‘Night Comes On’ producer talks indie film and being a soldier for art

There’s something unique about sitting across the table from an indie film producer. The energy of a fighter exists, quiet and understated, resting beneath the surface. For Danielle Renfrew Behrens, that energy reflects a 20 year career, multiple Sundance premieres and successes in both the documentary and indie feature genres. This experience has led her to become a champion for indie filmmakers, founding Superlative Films in 2015 as a “one stop shop” to fund low-budget films.

As a self-proclaimed “treasure hunter” Behrens’ job is to dig deep to find diamonds in the rough, screenplays waiting to be discovered, films needing to be made. Once the project has been chosen, a different side to the producer emerges. In this phase, she calls herself a “soldier,” someone who goes to battle to make sure these films find a screen and an audience. And, for Behrens, it is all about the story.

“Indie film is a grind. People are in it for something other than the money.” Behrens explains, there tends “to be a sense of collaboration on an indie set,” because the crew is there for more than a job. Due to the lack of a financial safety net, everyone involved matters and has to work together to contribute to a piece of art that matters too. A story that has to be told.

Eight minutes into Superlative’s latest film, Night Comes On, it becomes clear why this story had to be told. Dominique Fishback and Tatum Marilyn Hall give piercing performances as sisters who embark on a journey of revenge after suffering a great tragedy. The movie is unapologetically unsettling and raw, laced with moments of such tenderness and heartache you can’t turn away, even when you’d like to. It’s hard to watch, but you need to.

Those urges, the ability to move a human being, is likely what drew Behrens to the script to begin with. As Founder of Superlative Films, Behrens is the sole decision maker. She selects her projects by journeying through her virtual stack of scripts to find the one. But how do you know when you’ve found a stand-out, has to be made story?

“It’s all subjective. It comes down to my taste… something I read and can’t put down.” No surprise, her taste seems to resonate with viewers and critics alike. In May, Samuel Goldwyn Films acquired distribution rights to Night Comes On and critics from the LA Times to the NY Times call the movie “touching,” “stirring,” “authentic,” and “impressive.” Not bad for first time director, Jordana Spiro, who also co-wrote the script with Angelica Nwandu.

“It’s not by design” that Behrens finds herself continually working with first time directors. However, that tends to be what she gravitates towards. All five Superlative films to date have been directorial debuts. Perhaps that is because Behrens views herself as a person who “identifies talent, supports that talent and helps them get out of their own way.”

In this way, her adjective, “Mother Hen” also suits her perfectly. There is a maternal tone of affection when she speaks of how “proud” she is of Fishback’s and Halls’ “phenomenal” performances and how Spiro will move forward into new and interesting projects.

There is no doubt the indie film world is a hustle, tough and often lacking in financial reward. But, if Behrens and Night Comes On prove anything, it is also a heart-filled community committed to artistic growth and telling stories that mean something.

Night Comes On is now available to stream online.

The Woman Behind the Invisible Lens

 

Susu Hauser as a photographic volunteer with WildLife Act tracking the endangered African Wild Dog.

“I feel empowered when I’m holding a camera,” Susu Hauser, adventurer, world-traveler, filmmaker, TV industry veteran, wife and cinematographer says with a gleam of pride in her eye. And she should feel proud. As one of the few female camera operators in the docu-reality TV world she’s a groundbreaking trailblazer paving the way for more women to emerge in this extremely male dominated field.

Despite her long list of credits and her massive accomplishments around the world (working Deadliest Catch in Alaska to trekking Ethiopia with a camera) she is often still treated as the sidekick or “little woman” next to men in her industry. Susu doesn’t complain about it. She doesn’t play the victim or pout, instead she straps on her hiking boots, slings a camera over her shoulder and proceeds to her next adventure, proving with every impressive credit that the camera knows no gender. If you’re good, you’re good. And she’s good.

These are her thoughts in her own words about her journey as a woman behind the camera.

