The Producer Log #4: When Things Don’t Go As Planned
“Nobody who takes on anything big and tough can afford to be modest.” – Orson Welles
This is chapter 4 of The Producer Log, a journal written by writer/director/producer Alison Kathleen Kelly as she advances on her journey producing a micro-budget feature film. You can find all the installments on the Make a Film page.
When Things Don’t Go As Planned
I know I told you that this week I was going to talk to you about contracts, setting test days, equipment, finding locations etc, well I can’t do that, because I haven’t done any of that stuff yet, so I figured I would tell you how I’m [really] feeling about producing a micro budget feature film.
Producing any type of film or show is HARD WORK but when you’re new to producing it’s even harder because you think you know what needs to be done and then you find out all about the things you didn’t know that needed to be done too. It’s called GAINING EXPERIENCE…
…So get HELP (and no I don’t mean the psychiatric kind). The other producer I’m working with is actually, a bit of a genius, I’ve been working with him for a mere 3 months and I’ve learnt so much along the way, I can’t put everything down here because it’s confidential, but I will try and impart some of the wisdom I’ve gained (in an anonymous way) in my next few posts…
WHAT HAVE I LEARNT?!?
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
I have learnt that you have to TRUST my INSTINCTS… both in the casting process and during the interview process when you’re finding your crew. Every now and then when we interviewed someone I would have an instinct about that person, about whether they would fit with our vision of what our team should be like, and whether they might complain a lot, or disagree with our director, or just basically, be a pain in the butt.
More often than not we passed on those types of people. And we picked the people that had solutions when we told them about a potential problem or issue. It didn’t matter if they had less IMDb credits, or a shorter resume/CV, their passion is what you need to guide you.
PRODUCERS GET TO LEARN FROM ALL DEPARTMENTS
I didn’t know what a gimble was, or a ronin, but now I do.
It is my intention to learn as much as I can about ALL the aspects of filmmaking; from the crew, to the cast, to the equipment, from pre-production through to editing, so that one day, if I decide to direct a feature film, or on the next film I produce, I will be better equipped to know what the capabilities of all the people (and things) around me are, so that I can utilize them better.
BIG RESUMES ARE NOT EVERYTHING
We were very careful during the interviewing to ask the right questions aimed at seeking out potential moaners from the crew [I said in a previous post that you don’t want any of these for obvious reasons]. No Moaning Myrtles please!!
We’ve actually let a couple of people go along the way, not because they weren’t up to scratch, believe me some of these people have been in films you’ll have seen in the cinema this last year, but mainly because they just weren’t the right sort of fit for our team. One person couldn’t deal with the small budget we gave them for their department (because they’re used to a BIGGGER budgets) but that’s okay, that person wasn’t meant to work with us on this production.
Does it mean I wouldn’t work with them on a future project?
Not necessarily… if the time is right maybe I will. Never rule anyone out, and always (unless someone really does something terrible) tell people that you’ll bear them in mind for your future productions. I have a growing list of people I wasn’t able to work with on this project, who I’d like to work with on the next one.
WHAT TO DO WHEN THERE’S NOTHING DO
Do your laundry, tidy your room, paint your nails, go grocery shopping…
NO those are things you need to avoid, at least until you’ve made a list of all the things that are going to need to be done.
In my case, the list looks like that right now:
LIST OF THINGS TO DO
1. Make a folder for contracts for cast and crew.
2. Make a folder for expenses and a spreadsheet.
3. Make a spread sheet of contact details for cast and crew including addresses (for contracts) also find out agents details too.
4. Contact locations to find availability for location recce and plan your recce. (If you’re going to Scotland for the day, what day will you be going and what are the prices of the train tickets? Think about who needs to be in the car, Director, producer, location manager, etc are they all available to go on that date.)
5. Email the cast and crew to find out if they have any dietary requirements to be aware of during the shoot.
6. Get an update from the Art Department and Make-up Departments.
7. Find out what meetings are taking place (is the head of make-up meeting with the head of the art dept?) and do I want to attend?
The more prepared you are now the smoother the production will run later.
PASSION WILL COMPENSATE LACK OF BUDGET
When you’re making a low budget/micro budget film, there’s not a lot of room for error, you have so little time and so little money that literally everyone involved at every moment has to know what they’re doing and how to work with the little they have and yet, make it look like a £100m film.
Now that’s a hard thing to do, but if you find people who are passionate about your project, who really want to work with you, who have the right attitude, they will go the extra mile for you and that’s when the magic happens...
That’s when you sit around a table at your first big production meeting (like I did on Friday) and you listen as the people you chose talk about the things you hoped they’d talk about, and ask the questions you may not of thought they’d ask… but that’s great because you now know you NEED TO KNOW those answers!!!
YOU NEED TO MAKE A DECISION FOR EVERY SINGLE DETAIL
During our first production meeting, we talked for hours, we figured things out; we brainstormed and shared ideas and made decisions.
It’s not hard to make a decision when it’s just you, or it just affects you, but when you’re deciding how many crew members should sleep in each room, and what food people are going to eat, and you want them to be happy you find out whether their vegan or Pescatarian or allergic to sunflower seeds…
We are shooting in France, so I’m going to make sure we have some delicious pastries and cheeses on our craft service table.
I am a BIG believer that a happy crew will be the best crew in the world. So feed them well, and treat them well, and thank them always for their hard work. Because they are working for you, for national minimum wage – For You.
AND – YOU – NEED – THEM.
And that’s all I have to say because now I’ve got to finish the actors’ contracts now. It’s a wonderful ever-changing world, this movie making.
Join me next week when I discuss finding locations and planning your location recce (in another country).
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