There's a lot that goes into working with crews. Though it takes a lot of skill and determination, it will result in the kind of performances and morale that will make your documentary production a success.
Keeping a crew happy can be as difficult as turning straw into gold. However, doing so will result in a more efficient and stress-free production. In order to help you keep your crew working at their best, we'll go over some ways to hold useful production meetings with your crew, how to transport your crew from one location to another, and useful tips in catering food for your crew so that they can capture your documentary in the way you've always dreamed.
As a director you'll have to provide your crew with both shooting details and expectations. The best place to do this is in a production meeting. (Still) Production meetings are small conferences held with all important members of the crew the week of the shoot. This will be your opportunity to clearly outline the roles of each member of your crew and your expectations of the shoot you are about to cover. This is important. With these roles in place, you can assign tasks to crew members without any resentment from others. (Still) You'll also want to prepare a shooting schedule and a script or storyboard for your crew at this meeting if possible. When scheduling, it's best to keep to an 8-hour a day schedule with small breaks scheduled in between. This will help keep the energy level of the crew as high as possible. (DR) Small details are also good to cover such as directions to the shoot, location logistics, and food availability. All of these things matter to a crew and will start your production off right.
Before you start shooting, you'll have to get both your crew and equipment safely to your shooting location. Oftentimes, especially if you're shooting locally and with a small crew, your crew members might just meet you at the shooting location. In this case, having a car with a large trunk or an SUV, truck, or mini-van for your gear would suffice. (DL) However, for bigger shoots with more crew, you'll probably want to rent either a cargo or passenger van. Though these vehicles aren't great for stealth shooting, they can get a small to medium sized crew along with your gear to even a remote location and keeps the whole crew together. (Still) For some really remote locations, you may want to consider renting or borrowing an RV or camper. Having one allows you to save money on hotel rooms, is the most comfortable option of travel for your crew, will allow you to store a lot of equipment, and gives you an opportunity to plan out a shoot while on the road. (DR) The only drawback here is the cost of the rental which could be upwards of $300 or more a day, and gasoline since these vehicles aren't very energy efficient. However, they often pay for themselves when hotel prices and gasoline for multiple vehicles are factored in.
The best thing you can do for yourself and your crew is to make sure they get fed. Providing a crew with a good meal has an extraordinarily positive effect on a production – especially if your crew is working for free. (Still) If your crew is small, it would be a good idea to survey them to see what snacks or meals they like best. Having the kind of food that your crew likes on set helps your crew work better and shows them you care. Even a small cooler of bottled water and finger foods can do the trick in mobile situations. (DR) It is often a good idea to assign one of your crew members such as a grip to make sure that snacks and caffeinated drinks are available at all times. One of the biggest sins of catering is buying off-name brands. Doing so will cause your crew to feel as if you're trying to get by on the least amount of effort as possible which may result in them doing the same. (DL) For meals, finding a friend or family member who will prepare home cooked meals can save time and will be appreciated by crew members. This will allow your crew a way to get re-energized when energy is running low. (Still) Lastly, if any member of your crew has special dietary needs, make sure you know of them ahead of time so that you can provide them the kind of food they need.
Knowing how to handle crew members is a crucial role for the director. By providing your documentary crew with everything they need, not only will you look professional but your documentary will as well.