Insider Recommendations for Picking the Best Film Crew

To make it big in the entertainment industry, hundreds of people travel each year to cities like Los Angeles, Vancouver, and New York. These days, every student with a smartphone can make films. How difficult can it be to employ a professional crew when there are so many people from which to choose?

It’s more complicated than it sounds. When working in a new location or with a new crew, clients and producers face a wide variety of risks. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could ruin an otherwise professional shoot with mistakes, missed deadlines, and cost overruns in many categories. If you want the best staff possible, follow these insider tips:


Having a reliable source provide a referral is the best method to assemble a team. Since nobody wants to recommend someone they wouldn’t want to work with, it’s a plus if the person being referred is also going to be in the shoot. Pick your referrer carefully; hearing “my kid is trying to break into the industry” or “my assistant is sharp” is not a good enough qualification.

Professional production assistants, fixers, and department heads (including DP’s and Art Directors) are also useful sources when looking for crew references, however, coordinators and production managers are the most common. Ask around in your area’s film community to discover if anyone has experience working in the state you plan to shoot in. In many cases, all you need is one or two well-connected locals to find work for the complete team.

Investigate their Professional Reputation

Do some detective work before making your selection. Check social media profiles and look for feedback or reviews about your prospective crew members. It can provide valuable insights into their work ethic, punctuality, and professionalism. Companies like YLO Productions, have their past projects, giving you a sense of their experience and the type of productions they’ve worked on.

Use the Resources Provided by Production Manuals

Almost every state has a film office, and many of them also offer online production guides with extensive cast and crew lists. A listing may not always reveal a candidate’s qualifications, but it can provide you with their contact information so you can begin investigating them.

Again, production coordinators could be a good place to start. If you’re hiring for a creative role, a demo reel can show you the candidate’s previous work; if you’re examining resumes, look for signs that the candidate has worked for the same company more than once. Perhaps there’s a valid explanation behind that.

In-person or Virtual Interviews Are Key

While resumes, portfolios, and references are crucial, an in-person or virtual interview can give you a more profound sense of the individual’s personality and work style. During the interview, you can gauge their communication skills, enthusiasm, and adaptability, which are all crucial for a smooth and successful shoot. Try to discern if they’re team players, as film production is an intensely collaborative process.

Pay the Price

Everyone is looking to keep costs down, but if you skimp on the personnel, it will come back to bite you. Even if you’re not working for a union, you should still pay your crew a fair day rate. Union shootings have set rates and limits on how many hours they can work.

So what if it costs more to get a better crew? When recruiting below-the-line workers like production assistants, transportation, and grips, the answer becomes clear when prices are slashed. The effects of bad work are more obvious in departments where they are more visible.

You could save money by hiring ten film students as PAs at $75 per day, but you’d have to spend the entire shoot policing their behaviour to make sure they’re actually working and not just hanging out with the talent. However, for around $200-$250 per day, you can employ two or three experienced production assistants who can handle any issue that arises on set without distracting the rest of your team.

Remember that costs might change significantly from one city to the next. Below-market rates are typically lower in places with a large student population, such as Los Angeles, and higher in locations with a large professional community, such as New York. Don’t just quickly fire a crew member if they demand a higher rate when you call them. That might be promising, especially if they have a strong portfolio.

Experts want fair compensation for their services. You can have film students help out, but they shouldn’t be your main team members. It’s important to conduct in-depth interviews with new hires to ensure they have the right mindset and expectations for the job.

Consider Their Technical Skills and Expertise

While soft skills like teamwork and communication are essential, you also need a crew with the right technical expertise for your specific project. If you’re shooting a period drama, for instance, you’ll need a costume designer with experience in historical costuming. For action-packed scenes, a cinematographer with proficiency in shooting high-speed sequences would be beneficial. During your selection process, be sure to assess whether your prospective crew members possess the specific skills and experiences necessary for your project.

Get a Head Start

When it comes to the crew, many producers wait until the last minute. When shooting in a popular area with a small crew, you may find yourself in a frantic race to secure the best talent. Make sure to secure your crew early on and provide them with confirmed shoot dates.

Look for Adaptability

In the fast-paced world of film production, adaptability is a crucial trait. Unexpected issues often arise on set, from technical glitches to sudden changes in the weather. Crew members who can think on their feet and offer swift, creative solutions can be a significant asset. During your selection process, try to gauge prospective crew members’ adaptability through their past experiences or by presenting hypothetical on-set scenarios.

Go to the Sources

This is similar to the rule of thumb of recruiting through recommendations. Even though many crew members are flexible and work in multiple genres, each film and television medium has its own unique crew organisation, approach, and expectations. Don’t rely on recommendations from someone who has only worked on indie films if you’re producing a commercial. Reality television producers may also serve as writers or field directors, while feature film producers may just provide financial backing. Some commercial crew members may be unwilling to negotiate lower fees for reality TV or feature films. Some people only ever want to work on scripted shows or documentaries. Find an expert who has experience in the genre you’re filming in and hire the correct crew.

Choosing the Right Crew is a Worthwhile Investment

The crew you assemble will be a significant factor in determining the quality of your final product, as well as your overall experience during production. Remember, your crew is not just a group of individuals who execute tasks, but collaborators who can add value to your vision.

The key point? Do not hastily assemble the lowest bidder on short notice. Invest the effort in asking around for recommendations, doing your homework, and finding experts who exude professionalism and have the credentials to back it up.