Screening Film Gigs

I am beginning to think I need to figure out how to screen film gigs.  How do I decide whether a gig is one that I want to work on or not?

I had an unpleasant experience on a film in January.  The director tried to film a thirty page script in two evenings.  He technically succeeded, but they were long, grueling evenings, and the production quality was poor.  It wasn’t a well-written script in the first place, and I am beginning to doubt I will ever see the film.  After that experience, I didn’t want to work with the filmmaker again, but I thought maybe he deserved a chance to do better.  So I had a conversation with him about scheduling, and I let him book me for another shoot.  The next shoot was worse.  It was another poorly written thirty page script.  He had a schedule this time, but he blew it immediately.  A three day shoot, we didn’t get started any day for hours, and two days had delays in the middle lasting additional hours.  Worse, there were no lights.  When I accosted the director about this, his response was, “I can’t think of everything!”  I was the sound guy, but I was salvaging the shoot by trying to creatively light the sets with flashlights that I happened to have in my car.  I was wearing a sound rig, but I was the guy schlepping “lights”, dressing the set, placing marks, etc.  He doesn’t know anything about lighting, but he kept vetoing all reasonable lighting suggestions made to him.  I gave him 26 hours of my life, all of which were miserable, and if I ever see the final product, it know it will suck.

I worked a handful of student films a couple years ago.  I decided that film students were too arrogant and deaf to advice to work with, although in hindsight, it might only be Webster students who are that way.

Up to now, I’ve basically been taking any non-paying film gig, as long as I’m available.  I have decided that it is time to be more discriminating.  But how do I make an informed choice?


I definitely want to work with new and inexperienced filmmakers.  I can tolerate inexperience, poor production quality, insufficient crew, insufficient gear, and probably even a bad script — as long as I don’t have to give up a huge part of my life for it.  One long day, or a couple of short days.  A script that is five to eight pages is probably ideal.  If it’s longer, I need to have assurances that it is a good team with some experience.

Crew & Equipment

Is there going to be a reasonable crew?  At minimum, there should be a director, a DP, a gaffer, a location sound recordist, and at least one PA.  There should be reasonable camera, lighting, and sound equipment.

Release Plans

I need to be able to see the finished film at least once.  I’d like to see it in a theater, and then I’d like to be able to watch the film in the future indefinitely.  Submissions to film festivals are good.  If it’s not going to be posted online, then I’d like to receive a disc.

I’ve never actually sought out footage for a reel, and that’s because so few of the films I’ve worked have produced footage I’m proud of.


I don’t want to be paid.  However, I don’t want to work for free if others are being paid.  If anyone is being paid for their time, then I’m not interested.