management, calling people, organising, writing proposals] and create systems that support the whole team to manage the project. Not everyone needs to become an editor or likes to organize interviews. Make use of what people love doing and delegate/ rotate the not so fun chores equally. It is very uplifting for a team if everybody takes turns in preparing lunch…
Your team has agreed to work with you, they all bring something valuable – make sure you learn from each other and share your skills.
Encourage other viewpoints and allow for creative ideas beyond your vision
Your crew might offer invaluable input that you will only fully appreciate later when you are editing.
We find that all projects want to grow way beyond their initial brief. It is easy for any task to take 2-3 times longer than planned. Build in some error time and allow for an extra third in the edit
Once you have agreed on everyone’s skills and task, match them against your storyboard / film idea. Break down your storyboard into a shot list, so that your team can tick each shot off. A daily running schedule on bigger projects also helps to keep on track and stops zealous producers to over-commit…
The producer is involved from the start to finish of the project. They contract agreements, source funds, hire crew, create schedules and facilitate the distribution of the final work. They ensure the smooth running of the entire project.
In a small documentary team, they work daily to ensure the project stays on budget and schedule and supervise the crew and tech. And on location they manage talent, crew, schedules, release forms and sometimes act as a runner.
The director is responsible for all things creative, from the style, structure and content. They run the brainstorming, storyboarding and scripting. They pick locations, direct the actors/ comtributors and work with the crew to position cameras, lights and sound equipment. In documentaries, they support the contributors to
The Director of Photography controls all aspects of the camera work. They make choices to achieve the correct exposure and work closely with the director in regards to the themes of lens length, depth of field, colours, angles, shot size, camera movement, frame rates. They are in charge of helping achieve the look the director articulates. They don’t have last say on all things camera, as they must liaise with director, but may be expected to take on these responsibilities depending on the Director’s desired level of involvement. They take care of camera, batteries, recording format (SD cards, tapes etc.), intake of media until it is handed to another department. They works with Director and Gaffer/Lighting tech. to achieve the right lighting for a scene, and in charge of selecting the right camera gear for the needs of the production day.
The gaffer is in charge of all things lighting and electrical. They must have a creative knowledge of how lights and light setups are achieved, what the pluses and minuses of different style and power of lights is, but also have a technical knowledge of lights and electricity to ensure that you don’t blow a fuse, break lights or cause a hazard or accident on set (see; burning, electrocuting, maiming, disfiguring…). Often your projects won’t have budget for gaffers, but if you intend to use lights and other extra tech, make sure someone in your crew can take these roles on.
The disgruntled, cynical, bitter uncle of the filmmaking world. Oft forgotten, underappreciated, unseen. The last to be considered, gets to choose where to stand once everyone else has found their mark, can’t get in the way but has to get good sound, can’t get in shot but has to get close. Blamed for ruining shots, edgy, defensive, highly strung. Give them a pat and tell them how creatively brilliant you think their work is. It’ll ease their nerves. Responsible for handling the microphone and sound recording. Monitoring sound in takes, making sure its okay/sound is not disrupted. Often use a breakout box/external soundrecorder. Sometimes uses a Mic plugged directly into the camera.
Works in a team/solo to achieve the director’s vision in the edit. Editors are storytellers, they work in conjunction with the director to varying degrees, depending on the desire of the director. Some directors will sit in on large portions of the edit, some will be largely ‘hands off’, others will step in at important junctures of the edit, to check in on progress, creative direction. The editor has a strong creative voice in the shaping of the story, as they literally build the narrative from all the materials available to them. However, creative control rests with the director. Their role/investment and methods change quite drastically depending on the scope and format of the footage. In any case, they must have a solid understanding of post-production pathways. It helps to know production roles and choices, to understand why footage looks the way it does, and to be able to identify quality shots, and those that are compromised.
