7 gifts filmmakers will love

As the Holiday season approaches the question may arise of what should I buy that person I love that is a filmmaker?  Below I have outlined 10 of the best gifts that filmmakers will be excited about in their everyday life that they will cherish at work.

  1. Watches. The Apple Watch Ultra or the Apple Watch Series 8 will make great stocking stuffers for any filmmaker. These newer apple watches have better health sensors are more durable and heck the ultra watch looks like a real spy device from a Bond movie.
  2. Software. Scriptation is a digital subscription that allows filmmakers to mark up scripts, transfer notes and more. They are having a black Friday sale and this would be a great gift without breaking the bank. Normally you would pay $79.99 annually but with this link you can save $30.
    Visit http://scriptation.com/sale on an iOS device.
  3. Call Sheet Holder. You can’t go wrong with the traditional Gold Fold. This product has been a staple for Assistant Directors for years. Even though I like to use a tablet I still carry my leather Gold Fold because I’m less likely to break it or have it stolen when I’m walking around on set. This is the perfect device to carry call sheets, schedules, sides and write down important notes on the day.
  4. Books.  There are several great reads out there that will inspire and equip that filmmaker you know. Check out the following books:
    Best Seat in the House: An Assistant Director Behind the Scenes of Feature Films
    Running the Show: The Essential Guide to Being a First Assistant Director
    How to Survive On Set: The Production Assistant’s Guidebook
  5. Tablets. The reMarkable and iPad are both great tablets for note taking, meetings and location/tech scouts. I love using the reMarkable for the majority of my notes while the iPad can come in handy when marking up overheads or looking at story boards for the next day’s scenes.
  6. Belt Bags. A Belt Bag might just be the missing device your filmmaker needs while on set. This everywhere bag from Lululemon can hold your phone, keys and you can carry around your waist or over your shoulder.
  7. Walkie Accessories. Who doesn’t need a walkie caddie, Tubeez, or FilmPro Elite Surveillance to spruce up their kit? Use the code BEST50 for everything 50% everything at https://onsetheadsets.com/shop/

Best Film & TV Software Management Apps – Free Webinar

I’m excited to be moderating a fun and interactive live demo on Thursday Nov 17th, 2022 at 1pm PST that will showcase some of the best software companies that support the Film and TV industry. This will be a great opportunity to learn about new and upcoming technical solutions for production.

The Lineup

Setkeeper – Nik Bars / Business Development

Distro, sides, crew onboarding and more..

Scriptation – Laura Noxon / Product Development Manager

Mark up scripts, transfer notes

RABS – Josh Weinberg / Founder

Digital Background Vouchers

Assemble – Nate Watkin / Founder

Calendar & Task List, Asset Management & File Sharing

Conduiit – Shawn Hamilton / Founder

Accounting approval system and workflow

Wraptime – Mirko Urania / Founder

Digital Out Sheets, Crew List & Health Check

When: 

Thursday Nov 17th, 2022
1PM PST | 3PM CST | 4PM EST

*Demo will last 1HR total

Register:

Click HERE

Want to learn to direct?

A former mentor/friend of mine Joth Riggs has recently launched a new course [www.directingyourmovie.com] for those who want to step into Directing.

This course gives you the confidence to handle everything from development to pre-production, production and post production.  Everything you’ll need to Direct Your Movie from Script to Screen.

While some courses on directing gloss over the specifics or only discuss directing “in theory”, this course gets into the nuts and bolts of every step of the directing process.

*You can also check out the Podcast episode I did with Joth a few years ago HERE.

How to make sides in 30 seconds or less

Yes its possible! You can make sides in 30 seconds or less.

Imagine it’s 9:30PM on a Thursday and you’ve had a long day on set as the 2nd AD. You are about to wrap and are trying to get the call sheet sent out as soon as wrap is called so that everyone can go to sleep with the info for tomorrow. The UPM has asked that digital sides be sent out with the call sheet so you know that if anything changes it will be paramount that these sides are made quickly by whoever does them. The 1st AD has just informed you that yes indeed they are pushing a scene and adding a pickup. The sides need to be made or re-done quickly.

7 Steps to making sides in 30 seconds or less

  1. Choose a software that can make digital sides. Two of my favorite platforms for this purpose are Croogloo and Setkeeper. Both platforms are incredible for script distro, watermarking, creating sides and more…
  2. Upload your script to the platform. Once you decide on a platform you will need to upload a CLEAN version of the script to either platform. I prefer to go into final draft, select all, clear asterisks and save the version as a clean version. Seeing asterisks on sides is oftentimes unnecessary and can make it difficult to read.
  3. Decide what scenes will be in the sides. Usually the sides are listed on the shooting schedule or one-liner, or the advance on the call sheet. Most times there will be a small change or addition that only the 1st AD and 2nd AD know about. Its best to always check with the 2nd AD before making the sides.
  4. Select the sides in the program. Login to your software and jump into the side making section. Once you are there you can choose the scenes you want to make and the order you want to list them in. I typically prefer to list them in script order because it can be confusing to look for scene 1 at the end of the sides.
  5. Decide what format you need the arrows and shading. Within these programs you can decide whether or not to gray out the previous scenes or what type of arrows to use. Graying out can be helpful, however if you have a tight budget it can make the toner waist a lot of ink.
  6. Attach the front of the Call Sheet. This can be helpful so you don’t have to do this later.
  7. Download the sides as a pdf. You will be given the option to put one or two to page. In general I like to download one to a page because I can print two to a page in printer settings (if using a mac) pretty easily. Once you have downloaded the sides you can either attach the front of the Call Sheet or print them as is and then attach the front when its ready. The easiest way to attach the front of the call sheet is to drag the pdf into pdf viewer and then click save.

