Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Producer's List - Part Two

This is a continuation of The Producer's List - Part One, a bullet-point list of big and small details that might get overlooked, particularly by independent filmmakers working in major cities like NYC.

Regardless of the size of the production, there's always the chance that some important detail will be overlooked, unless the producers have their eyes open and their toilet brushes in hand, for when the on-location bathrooms are too disgusting for the cast and crew to use and the unpaid PAs are all off running errands. Suck it up, producers, and soldier on.
  • A responsible film crew leaves a location in slightly better condition than the location was found. When on location, be sure to have plenty of trash bags and trash cans. Most importantly, know where the trash needs to be taken out and which days the trash is picked up, and any other trash collection restrictions that may apply.
  • When shooting on location, know how much electricity is available - not just for the film lights, but for everything that might need to be plugged in. Prop lights. Heaters. Air conditioners. Fans. Battery chargers. Lights for the green room. Blow dryers. Coffee makers. Never forget the coffee makers. All the electricity in the world won't be enough if there's a shortage of outlets and extension cords.
  • When shooting on location (especially in older buildings), make sure that the electricity has been properly grounded. If there's no record of the building's electrical history, have an electrician or someone qualified check out the wiring. If faulty electricity causes any of the film equipment to short circuit, most likely that will be deemed neglect by the filmmaker and insurance will not cover the loss.
  • The general advice is never to feed pizza to your crew. Never say never, of course, for sometimes pizza makes excellent, quick comfort food after a long day of shooting. The most important thing to remember is balance in your catering and craft services. For every bagel, have cereal or fruit as an alternate. For every chocolate bar, have a vegetable or cheese platter. For every cup of coffee, have twice as many bottles of water. Find out in advance the dietary needs of your cast and crew. If there are any vegans or vegetarians, lactose-intolerants, diabetics, or people with severe food allergies, plan accordingly.
  • Check the weather religiously before the shoot begins, and then every morning afterwards (keeping note of the weather is usually an assistant director's responsibility when preparing the call sheets). Have alternate shooting schedules if weather conditions prevent the exterior scenes from being shot first. Be prepared with plenty of tarps, umbrellas, and plastic raincoats should foul weather spring up unexpectedly.
  • When shooting on weekends or in particularly isolated areas, know what's available to you and when. Most rental houses are closed on the weekend, though some may have a weekend emergency contact. Local businesses may have shorter hours or may not be open at all. Film is hard to come by on the weekends, but especially hard to find anywhere outside of the major film metropolises. Have an emergency film backup available to you or plan accordingly and don't run out.
  • Have everyone's number stored in your phone or at least immediately on hand at all times. EVERYONE. Cast, crew, AAA, location owners, rental houses, taxi cab services, any emergency contacts other than 9-1-1, the state department, etc. You never know what may come up.
  • Have plenty of actor release forms available and at least one person in charge of collecting signatures, from the lead actors to the background extras, to the random passersby who happened to stumble into the last shot. Do it before you have to track individuals down or resort to blurring out faces in wide shots. Make sure that all legal points are covered in the releases and that a minor has a legal guardian signing in his or her place. Don't leave any room for a lawsuit if you can help it.
Well, that's all for now. Though there's plenty more to remember, so be on the lookout for The Producer's List - Part Three!

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