1. Understand their job
If you are producing or directing a project, you should understand the dynamic of a film crew. Especially if you seek to hire professionals, don’t think they won’t see through your lack of experience.
I have seen so many job listings for “sound guys” or for “a lighting person.” These jobs have specific titles and the fact that you aren’t using them makes it seem like you might not understand what a “lighting person” even does. I’ve speculated before whether certain directors even know what a camera assistant is, but there are red flags. When you offer up clips for a demo reel to a grip, electrician or production assistant they will scoff at you. Nobody working underneath the key department heads is going to have a demo reel for those jobs. I don’t send out a video of my best focus pulls as a 1st assistant camera (AC) or most beautiful slates for 2nd AC gigs.
You need to genuinely understand what below the line crew do and why they work.
In the end, almost every crew member loves movies and being a part of the collaborative medium, but many also work because they make good money doing it. If you are going to ask them to do it for free, you need to at least respect the professionalism they are used to being a part of everyday.
2. Pitch them the project, not the results
Everybody making a movie thinks they are making a hit (if you don’t, go back to the drawing board until you do). While passion is admirable and necessary, the statistics just don’t hold upfor every film to be the next Juno or Paranormal Activity. That’s why it’s silly to see a crew call that advertises “will be submitting to Sundance” and a chance to “be part of something big.” Everybody submits to Sundance and everybody thinks they’re part of something big, but the odds of getting in Sundance are small and the odds of being something big are even smaller.
So what makes youdifferent? Claims like that only increase skepticism and, worse, these listings rarely describe what the film is about.
If you really want a crew to work for free, pitch them the project and not the results. If you really do have the next big thing, it should be an easy sell.
Even though below the line crew aren’t directly involved in major creative decisions, they do like to work for projects that reward them creatively. Commercials, company internals and other dry material will often drag down a person’s psyche. Offer them a chance to work on a sci-fi character driven short film and you might have no problem staffing a crew.
3. Be transparent
Another deal breaker for me when I see listings for low/no paying jobs is a lack of transparency. The listing will provide minimal details and a cryptic description of the film like, “a short romance about love.” Again, this breeds skepticism.
Why aren’t you telling me about the film? Who are you? Why is your project something I should be interested in working on? It’s simply not fair to ask people to send you their personal information and resumeswithout providing some information of your own.
Further, be honest about payment and what expenses will and won’t be covered. It’s better to have people know up front what they’re going to be involved in rather than trying to spring it on them and negotiate down the line.