Consolidating Crew Members: Who’s Expendable And When Is It Necessary?

By | Published May 5th, 2020 | in FILMMAKING

Consolidating Crew Members: Who’s Expendable And When Is It Necessary?

Not every production budget is ideal. Sure, we’d like to tack on another zero here or there, but the truth of the matter is that most producers and freelancers take what they can get.

Some ProCo’s business model is built to filter out the work that’s beneath them, but for the majority, they take the lower hanging fruit knowing full well it won’t make their next reel.

Traversing this area might be a little confusing when you first run into a budget that is TIGHT!

I’m talking expectations through the roof when reality’s only half way up the wall. Well the vision isn’t going to shift for the budget so the coordinating has to shift for the budget.

This means having to forego important necessities, luxuries or both. That extra PA — Gone! That 2nd AC — See ya! And that money reserved for the Art Department — Just make it work!

This is where knowing what crew members are expendable and which ones are absolutely vital to accomplish the vision comes in handy.

Let’s break it down!


When is it necessary? — When the budget is tighter than hell! That’s the only time to consolidate. If you have the money, it should always go toward a full professional crew.



In the Production Department, there are some very vital roles. The Producer, who occasionally plays Line Producer/Production Manager too sometimes — is always needed. The Director can wear other hats, but you always need someone filling this position! A production coordinator might double as the producer sometimes, but regardless there needs to be a coordinator on any set. And a PA! — You always need at least one. The Production Department is the foundation upon which everything else grows and these roles are absolutely essential.

The Assistant Director and Location Manager positions are not always lost on tight budgets. But they could be combined with another person’s job title. A 1st AD comes in very handy, but the duties can easily be divided up between the producer and the director if needed.


Roles That Are Expendable

Like mentioned before, when that budget is pinched, people start wearing many hats real quick! But role’s in this department don’t really get omitted, they just get combined. The Production Manager becomes the Production Coordinator who becomes the Line Producer who is the Producer. — Get it? Any extra PAs are gone, secretaries — Gone.

Transportation? Load it up in someone’s truck and make it work!



Moving on to vital roles in the Camera Department. Your cinematographer, again, can be versatile, but you need someone to be accountable for the integrity of the shot. A camera operator (who sometimes might be the DP) is a necessity. The 1st AC — Is much needed IMO! You need someone locking in focus wirelessly or else you’re likely running though way more takes than you need to and you can forget about getting fancy with your shot.

G&E are always needed. You always need at least one Key Grip and One Gaffer. Unless you plan on using all available light, which isn’t ideal most of the time, you’re going to need someone to shape the scenes. And your sound guy? If there’s dialogue or nat sound that’s absolutely needed — you need a sound guy. Don’t try using your Audio Technica lavs with your camera’s onboard audio recording, we all know it’s gonna sound like shit.


Roles That Are Expendable

It’s not ideal and many will argue about the necessity for these roles, trust me — I get it! But nonetheless, they are more expendable than the positions mentioned above. Positions like the 2nd AC, DIT, Stills Photog, Loader or a Camera PA — all are gone. Typically you need these roles on set to operate in a professional manner, but their job requirements can be tasked by the DP, Camera Op, and 1st AC (to their dismay).

I hate to say it, but the Script Sup is lost on a tight budget. Continuity responsibility gets divided up between the Camera and Production Department at that point.

Consolidating Crew Members: Who's Expendable And When Is It Necessary?


Most often on a tight budget, most positions in the Art Department are lost to Locations and settling for what’s available with minor set adjustments. If this is the case, you’ll still want to make room for at least one Art Director that can take over a lot of the roles in this department. Roles like Set Decorator, Scenic Artist, Coordinator, and Designer all get lumped into the Art Director position.

You should and most likely will make room for at least one MUA and one Costume Designer. Now as far as those positions having a team underneath them to assist and execute — Not with a tight budget!


Roles That Are Expendable

Now the expendable roles in Art, there’s a lot of em’. Prop master? — What prop master. Art PA — Not this time. Say goodbye to Greensmen, Leadman, Buyers, Carpenters, Construction Coordinators, Prop Makers, Food Stylists, Animal Wranglers — All gone. These are important roles and it’s a shame when they are bypassed, but what’s a producer to do when the client simply can’t afford it.



The positions in this department can vary between practical, digital, and throwing yourself through a window. If there’s a need in the vision for any kind of special effects, you’re going to have to make room for it in your tight budget. But you’ll be getting the bare minimum. What that looks like is — One VFX Supervisor/ Designer/ Animator or one Special Effects Coordinator/Supervisor/Technician/Sculptor rendering the services for you single handedly. — And they’ll be using the cheapest materials or plugins most likely.


Roles That Are Expendable

You better get your talent to sign that new clause about waiving responsibility for injury — cause there’s no room for a stunt man with this budget. In all seriousness, if you can’t afford it, rewrite your ambitions. No one’s life or freedoms are worth a measly shot. If you need stunts, pony up the cash. Nonetheless, it’s a position that’s forgone with most tight budgets.

For other special effects positions, they are like the others up top. They are combined, not lost. That’s even if there’s a need for these positions at all in the first place. Many producers will try and simplify to avoid having to mess with special effects at all.



I don’t care what the production is, this is a necessity that should always be present on any size production, big or small. A well fed crew is a happy crew.


Let this guide you in!

If you’re experiencing this conundrum and you’ve read this far into this blog, I hope it helps you make some decisions up front when coordinating your next production and trying to lock in that essential crew.

Also — Don’t forget to wash your hands all the time. 20 seconds. Hot water! And bring sanitizer!


About The Author:

Trenton Massey


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