Tips to sharpen your e-mail game and stay on top of everything

It’s amazing how much time one can spend on any given production reading, sorting, replying to and writing emails. Sometime the emails I receive look as if a third grader wrote them and other times I am impressed with the meticulous detail and thought that went into a certain “email message.”

Below I have come up with some tips to increase your email game and stay on top of everyting.

  1. Use an e-mail client. If you are a mac user you can easily use the Apple Mail client or Outlook for PC users. Using an e-mail client will allow you to manage your email easier by having your mail at your finger-tips. There was one point where I got so bogged down in emails that I switched to a paid mail client. I currently use Super Human and love it.
  2. Create a relevant title in the subject. Because we all get so many emails its important to title your email appropriately. If I worked in commercials and got an email about location update this could be confusing because I could be working on multiple commercials at the same time. I prefer titles that start with the project with a dash to the subject of the email.

    An example of a proper title would be: Movie Title – Crew Housing Updates

  3. Send the email to the right people. I know this may sound obvious, but there are so many times where an email does not properly get into the hands of the people that really need to see it. If you aren’t sure who to send the email to or who to CC or BC it is always a good idea to ask. When starting a new project ask your supervisor what type of emails he/she likes to be copied on.
  4. Use a distro program when sending emails to the entire cast/crew. There are many software applications designed to send company wide emails in the film industry. What I appreciate about these programs is that they allow you to be able to watermark scripts/documents and easily update the groups with a click of a few buttons. A few of the programs out there include Setkeeper, Croogloo, EP Scenechronize, Studio Binder and Yamdu. One problem with sending an email to 100+ people with gmail/yahoo etc is that many times emails of this nature will get flagged as spam causing the important call sheet email to go to someone’s junk folder.
  5. Collaborate with others on the content of emails. If I’m sending an important company wide email I like to get a second pair of eyes to see what could be added/subtracted. Consider using a google doc to write the email and share with others so they can tweak and make suggestions.
  6. Use an email signature. It’s NOT important to add your email address in your email signature in my opinion because this is redundant. Here is an example of an email signature…
              John Smith
              UPM | Name of Movie
               +1 123-456-7899
  7. Keep your email concise. Writing an email that is more than 5-6 sentences will dramatically increase the chances that the email will be read in its entirety. If you have to send a really long email consider that maybe the content of the email could be relayed at a meeting or in three smaller emails.
  8. Add a simple greeting and simple thanks. The greeting can be short like Hi All or Hi Crew. Consider ending the email with an encouraging word or even just thanks.
  9. Bold or Highlight important items. I’ve noticed that if I highlight certain sentences in yellow or red that they will really pop. DO NOT PARK ON SET will often be highlighted in YELLOW and same with COVID TEST upon arrival etc..
  10. Decide when to send an email. Just because you can send an email at 9pm on Sunday does not mean you should. Can the info wait? Yes there will be times that emails should go out on a weekend or when people are off, however if there are items that are non-pressing I find that its a good idea to wait and send the email at a time and day that I know most people will be in work-mode. If I do get an email on an off-day I will probably still read the email, however I will sometimes be annoyed and forget to reply.
  11. Add a call to action if necessary. If you need people to confirm they have received the email or need them to reply they will be at the production meeting I like to add something in the email that specifies.

    An example: Please reply “Got It” by 7pm tonight that you will be at the table read this Friday.

  12. Follow up on emails that were never answered. This is a common occurrence in today’s world. The non-response when you have sent an email that requires someone else’s attention and need to respond. There are several times when dealing with important issues such as city film permit that I will follow up and ask if they need any additional details.

    An example of a reply:

    Hi

    I just wanted to follow up on the email I sent on Friday. Do you need any additional details for the permit? I’m happy to jump on a call to discuss if there is anything unclear about the route for the process trailer.

    another example

    Hi

    Did you see my email about the location scout tomorrow? Do you have any notes?

  13. Attach the right items to the email as PDF. When sending complicated emails like a Call Sheet email I like to make sure that all the documents are in PDF format and are labeled properly. I like to attach the Call Sheet, Digital Sides, Map, Overhead, Safety Memo (if there is one), Shot-list (if avail) etc. Not having digital sides as part of the call sheet email is really unacceptable in my opinion. Having the sides allows every department the ability to see what is in the scenes without having to rely on paper sides which can sometimes be a hassle to keep track of etc..
  14. Add a meme when necessary. Memes can be fun and who doesn’t love a good one.

