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.

7 devices to improve your walkie experience

#1 Reliable Headsets

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.

Buy via On Set Headsets

#2 Custom Earpieces

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.

Buy Small Pack on AmazonBuy Medium Pack on AmazonBuy Large Pack on Amazon

#3 Custom Molded Earpieces

If the standard custom earpieces do not meet your needs then maybe a molded set will be what you are looking for. These molded sets are easy to customize at home and are relatively affordable.

Buy on Amazon

#4 Earhugger Accessory Kit

These earhugger devices make it easier for you keep that earpiece correctly lodged in your ear.

Buy on Amazon

#5 Walkie Woogies

Bring some flavor to your earpiece with a colorful earpiece tube.

Buy on Walkie Woogies

#6 Universal Dbl Radio Shoulder Vest

Not sure where to place all your sidearms? Check out the array of shoulder vests on amazon…

Buy on Amazon

#7 Walkie Cadddie

Hold more than your walkie with a Walkie Caddie. These can include pens, sharpies, knives, laser pointers and more….

Buy on Dependable Expendables

10 Essential PPE supplies to consider for your production

Many productions are preparing to resume filming over the next several months and will be looking to implement the safety standards provided in the Safe Way Forward. Part of that process involves having adequate PPE and supplies to maintain a safe set.

Below I have listed 10 supplies you may want to consider:

Film Production Insurance 101 for US Filmmakers

As productions begin to ramp up knowing the inns and outs of your production policy can be very important. The below article is a guest post from Front Row Insurance.

A SOLID FILM INSURANCE POLICY WILL PROTECT THE PRODUCER FROM:

  • liability related to injuries on set
  • accidents in working vehicles
  • theft
  • loss and damage of rented and owned equipment
  • can also protect producers from libel or copyright infringement claims

AN OVERVIEW OF THE FILM INSURANCE POLICIES OFFERED BY FRONT ROW FOR US FILMMAKERS:

PRODUCTION EQUIPMENT INSURANCE

Covers against risks of direct physical loss, damage or destruction to cameras, camera equipment, sound & lighting equipment, grip equipment, portable electrical equipment & generators, mechanical effects equipment and similar miscellaneous equipment.

This coverage also typically includes loss of use of property of others for which the renter or producer is legally liable. The limit of coverage for production equipment should be sufficient to cover the replacement cost of ALL equipment being used on the project. Most equipment rental houses will include in their contract a statement confirming the renter’s requirement to fully insure the equipment in their possession.

Equipment Floater Policy US quote.

SHORT-TERM PRODUCTION INSURANCE (SHORT SHOOT)

Short-Term Production Insurance is perfect for the new or indie filmmaker who may not have more than one project scheduled in the next six months. This coverage is ideal for singular projects and can satisfy insurance requirements from film schools, rental houses, permit offices, prop houses, and/or studio location rental space.

Pricing starts at around $500 USD for minimal coverages. The premium amount for 1-10 days of coverage is the same price and it will increase with the more days you add, but 60 days is the maximum coverage period for short-term policies.

Short Shoot US quote.

DICE INSURANCE (ANNUAL)

  1. What’s the difference between short-term production insurance versus annual?
  2. Short-term production insurance covers your productions on a project-by-project scale. Purchased on this scale, short-term policies can cover as little as one day of production (although you should cover your prep days, too).

Planning to shoot multiple times throughout the year, and have an estimated budget over $15K USD? Then you’ll want an annual (DICE) policy. This coverage can be much more cost effective than Short-Term Production Insurance. Pricing starts around $2,500 USD for the year. Financing may be available.

Although DICE policies can be completely customized to fit your productions need, the following coverage options are available:

DICE US quote.

FILM PRODUCER’S E&O INSURANCE

If your project is being sold or distributed, Errors & Omissions (E&O) coverage may be for you; in fact, most distribution contracts will require this coverage. All television, streaming services, and feature films will require this coverage.

E&O coverage protects your production and covers any legal cost if another party accuses you of an unoriginal idea, e.g., title, characters, plots.

Pricing starting around $3,000 USD for three years of coverage.

Film producer’s E&O US quote.

OTHER FILM INSURANCE COVERAGES TO CONSIDER:

GENERAL LIABILITY

Although film policies vary widely, you’ll always need general liability. General liability covers bodily injury and property damage that occurs during the course of filming. Cast and crew are exempt from this and covered separately through a workers compensation policy. This coverage is required by most city/county permit offices.

