Producing keeps me on the sidelines. In fact, when it comes time to organize the staff, the first thing I do is hire a dynamic, confident line producer who will represent me on set, taking care of the minute-to-minute crises, while I float around the perimeter, taking meetings, troubleshooting, visiting the location or set to see how things are going, keeping everyone calm, and doling out checks and producerly advice (and trying to keep my mitts away from the crafts services table).
Initially—in development and preproduction—I am in the direct center of the firestorm. In fact, Rocco was feeling guilty after three months of development had passed and I hadn't asked him to join in yet. But there was little he could do to help me budget the film beyond breaking it down for shooting days, and suggesting how he thought he'd be covering a scene, whether he needed a piece of special equipment like a Steadicam on a certain day, things like that.
In preproduction, I adjust the budget and assist in casting, hiring the crew, getting all agreements signed, finding locations, and supervising the breaking down of the script for shooting. I'm a compulsive list-maker, so I enjoyed it, and was aided by line producer Brian Gunther and assistant director/production manager Glenys Eldred. If there'd been more money in the budget, both of them would have come on earlier and lightened my load.
During production, my direct staff does the dirty work and keeps me constantly informed. Or, at least, that's the plan: it didn't work out that way at all during The Sweet Life. I didn't spend terribly much time on the set, but I ended up becoming the production still photographer (two days a week was all that took), recruiting extras (normally a full-time job, which no one had the time for, so I allowed it to be delegated to me), and before long I was even sharing the responsibility for driving the grip truck to the set each morning at some ungodly hour and then getting it back into a garage whenever the schedule stipulated its return. Truly the lowest rung on the production ladder. To have produced eight features and come to this: I appreciated the absurdity. And what I
learned from it was that, at least during production, shooting in digital video did not lessen the need for a full crew.
I had arranged for fewer camera crew personnel than on a film feature, and this proved correct: since each DVCAM-PAL tape was three hours long, we really had no need for a camera loader, which would have been necessary if we were dealing with film rolls of approximately ten-minute lengths. I hired one less art-department member as well, and in this regard, I was off by one: a costume coordinator would have saved us considerable time. But it was in the production-assistant department that I was way off. I assumed we'd need only a handful, but twice that number would have been better, even if some were just standing around most of the time, waiting for instructions. I hadn't hired a PA driver for the grip truck, for instance, and at the end of a day, the crew felt too drained to trust themselves driving that huge vehicle back downtown, and since I had miscalculated in this regard, I felt it was just retribution that I be elected.
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