How to land your next film crew job

One of the challenging things about working in the film/tv industry is that you are most always looking for the next job/gig unless you happen to be lucky enough to work on a six month tv-series or the next Marvel movie that has an extended shooting schedule.

How does one land that next job/gig/position as an AD, UPM etc?

Below I have come up with a list of ways you can use to secure that next job.

  1. Know someone who is hiring. For better or worse this is the number one way to land your next job. Who do you know that is in a hiring position and is the “decision maker” on a project that is in development or in pre-production? Even if they don’t currently have a job opening..they may have an opening tomorrow or next week or next year. Maintaining relationships with people over the years and reminding them you exist can be paramount to securing that job that is currently vacant. More than just knowing this person who is hiring…is the person you know excited to consider you because you did an awesome job the last time you worked for them? People want to hire people they know who are great to work with…plain and simple.

  2. Know someone who knows someone who is hiring. If I’m in a position to hire someone and all the people I know are currently booked, the next method of securing that position is to ask others for trusted referrals. The referral is very important because it’s easier to trust other crew member referrals than a resume of someone I have never worked with. A referral could come from anyone really. I was once referred as a 1st AD by the craft service person…
  3. Apply for positions on Facebook. Yes I know not everyone uses facebook, however there are hundreds of film facebook groups and many groups specifically for ADs, Production, Line Producers etc. The great thing about facebook groups is that by joining these groups they will notify you of new posts.
  4. Apply for positions on Film Crew websites. Sites like staffmeup.com,  Mandy.com, IMDbpro.com are just a few of the many film crew websites out there were you can search by position and area etc.
  5. Check local film commission job listings. Many cities and states that have a film commission will also list an email that you can send your resume for upcoming projects and sometimes they might even list specific positions that are vacant.
  6. Update your avail on the DGA Avail List. If you are a member of the DGA you can list yourself as available once you login to the website in the availability section. Producers and UPMs occasionally will look at this list when trying to fill certain vacancies.
  7. Secure an Agent. Agents can broaden your network and help you to land meetings with Producers and Directors that once may have been impossible to get.
  8. Join a committee, organization etc. Expand your network and meet other people in the film industry by staying active and contributing in various ways that allow you make new connections.
  9. Research projects that get green-lit. Occasionally films that are about to go into production will be announced on the trades such as Deadline or Hollywood Reporter. In addition to the trades you can search IMDbpro to see what projects are tracking and contact producers and UPMs that list their contact info. Occasionally you may notice someone you know who is attached to a project which could lead to an open door.
  10. Remind people you exist. This is different for everyone but finding that way to network online or in person is important to stay present in people’s mind. Follow your favorite crew members on instagram or send an email/text to people with your updated resume letting them know you are avail and looking for work.

What Gets Measured Gets Improved

Peter Drucker said this phrase “What Gets Measured Gets Improved” 40 years ago. There is a lot of truth to this phrase for both individuals and companies alike.

When it comes to the film industry there are tools to measure the work day and often this is formatted in the (often outdated) form of a Production Report or PR. PR’s provide a lot of useful information such as out times, reasons for delays, scene completion info, hard drive data and more. While PR’s can be helpful they are often formatted in legal format that can be difficult to parse and really determine what the real problem areas are.

Several tech companies are working on solutions that will hopefully be alternatives to the standard PR.

One of these companies “Cinapse” has recently launched an exciting product Cinapse Live. What’s unique about Cinapse Live is its ability to track real-time info for the AD Dept that is often communicated over walkies, group texts or emails.

Having real time metrics can be very critical to finding solutions to problems and communicating that information efficiently.

My favorite part of Cinapse Live is the ability to change the day’s scene orders at the click of a button and then push notify the crew who are part of the app.

Book your demo today!

What would you do differently next time?

Prior to working in film/tv I used to work in the business / non-profit sector as a creative media producer. Part of working in the corporate world was filled with team meetings and trying to figure out how to improve the organization as a whole. One process that I actually enjoyed involved After Action Reports, which where utilized after an event or program was finished.  It was a tool we used to analyze the success or failures of said event and provided ways to learn from our mistakes.

