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How to find, hire, & work with a film crew while on a budget

Story & Heart
February 3, 2016 by Story & Heart PRO

Amazing films are made from amazing collaborations. So it’s not just about finding folks who fit your budget, but also about building an enthusiastic team who is pumped to pitch in and create something special together. You’d be surprised how many talented people will hop aboard a passion project even if it doesn’t pay much (or anything at all).

Here are some tips for making it happen.

Spread the word

Share the news that your production is hiring, and touch base with fellow filmmakers to see if they can suggest crew members. It’s great to have a personal recommendation, so you know that the individual is vetted and vouched for. But what if your connections aren’t digging up any leads? Post on social media so word gets out in your network. Websites like,,,, and are also useful in assembling a crew. And lastly, put a call in to the local film school to see if they’ve got a job board or an internship program. Students are generally keen to gain on-set experience and beef up their resumes.

Pitch your ideas

When you’re announcing your project and reaching out to potential collaborators, make the opportunity to work on the film as appealing as possible (because it is!) rather than begging people to help. Convey your enthusiasm for the project and why it’s so special, and others will be more likely to want to join the team.

How do you make it feel special? Talk about the project, what’s different about it, and what others can bring to it. Play up any fringe benefits (like travel to an exotic locale, for instance, or maybe just endless cups from a fancy espresso maker). You may even consider creating a short teaser (or at least showing them other work, like your killer reel) to get them excited.

Set realistic expectations

Be clear about what positions you’re looking to fill and what will be expected of the crew. Don’t oversell the job or overpromise the perks, because it will only set the crew up for disappointment. If you promise hands-on filmmaking experience, don’t use them as your personal latte delivery service.

Do your part

Great relationships take time and energy to cultivate, and the best ones are reciprocal. Keep your ears and eyeballs open for opportunities where you can help others tell their own amazing stories. This will go a long way to establish trust and build recognition that you are part of a greater community. When it’s time to call in favors, hopefully your friends and collaborators will jump at the chance to work with you.

Be kind to your crew

Even if you can’t pay a hefty day rate, potential crew members should be assured that helping out with your project won’t cost them money. Cover their cost of transportation to and from the set and be sure to feed them. Even a token amount of money can make a big difference to your crew members.

Ask for what you need, but not more

Remember that your crew members are working for free or a modest fee, so don’t push your luck. Of course, if they sign on, they should be prepared to work hard. But don’t be unreasonable and expect them to work consecutive nights or weekends. And if you do think you’ll need them to work crazy hours, be upfront about it.

Offer credit where it’s due

This one is big. Give onscreen credit and public recognition to anyone and everyone who has helped you along the way. Your crew has gone above and beyond to bring your vision to life, so shout it from all of the rooftops in all of the lands. And remember, even in this digital age, an in-person “thanks!” is still super appreciated.

Once you’ve lined up a crew, make sure you treat them right! Because being a good human is not only the right thing to do, but your project will also turn out way better if you treat your team like collaborators instead of just employees. So include them in the creative process as much as possible.

How have you managed to rally a crew on a small budget? If you’ve got an experience to share, do tell in the comments.

For more filmmaking guidance, direct your cursor to our Vimeo Video School lessons, and join the Academy of Storytellers to access over 145 tutorials.


Brian O PRO

There is another alternative to pick up additional crew members you may have not considered. A lot of local colleges which some actively have film studies, are a great source for internships for various positions on crew placement. Depending on your local arrangements, you may even be able to get the college intern(s) course credit for the work as well. Just a thought for the industrious. :)

Story & Heart PRO

Absolutely, Brian—great suggestion. We did include that in the article, but it's a little hidden. Thanks for sharing it here! :)

Remarkables Primary

Hi everyone,
I'm a primary (elementary) school teacher in Queenstown, New Zealand and teaching a film studies/making course this year. Just getting a feel to see if there are any other filmmakers who would be keen to answer a few questions any students may have about their films. I thought it would be cool to get some worldwide knowledge from makers like yourselves, rather than everything from their teacher...myself! Thanks in advance!

Nicolas Devienne Plus

We had the chance to get 30 people on board for our short horror movie "PRISON FERME", all answered the call to volunteer on the set during 6 days in december, to shoot in an old cold and abandonned prison. Thanks to all we managed to make a professionnal project with ridiculous cost... but with great enthousiasm and a LOT of energy ! I will never thank them enough.

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