Empowerment through Cinematography

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – a wise person once said, and it couldn’t be more true of my craft. As a female cinematographer, I feel an adrenaline rush with every new environment I delve into, every walk of life I engage with, and every new adventure I embark on. The camera has been my tool to live life to the fullest  – whether I am coasting down 10,000 ft in a Piper cub with the engine cut out, or trouncing through the “emerald triangle” of Northern California in full camo, I have challenged my physical and mental body to greet the unknown. There is fear, freedom and empowerment that comes with all this.

 

Life Behind the Camera

I wrote an essay in highschool about my desire to be a National Geographic photographer “when I grew up”. Never did I think that 10 years later, I would be doing just that…

I have since been fortunate enough to have kissed the Blarney stone, visited the lost city of Pompeii, enjoyed the thermal baths of Budapest, swam from island to island in the Adriatic sea, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, sky dove over Fox Glacier in New Zealand, polished my Thai cooking in Chiang Mai, watched the sun rise over the temples of Angkor Wat, kayaked the Mekong… (and the list goes on…). With every new excursion and adventure, I have honed my photography skills. So you can see, travel, adventure, and photography are my lifeblood. I have a thirst for diverse cultures and exotic lands. Cinematography has enabled me to marry all these passions, and I am beyond grateful for that.

A Woman’s Rise up a Male Ladder

Truthfully, my rise up the ladder in this industry was slow, steady and incremental. On the one hand, it was a bummer seeing my male counterparts wiz by me in the job positions and titles when I knew we had the same work ethic, talent and drive… It seemed as though there was a tendency to shy away from putting females in the field unless they were fulfilling positions as coordinators, managers, and associate producers.

On the other hand, I gained experience in every job title leading me to eventually running my own production company with my husband, The Invisible Lens. These rungs on the ladder included – Post and production PA, Field and Post Coordinator, Production Manager, Associate Producer, Assistant Camera, Producer, and Camera Operator.

Advice for Women Up and Comers

Be persistent. I ventured out with countless male camera operators before getting my hands on the camera. Observe them, soak them for knowledge, be indispensable, and if they are confident enough within their own craft they will help you learn the ropes.  It’s one thing to get an education from a film school, it’s an entirely other thing to be gaining practical knowledge in the field.

Know your thresholds, be safe, and speak up when things don’t feel right.

A Message to the Industry

My message to the industry on behalf of us few female camera operators is – do not underestimate us. I may be only 5’5’’(on a good day!), but I can trounce through the woods with a Sony F800 on my shoulder just like the rest of them. – And I may even be smiling while I do it.

 

Filming on National Geographic’s Wild Justice in northern California

 

To experience Susu’s work and learn about her upcoming documentary to empower women through the Fair Trade Market please visit susuhauser.com

 

What the smallest productions can learn from the biggest

Gear failures, budget busters, scheduling snafus—video productions are rife with opportunities for things to go wrong. Whether you’re putting together your first small shoot or the 100th episode of a major television program, some scheduling and budgeting tricks can make any production smoother. We asked Crew Connection Manager Ashley LaRocque—formerly a post supervisor for network TV—to share some simple but hard-earned wisdom on ways to save time, money, and headaches.

Three lesser-known tips to save headaches when budgeting and scheduling your next big project:

 

1. Budget extra money and time for working across time zones

Technology is a great way to bring people together across multiple time zones for meetings. But, for daily production and post-production details, it still only goes so far. Even in the digital age, the most reliable way to transfer footage is still on physical hard drives. Packaging, insuring, and shipping costs money. Lots of money. LaRocque once worked on a show that filmed in Australia. Having post-production halfway across the world in Los Angeles made the process incredibly cumbersome. In typical situations, after the crew shoots, they process the footage overnight and hand it off to post production the next day. But in this case, it took a day and a half at best to get to post. Not only did it slow down production and turn shipping into a huge expense, it also took longer to catch mistakes. Time is money. Waiting for resolution costs a lot of both.

The bottom line is that you have to make sure the final result of working across multiple time zones is worth finding both the extra time and money in your budget.

 

2. Simplify processes to save time and money

Most people with “executive” in their title, such as your very own executive producer, don’t have time to read every single email they receive. Or any of them. Including executives in email chains is often a formality. But as LaRocque explains, it’s a necessary formality that has a simple workaround.

