More With Less
Production budgets are not what they used to be. This is not exactly news to anyone working in filmmaking.
Show budgets that once would have been considered “low” now seem to be considered “average.” Cheap is the new normal. And while it can be cathartic to lament this situation, it doesn’t change the fact that budget filmmaking seems here to stay.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve seen some really positive benefits to the lean approach in my own work. Here’s a piece I did for Generation Companies recently. It was filmed in 4 days by a hard-working, 2-person micro-crew (me and a production assistant).
The Micro Crew Approach
Many creatives in a number of fields would agree that limitations of one sort or another can be catalysts to creativity. When you can’t throw unlimited money at a particular production challenge, you have to stretch and find creative solutions to tell your story in more cost-effective ways. Often this can actually help the project, not hinder it. Less can sometimes be more.
What can be particularly challenging, though, is that the demand for better storytelling and high-quality visuals has increased in spite of falling production budgets. “Do more with less,” is the mantra d’jour.
In order to meet today’s scaled-back production budgets, I often use what I’ll refer to as the micro-crew approach. What’s a micro-crew? A production team of 2 people or less. That would obviously include one-man-band scenarios.
Working “micro” is not something that will suit every production out there, and I’m certainly not saying it’s the best way to tackle production in general. But it has worked for my clients on several occasions. And candidly, the micro-crew method isn’t my favorite way to tackle a project. However—out of necessity—I have developed a few strategies to help make it more manageable when it’s required.
In part two, I’ll describe how I approach tight budget projects that necessitate micro-crewing. And in part 3 I’ll discuss the pros and cons of working like this, and I’ll provide some tips to make it easier. But don’t get me wrong: micro-crewing is never “easy.” Two people doing the work of 5 is undeniably challenging, even when you’re organized, skilled and prepared! But we’ll look at strategies to make it a little less difficult.
If you have questions or suggestions on workflow enhancements of your own, I encourage you to post them as comments so everyone can benefit from the discussion.