WORKERS COMPENSATION

Workers compensation protects you should something happen to your employees on the job. It’s important to go over how you are covering crew (employees) and independent contractors.

THIRD PARTY PROPERTY DAMAGE

Legal liability for damage to or destruction of property belonging to others (including loss of use of the property) while the property is in the care, custody or control of the production company and is used or to be used in an insured production.

NON-OWNED/HIRED AUTO

Hired/Non-Owned Auto Liability covers damages and injuries sustained by other motorists that your production rental vehicle accidentally hits when your production is considered “At Fault”.

UMBRELLA LIABILITY

This policy provides additional limits to the general liability, auto liability, employers’ liability (under workers’ compensation policy) and third party property damage coverages. Some locations will require higher limits than the standard general/auto liability policy of $1mil USD.

GUILD/UNION TRAVEL ACCIDENT

Provides travel accident coverages (accidental death and dismemberment) as required by the guild or union contracts to which the producer is signatory. Coverage is blanket and the limits of liability meet all signatory requirements. Coverage may be extended to non-union employees, usually with a benefit limit of $50K USD each person.

PRODUCTION PACKAGE

A production package is an accumulation of coverages to protect multiple or singular projects such as features, TV series, or documentaries. If you have an annual gross production cost over $100,000 USD and are looking for annual coverage, a production package will be necessary.

Some coverages available in a production package are:

To view all the US film production insurance coverages offered by Front Row, go here: https://www.frontrowinsurance.com/usa

At Front Row, we understand how confusing production insurance can be because many of us were filmmakers (in prior lives) and have been there ourselves! Every film production insurance policy needs to be tailored to the company, or to the project if a short-term film policy. A film insurance policy is based on the best offerings from insurance companies that provide entertainment production coverage.

About: Front Row Insurance Brokers Inc. is an independent insurance brokerage that provides film insurance, including producer’s E&O insurance, for the lowest possible cost. Should a claim occur, Front Row ensures that all clients receive the money that they are owed per the policy, as quickly as possible. Front Row has offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Nashville, LA and NY.

By: David Hamilton, President+CEO

Bio: https://www.frontrowinsurance.com/staff/david-hamilton

A guide to making an Extras Breakdown Sheet

You’re the 2nd Assistant Director on a Movie or TV Show and you are faced with the daunting task of organizing and managing extras. Are you ready? Do you a plan of action to coordinate the task in front of you? Maybe its time to update your extras breakdown sheet or get some new ideas so you can improve the sheet you currently use.
Below we have outlined some helpful tips to get you thinking…

Use this FREE extras breakdown sheet to customize for your particular show!

  1. Use a solid template. We have attached one in this blog post (with dummy data as an example)…but if you don’t have a template you are proud of don’t be afraid to reach out to your fellow AD staff (or an AD you trust) who may have one tucked away in a dropbox folder somewhere.
  2. Make sure the BG DOOD is accurate. Before you start transferring data from the BG DOOD to the Extras Breakdown its important to check with the 1st AD and assess how accurate this breakdown really is. Often times a 1st AD will sit with the Director and go over the exact numbers with the Director and then get approval from a UPM or Line Producer.
  3. Be as detailed as possible. If you have a funeral don’t just list 100 funeral patrons. Do there need to be family members or friends of certain ethnicity and race? What about minors and their ages? If the breakdown is generic don’t be afraid to approach the 1st AD or Director to get this information so that you are providing the very best information to those who receive the list.
  4. Don’t start too soon. If you start creating your BG sheet right away you will most likely have to change it a dozen times. Wait till you are in a position during prep where the 1st AD feels pretty good about the schedule.
  5. Use colors and various font treatments. Highlighting various things in colors such as locations, featured BG or special notes will make the document easier to read.
  6. Create a Distro List for this document. Every show is slightly different but in general you will want to make sure that various depts receive a copy of the list including (Props, Transpo, Locations, Hair, Makeup, Costumes and essential individuals such as the UPM). You don’t want to send this to the entire crew because the third grip really doesn’t need to know.
  7. Include ADD’L AD and PA staff in the breakdown. If you are going to have a certain amount of Extras you will probably want to schedule and budget additional days for AD’s and PAs on this document. Depending on the complexity of the scene will help you determine how to figure this out. If you have 100 students in bleachers the whole time it will be easier to direct and manage than 100 students crossing in the hallways.
  8. Don’t forget to update when the schedule changes. Changes are the one-liner will change many times during the course of production unless its a relatively short amount of days. When it does change…don’t forget to update this document and distort immediately. Various depts will rely on this info to make sure they are prepared on the day and aren’t surprised by the sudden change.
  9. Save and Label properly. Make sure this document is exported as a .PDF and labeled in a way that shows the current date and version. example MOVIE_NAME_BG_BREAKDOWN_1_1_2020.pdf.
  10. Make it your own. There are no exact rules to a breakdown so make it your own and the very best it can be. Take pride in making this breakdown the very best it can be for that particular show you are on.