The post supervisor coordinates with the Producer, Editor, Director, Music and GFX to ensure the process runs smoothly. On smaller projects the producer may take this role on, working backwards from the agreed delivery items.
The Colourist, or digital intermediate, is in control of fixing compromised footage, digitally optimizing exposure, matching shots in a edit sequence, and creating a look. The Colourist toils away in a careful controlled cave of a room. Any lights have been painstakingly selected in power and temperature so as not to taint the perception the Colourist has of the colours on screen. A Colourist is responsible for applying looks, or moods to a finished piece of media, green, envy, blue, sad, red, anger, passion, love. While not always so literal, the Colourist’s subtle work can have profound effects on the outcome of a video. Famously DI’s were first introduced in the film ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’, to drastically change the colours of very specific parts of the frame, changing the colours of leaves to create a more ‘autumnal’ feel, and giving an overall sepia brown/yellow feel to the film. While there are many different techniques to achieve colour and use colour as a story telling tool, digital colour correction is becoming much more ubiquitous, and can be used in conjunction with other techniques to subtly boost or affect them. The Colourist is charged with achieving the Director and DoP’s vision, and not overreaching said vision. Again, much like the editor, the Colourist has a very strong creative voice, but ultimately must defer to the desires of the director/DoP.
In charge of creating/fixing video using computer software. Magical wizards caught between the realms of science and art. Simultaneously proud of the impossible magic they can create and disgruntled that you don’t understand it, and are asking them to recreate it. Again, charged with achieving what is asked of them by the director, but also oft required to work in conjunction with the DoP so that principal photography is recorded adequately for GFX work. See green-screen, mo-cap, trick photography.
A film composer ‘scores’ a film. There are some subtleties to the art that separate the craft from other forms of composition, key among them, context, pacing, mood and aesthetic. While all these elements are found in any form of composition, they are particularly important to film as the music is not stand-alone. It is an accompaniment to the video. Furthermore, music or sound-beds for film can be more lateral, just a swell or some pads, crashing glass, to emphasize the mood, and usually doesn’t work well with lyrics [except perhaps montage] as the lyrics occupy the same space in the ‘mix’ as dialogue, muddying the clarity of what your subjects/actors are saying.
Montage is the exception, as the passage of time is usually voiceless and visual, and lyrics can emphasize the mood of the sequence. The scope of your budget often has a very clear effect on the scope of your score, however, even a film with no budget should not eschew the power of the score. There are many different choices available to the independent low-budget filmmaker looking to score their piece - you can look for someone special to compose specifically for your movie (a friends band, a local musician), find music that you think fits your film [there are plenty of creative commons and independent artists who will allow the use of their work for free or for cheap] or alternatively, because of the ubiquity of sound engineering software [which is often very similar to any NLE, and can range from free to pricey - Ableton, Soundtrack pro, Logic, ProTools, Garageband and others], piece together your own composition using royalty free samples, or a combination of samples and self recorded instruments/midi keyboard inputs.
Hell, you managed to record a film already, you must have access to a microphone right? Music for film can be as complex or simple as you like. For quick turnaround productions its often an afterthought, and is somewhat like salt and pepper, just a minor addition to add a little flavor in the parts where its lacking/to boost the best bits. When its something a little more important, music can be used to really chisel out emotion in a sequence and can define the mood of your movie. The difference two pieces of music can make on the same sequence is drastic – try it out! Even in short documentary your job is to create unobtrusive noises, using context to influence creativity, identifying points that need soundtrack - and if you are not sure, minimalism is usually the way to go…
Find other useful web resources here:
Wikipedia’s definition of Film roles
Noel Paul of digital cinema pictures explains the names and functions of different crew roles
Productions Roles and Responsibilities, from understanding film
The Ngarrindjeri Culture Hub is an ongoing Change Media and Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority partnership to create and promote Ngarrindjeri arts and culture, in collaboration with Ngarrindjeri artists and their communities across Ngarrindjeri country.