Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Producer's List - Part One

A producer's responsibilities are many and varied, regardless of what medium they are working in, whether they are producing a film, television series, or an art exhibit. Producers must macro- and micro-manage, overseeing the big details - assembling the people, the places, the how and the when - and they must also look out for the small detail specifics, planning for every potential Murphy's Law disaster, allowing nothing to slip through the cracks along the way.

From conception to completion, a producer's responsibilities are all-encompassing.

While attending NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, majoring in film and television production with a minor in producing, I produced a number of student films. Through my varied experiences, and often thanks to trial and error, I've gathered up quite an extensive list of the dos and don'ts of independent film production, the must-not-forgets for anyone who finds themselves as the head of production on a shoot where if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. Many of these bullet points are especially paramount when producing in a big city like New York with more rules and regulations and parking tickets than item lines in the budget.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that part one of this list has to do largely with transportation concerns. Driving and parking in NYC on a normal basis is a bitch, but dealing with the needs, size, and limitations of production vehicles on top of everything else is a bloody nightmare.
  • When working with oversized production vehicles, from cargo vans to 24' cube trucks, be aware of the weight, height and width restrictions on city streets, bridges, and tunnels. If your vehicle is 12' tall, you need an alternate route not involving the 11' high tunnel. Do the math.
  • Keep a list of all of the parking lots or garages able to accommodate your vehicle and know their hours of operation and restrictions. Be sure to make reservations in advance if the lots are likely to fill up fast. Have plenty of cash on hand - parking is often more costly than the vehicle rental.
  • In NYC, commercial vehicles are not allowed to park on residential streets overnight. As far as parking tickets are concerned, a vehicle is commercial if it has a commercial license plate or visible lettering on the vehicle's sides, advertising a service. Even if you rent a U-Haul truck for a personal reason, the truck is considered commercial. If your move (or movie) takes more than one day, be aware of legal parking around your residence.
  • It's near-impossible to find legal street-side parking for a compact car in Manhattan, much less legal parking for production vehicles. It's a good idea to pad your production vehicle budget to account for the price of parking and gas - but also the expense of parking tickets. You're bound to get at least one. Those meter maids are merciless.
  • Map Quest driving directions are misleading, especially estimates for how long it actually takes to get anywhere within city limits. Always account for rush hour traffic, road construction, traffic accidents, getting lost, and finding parking. And then some.
  • Leaving anything of value in production vehicles overnight or unattended is taking a big risk. Insurance won't cover theft or damage deemed to be the result of neglect (aka: leaving shit in the van), so if your equipment in stolen, you'll likely be in for more than the deductible, but for the replacement value of everything that's ended up on the underground Panasonic, Kodak, and Arri black market.
  • While the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre, & Broadcasting can secure permits for parking and for shooting on city-owned property for your production (all you need is insurance and permission), the smaller your production, the fewer parking laws you are able to ignore and the less traffic you can interfere with - pedestrian or vehicular. Parking permits are only available for production vehicles, not for personal use.

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