When you wrap a film or tv show do you ever wonder how things could go differently? What would you do so that the next project would go smoother?  Below I have listed 10 questions to ask yourself at the end of each shoot is complete?

  1. Which crew members would you hire back or recommend again? Why or Why not?
  2. Did all of the locations or sets work for the scenes in the script? Were there any locations you wish you had more options for?
  3. Did you end up picking the best time of year to film? If you had to start over would you choose another season of the year to film in?
  4. Which processes or systems were missing that you would put in place next time?
  5. Was there a dept that was lacking prep or man-power? How could you you predict this in the future?
  6. Did any dept go over budget? How did this happen and how could it be fixed in the future?
  7. Were there any specific scenes that took longer than planned and what was the cause of the delay?
  8. Did any of the cast present issues or prove to be difficult? Was this handled appropriately?
  9. Did you have enough dept mtgs during prep? Was prep a well oiled machine or lacking structure/systems?
  10. Was there any drama behind the camera and how could this be minimized in the future?

Whether or not you do an official AAR with your team, its a good practice to do by yourself or one or two other crew members.

How to use SLACK for your production

Slack is a new way to communicate with your team. It’s faster, better organised and more secure than email.

You can download slack’s desktop platform as well as the iPhone and android app.

This past year I started using it on a few productions and really fell in love with it. It was a way to brainstorm ideas, build community and cut down on hundreds of emails that get lost in the ethos.

Below I have listed a few tips to using SLACK for your production…

Tip #1. Create a slack workspace with a creative name. You can also upload a logo so that its branded properly.

Tip #2. Figure out how many channels you want to have within the workspace. You can create a channel for each department like Makeup, Costumes, Locations etc.

Tip #3. Make certain channels private and certain channels avail to anyone. I have several channels I keep private and don’t need the rest of the crew to chime in on.

Tip #4. Invite your crew to the platform. You can invite them via the link in the program or send out an email with the workspace link. Yes some people will be resistant and you may not want to use it for certain departments like casting or accounting etc but in general its helpful to get all your Department Heads on the app.

Tip #5. Lead by example and post ideas, questions and fun things on the app. When you encourage people to post on the app this will help to cut down on the hundreds of emails that will ensue during a production.

Tip #6. Figure out what you are NOT going to use slack for. One example is I still send out emails with zoom links for various mtgs. If i use Slack its possible that this invite could get missed. I also do NOT use slack when communicating with vendors, casting directors, agents or anyone that is not on full time payroll etc..

Tip #7. Get permission before you decide to use it. If your Directors/Producers are totally against using it then don’t try and force the use of it. At the end of the day some people are used to a certain way of doing things and you can’t always suggest a new process.

10 ideas for living when traveling for work in Film/TV

Over the last several years I’ve had the privilege to travel for work when filming a movie away from home. While I do miss my bed on occasion, traveling to various cities does have its perks. Below I’ve listed some ideas for living when traveling for work in film.

  1. Figure out what amenities are included in the hotel/house/airbnb you are staying at. Do they have a washer/dryer, kitchen, kitchenette, microwave, wifi, refrigerator etc.  What about pool/hot tub/gym? Knowing what your place has and doesn’t have will help you to pivot when needed. Don’t forget parking?
  2. Use google maps / apple maps to see what restaurants/coffee shops/bars are close by or walking distance and make a list.
  3. Be prepared to do laundry.  I typically like to pack a bag of tide pods because they are somewhat safe to travel with as long as they are wrapped and enclosed properly. Consider bringing a roll of quarters to avoid this fun trip when you land if the washers only take quarters.
  4. Apply for TSA Pre-Check. If you can afford, the TSA Pre-Check is one of the best investments I’ve ever made and makes any airport experience significantly less painful.
  5. Consider a subscription of boxed meals. I personally use Factor75 when I travel and it helps me to eat healthy and avoid eating out for every single meal. All you need is a refrigerator and microwave to use.
  6. Determine how you will get mail. I typically have amazon packages shipped to my hotel pretty easily, however I do have a second mailbox for certain cities I work in a bit. I use ipostal1.
  7. Decide on your new workout routine. For some this comes easier than others. Depending on the city I’ve joined gyms temporarily for a month at a time and on other occasions I’ve used apps like Mind Body Online or Class Pass to book gym sessions or yoga classes.
  8. Research fun/relaxing things to do. I like to see if there are any movie theaters close by or things in the area that might be worth pursuing while I’m away from home.
  9. Talk to the locals. Join a few local facebook groups, talk to the hotel staff or local barista. Get tips for what to do in town and hear what they recommend.
  10. Keep your room neat and organized. Don’t forget to ask for cleaning service at the hotel front desk or consider hiring a cleaner if staying at a long term airbnb. Keeping your place clean and organized will help give you peace of mind.