Need software to manage Extras?

Consider using the RABS App to digitally check in and wrap Extras in an efficient and secure style.

7 ways to encourage social distancing on a film set

The idea of social distancing on a film set has the potential to sound like an oxymoron. Almost every memory I have working on set involves lots of people working closely together for very long periods of time. While it may be too early to conjecture there are still things we can plan and prepare for.

Using technology, avoiding paper and going digital used to be a nice suggestion over the last several years. These tools/technologies were often optional devices that productions would use to streamline things and make things more efficient. Today in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic that we face digital tools will serve as a primary and necessary way to help in our efforts to create a safe set and maintain productivity.

Below I have outlined 7 ways to encourage social distancing on a film set in light of the COVID-19 virus.

  1. Use technology to allow a video village system that is not dependent on 1-2 monitors. Teradek has a great product called SERV PRO that allows a video system to stream up to 10 devices (combination of iPads and phones). Using this device will allow the people that really need to see a monitor (various dept heads and Producers) the opportunity to view without having to all be clustered around the same monitor as the Director/DP/Scripty. In addition this system makes it extremely helpful for ADs when placing and setting background in very large spaces to carry their monitor with them.
  2. Have signs on set to remind cast and crew of Social Distancing efforts. Consider placing these signs in key spots such as restrooms, trailers, entrances to set etc
  3. Limit in-person meetings and auditions. Consider using software like Zoom to conduct production meetings, table reads etc.
  4. When working with Background Actors consider using software like RABS to decrease contact between staff and the Extras. RABS is great for handling digital vouchers and creating a paperless system that will give you peace of mind.
  5. Go digital with sides, call sheets and essential paperwork for cast and crew. A few companies that are making waves in this industry are Setkeeper, Croogloo, Studio Binder and Scenechronize. By avoiding passing out paper documents you will be minimizing crew interaction in a significant way. There are also numerous payroll companies that have setup digital systems for time cards etc.
  6. Create a training video system that each Crew Member, Cast Person and Background Actor must watch prior to their first day of work. Trainual is a software tool that you could implement with relative ease.
  7. Allocate large enough holding areas for lunch, background holding etc so that people are able to have enough space when doing those activities. Some sets may even talk about doing a working lunch and observing french hours to allow for such a possibility.

7 reasons to consider the new G-Casper when creating Call Sheets

Ever since I heard that there was finally a reliable call sheet formulated on google docs I wanted to try it. I remember when google docs was in its mere infancy I tried to create a call sheet to fit, however there were limitations. Now that google docs has advanced in what it can do, a team of people have developed a kick-ass tool that will forever change the way ADs create and maintain call sheets, production reports, exhibit G’s and more.

This is custom heading element

  1. It’s created using Google Docs. Google Docs have become an integral part of tv/film production thus making this transition that much easier. The same premise of using an excel sheet…only its now in the cloud. Should your computer get stolen/missing you still have a call sheet to edit.
  2. It’s free. You don’t have to spend a dime. Who doesn’t love that?
  3. You can now make the process more collaborative. Stop emailing those excel files back and forth or waiting for your dropbox files to sync. Have your entire AD dept on this document and get to work. This is also beneficial for when someone gets sick, fired or has to step away to solve a crisis.
  4. You will save time by allowing the document to pre-populate information like the previous casper system. It can pull up scenes, cast and crew info based on the other tab’s data and linking features.
  5. Decrease the amount of human errors made. With the new bug feature, it will help you spot potential problems such as in-correct call times, bad email addresses etc…
  6. Everything is in one place. You don’t have to have multiple excel sheets and pdf’s open to get your work done. Everything is in one central “google doc.”
  7. If shared with a 1st AD, allows them the ability to look out as it is being updated without having to wait on a printed physical pdf prelim. The 2nd AD can essentially make a round of updates and over walkie tell the 1st AD to look at on their phone/tablet.

What does a 2nd AD do besides make a call sheet?

