INDIE PRODUCER PROBLEMS + SOLUTIONS
Before getting started, I'd love to share the 2 goals I have for this blog.
1. I've been producing short films and commercials for almost 7 years now (both as a one-man-band type filmmaker and as a designated producer on a team). More recently, I've even had a chance to produce a feature-length documentary. And while that all sounds fancy and grand, the reality is that I've helped kick out some great work on some really tiny budgets. But I'm a strong believer in the fact that creativity is not just limited to directors and cinematographers. Producing is one of the most creatively challenging roles because it often requires you to figure out how to achieve huge production value with limited resources. And that's what I love doing. So I'm here to share some of the problems I've encountered along the way with some solutions I've found to be helpful for me.
2. I would really love for this to open a conversation around some of the not so glamorous practicalities of making films. Maybe I'm wrong (and I'd love to be corrected if so), but I feel that there are very few resources celebrating and educating the role of producer. Hope this helps add to a dialogue we can all share. I'm in no way an expert. In fact, I feel like I'm ghetto rigging things together more often than not. Maybe you feel the same. Let's talk :)
Problem: Client (startup, non-profit, etc) can't afford what you've quoted for a project.
Solution: If the project is right, try offering them a sizable discount in exchange for allowing you to retain ownership of the footage. Then get that stuff onto stock sites and make the money back over time. Residual income is a filmmaker's best friend for funding gear purchases and passion projects.
Problem: Trying to cut interviews down is a long time-consuming process that turns your brain (or your editor's) to mush.
Solution: Start with transcripts instead. You can read through and pull selects from an hour long interview in about 10 minutes instead of having to listen to it realtime (or even double time in Premiere). I personally use a service called Rev.com. Highly affordable solution that's very worth the money (especially on long form projects with multiple subjects)
Problem: Lots to do on set. Not enough budget to hire pro grips.
Solution: Become friends with the young filmmakers in your area. Lots of guys are hungry to be on set and experience a behind the scenes look at a higher production value project than what they've been doing on their own. Buy them lunch and teach them as much as you can as you continue to lead the shoot.
Problem: You're headed to an unfamiliar city with limited access to good locations.
Solution: Consider staying in an AirBnB that you can use as a shoot location as well, or (if you're lucky enough to have them in your city already) check out Breather.
Problem: You want to rent gear from local rental houses or individuals that can't / won't deliver.
Solution: Get connected to a local courier service. Most of the time, it's not worth the energy or the money you could make actually working that same hour (or 2).
Problem: Renting a bunch of gear from multiple sources gets super confusing post-shoot.
Solution: Label each item with garage sale stickers color-coded by rental source.
Problem: Filming computer screens or phone screens never looks as good as you (or your DP) thinks it will.
Solution: Try shoot with the app, VFX Screens and replace it in post.
Problem: The potential of getting stopped by security while on a guerilla style film op can be nerve racking.
Solution: The trick is really to look as unprofessional as possible. Keep your rig as small as you can. Invest in screw on filters so you don't have to use a matte box. And lose the boom mic.
Problem: You're traveling with a ton of gear and keep getting slammed with overweight baggage fees at the airport.
Solution: Use an official media badge, or create your own. There are a few airlines (including Southwest) that allow free overweight bags for video crew members.
Problem: Filming a multi-cam live event (concert, etc) Need to re-sync 4 cameras between takes without disrupting or pulling attention from audience.
Solution: Purchase large LED clock. All cameras point towards clock between takes. In post, sync all the cameras to the first frame of a new second.
Problem: 4K files can kill your computer's speed
Solution: Try working with "offline" 720p proxy files. Still haven't found a tutorial that I love, but this one should get the idea going. I personally prefer conforming the clips with Davinci Resolve. But the concept is the same across the board.