We all know it’s the assistants who truly run the show, so LaRocque learned to group executive producers and their assistant(s) under the EP’s name. Every time she emailed one, she emailed them all. Grouping contacts pays off the first time you don’t have to search your memory for an assistant’s name or your inbox for a months-old email.

Another way to save money, time, and brainpower is to use a crewing service to book domestic and international video service providers local to your shoot. A good crewing service can be invaluable when it comes to (quickly!) finding high-quality crews with the right gear and vision for your project. Not sure how to even go about hiring a trustworthy crewing service? Here are five things you should look for.

 

3. Expect the best, but prepare for the worst

You can get a decent idea of what a production will cost if you have worked on a comparable project, but there are always less obvious costs. Consider ahead of time what costs might come at a premium. If you’re traveling crew, you’ll need to set aside extra time and money for ferrying people and their oversized gear, feeding them, and putting them up. If you need to shoot a particular scene at night, keep in mind the premium crews charge for working overnight.

After you’ve budgeted for every subtle expense you can think of, add line items for the ones you’d bet against happening. If you don’t think “zombie apocalypse” will make it through the budget approval process, call it weather delays or gear failure instead. Whatever you call it, just go ahead build in the extra costs now so an extra 10K due to rain delay or a broken camera doesn’t bring your production to a grinding halt.

Similarly, post-production supervisors should have a backup plan in case money gets taken out of their budget. Since post means “after”, it’s only natural that it will receive what’s left of the budget after everything else has already gone wrong. Expect to work on a shoestring budget and you’ll be either dead on or pleasantly surprised.

Plan ahead, but also be flexible when things change course. Because they will. You’ll be easier to work with (and happier!) if unforeseen circumstances don’t derail you.

Who couldn’t use a little more time and a little less hassle on their next shoot? Barring interruptions from zombies, following these tips and planning ahead will make your next project smoother and more profitable.

 


About Crew Connection

Crew Connection logo

Crew Connection puts a suite of marketing tools at your fingertips. Get your demo reels, stills, gear, awards, and more in front of the biggest clients all over the world—for free. At Crew Connection we pay video and post production providers within 30 days of receiving your invoice so your work and your life are never interrupted. Need live assistance or want to add quality jobs to your pipeline? Our crew coordinators are on call around the clock. Sign Up on Crew Connection, call 303-526-4900, or email info@crewconnection.com.

 

This article was originally posted to productionhub.com. Read the original article here.

5 things you need to look for if you’re considering a crewing service

When you’re managing a media department, you’re expected to be everywhere at once. It’s not enough to keep up with the newest gear; you have to make important decisions in the marketing, finance, and crewing departments, too. You know you’ve found a good online crewing service when it gives you back time in your day by providing several workflow management solutions all in one.

Here’s what to look for in an online crewing service:

 

1. Time savings

How much time would you free up if you could skip fruitless Google searches and find both domestic and international video service providers in just a few clicks? Time is money and a good online crewing service saves you both.

 

2. A rigorous vetting process

Your shoots represent your brand; so you don’t want just any crew on the job. You want the best crew on the job. A good vetting process ensures you’re not just searching a slightly-filtered version of Google. Make sure your crewing service’s database is made up of high-quality crews personally approved by an in-house team of experienced media experts.

 

3. Usability

Most of us have abandoned a tool that would have eventually made our lives easier because it had too much of a learning curve. An intuitive interface eliminates frustration and saves you time now—not in six months, once you’ve mastered a complex system of workarounds. A simple interface that allows you to search by services, gear, and location makes the process feel as easy as ordering a pizza.

 

4. Detail management

Rates, dates, gear, travel, and more. The details surrounding video productions are endless and can make even the most organized person feel like throwing computers and phones out the window. The best online crewing services provide a simple place to manage all of the details, including rate negotiations, messages, and invoices.

