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Much like film, documentaries are collaborative art forms. So finding crew members that have experience and share your vision is incredibly important. With them, you can pull of your documentary's production with ease.
There are fewer tasks as important as finding a quality crew. Having a good crew behind you can help you to not only get the shots you need, but get them on time as well. To help you find good crews, we'll first go over some things to consider about crew members, what crew size you'll need and some sources of where to find solid crews. Finally, we'll dig even deeper into such crew sources as college campuses, job boards, and of course, family and friends. With this information you'll be able to find a crew to help you get the content you need.
(With crew members being so integral to the success of a shoot, you'll want to carefully consider what makes one best suited for your production. Above all, the two most important attributes to look for in crew members is experience and drive. (Still) A crew member with experience can quickly set up gear, come up with solutions to problems, and artfully utilize camera, audio, and lighting gear. At the same time, a crew member with a passion or drive for your project will consistently show up on time, stay late if needed, come up with helpful story ideas, and encourage the crew during the shoot. (DL) That's why finding a potential crew member with both experience and drive is so valuable to a production. You'll likely be working with them through long days and hard to reach deadlines so choosing members with good skills, temperament, and passion for your subject matter will make your production go smoothly.
More than any other genre, documentaries require crews to be quick and mobile. That is why it's important to know what size your crew needs to be. Though it can differ, most crews fall into either a 2-man, a 3-man, or a full crew model.
The most common type of documentary crew consists of only 2 people: a director and a camera operator. This setup relaxes talent and help the director to keep their attention on the subject matter rather than on managing a crew. (Still) In the two man crew, the director's role is to warm up the talent, conduct interviews, and supervise the layout of the camera, lights, and interview subject. Since this kind of crew is so small, the camera operator will likely run triple duty by setting up the lighting, audio, and camera gear. (DL) Because of this, it is important to find a camera operator that has a good knowledge of many of the aspects of video production.
The three man crew is the next most common crew type. Basically, this setup is the same as the two man crew with a sound operator thrown into the mix. This is an incredibly important position to have as clear audio is just as vital as a clear picture. (DL) Also, a sound operator can also run a boom microphone during a shoot, allowing for a faster setup and increased mobility for the talent.
The last crew type is the full crew. In a crew of this size, you might expect to split up the lighting duty to a gaffer, the sound duty to a sound and boom operator, the camera work to a camera operator, and all of the other smaller duties to a team of grips. (DL) If you have the means, you could also have a person on set just to interview the subject. However, crews of this size become more difficult to manage and are not as mobile which is why a three man crew usually works best.
You may already have an idea of the kind of crew you need, but you'll still need to find them. Especially if you've never made a documentary before, this can be a tough task. To help you with this, we'll take a look at several sources for good crew members such as college campuses, job boards, and friends and family.
Often, the most promising way to find crew members is by pitching your project to a film-making class at a college campus. (Still) These students are usually eager to learn by working on real projects and may already have some training in how to use the equipment. They are also generally happier to work on a small budget and won't question your methods of production. (DL) However, some students might be inconsistent since they have a busy college schedule and require more supervision.
One of the most expensive, yet reliable way to get crew members is by posting on a job board in a film or video website. These crew members will be professional and will have a lot of technical expertise. (DR) However, you will have to sift through a lot of applicants and spend some time getting to know the person's work and attitude before they're hired. This process may take more time than a producer or director actually has.
The last place to look for crew members is amongst your family and friends. Though they are often eager to help and will already know what to expect in the production, they are also likely to be inexperienced and resistant to some direction. However, if you have friends who make documentaries themselves, this can be one of your more valuable resources.
Finding documentary crews isn't easy but it's one of the most important tasks you'll have to do. With the information we've shown you, hopefully you'll have a better chance to find an experienced and driven crew that can turn your dream into a reality.