Episode 31 – Brent Emery – Packaging projects and navigating film finance

Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

In this episode we chat with Brent Emery (@brentalanemery on instagram) about packaging and financing projects.

About Brent Emery
Sundance award-winning producer Brent Emery brings over fifteen years of international film strategy and business consulting experience to Resonate Entertainment. He has worked extensively as an independent film finance, sales and production specialist at multiple executive posts, including U.S. Head of Co-Productions for ECI (a global entertainment company focused on Chinese Co-Productions) and Executive Vice President of Production and Development at Madonna’s Maverick Films.

During his seven years at Maverick Films, Emery oversaw development of a slate of over fifty studio and independent film and television projects. He also managed the deals of a dozen independent producers with deals at Maverick. Some projects that emerged from Emery’s tenure as an executive overseeing development include box office record breaking Twilight, which was eventually financed by Summit Entertainment, the hit film Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and the young adult hit movies Agent Cody Banks I and II.

Emery’s critically acclaimed 2015 film, The Stanford Prison Experiment, won the Alfred P. Sloan Award and Waldo Salt screenwriting award at The Sundance Film Festival. The Road Within, starring Kyra Sedgwick, produced by Emery and written and directed by Emery’s wife, Gren Wells, has garnered multiple international awards, including Best Youth Film at The Rome Film Festival.

Emery recently produced Carrie Pilby with his Resonate cofounders, Suzanne Farwell and Susan Cartsonis.

About Resonate Entertainment
Resonate Entertainment is an innovative new entertainment company formed by film industry leaders who bring their unparalleled combination of creative filmmaking, technical production and film finance expertise to their company. They have a commitment to female gender representation and inclusion, and develop, finance and produce high-quality commercial films in all genres for the underserved yet highly lucrative female audience.

Links Mentioned:

Box Office Mojo
Slated
Cine Story
Studio System
Slack

7 devices to improve your walkie experience

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Choose a solid headset that will last. Many headsets that are bought on amazon can fail rather quickly…sometimes in a matter of hours or days.

The FilmPro Surveillance Headset is a trusted surveillance by many professionals in the industry.

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The standard earpiece that comes with most headsets can be irritating and difficult to hear. Custom earpieces are affordable and typically come in various sizes.

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Communicating leadership principals with metaphors

Making a movie or TV series can often times feel overwhelming. You might have too little time or not enough money to solve all the myriad of problems that lie in front of you and your team.

One thing I like to do early on in production is to communicate ideas about work or the work process via metaphors. I love to use metaphors because they help turn the seemingly difficult problem into a visible solution that gets people thinking.

Below I have listed a few metaphors and how I use them.

Metaphor #1

Do you know how to eat an elephant?

Of course you are NOT really going to eat an elephant…that would be horrible. The metaphor is meant to evoke the sublime. Elephants are so huge it would be impossible to eat them, however if you did have to eat them you would eat them one bite at a time.

Occasionally I will explain this metaphor to my office staff when we are faced with 100 to-dos and I can see the look of of defeat on their faces. I try to explain that if you can focus on one thing at a time and slowly make your way through all that has to be done you will be successful!

I typically share this metaphor with Office PAs, Coordinators etc when working as a UPM/Line Producer.

Metaphor #2

Why should you not eat desert before the meal?

Of course we all know that eating desert before any meal is not a good idea. It’s something we have to educate children on when they are young. The metaphor does apply to filmmaking however and it is one of my favorite to use.

In the filmmaking metaphor the DESERT is often 1/8 of a page (CU of the man holding the phone). The MEAL is simply the meat of the day and hopefully a 3 page scene with dialogue. Now this does not always mean that starting with 1/8 of a page is a bad idea, however it can slow you down and be problematic if you do have a high page count and want Actors to be at their best.

Choosing to start with a big meaty scene first will not only give actors the energy they deserve, but allow you to focus on what’s really important.

I typically share this metaphor with Directors and DPs while working as a 1st AD.