Crew Me Up is an app designed to help you find work in film or TV around the country.
Crew Me Up is the first industry-tailored mobile platform that connects filmmakers in real-time. The app offers a streamlined pathway to access and track film and TV jobs that are posted in various regions.
Hiring managers can see which crew has already been hired, and when other crew members are available. The app has also integrated new COVID-19 postings and health and safety resources as the entertainment industry starts coming back amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Best of all? It's free.
Joshua A. Friedman is the creator of the app. He's also a producer and DGA assistant director who started as a PA. In 2011, he wrote Getting It Done: The Ultimate Production Assistant Guide.
He was kind enough to speak with No Film School about the origin of the app and his own experiences in film and TV. Let's dig in!
Editor's note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity.
No Film School: This idea is really, really cool. It just seems like a really necessary idea. I don't know why it hasn't existed forever. Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind Crew Me Up?
Joshua A. Friedman: Absolutely. So I am a working filmmaker, I'm a DGA assistant director and a producer. And back in 2014, I was doing a movie called Warning Shot with David Spade and James Earl Jones. We had to fire a gaffer during prep, while on a tech scout. He disagreed with our DP, and so we kind of sent him packing. And I looked around for resources. We're shooting in Texas, and at that point there was Mandy, there was Staff Me Up, there was Craigslist. And had it been New York, LA, Atlanta, I've got resources there. In Texas, I was kind of up the creek without a paddle.
So I turned to my producer partners, and I said, "Hey guys, is there a situation for this?" And they said, "No." So we decided we make one.
NFS: Texas—there's a lot of film there, but I can imagine being just in a new place, in an unfamiliar location—
Friedman: Well, it was Corsicana, so it was two and a half hours away from Dallas.
NFS: Oh my gosh.
Friedman: Literally, we sent a townie about six and a half hours outside of town to pick up a slider because we needed the gear for the following day.
NFS: That is wild. For someone just starting out, how easy is it to get started on the app? Do you need to try to find experience elsewhere before you sign up?
Friedman: Yeah. So there are two sides to the app. There's the hiring side, and there's the guys that are looking for work. And for the guys starting out looking for jobs, you can create a profile, you can link to a website with your student films or your previous indie work. You can put up a resume. And then as you get booked through the app, everything will build.
We also offer resources and we partner with educational vendors like Film Launch or the New York Production Alliance, so we're teaching and training people so they can find the work.
NFS: Can you talk a little bit more about that? What are those resources like?
Friedman: Yeah. So that's actually part of the story and the journey of the app. I was a production assistant on Law & Order back in 2009, and I was making a pamphlet because a lot of people kept asking me the same questions over and over again. "What does the production assistant do, what's a lockup, what is second team?" And I got really tired of repeating myself, so I wrote it down, figuring I'll just hand people this PDF and walk away.
Somebody saw me typing it up and recommended Michael Wiese Productions. And so I reached out to the publishing company, and then in 2011, we published a book called Getting It Done: The Ultimate Production Assistant Guide, which bridges the gap between film school and actually working onsite.
So in film school, you'd focus on camera, gear, directing, things that are a little more theory and less practical. And the book bridges that gap by teaching you about call sheets, and the paperwork, and the on-set process, things that you're actually going to experience firsthand.
NFS: As I was doing a little bit of prep for this conversation, I was remembering, I've only PA'd once. I was an assistant at the time. And [my boss] was just like, "Yeah, come and work on our pilot that we're shooting." I didn't really know anything about the process, so I probably should have had a resource like that!
Friedman: It's the stuff that I wish I knew before I started.
NFS: What's the main thing that you want No Film School readers to know about the app?
Friedman: I want them to know that we're trying to change the way that people get hired. So if you were to go on Monster, Indeed, if you were to look at our other competition, then you would see a posting economy where somebody puts a post out looking for an employee or a crew member. It's blind, you don't know who's going to answer. This is flipping scripts. So you put your profile up in the database and employers come and find you. If they need to post something for the future, they can. But really we just need as many crew members on the platform that can make themselves available for work, and then we get the employers to come search through and pick you out. And it's all free.
NFS: How have you adapted as far as the pandemic? Have you added any features or have you changed anything?
