How to Balance Crew, Cast and Client Needs

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Earlier this summer, Cinescapes Collective was hired by Tourism Saskatoon to produce a video series featuring some of Saskatoon’s local and international talents as they talk about why they love Saskatoon so much. One of the people we featured in the series was Kim Coates, star of the show, “Son’s of Anarchy”. We felt his was the perfect advocate for the city. For the short film, we wanted to not only talk about why he loves Saskatoon but also find out about his journey as an actor. What we want to do with this post is give you insight into how the project went down and talk about what we learned through the process of working with talent. Our three main topics include:

  1. Working with Talent
  2. Balancing Client, Cast and Crew Needs
  3. Production Breakdown

Coming into this project we were excited for the opportunity to work with Kim Coates. The diversity of his body of work intrigued us and really played a role in the direction we wanted to take the project.

1. Working with Talent

The experience of working with talent varies from project to project because of a variety of factors. Whether they are a first-timer or a seasoned vet…Whether it is a commercial, narrative or corporate project…Whether they trust you or not. Each of these things will impact the experience working with talent. For this project, we were working with someone who was just wrapping up working on a hit TV show that was in production for 7 years. He had limited time with us and didn’t spend the time to find out who we were. He was someone with a genuine interest in the city he grew up in and wanted to give back.

Going into any project, it is imperative you have a clear plan and go in with a set of goals.

The Pitch

In the early stages of the campaign, we knew Kim Coates was someone we wanted to target as one of the candidates but wasn’t sure how we were going to make it happen. We tried to get a hold of Kim from every angle. We scoured the internet and pursued local connections. Eventually were able to get a hold of his agent through an IMDB contact and were able to explain the project. He quickly passed us over to Kim and we were set for our first call.

The First Meeting

The first call really set the stage for the project. Off the top of the call, Kim asked what we were trying to accomplish with the project and about ten seconds in, he cut me off to tell us how he wanted to do the project. Talk about setting the tone! I had a feeling going into the call that it might go that way so the key was finding a way to deal with it. While breaking down how he wanted the project to go, it was clear he wanted to do a run-and-gun documentary style with delivery directly to camera. We also knew that with him wanting to take this approach that he didn’t look into who we were and was not familiar with our style of storytelling. With us already having produced four videos as part of the campaign, it was key that we found a way to keep this video within the structure and style of the campaign while also accomplishing his objectives. At this stage of the call however, it was critical to get him excited about the project and show that we understood what he was hoping to do.

The Plan

Following the meeting, we spent some time discussing how we were going to approach production so we would be able to make Kim feel like we were getting what he was wanting but also ensure that we got the footage we needed for our approach. We knew that if he saw the video using our format that he would buy in and sign-off on our edit. It was a gamble but one we were willing to take.

For this project, we wanted to get at the root of why Saskatoon held a special place in his heart. For me, it was key to go beyond a simple promotional piece and deal with a subject that people could resonate with. We chose to focus on the evolution of an artist based on Kim’s extensive body of work. For Kim, the main things he wanted to focus on was his time at the University of Saskatchewan and how that shaped his career, his focus on building arts and culture and his love for Saskatoon. Humour was also extremely critical for him as well.

Stylistically, we wanted the piece to be poetic, yet funny. We wanted it bold, yet edgy. When approaching the edit, we had a clear vision for the pacing and tone.

On Set with Kim Coates

We had five hours with Kim so it was critical that everything ran smoothly. Our plan of action was to start the day early before Kim got into town. We arrived at the Capitol at 10:00am and were slated to start with Kim at 2:00pm. Kim had just come off a full night of filming in LA so we expected that he would be tired upon arriving. We wanted to make sure everything was ready to go when he arrived. We filmed the interview content at the Capitol from 2:30pm – 3:30pm. Taking his answers into consideration, we then catered our shots to match what he was saying during the interview. I had an idea of the major sound bites before the edit so it was pretty easy to cater these shots as needed. We wrapped the day at 6:45pm. Based on the story that was told during the interview, I had asked if we were able to film with him and his friends during a football game the next day. We ended up spending a few hours with his closest friends.

 

There were a few times throughout the day when we would explain what we were planning next and Kim would flat-out say ‘no, we are not doing that’. For us, our goal was to find a way to shirt his response and accomplish our objectives, even when he didn’t buy in at first. We sent the proposal and sample projects three weeks prior to filming but because he was filming the last season of ‘Sons of Anarchy’, he didn’t have time to look over the content. In order to keep our day on track, we would simply ask how he wanted to approach the section and by putting the decision on him, he was forced to make the call and in most cases, we ended up getting what we were looking for. We found it was key to make Kim feel like he was the one making the decisions.

