Finding Crews

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Where to look

You or the director will probably have a "little black book" of trusted favourites, but if they're not available, there are always agencies or diary services who have technicians on their books and will be able to advise on who might be suitable or available. If you're using someone for the first time, then take the time to check their references, website and credits.

Camera Crew

Talk to the cameraman / woman

The cameraman or DOP is often the central point of contact for the rest of the crew and is often able to give good advice on how the shoot can be achieved technically.  So it's a good idea to spend some time explaining what the shoot entails and listen to his or her  advice. Perhaps that high shot your director is keen on might be achieved with a simple ladder pod rather than an expensive Jimmy Jib.

There are many types of cameraman or woman with a range of skills and abilities.  Most will be able to film a range of documentary and commercials programmes on various camera formats, but there are some shoots for which you'll need a specialist. Under water, high altitude, aerial and wildlife filming are the obvious ones, or you might need a director of photography if you filming a drama or a commercial, but it's best to check with your director what he or she requires before you book anyone.

Sound Crew

Outline what you need and listen to the recordist's advice

Most freelance sound recordists will have their own equipment and in almost all cases it's a good idea to book them with their kit. All sound recordists do things slightly differently and their personal kit will be set up to their own method of working. This means they can react quickly to changing situations and not waste time finding their way around an unfamiliar "hired" in sound package.

When booking a recordist, you need to check that they can meet your production's technical requirements. So talk about the number of radio mics you need, whether you want a wireless link to the camera, director's headphones, walkie talkies, stereo or mono, DAT or solid state recorder, will they need a boom swinger, etc.

Involving the sound recordist early on gives you chance to discuss these technical issues and if necessary hire in extra kit before you shoot, although in most cases, the recordist's standard kit will probably meet your needs.

Lighting Crew

Talk to the cameraman or DOP first

You'll need to speak to the cameraman or DOP about what he or she needs before talking to the gaffer or hire company and often it's a good idea to let the cameraman or DOP speak directly to the gaffer

Whether or not you need a lighting crew on your shoot simply depends on the number and type of lights you will be using. Most of the time in day to day television documentary, the cameraman will have his own lighting package and will be able to manage this with a bit of help from the sound recordist and other willing hands on the crew.

If you have a bigger set up or you're using higher powered tungsten or HMI lights then you're going to need one or more lighting electricians or a gaffer to manage and rig the lights and even provide a generator. There's an important health & safety issue to consider here, as lighting units, stands, cables and electricity can become a dangerous combination if not handled expertly.

There are freelance gaffers and electricians who sometimes come with a van full of lights and accessories which can be tailored for your specific needs. Or you can hire lighting and technicians from a specialist lighting hire company.

Always get a detailed quote. The cost of the individual lighting units may be within budget, but the small items and accessories can really add up. Extra cable lengths, splitters, flags, stands, scrims, magic arms, and sand bags are all necessary but can often end up costing as much as the lights themselves! Some gaffers include them in a package price, others charge per item. Just be aware and check what the deal is.

Grip Crew

if you're producing drama, commercials or drama sequences in a documentary then it's quite likely that your director will have asked for a grip on some or all days.

If your budget can afford it, then a grip is a highly useful and valuable member of the camera crew and will certainly add production value what goes on the screen.

Grip equipment is a specialist area so rather than requesting a specific piece of kit (unless you know it well) it's best to seek advice and describe the kind of shots you need. eg. a very high crane shot or ground level tracking shot. Tell the grip where you will be shooting: indoors or outdoors, level ground or rough ground, whether or not there are public close by, and ask how long it will take to set up and de-rig.

Also get the DOP to speak to the grip if at all possible.