Friedman: We have. Because of the new safety protocols, there's a whole new department that's kind of emerged in production, which is COVID/health and safety. And that department added three new roles, health and safety manager, a health and safety supervisor, and health and safety officers. Some productions carry all three, and then some, and you've seen staffs as big as 25.
NFS: So you're creating posts for those positions?
Friedman: Exactly. So it's a new position that's now available on the app. We're also talking to labs, we're talking to companies like Real Health, Safe Sets International [...] about offering their resources. Because on top of the labor aspect, we also partner with vendors. Edge Auto is one for our transportation and vans here in New York. Anything that production might need, we want to make sure it's available to them through the app.
NFS: Is there anything that you're sharing with users of the app in terms of what to prepare for with the pandemic?
Friedman: Right now the education piece is separate through social and partnerships. We just did a webinar with SetKeeper.com and a few other companies talking about safety protocols and emerging technologies to make sets more efficient. Next thing we have on the list is a partnership with Film Launch, which does online film courses. They just launched their beta, and in January, they'll have their next round of courses.
NFS: I feel like that's a big area of opportunity because no one knows really what's going on, and we're all learning as we go.
Friedman: I was lucky as a DGA member, we had weekly meetings once the pandemic started. And there were about 300 ADs from literally all over the world, as things got back in order, talking about the protocols, sharing information and documents, and helping each other get organized, so that when we did come back to where we are now, everybody's ready and have a better idea of how to be safe.
NFS: Pivoting back to the book, what do you consider the most important skill for a PA to develop?
Friedman: Listen. That is absolutely the most important skill. You've got things coming in your ear, you've got things coming in your walkie simultaneously, and you've got to filter out information and respond simultaneously. It's active listening.
There are a few pieces of advice that I've gotten over the years, three specifically throughout different phases. I was very lucky when I started, I got to Law & Order because the producer was the husband of my guidance counselor when I was in high school.
So, very lucky. So I walk in his office on the first day, and he goes, "All right, you're working for the bosses now, and that's the first AD. And they're going to ask two questions of themselves constantly: Why aren't we shooting, and what's wrong with this picture?" To answer the second question, you look at the monitor, you move a background actor, an actor takes a step into the light, and the problem is solved. To answer the first question, that's kind of where the PAs come in. We'll keep asking, "Why did that person walk through the set?" Answer: "We're not locked up." Why isn't it quiet? Because someone still has to get over there. And eventually, your PAs will run out of answers, and that's when you shoot.
Same job, my TPA [television production assistant] turns to me on day one and he goes, "Listen, kids, you're going to earn your money with your legs and your lungs. So walk fast and talk loud."
NFS: There are all different sorts of paths, and we like to hear about people's entry points, and how they end up where they are now. Would you tell someone that starting as a PA is a viable way to get your foot in the door?
Friedman: Absolutely. It still is. It's an opportunity to get to know and to speak to everyone in every department. There's a thing at wrap where a PA gets assigned to a truck, and they wait for the guys to finish, and they collect the out times and report that back to the assistant directors. It's a great time to just talk about film and talk about what each individual person does, whether that's props, scripts, camera, etc.
And then what I find is that within a year or two, PAs will usually decide what they want to do. They'll hang out more with the grip department, and they'll apply for a 52 card, and they won't PA ever again, or they'll continue down the path and get their 600 days and join the Director's Guild in four to six years.
NFS: All really great advice. Are you working on anything else currently?
Friedman: I've been really lucky. Just after the pandemic, when everything finally got permission to get a green light, I was tapped to second AD an indie movie directed by Dan Mirvish called 18 1/2. He co-founded Slamdance. And they were shooting pre-pandemic, they had 20 days in the can, they got shut down, and then they got permission to shoot the last four days out in Long Island. It was a quarantine situation, 18 crew, 6 cast members, we had a testing schedule, and then food protocols, hair and makeup was very different, but we put all the things that we'd been discussing for months into action.
After that, we came back to New York City and we just finished A Christmas Carol, which streams [Nov. 28 to Jan. 3]. Because people can't go to Broadway anymore, they had to film it similar to Hamilton, and that'll be released on streaming.
And then February, I've got a little indie that looks like it'll shoot in Erie, Pennsylvania.
NFS: That's awesome.
Friedman: Yeah, we cleared a way for coming back.
NFS: I'm so grateful that you're staying busy because it looked dark out there this summer.
Friedman: And it gives me an excuse to use the app.