The Producer Log: Go Behind-the-Scenes Producing a Micro-Budget [Chapter 1]
So you want to be a producer but are not sure how to start? Or you’re a filmmaker who wants to shoot a no/micro/low budget and wondering what are the steps to make it work?
I have a good news for you: Alison Kathleen Kelly is producing a micro-budget feature film, and she agreed on sharing a producer log, taking us step-by-step through her process and the possible pitfalls, ups and downs.
Hosting logs on the site is something I’ve been wanted to do for a long time, but it takes guts and a lot of work so when Alison said yes, I was thrilled. And then I decided to do one myself, as a vlog, so now you have it: you can follow both a producer’s journey making a micro-budget feature film, and a filmmaker trying to make a low-budget feature film.
Without further ado, here is the first chapter of the Producer Log:
How to Hire a Crew for a Micro-Budget Feature Film
“Most people have absolutely no concept of what producers do, even people in the film business…”
BARBARA BROCCOLI – (co-producer of James Bond movies)
In November 2015 I was hired by two production companies to produce a micro budget horror feature film in March 2016. Horror is one of my favorite genres so I was excited to be back in familiar surroundings, a cabin in the woods….
Film producers fill a variety of roles depending upon the type of producer. Either employed by a production company or independent, producers plan and coordinate various aspects of film production, such as selecting a script, coordinating writing, directing and editing, arranging the cast and crew and arranging financing.
“Every producer is different it’s been so different on every movie that I’ve worked on. For me, there is no definition”
SYDNEY POLLACK – (producer / director)
My first job was to read the script and offer up thoughts on how to improve the story, formatting and structure. There are four female protagonists and I felt that they were written a little too generically so most of my notes were focused on strengthening their dialogue and making them more likable so that when we start to see their struggle and they get killed off we are more invested in their journey.
After the script amendments were made and myself, the director and our executive-producer/writer were happy we set about finding our crew.
STEP 1: CREW CALL
We put out a crew call on www.Mandy.com
After posting our ad we had hundreds of responses, which we narrowed down by experience. The candidates we chose responded quickly with their CV, link to their IMDb page and why they would be good for the role.
We were looking for people with feature film experience so had to rule out anyone who had only worked on short films or documentaries. The main reason being that we are shooting 80+ pages in 12 days so everyone involved needs to know what they’re doing and be good at it.
STEP 2: SHORTLIST
Once we had out shortlist (around 5-7 people per role) we spoke to each candidate on the phone, this helped us cut it down further and then our list was complete and we were ready to meet everyone…
We arranged our interviews on one day.
The director, executive producer and I saw 5-7 people per hour in blocks of 15-20 minutes per person. At the start of each interview we would introduce ourselves, our role and give them a brief overview of the film, the pay and when we were shooting.
After this the candidate would tell us about themselves and ask us any questions they had. At the end of each interview let the candidate know that you will get back to them by a certain date.
It’s important to keep a note of the people you’ve seen, I had my laptop with me so I wrote notes for each person and had a list of YES and NO. By the end of the day you will have seen dozens of people and won’t remember everyone so it’s good to have something to refer to when you’re making your final decisions.
STEP 3: DECISION MAKING
There are many things to take into consideration when looking for your crew, the moment you meet a potential candidate you get a feel for them, and as you ask them questions can you ascertain whether you think they would be easy to work with or not. THIS IS A MAJOR FACTOR TO CONSIDER…
We met great bunch of people but a couple of them were very opinionated and one man even disagreed with the director continuously, which is a big NO, NO.
Another person even said he was a complainer – let me make one thing clear, you do NOT want people on your set who will complain, this kind of negativity will spread and can ruin the whole feel of a production.
I always look for energetic, upbeat people with a can-do attitude. I want to know that they will come up with solutions and not just problems.
STEP 4: JOB OFFERS
When we had our final list we emailed the successful candidates. Please make sure you state “SUBJECT TO CONTRACT” in the offer so that all your bases are covered in case you decide to let someone go.
Luckily for us most of the people we selected were available and said yes!
STEP 5: MEETING WITH THE HEADS OF DEPARTMENT
Once we had our crew we set up a meeting with the Heads of Department to go through the directors’ vision and all the particulars of the production:
MEETING AGENDA TEMPLATE:
Send them all an updated script with scene numbers.
2. Pay & Expenses
Detail the pay and any equity share they may have. If this isn’t offered across the entire crew then you must ask them to keep it private.
Expenses must be deemed to be reasonable, generally travel is set to £10 for London meetings and Food & Drink set to £5 Half Day £10 Full Day. (Expenses will not cover phone calls), please use Skype where possible.
Any expenses incurred during pre-production must be authorised first through the Producer or PM. (All receipts must be kept). Payments will be made by cheque or bank transfer. Any crew wishing to be paid by bank transfer will need to submit Name / Bank Name / Account No. / Sort Code. All cheques issued must be paid into bank accounts within 3 Days.
Contracts will be issued in ……… after approval from the Producer – you need to see that the team works well together and is actively showing professional competence prior to contracts being signed off.
4. Job Roles
Executive Producer: Finance / Budgets / Locations / Insurance / Contracts / Filming permits / Health & Safety / Firearms (Exemption Certs) / Catering
Producer: Overseeing Heads of Department / Setting Deadlines / Handling Expenses / Logistics
Director/Cinematographer: Casting & Rehearsals / Shot lists / Film Equipment / VFX
Production Manager: Script Breakdown / Logistics / Vehicle Hire / Catering
1st AD: Call Sheets / Daily Schedules
Location Manager: Researching Locations / Negotiating Fee’s / Catering / Communicating with suppliers
Production Designer / Props Master: Mood Boards / Prop Hire / Set Designs / Set Construction / Costs / Designs & Drawings /
Head Make Up SFX: SFX Cost Breakdown / Make Up Time Trails / Make Up Design for Cast / Photos
Production Assistant: General PA duties
**Let them know of any roles that are still to be filled.
5. Department Budgets (Finance Allocation)
Locations / Accommodation: £………
Art Department / Wardrobe: £………
Make Up / SFX: £………
Camera Department: £………
Sound Department: £………
Vehicle Hire / Travel: £……… (Vehicles + Fuel, etc)
Insurance / Permits: £………
6. Work Assignments
We will get back to you shortly with work assignments and rough deadlines for each crew member.
I’ve set up various folders on the G:Drive and given the relevant crew members permission to edit and add documents to the folders.
– Cast Call Backs: ………..Date………..
– Crew Meeting: ………..Date………..
– Location Reece: Exact date TBC nearer the time (5 people attending)
– Test Day 1: …………. – Practical Tests (make-up, art dept/props/camera)
– Test Day 2: 5-7 days after Test Day 1 – Equipment Test
– Rehearsals: ………..Date………..
– Production: ………..Date………..
Finally, please can you ALL have read and be familiar with the script by our next meeting.
And this close the first chapter of The Producer Log with Alison! The next chapter, released next week, will be about Casting.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions below regarding chapter 1.
Alison Kathleen Kelly is an award winning writer/director/producer from London. Alison studied directing at UCLA Extension and went on to produce several successful short films, she is now producing a horror feature film in France and preparing to direct her first feature, a gangster film set in London. You can contact Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org