Crew members who work as 2nd Assistant Directors fill one of the most critical roles on any film set. The 2nd AD acts as a bridge between the “set” and the “basecamp” and while they are known for creating the call sheet, their duties extend into other areas of production that are vital for a set to operate efficiently.

The below information was complied by the Directors Guild of America:

2nd AD Duties

  1. Prepare the call sheets, handle extras, requisitions, and other required documents for approval by the 1st AD, the UPM and/or the production office.
  2. Prepare the daily production report and end of day paper work.
  3. Distribute scripts and script changes (after shooting has started) to cast and crew.
  4. Distribute call sheets to cast and crew.
  5. Distribute, collect, and approve extra vouchers, placing adjustments as directed by the 1st AD on the vouchers.
  6. Communicate advance scheduling to cast and crew.
  7. Aid in the scouting, surveying and managing of locations (mandatory in New York and Chicago)
  8. Facilitate transportation of equipment and personnel.
  9. May be required to secure execution of minor cast contracts, extra releases, and on occasion to secure execution of contracts by talent. (May also be delegated to 1st AD and UPM.)
  10. Coordinate with production staff so that all elements, including cast, crew and extras, are ready at the beginning of the day, and supervise the wrap in the studio and on location (local and distant).
  11. Schedule food, lodging and other facilities.
  12. Sign cast members in and out.
  13. Maintain liaison between UPM and/or the production office and the 1st AD on the set.
  14. Assist the 1st AD in the direction and placement of background action and in the supervision of crowd control.
  15. Perform crowd control in New York and Los Angeles except where the work is customarily performed by police officers or is performed by security personnel or a facility at which the photography takes place and which requires or customarily provides this service; provided, however, persons not covered by the Basic Agreement may perform such work if at least two additional 2nd ADs are employed in addition to a Key 2nd AD and 2nd 2nd AD or two Key 2nd ADs
  16. Supervise and direct the work of any Trainee or Intern assigned to the picture.
  17. May assist in the proper distribution and documentation of milage money by the Producer’s appointed representative.

An employer may not unreasonably deny a request from a UPM or 1st AD for another 2nd Assistant Director. BA 13-202 (b).

How to create a clean, concise and readable call sheet email.

Creating a readable call sheet email is vital for any production to run smoothly and can sometimes be an art form in putting it together. Depending on the size/budget of your production will often dictate who sends out the call sheet email. For larger productions you may have a Coordinator or Production Secretary clicking “send” and on smaller projects the 2nd AD will be the one most likely getting out these essential “next day emails.” 

10 tips to remember when sending out call sheet emails:

1. Use a standardized subject heading

MOVIE NAME – CALL SHEET – DAY # – DATE

2. BCC the recipients

If you “show” email addresses in the TO FIELD or CC FIELD you are risking one person replying all to the GROUP and asking a dumb question that should be for the sender only. It is a good idea to build this list later in the day because it may change as you have to add or drop crew/cast members.

3. Send a separate email to CREW and CAST 

The CAST email can be simplified and have only pertinent information ie…they don’t need to know the location addresses if they are shuttled to set etc…

4. Avoid sending Call Sheet Emails to Background or certain Vendors where a separate detailed email will work in its place

Below is one example in which I would email a caterer by noon each day (separate from the call sheet email) in order to give them a heads up with the count for the next day. If I waited to email the caterer the call sheet there is a chance they may not have enough time to prepare enough food etc.

5. Consider having your crew members confirm the very first email on DAY 1

Its a good idea to do this just in case you have a wrong email address or the email goes to spam for some weird reason.

6. Consider writing a nice sentence thanking or encouraging the crew at the very top of the email.

7. List important information at the top that shows the very basics

 Consider bolding or highlighting certain text in colors to make the email readable.

Date:
Thursday Dec 6th, 2018

Call Time: 7AM
Courtesy Breakfast: 6:30AM
***please check the back of the call sheet for your individual call times***

8. List the locations in order of where people will park etc. 

Don’t list the first location first if people are showing up to crew parking. The chances that they will go to the wrong address is greater if you list it in the order of where the majority of people should park.

9. Make sure to leave a clean email signature and closing remarks

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions/concerns.

thanks,

John Smith
2nd Assistant Director, Batman Begins
(123) 222-3333

10. Attach any important documents 

Don’t forget to attach call sheet, sides, map, overheads and safety bulletins (when doing stunts or shooting in potential dangerous conditions)!