September 11, 2019

Producing a Big Project? Here Are Key Mistakes to Avoid

Indy Mogul - Stop Making These Mistakes
What do you need to know before you start producing large-scale projects?

Producing can be a serious headache with all of the planning and budgeting required to get your project off the ground. But...it has to get done. So, what are some ways you can approach this huge task without feeling like you're drowning?

Producer Moses Israel Guerrero has sat down with Indy Mogul to work through budgeting music videos, drawing upon his experience producing and planning for thousands of videos. In this new video, they dig into common mistakes beginning producers run into during their first projects.

Watch the video below.

1. Failing to "secure the bag."

This means failing to have the money to pay your crew on-hand. You might be told to start a project, hire your team, shoot the video entirely, but then when cast and crew are ready for their checks, you don't know where the money is.

Guerrero says this is because first-time filmmakers might be more worried about the up-front costs of renting equipment, booking the location, getting permits, and getting insurance. Make sure whoever has hired you to produce the project has money set aside for the back end and paying everyone when the shoot is concluded.

He also suggests having contracts in place, even on small projects, that include "kill fees." That way, if a project gets canceled, you still get paid.

2. Failing to stay under budget.

As the producer, it's your job to say "no" to things that will force your project to go over budget. If a director or cinematographer comes to you asking for more expensive gear, you have to rein them in.

If they ask to have those costs taken out of their rate, avoid that too. It can lead to resentment.

Moses Israel
Credit: Indy Mogul

3. Failing to budget for crafty.

Beginning filmmakers often forget that you have to feed your crew. If you're working with a low budget and not paying people super well, one way to reconcile that is through solid craft services.

Crew will feel taken care of as long as you spend time and money making sure they're happy.

We've got more tips for feeding your crew.

4. Not knowing when to stretch the truth/be honest.

If you've spent any time around film people, you know that everyone is having to sell themselves and hype themselves up. Sometimes this involves some flexing or massaging of truth. And it's great to be enthusiastic and passionate about your project.

However, you also need to know when to have a firm grip on reality. If someone is trying to talk themselves up with the goal of getting more money out of you, as a producer you have to know when to walk away from that person.

If you do have to walk away from a location or crew member, Guerrero says you should immediately find replacements and bring the solution to your team, before they even know about that problem. This way, you'll seem like a capable producer able to put out fires and solve issues, and your team doesn't need to worry about anything.

Indy Mogul - Production Mistakes
Credit: Indy Mogul

5. Not making things right.

If something goes wrong, take responsibility.

Something at a location is damaged? You need to go to whoever's in charge and say you'll make it right. Are people on your crew bumping heads? Do your best to mediate so everyone's happy.

Working in this industry, you're going to be running into the same people all the time, and your reputation needs to be stellar. It's always better to be upfront, honest, and do your best to be responsible, rather than burning bridges.

What's next? Check out more producing advice.

Here are tips for having a smooth indie film production, and here's the best advice to come out of this year's Sundance. Or maybe you're interested in what a line producer does? We've got tips for that job, too.

What do you think are the biggest mistakes to avoid on sets? Let us know in the comments!     

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