How to One-Man-Crew it like an Olympian

Should you really attempt to shoot a film entirely on your own?

For his new film Olympic Dreams, filmmaker Jeremy Teicher was granted unprecedented access to one of the most exclusive residences in the world. This is a location so rare that it's only available once every four years. A place where pheromones course through the veins of some of the most beautiful and physically talented people alive: The Olympic Village.

Teicher and his partner Alexi Pappas were provided a grant and, perhaps equally valuable, permission to shoot anywhere they wished at 2018's Winter Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Pappas, an Olympic track star in her own right, stars in the film with the always hilarious Nick Kroll. The two are the only actual actors in the film, playing a young cross-country skier and a volunteer doctor that fall in love over the course of the winter games. Everyone else who appears in the film is either a competing Olympian or unknowing passerby. For this reason, it was crucial the production had the smallest footprint it could possibly get away with. 

The opportunity wouldn't be without its challenges, however. Namely, Teicher would be shooting an entire narrative film in a chaotic foreign location, entirely by himself. I sat down with Teicher and Pappas to discuss the most important parts of one man crewing, what gear to bring along, how to make things easier for yourself in pre-production and, at the end of the day, why it may be a better idea to bring at least one other person along to help. 

For more, see our ongoing list of coverage of the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

No Film School's podcast and editorial coverage of the 2019 SXSW Film Festival is sponsored by Blackmagic Design.     

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For me, the most important aspect to one man crewing it was keeping my gear as lightweight and collapsible as possible. Shlepping big heavy gear wears on you pretty quick I so got the lightest aluminum light stands possible, lightweight LCD's, umbrellas for diffusion, and shot with a micro 4/3 DSLR. I also used a tripod and dolly and only went handheld when absolutely necessary, as handheld shooting is pretty tiring. Especially for shots where performance was critical, it was much easier to lock it down so I could focus more on the actors and not worry about camera choreography. It's also easy to add a convincing hand held look in post anyway. For sound, mostly used a boom on a stand, and only went wireless when outside or had a long walk and talk. I managed to get everything I needed in one normal sized hardtop suitcase, and one longer case for lightstands and lighting.

May 6, 2019 at 9:06AM, Edited May 6, 9:07AM


I'm interested in seeing the results of this. I often end up being a one-man-band and never thought about using the umbrellas for diffusion. In hind-sight, I feel like an idiot for not thinking of it sooner. I guess I always thought of them as photography accessories.

May 6, 2019 at 11:52AM


Specifically, I use an umbrella called a Brolly Box, it has black tenting on the back that you cinch over your light, so the back of the umbrella isn't spilling light everywhere. Gives more control. It's kind of like using half a china ball.

And I used a few light stand adapters so I can use the umbrellas on just about any light. Trailer for my film--

May 7, 2019 at 10:37AM, Edited May 7, 10:38AM