Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Film Crew vs. Film Team

In January 2009 we were in our 2nd year of study at Staffordshire University. It also marked the first time the three of us worked together on a project. At the start of the semester our lecturer gave us a choice: Did we want to work as a Crew or a Team.

By our lecturer's definition, a film crew is where each group member takes on a specific role in the production, such as lighting, sound, cinematography or editing - just like a real film set. That member is then graded on the quality of that element of the finished product. On the other hand, a film team is where all group members take equal responsibility of all aspects of the production. As a result, all members receive the same grade for the project as they are deemed to have an equal input.


Film Team
Back in January 2009, the three of us, along with a fourth member, decided to operate as a Team for Bravo Rising. Our logic was that we could all contribute to every aspect of the production in order to make the best possible product. Also, we were concerned that specific roles would gain more credit than others and we weren't comfortable with one member having more of a say than everyone else.

During preproduction, we got together to write the script, produce concept art, design costumes and manufacture props and sets. Considering how long our period of preproduction was, this method worked relatively well.

"When you're finished directing us, you can direct
my ass to another bag of crisps."
For the shoot, we had no choice but to all muck in and do a bit of everything to make sure the film was shot. We were able to keep rotating roles to give each other time to prepare the next scenes, talk with the cast about upcoming scenes or specific lines or take a quick 5 minutes to grab a chocolate bar and a drink before getting back to filming.

In post-production, we took over four computers in the editing suite and we each worked on a different area of the film. Generally speaking, Cal did the edit, Ant did sound and music and Paddy and Robbie worked on visual effects.


Film Crew
In the last few years, we have tried wherever possible to allocate roles for our own projects, usually based on our expertise in specific areas.

The best example of us working as a Crew was on 'The Cradle Will Fall' - Cal's final year project piece. As it was Cal's project, he wrote the script and directed the shoot, while Paddy operated the camera and Ant ran sound. Although, due to the fact that we often work with such a small crew, we are often required to contribute to other areas of the production as well.

"They should be using a clapper board, but
we don't give a shit - we're actors." 
We have also adopted crew roles for other projects we have worked on. Ideally, if the production is properly planned, this approach allows you to focus all your attention on doing your job to the best of your ability without having to worry about other parts of the production. However, this approach requires an overall supervisory figure (such as a 1st Assistant Director) to keep things running and ensure that everything comes together, as well as making sure nothing is overlooked.


The Lowdown
If you choose to work as a Team, the golden rule is communication. As no-one is pre-assigned specific roles, it is very easy for certain tasks to be forgotten or for everyone to assume that someone else to doing it. Also, working as a Team can result in very lengthy discussions about very minor elements, which can waste a lot of time that you can't afford to spare, especially on set. Focus on what is important and either find a compromise or, if that is not possible, go with a majority vote, then move on!

"So whose job is it to co-ordinate the semi-naked men?"
If you choose to work as a Crew, make sure everyone is clear on what their role entails from the start. The last thing you want is to realise you don't have any costumes the night before the shoot because everyone thought "it wasn't my job". Also, make sure you still communicate with each other about what you are doing. Although you may be the one in charge of lighting, the sound recordist might be the one who helps you figure out how to light a tricky scene. Don't let your pride get in the way!

Regardless of which you choose, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. In short, make sure it benefits the project as a whole.

All in all, we have found that operating as a team only really works with small, group projects where everyone has the same stake. Also, as you progress into working on larger productions, you will be expected to have an area of expertise rather than being a "jack of all trades". Although it is good to have a good knowledge of all areas of filmmaking, having a speciality will probably help you create a better product in the short term and will definitely make you more marketable in the film industry in the long term.

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