Approaching the Edit

Kim had a clear vision through the entire project. We also had a vision for where we wanted to take the project. Some of our ideas were different so we had to work to find the best way to accomplish what we needed from the project without pushing Kim too much. He has worked with many people before and we were unsure if he was used to our style so we wanted to make sure everyone left happy. Initially I was planning to do the interview but after watching how Angela (our client) had been interacting with Kim and hearing some of the conversations that were taking place before Kim arrived, I asked Angela if she felt comfortable doing the interview in my place.

I really wanted to do the interview but felt she had a stronger connection with Kim. In the end it was an amazing decision as they were able to connect during the interview and we were able to get the answers we needed.

During the edit phase, we went through three iterations. Overall, Kim was really happy with the direction we went after seeing the first edit. It was totally different from anything he was expecting. His notes were simple and easy to address. He wanted the intro to be faster, he wanted more humour and he wanted some of the lines tweaked. As the edit evolved, the main point he pushed for was more humour in our edit.

Taking Kim’s line, “I can’t tell you how to succeed… but I can tell you how to fail, by trying to please everyone” into consideration during the edit truly affected the way in which we approached it. We knew that if there were certain points that were really important to us, that he would understand and be okay with the decisions.

2. Balancing Crew, Cast & Client Needs

In any production environments, it is important that you balance the crew, cast and client needs. At the end of the day, if each of these parties are not happy, you didn’t do your job.

The Value of Teams

Building a strong team is one of the most important things with any project. It is the life-line for the business and is what will be the determining factor in the long-term success of a business. For people just starting out, this is one of the bigger challenges. To expand your network of collaborators, there are a few things you can do. You can:

  1. Spend time refining your craft so people want to work with you. By creating work that people respect, people will start to reach out to you for collaborations. Never stop pushing yourself to learn as the opportunities will just get better.
  2. Be active in the community both online and in person. By being active in these communities, people will get to know you and opportunities will arise. Business is built upon relationships so by being active, you will be able to start the dialog.
  3. Reach out to potential collaborators. Don’t be scared to reach out to people you want to work with. You’d be surprised how many people are open to collaborations. Not everyone will buy in but some will. It never hurts to ask!

Balancing Client / Cast / Crew Needs

A large part of any project is managing the needs of your client, cast and crew. These needs will differ so it is your job to find out the best way to balance everyone’s needs. Generally before any project, I will ask each party what they hope to accomplish from the project. This includes crew needs.

  • Client Needs: Clients come into projects expecting a deliverable that will help them accomplish specific objectives. It is key you find out these objectives early on in the process so that all decisions are driving you towards the same thing. Beyond these objectives, clients also expect that the deliverables will be on brand and inclusive of any brand attributes that exist. Clients also need a means for measuring the success of their campaign. Whether or not this is something you offer, it is definitely something you should consider.
  • Cast Needs: Cast needs vary from project to project. For this one, we had to please the talent and run all content through them for approval. This creative input, although welcomed, made the process more challenging as our visions were different. When one’s reputation is on the line, it is critical you are able to find a middle ground.
  • Crew Needs: Crew needs on this project were pretty straight forward. We needed the creative freedom to produce something we were proud of. We needed to make sure that the project fit within our business objectives.

This balancing act is one that will evolve as you continue to produce content.

3. Production Breakdown

There were a few obstacles we had to overcome on the production day. This included limited time, unit moves and rigging.

Limited Time

Time is a factor on virtually all productions. From setup times to unit moves, it is important that your shooting schedule isn’t too ambitious.

Our time with Kim was extremely limited for what we were trying to accomplish. We only have five hours total including unit moves. It was critical that we had everything well planned and we did this by spending a week in pre-production. On the day itself, we had four hours of setup time for the first location and then we split up into two crews to leap-frog between locations.

Unit Moves

We had three big unit moves on this project. In order to have limited downtime, we split the crew into two. While the first team was actively filming, the second crew would jump ahead to the next location to ensure everything was prepped for when we arrived. This worked great as we were able to capture much more than we would have been able to if we didn’t do this.

Camera Rigging

The most challenging rigging we had to do for this short was the scenes of Kim riding a motorcycle through Saskatoon. Before the shoot day, we reached out to the local police department and filled out a special event application to see if we needed an escort for the shoot but were told that we didn’t need because we weren’t impeding traffic. You will definitely want to check with your local police department before doing something similar.

We rolled three cameras while we drove through the city. Our first camera we had rigged to a crane / gimbal configuration. We didn’t have the ninja star adapter which we highly recommend as we had some issues while we were driving. Every once and awhile, the gimbal would start shaking so we would have to manually stabilize the gimbal for it to stop the shaking. It wasn’t a deal breaker and we were still able to get our shot. Our other two cameras we shot hand-held.

What We Learned

This project was one of the most eye-opening for me that I have ever worked on. The biggest lesson — stick with your gut instinct. There were times during the process when I was unsure how the final product was going to turn out as Kim tried many times to drive how the day went. It was a fine balancing act but like all aspects of the process, being able to read people and know when to push an agenda is important. The project was a lot of fun and I can’t wait for the next one!

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