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Friday, 15 August 2014 15:47

Production Crews: Going Where the Work Is

Written by  James Thompson
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CREWING CREWING

As production companies utilize local talent both domestically and in foreign countries, pulling a crew together can be a challenging ordeal.

So it can be beneficial to arrive in a popular filming destination where another high-end project just wrapped. Such was the case for the CW show “Supernatural” when it began filming in Vancouver and surrounding areas in British Columbia in 2005. “The pilot was shot in Los Angeles, but it was decided very early on that it would be moved to Vancouver to take advantage of the incentives,” explains Co-Executive Producer Jim Michaels. Produced by Warner Bros. Television, the show lucked out because “The X-Files” had just wrapped — more than 80 percent of that crew was hired by “Supernatural.”

When situating a production in a new locale, Michaels always works with film commissioners to find out what projects have filmed there. He then collects past crew sheets to find local contacts, but once word spreads that a production is in town, crewmembers will materialize on their own. “I did a pilot in Prescott, Arizona, and there was nothing going on in Phoenix or Tucson, so all of a sudden a bunch of grips started giving us a call and coming up to Prescott,” Michaels recalls. “They come to where the work is.” This GLICK SMscenario has been the trend of late as many crewmembers from Los Angeles have left the city to seek work in other busy markets. Mark Glick (pictured left) is the unit production manager on the ABC series “Revenge,” and he feels lucky that he’s been able to consistently find work in Southern California. Other crewmembers haven’t been as fortunate. Glick has brought in crewmembers from out of state and, while this can disrupt their personal lives, they’re always appreciative. “Let’s face it,” he says, “They want to be closer to their home and families.” According to Glick, the “Revenge” crew hasn't changed much in years, but when it’s time for new hires, he looks to the department heads for recommendations. Wardrobe is an important element of the show and is constantly changing, so the show often hires additional expertise in this area. 

As major production hubs surface across the globe, producers have developed reliable methods to find and secure experienced crew. Film commissioners aid productions by creating local crew lists and directories, while personnel familiar with the crewing process act as a viable source for recommendations. Quebec has a long history in film and TV production and has been a major hub for Canadian projects for over 50 years. Foreign producers are flocking to the province to take advantage of its huge tax incentive, and they are staying busy. According to Hans Fraikin, the film commissioner of the Quebec Film and Television Council, Quebec averages $850 million from local productions every year and its crew base is six to eight deep. 

The Council’s website offers a crew base listing service and a Quebec Film sourcebook that can be downloaded in PDF form. The local unions also provide directories. Fraikin lauds Quebec industry professionals as being exceptional and credits their training to a government that supports their success. “We have what is called a training mutual fund, which is administered by an organization and they do hundreds of training courses every year,” Fraikin reports. “One percent of money spent by production in the [entertainment] industry has to go to training.” 

Another a major production center is Louisiana, which currently boasts some of the best crews in the U.S. According to Chris Stelly, the executive director of Louisiana Entertainment, the local crew base is 10 to 11 deep. “[Crews] are coming from all over, not just Los Angeles,” says Stelly. He credits Louisiana’s financial incentives for continually attracting production, and says that the abundance of work and a low cost of living keeps crews in the state. A record number of features are currently either filming or aiming to film in the state, including the franchise films Terminator: Genesis, Jurassic World, Pitch Perfect 2 and The Fantastic Four

One way Louisiana Entertainment markets the state’s film, interactive, live and music industries is by distributing a production directory that showcases Louisiana’s talented and skilled workforce. As a production freelancer, John Perkins has been helping crews get placed on all kinds of film and TV projects. He saw a need to take action when productions wanted to leave of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. “All of a sudden all the movie production that was going on in New Orleans needed a place to work because basically New Orleans was destroyed for a period of time,” recalls Perkins, who covered the hurricane aftermath for “Inside Edition.” “From then on we’ve been working with films and TV shows as well as our normal news coverage.” Perkins has since started Louisiana Crews, which promote Louisiana crews through a website and social sites like Facebook (www.facebook.com/LouisianaCrew). “There is a lot going on here,” he says. “It’s a good time to be in the production business in Louisiana. It’s like I’ve got a ticket to the front row of everything that’s going on here, and it’s been a whole lot of fun.”

Another Louisiana website worth mentioning is filminglouisiana.com, which gives producers instant access to a comprehensive film database directory. Crewmembers seeking work can register on the site for free. For anyone just starting out in the film and television industry in Louisiana and elsewhere, Michaels has some advice. “I would say work any way you can, even if it’s nonunion,” he says. “Get the experience and the skillset going and keep working. Don’t give up.” Glick also has tips for breaking into the entertainment industry.“Choose the [entertainment] job you want to pursue and go work at a rental facility that rents in that field to the industry,” he says.As new productions seek local talent, newbies can create opportunities by rubbing shoulders with people that are in a position to recommend new hires.

 

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