Hiring film crewTaking on a significant role in the production of a film such as Production Manager or Production Coordinator, is a challenging task with diverse responsibilities.  One of those duties is to assemble personnel to work on the hundreds of different aspects making up the film.  It’s certainly true that when you’re young, you’ve probably become accustomed to being the interviewee rather than the interviewer.  But recruiting a crew is a task which will fall to you at some point.  It’s a steep learning curve, but one you’ll navigate through experience, learning as you go along how to manage your responsibilities as well as your employees.

The “Nuts and Bolts” of Hiring People

In the arena of recruitment, the first thing to come to mind is the resume.  You may already know what resumes look like, having written several of them yourself, but we’ll reiterate a few points to serve as reminders.  It’s also worth remembering that looking at applications from “the other side of the fence” as it were, requires a shift to a very different perspective.

Reviewing applications begins with looking at the cover letter.  Established convention is to reject applications immediately if they do not have a cover letter.  These letters should tell you all you need to know about the person applying.  There is much more opportunity for the applicant to put across their personality rather than factual information about their past experience and skills (which is taken care of in the more structured format of the resume.)  A good cover letter indicates good preparation and real commitment to the position they are applying for.

One of the basics a resume should include is the applicant’s contact details including address and telephone and e-mail contacts.  They might choose to indicate their job position, but bear in mind this will not always be the case as film crew will often have experience of many different roles on set.  Most people submit what are called “functional” resumes which are organised with skills relevant to a particular position listed first.

For someone trawling through hundreds of resumes, this structure can help you immediately identify potential candidates.  When looking at resumes for a particular position, have a list of the necessary skills to hand and scan the resume for these keywords.  This is a time efficient and systematic approach.  For example, when selecting an administrative assistant or member of the accounts team, it would be useful to find an applicant with a good working knowledge of your software backed up by good typing skills.

Sometimes candidates will try to make themselves stand out and submit humorous or unconventional resumes.  There are ups and downs to this.  On the positive side, you want lively people with personality as part of your team and individuals with interesting characters can help create a vibrant working environment in which the crew and therefore the production can thrive.  However, the production of a film requires hard work and dedication.  If this person is unpredictable and their behaviour on set potentially provocative, they may not be a wise choice.  Are you confident enough in your management skills to know that you could direct them effectively?

What about References?

Film and hire

Resumes will indicate who should be applied to for references about a candidate.  They may say “available on request” in which case you may contact the individual to obtain the relevant information.  However, resumes also contain information about previous films the applicant has worked on (called the filmography).  Whilst this is useful information in itself, this is where you can find details of potential references for that person.

In the recruitment process for more creative positions like art directors and cinematographers, portfolios will be required and are invaluable in appraising the applicant’s previous work.  These are likely to be more important in choosing the right person than references they provide.

How to Approach Interviewing

Before inviting candidates to interview, it’s necessary to verify the applicant’s references.  This really is part of your responsibility to act with diligence in recruiting your team.   For most positions, it will be necessary to conduct a preliminary interview over the phone.  This gives you a chance to consider their general manner in talking with you and to confirm any particulars that may not be detailed on their resume.  (For example, checking that they are not committed to any other projects which may conflict with yours.)

For the interview itself, it’s advisable to create a pleasant (almost relaxed) atmosphere and begin with a neutral topic of conversation to put your both at ease.  If you take the time to look at the hobbies and interests section of their resume, you will be able to fix on a suitable topic.  Then you’ll be able to conduct the interview feeling comfortable.  Discussing the questions relevant to the position will then follow more naturally.  You should cover things like the job description and skills pertaining to it; how much of a team-oriented person they are; their expected pay rates; and how they handle difficult people and situations.

Meeting a person properly in an interview will give you a good indication of whether or not you will be able to work with them professionally.  After all, if 2 candidates with similar skill sets and abilities are both suitable for the job, one of them may have a personality that fits more comfortably with you and your team.

Specific Positions and Relevant Hiring Procedures

There are several positions which are highly specific in the skills they require.  These are detailed below with a comprehensive list of the attributes you should be looking for in your candidates:

Production Accountant: Knows how to control budgets, payroll, petty cash, cash flow, reporting and filing; communicates well; prioritises; manages stress.

Assistant Production Coordinator: Communicates well particularly on the telephone; manages the computer, filing systems and production paperwork effectively; is not likely to become bored and copes with stress.

Production Secretary & Receptionist: Sometimes known as the 2nd Assistant Production Coordinator this person assists the 1st assistant with their duties.

The Office Production Assistant: Is aware of the realities and demands of the role; possesses good memory, organisational and stress management skills; communicates well and often with the Production Coordinator; learns quickly; is conscientious in performing all tasks however small; carries pen and paper at all times.

Remember, where positions are entry-level (like the Office Production Assistant) you need to be prepared for instructing them in even the simplest tasks to begin with.  But if you do this diligently, you will create a good team around you and your life will be much easier as a result.

Moving Yourself and Your Team Forward

Assembling and managing a team is made all the easier if adequate thought and effort goes into recruiting them in the first place.  If you hire people who are committed and dedicated to their jobs, you will minimise problems later on.   This allows everyone to succeed in their complementary roles and the production to succeed overall.