 

5. Human touch

Online services take crewing to a whole new level, but in some cases, there’s no replacement for the human touch. It’s nice to be able to pick up the phone if you hit a roadblock or just want to skip the screen for once. The combination of stellar online usability and real-life human backup is hard to beat.
Who couldn’t use a little more time and a little less hassle? A good online crewing service is a way to simplify your workflow and make 2017 smoother and more profitable.

You’ll feel like you’ve just hired the uber-organized assistant you’ve always wanted.

 

About Crew Connection

Crew Connection logo

Crew Connection puts a world of video service providers at your fingertips. In just a few clicks you can search, chat with, and book vetted crews local to your shoot—all on your own schedule. Rely on Crew Connection’s team of media experts to organize the crews and gear you need for multi-day and multi-location video projects anywhere in the world. Our crew coordinators are on call around the clock if you ever need live assistance. Visit CrewConnection.com, call us at 303-526-4900, or shoot us an email at info@crewconnection.com.

 

This article was originally posted to productionhub.com. Read the original article here.

Four ways to build a studio

*This article was originally posted to productionhub.com. Read the original article here.

 

What better place to go for advice on how to build a successful production house than where competition is the stiffest? Mike Levy started Levy Production Group in 1987 and succeeded where many others failed—Las Vegas. We figure if you can make it in the entertainment capital of the world, you can probably make it anywhere. Here are our top four takeaways from Mike on how to build a successful studio:

Get experience

The best thing young, aspiring editors, camera people, and future business owners can do is get experience. If you want to become the go-to person in your field, take online courses, college courses, and even unpaid gigs as opportunities to learn the ins and outs of video production. Learn the industry overall, not just your position. Understanding everything from production through post makes you a well-rounded teammate or team lead. Not all jobs offer glamour, but all jobs offer experience.

Be nice

Being talented isn’t enough. Don’t just learn to be good at what you do, but also at how you do it. This is not your typical desk job. Our industry is famous for long hours, late nights, and many consecutive days on set. Tough conditions can bring out the worst in people. Those who can communicate clearly, listen well, and stay level-headed are invaluable. You’ll be remembered as much for the way you conduct yourself as for the work you produce. Be humble. Look to learn from people rather than to be right.

 

4 ways to build a studio

Behind the scenes with Levy Production Group.

 

A warehouse is just a warehouse

You can’t just call a large, open building a studio. Having enough room to shoot properly is just the beginning. If you really want to do it right, you have to be ready to invest in heating and cooling, overhead and floor lighting, and soundproofing, for starters. If clients have to redo a take because they hear an ambulance in the background, they’ll be taking their business elsewhere next time. You also need creature comforts so you can accommodate not just the shoots, but the people, too. Clients want to go to a facility that feels good—with nice dressing rooms, kitchen areas, restrooms, etc. Fresh-baked cookies (a Levy Production Group signature), goodie baskets, meals, snacks, candies, sodas, and gourmet coffees and teas go a long way toward making people comfortable and earning repeat business.

Find your niche and do it well

It seems simple, but most of the important things are. When you have the best resources and do the best work, you’ll get return clients. Word of mouth and reputation are irreplaceable.

After starting as an ad agency and outsourcing to local TV stations, Mike Levy decided to invest in a small stage to facilitate smaller projects like ChromaKey insert shoots and single-car shoots. Realizing that they were good at something and that they could get paid for it, Levy Production Group bought their first camera and editing package and have grown along with Vegas ever since. In their current 14,000 square-foot facility, they do everything from everyday interviews to shoots with big-name celebrities, athletes, and musicians.

Building any business can feel like a gamble, but with these key practices it’s a sure bet.

 

4 ways to build a studio

A peak inside the top-of-the-line studio at Levy Production Group.

 

About Crew Connection

Crew Connection logo

Crew Connection puts a suite of marketing tools at your fingertips. Get your demo reels, stills, gear, awards, and more in front of the biggest clients all over the world—for free. At Crew Connection we pay video and post production providers within 30 days of receiving your invoice so your work and your life are never interrupted. Need live assistance or want to add quality jobs to your pipeline? Our crew coordinators are on call around the clock. Sign In to Crew Connection, call 303-526-4900, or email info@crewconnection.com.