As a director and producer it is important that I understand what I can ask for and expect from my crew. I found the best way to do this is to take the time to learn and observe all the jobs on a film set.
One of the most educational jobs I’ve held is that of assistant director. Being an AD taught me what each department was responsible for and what they were capable of. I was able to see how each department worked within their budget and with the equipment they had. I saw where money could have been better spent and understood how not having adequate resources affected the films outcome. I also learned about timing on sets. Since I had to set the schedule, I had to find out how long everything would take. How long for a lighting set up? How long to dress the set? How long do the actors have to be in make up? As I worked with each department, I quickly gained a thorough knowledge of the cast and crew.
Now, I educate myself whenever possible: reading books, attending seminars, taking classes, and networking within the industry. Most books on filmmaking say the same things, but you may stumble across a nugget of knowledge. This also re-enforces what I have already learned.
FilmIndependent.org has a series of educational events called “Know your Crew.” These events have working industry professionals speak on their roles in film. I was very impressed with the role of script supervisor. This person has many jobs. One of them is timing how much actual footage has been shot. So when the studio calls and asks, we have the exact amount. As a Director, this would keep me aware of how much actual footage we need per day. I tend to stay after these classes are done to speak with people and get as much insight into their job as possible. I also view free to inexpensive webinars from Stage32.com. Lastly, I take acting classes to know what my actors are experiencing.
At the very least, I ask. If I don’t know and they do, I will ask. I try to learn from other people’s experiences as much as possible. I find out what they do, how they do it and why. This will make me the best filmmaker I can be. I highly recommend you do as much on a film set as possible, educate yourself and ask questions. When you get to the director’s chair, you will be confident in executing your vision.