Moonshine Moonshot Blog

Building your production team

Jan 17, 2023

Filmmaking! The ultimate team sport

Creating a documentary can be daunting process. But if you are tenacious, each week, you’ll get closer to seeing your ideas become a reality. And if you’ve been following our blog from week to week, hopefully we’re taking some weight off your ambitious and exciting venture. 


If this is the first blog you’ve landed on, you can easily jump back and catch up on all the steps that lead to this point. All the blogs are on the Moonshine Communications Academy site.


And if you’re already up to speed and itching to continue forward, then let’s get into the nitty-gritty of pre-production. Which means working out exactly who is going to be working on your masterpiece. 


I’m sure it’s not surprise to you that a production team is made up from a broad range of roles. From pre production to post, it’s best to know exactly who you're hiring to avoid any unwanted surprises down the line. 



Who is gonna be on my team?


Firstly, you need to have your key roles organised. You need your director, producer/s, cinematographers or director of photography, sound crew, lighting crew and potentially hair, make-up and wardrobe. 


If you’re a smaller team, it’s likely that one person may be wearing multiple hats. And that’s fine! As long as you know those roles are being covered. 


If your production is going international or even interstate, then I’ve learned that having a local fixer is a huge benefit. Having someone with local knowledge that can answer questions quickly, speak the local language and source unexpected items you may need can be a life saver!


And let’s not forget your production accountant and lawyer.  Ok, they are easy to forget.  Sorry lawyers and accountants, but you’re just not top of mind when we all think of filmmaking! But we do know how important you are.

Once you get through production, you’ll have a whole new roster of people come into play. This includes editors, composers, sound engineers and mixers, publicists and marketing wiz’s. 


I stress the importance in not shelving these folks till later, but to already be planning, hiring and locking in these people far in advance. They get busy and you’ll get busy and they might not be available when you do need them, if you don’t plan ahead.


Yep, it’s a lot of work and lot of people. But I’ll try not to bog you down in the details - as there are a lot more people you’ll need depending on what you’re trying to do with your film. If you need more information, head over to our resources tab and you will be able to find anything else you need. 


Where will my team be?


In the post-covid era, this may seem like a silly question for your pre and post production. But where your team will be located drastically effects the way you work. 


In a shared environment you are constantly bouncing ideas off each other and can work dynamically. But unless you’ve got a full-time crew based at your HQ, that may not be possible. 


The alternative to this would to be to hire a temporary space to conduct meetings and collaboration sessions (which are all the rage in the modern way of working!)


Of course, your on set production team will function very differently. Depending on the exact nature of the shoot, it is likely you’ll want your director, DOP, sound team and lighting team all there on the day.  I say team, but it might be just a sound person or a lighting person, or perhaps its you directing and producing with the support of a camera person who can manage the lights and sounds as well.  There’s many ways to make it all work.


Another thing to think about is the nature of what you’re shooting. Sometimes, when you’re out in the world, your DOP may not be experienced filming in a certain type of environment. For example, when Mike and I worked on the World Surfing Tour in Fiji, we had to hire underwater specialist cinematographers to capture a lot of the material. Don’t get me wrong, I love to pick up a camera, but there’s no way I could film a surfing comp from in the water…




Why do I need to have all this sorted out now?


One big reason behind all this work to figure out your crew, is that then you can accurately develop your schedule. Knowing your schedule and the schedule of your crew is a vital part of pre-production. So you need to have your team mapped out as soon as you can. If you haven’t identified your team, then you can’t schedule and if you can’t schedule… Then you won’t be making a film! If you want more info on scheduling, be sure to check out our previous blog ‘Scheduling your pre-production’ 


The biggest benefit in getting this mapped out in pre-production, is to avoid unnecessary cost and delay in the future. 


You must be familiar with the whole ‘On budget and on time’ producer speak.  Well, getting the plan right is the first step to making that happen. 


If you know who your team are, you know what you need to spend money on. Are you going to employ an editor to work in house?  Yes, that great but then they may need a computer, or software, sound system or an entirely separate space to your main office area. Aka - an edit suite. 


However, if you were to  contract and editor who has their own set up, you may avoid these specific costs, but it’s likely these costs are caught by the editor in their fee so that’s not necessarily going to save you money. (This is where your production accountant will come in handy! See I hadn’t really forgotten you lovely accounting folks).


Another thing to keep in mind during the pre production planning is your ideal audience. Now, I’m assuming the audience isn’t exactly the crew you thought I’d be listing in this post. But remember, the ultimate marketer for anything let alone a film, is the consumer. Working out who that audience is early on, means you can strategise around it and ensure your documentary gets the greatest reach possible. 


If you’re looking to develop your understanding of who you’re ideal audience is, then I recommend exploring the course we have on offer at Moonshine Communications Academy. 


Define Your Ideal Audience gives you an easy step-by-step system to identify your audience, there’s more to it than the old school ‘build an avatar’, when you have a deep understanding of who your project is for, you can connect, motivate and activate them when your ready. Doing this correctly means you set up your documentary for the best success possible. Have a look! 


Do you have a better sense of who your team is going to be?  I hope you're already considering where to find them and get them onboard for your film.


What is the next step? 


Congrats! You’re well on the way to shooting your documentary. Pre-production is a lengthy process, but it is a vital one. 


There’s still a few more steps before we move onto production, but if we work together, there is no reason you couldn’t be out on location with a camera in hand in 2023. 


Don’t forget, if there is something you want that we haven’t covered, be sure to check out the resources tab above. If you still can’t find it, be sure to send us an e-mail or DM us on a social media platform and we’ll be sure to provide you with what you need.

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