THE MAKING OF A STEAMFUNK MOVIE: Pt. 1, the Crew
When I left Howard University – and my despised major in Finance – in 1986 (don’t do the math) to pursue my vision of novelist, screenwriter and film director, my family – particularly my mother was supportive. My sister, Alesia, however – a film and video producer for the Air Force – did not warn me about what I was getting myself into.
I enrolled in Columbia College – the renowned college of the Fine Arts in Chicago – and my training in film, which I just knew would be easy and fun every minute, began.
And so did work ten times more demanding than any Finance, Economics, or Statistics class ever was.
Easy? My ass!
Fun? Hell no!
The work was grueling; tiresome; boring; lonely.
Wait a minute…lonely?
The first week of my Film Directing I Class was a solo directing project. Unbeknownst to us ignorant students, that project was designed for the sole purpose of teaching us – the hard way – that film is always a collaborative effort. Anyone who tries to be a one-man film crew is about as sharp as a bowl of Jell-O.
For those of you looking to make a movie, but you do not have access to a multimillion-dollar budget, you may have to assume more than one responsibility to make your film. While it is possible – and often necessary – to wear two or three hats when making a film, it is not recommended. Search hard for qualified and experienced people to work with. The more you do, the more the quality of your film suffers and the quicker you will burn yourself out.
In May, we begin pre-production on the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage. We start shooting in August. This is the bare minimum crew we will begin with:
Producer: A film producer creates the conditions for making movies. The producer initiates, coordinates, supervises, and controls matters such as raising funding, hiring key personnel, and arranging for distributors. The producer is involved throughout all phases of the filmmaking, from development to “delivery” of a project.
Executive producer: In major productions, can sometimes be a representative or CEO of the film studio. Or the title may be given as an honorarium to a major investor. Often they oversee the financial, administrative and creative aspects of production, though not always in a technical capacity. In smaller companies or independent projects, it may be synonymous with creator/writer. Often, a “Line Producer” is awarded this title if this producer has a lineage of experience, or is involved in a greater capacity than a “typical” line producer. E.G – working from development through post, or simply bringing to the table a certain level of expertise.
Associate producer: Usually acts as a representative of the Producer, who may share financial, creative, or administrative responsibilities, delegated from that producer. Often, a title for an experienced film professional acting as a consultant or a title granted as a courtesy to one who makes a major financial, creative or physical contribution to the production.
Script Supervisor: The script supervisor maintains a daily log of the shots covered and their relation to the script during the course of a production, acts as chief continuity person, and acts as an on-set liaison to the post-production staff. They maintain logs of all shots and act as the chief continuity person on set, performing daily cross-referencing with the continuity stills photographer to ensure shots remain accurate and in logical order.
Continuity Stills Photographer: The continuity stills photographer uses a digital still camera to establish continuity referents for each shot covered in a day of shooting. These shots are cross-referenced with the script supervisor’s log for accessibility on set. The continuity stills photographer takes pictures of each shot covered, paying particular attention to the in-point and out-point of a shot – a photograph is taken just before the director says “action,” and immediately after he or she says “cut.”
Director: The director is responsible for overseeing the creative aspects of a film, including controlling the content and flow of the film’s plot, directing the performances of actors, organizing and selecting the locations in which the film will be shot, and managing technical details such as the positioning of cameras, the use of lighting, and the timing and content of the film’s soundtrack. Though the director wields a great deal of power, they are ultimately subordinate to the film’s producer or producers. Some directors, especially more established ones, take on many of the roles of a producer, and the distinction between the two roles is sometimes blurred.
Stunt Coordinator: Where the film requires a stunt, and involves the use of stunt performers, the stunt coordinator will arrange the casting and performance of the stunt, working closely with the director. This includes Fight Choreographers – stunt coordinators who specialize in the casting, design and performance of fight scenes.
Production Designer: A production designer is responsible for creating the physical, visual appearance of the film – settings, costumes, properties, character makeup, all taken as a unit. The production designer works closely with the director and the cinematographer to achieve the ‘look’ of the film.
Director of Photography / Cinematographer: The director of photography is the chief of the camera and lighting crew of the film. The DP makes decisions on lighting and framing of scenes in conjunction with the film’s director. Typically, the director tells the DP how they want a shot to look, and the DP chooses the correct aperture, filter, and lighting to achieve the desired effect.
Camera Operator: The camera operator uses the camera at the direction of the cinematographer / director of photography, or the film director to capture the scenes on film. Generally, a cinematographer or director of photography does not operate the camera, but sometimes these jobs may be combined.
Boom Operator: The boom operator is an assistant to the production sound mixer, responsible for microphone placement and movement during filming. The boom operator uses a boom pole, a long pole made of light aluminum or carbon fiber that allows precise positioning of the microphone above or below the actors, just out of the camera’s frame. The boom operator may also place radio microphones and hidden set microphones.
Film Editor: The film editor is the person who assembles the various shots into a coherent film, with the help of the director.
Sound Designer: The sound designer, or “supervising sound editor”, is in charge of the post-production sound of a movie. Sometimes this may involve great creative license, and other times it may simply mean working with the director and editor to balance the sound to their liking.
Composer: The composer is responsible for writing the musical score for a film.
Foley Artist: The foley artist is the person who creates the sound effects for a film.
Key Makeup Person: The key makeup person applies and maintains the cast’s makeup, working in coordination with the script supervisor and the continuity stills photographer.
Key Hairdresser: The key hairdresser dresses and maintains the cast’s hair, working in coordination with the script supervisor and the continuity stills photographer.
Costume Designer: The costume designer works under the supervision of the director and the art director to design, obtain, assemble, and maintain the costumes for a production. Costume designers develop costuming concepts and the design of costumes in coordination with the art director, production designer, and DP.
This is the crew I am working with, plus the assistants for each member of the crew, caterers and security. I bet no Financier ever had to work with so many people – from a couple of months to a year or more – just to complete one project.
Such is the life of a filmmaker, but I love it and when you see the fruit of the labor of our crew, when Rite of Passage hits the silver screen at the Black Science Fiction Film Festival in February, 2014, you’ll love it – and us – too!
More funk to come. Stay tuned, Steamfunkateers!
If you would like to be a part of the making of this film and live in or near Atlanta, please join us at the Information Session at Georgia Tech Thursday, April 18, 2013; Skiles Building; Room 343 at 11:00 am. We will discuss cast and crew needs, scheduling and benefits to be enjoyed by all involved!