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The high cost of cheap shoots

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#1 Janice Arthur

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 10:39 AM

Hi all;

I agreed to a small shoot yesterday.

Of course they kept trying to keep costs down but it ended up being costly in several ways that kept adding up throughout the day.

Just a few people on the crew. Simple idea, guys talking at the lens in a few locations.

Only one mic so no audio guy; ok, guy who owns the camera can deal with that.

Guy who owns the camera will pull focus and iris, Video lens, not a problem.

Got a PA who can run for stuff.

Problems, now its a cheap Wireless so it gets hits all the time, good takes for camera and talent meant do it again for audio hits.

Suddenly lots of extras takes and time and finally the PA is booming, mic in the shot, horrors, not the kid's fault.

Now its not the video lens its PRO-35 adapter and real film lenses, pulling focus means using a reference HD monitor to work from. Lots of extra takes too, although the guy did well, lots of trouble keeping cables out of the way too.

So in summary, they cheaped out and it cost them time but what it really cost was the Steadicam operator getting beat up. No skin off them but the producer kept looking at his watch and wondering why we weren't at the next location yet.

This is a written in the hope that we can all learn more from low-budget things that are popping up every day. Its not the look they sacrifice, nor the schedule, nor the quality, its the wear and tear on everyone which happens the next day out of sight of the production. The other crew members were also beaten up but they weren't doing our amount of work.

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#2 William Demeritt

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 12:12 PM

Definitely feel ya, Janice. I think we've all been in the bind where it's an "easy shoot", "nothing too crazy", "small crew, real simple". I'm in my 2nd year of operating, and it seems most of my shoots are what you describe.

I guess it comes down to finding the line between giving your best work and realizing you're being abused, and that comes with an understanding DP. Everyone else just thinks the rig weighs a few feathers. Some people will realize how hard you're working, and others will wonder why you need to rest so often. A few takes becomes a dozen takes, and all you need is a "few minutes rest" before trying again.

If they pull it all off in a single day, then their decision to go ahead without sufficient budget was "justified", although that Steadicam op probably won't take a job with them for anything less than a full rate (and the gamble is that they'll someday actually get a budget to pay you... but they remember how cheap you were, and they'll probably skimp you next time around even with a bigger budget).

If they don't pull off the day, it was a comedy of errors and you were probably the largest personnel expenditure on set, making you expendable if there's a reshoot. They don't know the difference between you busting your butt, giving a good day, or dragging your feet. If you try to avoid the abuse, you're a prima donna. If you can only do "so much", you're not the miracle worker they were expecting.

In my experience thus far, most of these guys don't know how to spend the money right the first time, meaning the best middle between qualified crew and least amount of "waste". Or, the producers have an arrangement where whatever's left of the budget is their fee, so they're a motivated cheapskate.
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#3 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 10:07 PM

Yep.... a Producer who didn't want to spend an extra $12 +/- for a proper 220-240v stinger yesterday cost us 45 minutes and compromised the shot. At least when he complained about "what was taking so long" the Gaffer unloaded on him and minced no words in the process.
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