THE $10,000 MOVIE CREW: All You Need Are 5 People (Can you name them?)


Need a Film Crew? Of course you do. The issue quickly becomes… now how do you, with so little money ($10,000?), get the best crew possible? And please, I beg you to not hire a kid, for a key position, out of a theory laden 4-year film school for at least 5-6 years after he/she graduated.

Yes, he/she is knowledgeable, energetic and loaded with a great education but it is based on Hollywood, their Mega-Budget (Studio Features) & Medium Budget (International Co-Productions) which is not what you are about to make for your first project.

They teach how Hollywood Works, and how to Produce, Write, Direct, Shoot & Finance feature film and have it Financed and Distributed by Hollywood (aka: Warners, Paramount, 20th, Disney, etc.)… however,  this info is little use when making your first No-Budget or Micro-Budget Independent Feature Film.

So lets be real and discern how to get the best crew possible when you likely will only have $10,000-$20,000 to budget for them.


The biggest problem with first-timers (you’re a first-timer) when thinking about hiring a crew is that you have spent much too much time watching the credits (Rear Title Crawl) at the end of a movie and become over-whelmed.

Deal Site - Slate     Deal Site - Slate

Here’s what I mean.

When a movie is over, the Rear Title Crawl credits roll with approximately 10% of the audience is still sitting, refusing to leave, reading every name as they roll by….Trying to learn. You will see 120-250 names (grips, gaffers, drivers, assistants, best boys, supervisors, etc.) become overwhelmed and leave thinking you need to find 120-250 people, companies or vendors to make your feature film.

Stop it. Stop it. Stop it…Stop watching these credits, they only serve to overwhelm you…and you think about hiring 120-250 people, securing resumes, interviewing, getting recommendations, starting a filing system… stop it, stop it, stop it…

4-5 People…. That’s all you hire. That is all you need for a Low-Budget Crew.


Yes, you, the producer, only need to hire 4-5 people and these 4-5 people then, as part of their job, hire the other 15-25, not 120-250, crew, vendors and suppliers come from. Permit me to explain.

Who are the 4-5?

Deal Site - Camera     Deal Site - Camera


DIRECTOR: Is probably the biggest problem you hire and it is probably yourself. (I will explain that in later posts) So please make sure, when you are the Director, that you hire a superb Cinematographer.

CINEMATOGRAPHER (aka: “DP”, “D-O-P” or “Director of Photography”): This is (A) the most important and (B) first person you hire. Make sure he/she is a Pro. DO NOT. I repeat. DO NOT Hire a kid from one of those 4-year, $200,000 theory laden film schools. This is not to state that this newly educated kid is not talented but she/she has limited street knowledge. They have only made a couple of shorts. They have little, to almost no experience, using professional equipment…. Hire a Cinematographer, who has been at least 6 years out of film school and has been on 60-80 shoots as a 2nd AC, 1st AC, DIT & Camera Operator. And, once you find this person he/she will know the 3-4 others in the Camera Crew, he/she will know the Grips & Gaffers , the vendors, and, more important he/she knows 7-8 Production Manager

PRODUCTION MANAGER (“PM”): Once you find a Cinematographer, who has been on 60-80 shoots, over 4-6 years, he/she knows numerous PMs. Remember, the better the PM, the easier the DP’s shoot will be. The DP will point you to the PM. And, once hired, he/she has been on 40-50 shoots and knows how to find & hire most of the crew.

PRODUCTION DESIGNER (“PD”): Now, that you’ve found & hired your “DP” & “PM” they will know 15-20 “PDs”, who are professional, available and affordable.

PRODUCTION COORDINATOR (“PC”): This is someone that you, the producer, hire who knows nothing about filmmaking but is neat, organized & efficient with paperwork. It is basically your office manager.

Bottom-line to get an excellent low-budget crew.

  1. First hire a “DP”….that is an experienced “DP”
  2. Then the “DP” points you to the “PM”. (D) Then get your “PC” (office manager) and…
  3. 4-5 people hired. Voilla, you’re crew appears. And they will be the best your budget, your Low-Budget, your Ultra-Low-Budget, or your No-Budget can afford.
  4. (E) Then tell these 4 how much money you budgeted for everyone else…and they hire everyone else.
  5. (C)Then the “DP & PM” point you to the “PD”.