Conduiit – Accounting Software to Stay Organized

A few months ago I stumbled upon some software “Conduiit” that I really wished I known about earlier.

Conduiit.app is a Cloud-based purchase order, payment request and file management system that allows production management and finance teams to work seamlessly. (taken from their website)

5 Reasons you should consider Conduiit on your next Feature or TV Series:

  1. The approval process can be stream-lined. Stop chasing down producers, line producers and UPMs and asking for a signature to approve a purchase. This platform does that all in one place with the click of a button.
  2. No more check requests without missing documents. Once logged into the platform you can see if you are missing a w9, backup or additional missing docs.
  3. It’s easy to use. You can train any department in a matter of minutes without having to put them through an extensive accounting course. Whoever on your project is submitting invoices (art coordinator, location coordinator, etc…) will have access to the platform to keep all their invoices in one place.
  4. The data can be exported into almost any accounting platform. With powerful report-building tools you can download a .csv or .xls to send to your accounting or finance team to upload into their system.
  5. Reduce email clutter. It can be easy to let a vendor payment slip through the cracks with emails that may or may not go answered. With this platform, everything is visible to production and accounting and thus cutting down on the famous… can you get them to send a w9 email?

Ideas to stay healthy and sane when working on location

I often travel and work on location for 2-3 months at a time. When I do travel it can be challenging to stay healthy and establish new routines.

Below I have outlined a few ideas when traveling for work.

  1. Find a trail close by your hotel / living quarters that you can go for a daily walk or bike ride (rent a bike if possible).
  2. Consider joining a local gym for one or more months. I’ve done this several times even when the local gym doesn’t typically offer short-term deals I managed to negotiate a deal.
  3. Consider doing a group work out (yoga / strength training etc) at a near by studio.  There are several apps that often have classes based on your location. One of my favorite is MindBody or ClassPass.
  4. Do yoga or push ups in your hotel room using a youtube channel or other streaming service.
  5. Go see a chiropractor and/or get a massage.
  6. Have Factor meals sent to your hotel room and eat healthy.
  7. Research to see if there are any hiking trails close by. Consider making a goal to go once a week.
  8. Go to the grocery store and stock up on healthy snacks/drinks (low sugar / low carb).
  9. Meditate daily or three times a week. Consider using Headspace or Waking Up.
  10. Look for a local church you can attend once a week.

10 software essentials for your next movie or tv show

Below is a list of 10 software/app recommendations for your next movie or tv show!

  1. Setkeeper or Croogloo for sides, distro and watermarking
  2. Cinapse for real time set updates and more
  3. RABS for digital vouchers for background
  4. WrapTime for digital crew out times and crew lists
  5. Conduiit for cloud-based accounting system to manage vendors etc.
  6. Contract Book for managing legal contracts like location agreements and actor contracts
  7. Slack for crew collaboration and cutting down emails
  8. To Doist for sharing to-dos
  9. Sync On Set for dept continuity tracking ie.. costumes and art
  10. Frame.io or Alteon for camera file uploads and dailies

Stop using paper daily time sheets!

Everyone I know in production hates daily time sheets. Crew members loathe filling them out and ADs get overwhelmed with tracking them down and deciphering the bad hand-writing.

A new web-based app called Wrap Time has a solution to the out-time process with a digital approach.

7 reasons to consider Wrap Time on your next production:

1. 100% digital. You will be saving trees, toner and hours of man-power spent waiting around for out-sheets.

2. Raw data. An excel file is generated with the entire crews’ out-times that can be copy and pasted into any PR template. You can even automate the process with formulas so that your PR auto-populates.

3. It’s Fast. Crew Members will be able to submit their info in a matter of seconds once wrap is called.

4. Crew List. Besides collecting out-times there is a built-in updated crew list so that you have cells at your finger tips.

5. Time Card Accuracy. Crew Members will be able to review their times for each week so they have a central place to reference for when creating their own time card. You won’t have to print out PRs and pass them around….

6. Multiple Users. In addition to the AD staff using the console, Accountants and UPM/Line Producers can gain access so they can see what is happening real-time.

7. Easy to Use. Once the system is setup and key crew members are trained how to use it…updating a PR will be a piece of cake.

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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.