This is a guest post by filmmaker William Speruzzi.
1. Use SAG talent (if you can) – If the budget can take the hit, go for people who have experience and know-how to conduct themselves on a set, rehearse, etc. It will save you time and aggravation in the end. The last thing you want to do is teach someone how to act while you're making your film. If you can’t go this way, get non-union but make sure all the talent is non-union. If you have a cast of ten actors and one actor is SAG then you still have to become a SAG signatory. An audience can forgive a scene that’s shot a little too dark but they will never believe a film that has poor acting.
2. Cast with a pro – Again, if you can afford it, cast with a casting agent. It definitely doesn’t have to go this way but if you are going union get someone who has a pipeline to that water supply.
3. Date the DP – When looking for a DP look at it like you are searching for the perfect mate. Can you agree on a similar style of filmmaking? Bring them into your world. Show them the script, storyboards, photography, art books that reflect what you’re trying to capture. Is this a person you can confide in for the next X amount of weeks? If a DP says you can’t do that shot and doesn’t give you an alternative, get rid of him/her. The last thing you want is someone who is going to shoot down your ideas. Know what you want and bring as much information to the table to see what the DP thinks of your ideas.
4. Let someone else supervise the script – You have enough on your mind, you could use someone else to help worry about continuity.
5. Snap, Crackle, Pop – Make sure the sound person checks and field-tests the equipment before using it for your film. If there is something wrong you really don’t want to find this out when you’ve wrapped and you are looking and “listening” to the footage.
6. Timetables and momentum – When you are prepping for your shoot arrange to have it done within a period of time. Meaning, people get busy and if you have them locked up for three consecutive weekends for your film, try with all your power to finish it within those three weekends. Cast and crew are already setting up their next job when they are done with yours.
7. Psychology rules – Try to understand everyone before you go into your project. There are so many personalities on a film set, if time allows take the time to find out who you are working with. Is this person upbeat? Is this person cranky? In the 25th hour do you really want someone who is petty or incompetent?
8. Call in backup – For every choice you make whether it is about location, an actor, or a camera, have two other go to choices in an emergency.
9. Time is of the essence – Time is not just money, it is gold. See the next point:
10. The script isn’t the only thing made out of paper – When writing your short script write it to budget. If you have $500 to make a film don’t write a scene with car interiors, twenty SAG extras and a trained llama.
11. The three "R"s – Read, Research, Review. Be the absolute expert on making your film before you decide on shooting format. It’s an overwhelming task but the more you know, the better off you are. Read articles on filmmaking. Ask those who have done what you are about to do. Go over it all and use what applies to your film.
12. Signs are everywhere – On a limited budget you might have to make compromises with some crew members, but don’t hire if you have second thoughts. If they show up an hour late or not at all without a courtesy call, bad sign no matter how good they are. This behavior will continue in one form or another throughout your production. Make sure they are serious about working on your film. Let them know up front what they are in for with regards to money or other challenges. There are hundreds of talented people working on films, get the best you can afford on yours.
13. Know your limitations – You can’t exploit your resources if you don’t know what they are. If you are limited by budget, understand fully what that means for your film.
14. Thanks are in order – Filmmaking is hard on everyone, especially during production. Tempers can run high and patience can become a luxury. Delegate with authority but respect is key in all situations. Thank your cast and crew for being part of your dream, especially in the case where money is thin -- which is always.
15. Finish the film – Find a way to make this happen -- no matter what.
William Speruzzi has worked in film and commercial production and post-production for such clients as HBO, MTV, Sacchi & Sacchi and Panasonic. In 2005 he wrote and directed the short film from his original script The Face of the Earth that was a Quarterfinalist in the CineStory Screenwriting Awards 2003 Short Category. His screenplay Dyre Avenue about an aging cab driver working as a drug courier for a corrupt NYPD officer was in the BlueCat Screenwriting 2007 Competition Top Ten Percent. William has worked professionally as an editor under his own banner cutting shorts, industrials, commercials, and promos. Since then he has written Every Dog’s Day, a feature length screenplay about a desperate father, a lost son and a rabid dog.
This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on William's site This Savage Art.