$10,000 FILM CREW

Now lets talk numbers, salaries, deals for the best crew possible.

DAMON-ONLINE-Blog      DovSimensDVDFilmSchool (My 2-Day, DVD & Online Film Schools are focused 100% on the business-of-making and the business-of-selling your first independent project)

First, realize your initial feature film is (A) Independent, (B) Micro-Budget or No-Budget, (C) a 1-week shoot, with (D) limited location movies and a 4K Camera….

Key Point: 1-week shoot. I repeat 1-week shoot.

Thus, you are hiring people for 1-week, plus some nominal prep time. Yes, you would like a longer shoot and more prep time but bottom-line is you are Independent. Micro-Budget, with maybe $20,000-$30,000 to make the entire movie (prep-to-post) and are forced to allocate only $10,000 for crew for a 1-week shoot.

(A) DIRECTOR: $0… If the director I you, and likely it is, then you will pay yourself the same that you’d pay yourself to director a short ($0)

(B) CINEMATOGRAPHER: $2,000… Make sure he/she is a pro… By pro I mean a Camera Operator who has been an AC & DIT during the past 4-5 years and been on 50 shoots with a union (IATSE) Director of Photography. $2K will be enough for him/her to get their first DP credit on a feature for only a 1-week shoot.

(C) PRODUCTION MANAGER: $2,000… Make sure he/she is also a pro… This is a feature film and you pay them the $2k (2-weeks, prep & shoot) but also give him/her an OPENING TITLE CREDIT of LINE PRODUCER… that is what he/she truly wants….

(D) PRODUCTION DESIGNER: $1,500… Make sure he/she is also a pro but this will be his/her first OPENING TITLE CREDIT on a Feature Film stating either “Production Designer” or “Art Director”

(E) PRODUCTION COORDINATOR: $1,000… This is $250/week over 4-weeks and is the 4-year graduate from a USC, UCLA or NYU Film School program that is not interning (Free) but being paid to keep you organized.

(F) CREW: Shooter, Grip, Gaffer, Craft Service, PAs…. You have $100 (PAs) to $750 to pay (Grip, Gaffer, etc.) for only 1-week… along with Food… and more important Opening Title IMDB Credits.

Voilla! $10,000 and a Film Crew.


OOPS: Forgot SOUNDMAN (aka: Audio): Budget $1,000 for 1-week for Soundman with Mikes, with Mixer and Recorder to include 1-day to train a PA to be a Boom Man.



Happy Filmmaking.


Please share if you shot a Micro-Budget Feature what you paid crew…

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6 comments on “THE $10,000 MOVIE CREW: All You Need Are 5 People (Can you name them?)”

  1. joe sixpak says:

    i have done audio and cant envision supplying equipment and working a full week on site for only 1000 especially if i had to do the post editing and add foley and vo etc.

    and what about the film editing? does the DP do that too?

  2. Susan says:

    what about the composer, and the score mix? it’s really kind of a sad trend for young filmmakers to follow to treat the music as an afterthought. i didn’t see anything about the scoring, which should be an essential part of any and every film budgeting plan.

  3. Egypt says:

    Brilliant! Simple to the point no Bull just like promised – the title says movie crew – you break it down for the basic essentials to do the shoot only very well now just need to speak on an effective way to do post production and distribution deal with no bull – I look forward to it!

  4. Bob P says:

    I’m assuming your fictional $2000 DP includes camera and lenses… a DP with that experience isn’t going to shoot on a Canon EOS and a 50mm with broken auto-focus. And if you’re working with a $10k budget, you’re not likely to get a DP worth a damn who’s “at least 6 years out of film school and has been on 60-80 shoots”. With a $10k budget, you’re better off getting an all volunteer crew from Cal Arts, giving them each $100 gas money, and putting your nickles into the film and not the film crew.

  5. Mark Hensley says:

    Another bullshit article not founded in reality.

  6. Henry Larry says:

    Practical advice for indie filmmakers. The emphasis on hiring a seasoned Cinematographer and letting them guide the crew selection is a valuable tip for achieving quality results within a constrained budget.
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