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How (and Why) to Wrangle a Volunteer Crew for Your Micro-Budget Movie

How (and Why) to Wrangle a Volunteer Crew for Your Micro-Budget Movie

Arin Crumley is an independent film director whose award-winning debut film "Four Eyed Monsters" was the first feature-length movie released on YouTube. Crumley is currently working on his second feature film, which recently received a grant award from Creative District. In a guest post
below, Crumley writes about how to attract a crew even if you can’t afford to pay them.

READ MORE: 4 Reasons Why Product Placement Can Be Good for Indie Film

Society
would have us believe that money is the main motivator to work
performance, but when a person’s individual growth and learning is taken
into account, it creates an opportunity for them beyond what many
traditional jobs offer. New research that the main drivers of human motivation are actually high
recognition, autonomy and the opportunity to learn and grow. This is
exactly the type of environment that an independent film set creates for
its team. The lesson here is, do not underestimate the value of your ultra low-budget production and what it can offer your team both
personally and professionally. So now that you understand the real worth
of your project, let’s go through the steps in finding your volunteer
crew and making your dream project a reality.

Headhunting

In
addition to spreading the word to friends, colleagues and fans of your past work. it’s also
smart to seek out collaborators you respect.  Local indie film
screenings and film festivals are great places to see talent showcased
and find creatives you might want to work with. You can also search for
talent whose work you respect in online creative communities. For
instance, CreativeDistrict.com is
a site the media has likened to LinkedIn for media creators. Not only was my
second film recently awarded a grant from them, but we’ve been using the
site to list positions and find talent for the completion and marketing
of our film.

Locking Teams

Now that you’ve found the right people, it’s time to get them on board. One might assume this means communicating the
vision of your project in a way that blows them away, but that’s only
part of the equation. You also want to find out who they really are,
what matters to them and how your project is an opportunity that can
feed their current goals. As you make these discoveries and share how
your film can further their objectives, you’ll find crew members
solidifying their involvement despite the fact there is no immediate
financial compensation.

Movies require dedication to the entire process
and unless you nurture the relationships you’ve cultivated, you’ll find
team members dropping like flies. Yes, now it is time to deliver on the
promises you made in the previous phase – and that is true for both
parties. Communication is key here as in all relationships. If you provide regular conversations evaluating each executed effort that your
volunteer crew is a part of on the film, the experience can become
highly educational for all involved.

Soft Pay

Just because you don’t have hard cash to pay your crew doesn’t mean
you shouldn’t reward them should distribution miraculously reap heavy
profits. Soft pay treats your team like cash investors that will get
money from day one (as opposed to after expenses have been paid).
Although the chances your small indie film will turn a profit are slim,
it is possible, and the offer will be appreciated by your crew
members. Offering soft pay at the beginning is also a good way to secure
a contract which otherwise might feel nebulous due to the lack of
compensation. You can consider a site like coinkite.com to automatically send royalties to your team based on percentages you define.

In Conclusion

It all ultimately comes down to your relationships
with people.  Listen to what matters to your crew and find ways to
provide encouragement throughout the process of making your movie. You’ll soon
find that you hold the keys to the vehicle your team has invested in, so
be responsible with this power and honor this position of leadership
they have agreed to put you in by making them all proud and completing a
great film. Speaking of collaboration and communication, thanks to filmmakers Fritz Donnelly and Christie Strong for their help in the creation of this article, to Karl Jacob for
providing work space and to CreativeDistrict.com.

To watch Crumley’s first feature film and behind-the-scenes online series click here. For more information, visit arincrumley.com.

READ MORE: Check Out Creative District, the LinkedIn for Filmmakers

This Article is related to: Filmmaker Toolkit and tagged , ,


Comments

Momotaj

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Elsa

I suppose the question you have to ask yourselves is whether or not art has a right to exist if the artist hasn't figured out how to milk the teat of the bank to pay his or her collaborators. It always baffles me when I hear of someone complaining about the pay (or lack thereof) in film. So why do it? It occurred to me early on that if I was going to do it, I would have to commit for reasons other than money. It amazes me that so many people haven't thought that through. I guess you all could join IATSI and then you wouldn't need to deal with us lowly indie types.

Luisa O

I work in Spain as a production designer and to work for free seems to be normal around here. I guess that it is nice to work in something you believe in and do it for free, but when it becomes the every project rule it's really annoying. Regarding the article, which I find a little superficial to the real situation of working for free, I will have to say that this collaborative projects belong to every person whose putting their time, knowledge and effort. It will never be the directors or the producers only. Also you have to treat people with even more respect and always be thankful, after all the movie is happening because of them. So, fair hours, politeness, enough materials and good food are a must in order to keep them happy and believing that working for free is no so bad make them feel they are as important as the director.
But the thing is that in a industry where egos are so big it's better to find the money and pay the crew. It would save you a lot of attitude and abandonment issues… and whether we love it or not, or feel really passionate of what we do, we also have to eat, dress and pay the rent and somebody's wonderful idea of a movie won't ever pay all that.

Filmmaker

Great article. I am so sick and tired of the whiny, money hungry freelance sector and their lack of respect for the artists trying to get their projects going and finished. It should be socially unacceptable to walk of a film once you've committed but so many people have made it a common thing. Glad there is some sort of support for volunteerism in indie filmmaking!

kurt

Pay people. It is that simple. Not to do so is a chump move that perpetuates a downward spiral.

Tiffany-Jayne

As an emerging producer, I whole-heartedly disagree with this. If you respect your crew there should be an incentive. You cannot continually ask/exploit people to do it for "the love of filmmaking". This is a job. This is a career. Why do people think it is ok not to pay people in the film industry, when in other industries you'd never hear such requests. If you cannot raise enough money to budget your film correctly maybe your film should not be made.

Arin Crumley

Hey Barry,
That is sound advice for others like yourself getting market rates. Many are still starting out though and at some point everyone we really trust was a stranger. So to form these alliances we all have to start somewhere. Also if one has a budget and can pay then they absolutely should.

Barry Bertolli

Unless you're a good friend (as opposed to someone I worked with once last year), or someone who regularly employs me at market rates and is doing a side project, please don't bother ringing; experience has taught me that once 'That's a wrap!' is called… I'll never hear from you again.

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