Finding Talented Crew

What roles?

It’s good to have confidence that we’re talented enough to perform all the roles in making a film – planning, scripting, directing, shooting, hosting, editing, and special effects in post-production. Even if you were exceptionally talented in all the different roles, it’s a big job for a lone person. That’s why it’s a good idea to spread the filmmaking workload across the ranks of your recruited talent. First, let’s make a list of some of the key roles in making a film.

  • Producer
  • Scriptwriter
  • Logistics Coordinator
  • Cameraperson
  • Audio and lighting
  • Director
  • Host or Narrator
  • Editor
  • Animator
  • Distributor

That’s plenty to start with, even though it’s pretty barebones compared to the credits listed in a Hollywood film. Nonetheless, it represents the major roles that you’ll need to fill with talent. How you fill those roles with talented people depends on your budget, your friends, and classmates if you have them, relatives, and fellow filmmakers. Let’s assume that you’re limited on your budget and prospective talent pool, and you’ll need to combine some roles. That makes perfect sense and we often combine roles on smaller productions. When combining roles, avoid roles that may overlap during production such as cameraperson and host. Those are almost impossible for one person to perform at the same time. Here are some logical combinations seem to work.

  • Producer, scriptwriter, director, animator
  • Logistics coordinator, camera person, audio and lighting, editor
  • Host, narrator, script editor, logistics assistant, distributor

Based on that combination, you may only have three people on your skeleton crew but that’s enough to produce your film. To take full advantage of your small crew, be sure to openly exchange ideas and help one another during each phase of production. For instance, the director, host and cameraperson can all help dress the set or prep the location, work with lighting and audio while collectively offering ideas on how to best shoot a segment. Having the cameraperson also be the editor has the advantages of knowing what shots to get during shooting for the upcoming edit. Then later on, the editor will already know the shot inventory that they shot as cameraperson. It makes for an effective overlap of roles.

Where to get talent?

So what’s your plan if your friends, classmates, or relatives don’t have any talent in or interest in filmmaking? As unlikely as that seems, you may still need to search out and recruit key talent for your film. Let’s make the job easier by further combining roles. This is your film so you should be able to assume all of the roles except the host and possibly narrator. A variation to this is that if you’re also a good host and need to recruit a cameraperson to film you. Considering those two scenarios, you may need to recruit a host or cameraperson. One other role that you may need to recruit is an animator. And that depends heavily on the content of your film. Some science topics such as chemistry need to be revealed at the molecular level that we can’t capture with the video camera. A good animator can make those concepts come alive for the audience. So if the topic demands it, add an animator to your recruitment list.

The ways to compensate your prospective talent pool could be with payment for services, end credit notoriety and experience in filmmaking, services traded (they help you and you help them), product or gear trade, or any other creative combination of those elements.

Where do we find that potential host, cameraperson, and animator? Fortunately, they’re often in similar places. Here’s a potential list of where to begin your talent search.

  • Community college or technical institute – courses in your science topic, filmmaking, media, acting
  • College graduate programs – cover your science topic, filmmaking, media, acting
  • Local television news stations
  • Local filmmaking or production groups
  • Local theater productions or acting schools

It’s pretty amazing what you can accomplish in your search using the Internet. Craig’s list, batch emails, casting calls, can turn up dozens of leads in no time. And don’t forget the timeless telephone cold call. Even if your prospect source can’t help, many have other names and contacts they will pass along when you specifically ask for them.

One final note about looking for narrators. If you don’t have a quality host and need to put narrative flair into your film, take the extra time to find a narrator that fits the theme and feel of your film. Online searches will give you dozens to choose from where you can listen to their voices. Just be sure their talent fee matches your budget.

Written by Rob Nelson

Rob is an ecologist from the University of Hawaii. He is the co-creator and director of Untamed Science. His goal is to create videos and content that are entertaining, accurate, and educational. When he's not making science content, he races whitewater kayaks and works on Stone Age Man.

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