Why Filmmaking is a Family at Summer Camp

Why Filmmaking is a Family at Summer Camp

Why Filmmaking is a Family at Summer Camp

Bradley Gallo
Bradley Gallo
3 years ago

An independent filmmaker today has enormous challenges. The biggest challenge is to find the money to get your film made. I have heard so many stories that have frustrated me over the years. Producers with no experience meeting a billionaire and getting a film made. Producers with tons of experience grinding it out to no avail. But that’s not what I want to talk about. And frankly, that’s not what you need to hear anymore. That catch 22 has jumped the shark. We got it. It’s hard and there is no textbook path to success in this business.

For now, I want you to assume the money is in escrow and you have started to scout. Now…you need to find your filmmaking family. Because this family is what makes your project successful.

Why Filmmaking is a Family at Summer Camp

The definition of Family is a group of parents and children living together in a household. This can be functional or dysfunctional. We strive for the former. My definition of Filmmaking is a group of Producers and Creatives (crew too) working and living together on a film. This can be functional or dysfunctional. Our careers depend on the former.

This weekend one of my films is premiering in theaters, THEM THAT FOLLOW. This film would not have been possible with out the incredible filmmaking family we created. And, even though our family was functional, some dysfunction makes it fun, and ultimately the end product is a film that we are so freaking proud of. My goal in this blog is to lay out some of the wisdom I acquired to create an environment needed for a successful creative process. It all starts with one point.

You must create a filmmaking family that feels like everyone is at Summer Camp.

Filmmaking is a Family at Summer Camp.

Put that on your production office wall and never forget it.

Why Filmmaking is a Family at Summer Camp

It didn’t hurt that my first film was about a summer camp and filmed at one in the beautiful white mountains of New Hampshire. There was a lake and cabins and a full time chef on the grounds. I could house and feed the crew at the same place where we were shooting the scenes. The total fee for that was $10,000. And this was in the year 2000. But it set the stage for a slew of skillsets that have completely transformed the creative process for each of my projects. Remember, everyone is joining the team to foster a creative vision that they love or want to enjoy. Did you hear that? Enjoy! Each member of your team wants to have a great fucking time making cinema. Especially in independent filmmaking. It is your job to foster that creative process and set the environment for it to shine!

A functional filmmaking team is when everyone is set with a clear vision and enjoys the creative process in executing that vision. This starts from the top. The producer and the director have to build that feeling everyday. I walk onto a set or in an editing room with one overall thing on my mind. I am blessed to be able to make this miracle happen. Because getting a film made is a miracle. I put my mindfulness in that space and a few things happen immediately. I am smiling. I’m shaking hands and hugging a lot. I buy fun food and coffee for everyone. I’m obviously happy to be there. It’s infectious. The whole crew starts to feel it and comraderie begins to form. The actors feel safe and at ease. A problem comes to me with three solutions already in hand.

A crew member once came up to me in the middle of a crisis. She couldn’t believe how calm I was. She stayed quiet for a moment while I was problem solving in my head and then I gave my suggestion to the team. She turned to me after that and said, “I’m glad you’re here because I know it’s all going to work out.” I have been doing this for almost 20 years now so I hear this on a regular basis. It’s a muscle. You must train it.

Most independent films are made for a budget lower than is practical. It is your job to get the team to do their best work within those parameters. There can be no expectations because crew get paid they should just do it. No way. They are not there because of the money. Treat everyone as an equal and you will get their very best.

Why Filmmaking is a Family at Summer Camp

Here are 7 tidbits that I have done to keep up the Camp.

  1. On THEM THAT FOLLOW during pre-production, I would walk into the production office with a case of Yuengling beer at exactly 5pm and start handing them out. Even if beer wasn’t their thing, they smiled. And sometimes grabbed a different drink to join in. By the end of pre-production, some team members brought whiskey or La Croix.

  2. As much and as often as I could, I would take the team out together. Yes, you can do dinners, movies or just go for a drink. But depending on the time of year, get creative and camp like! On MR. RIGHT, we went to the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans. On THEM THAT FOLLOW in Ohio we found a neighborhood bar called KRAKATOA and the cast and crew would do karaoke and dress up for Halloween. On MAGIC ROCK in New Hampshire, we went waterskiing. On CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR in North Carolina we went to NASCAR races. Cornfield mazes, etc.

  3. Safe and Funny Pranks always gets the smiles going. For example, completely fill someones office up with balloons, props or toilet paper. But be careful, team members may rat you out :)

  4. Share cars. Sounds like a no brainer. But do you know how many people get their own car? Vans are even better. Some of the drives to set or editorial are some of my best memories. I drove cast members, directors, crew members and even dogs on my way each morning. I will never forget those times. And you will get closer and closer to those team members.

  5. If you have a hotel room or rental property, set gatherings at your place after the shoot. Have food and drinks and just hang after a hard day and chat about nothing related to the film.

  6. Everyday I am on set I try to interact with every single team member and sometimes more than once. I want to know what their issues may be and I’m solving them on my way to the next team member. I start with the actors, director and key crew first but I don’t stop until I have talked to the production assistants or interns. Every single day! They will know they always have an opportunity to say something. It creates a sense of comfort and drives them to work harder. I am looking to hear them say, “I’m all good” and they are looking to say “I’m all good”.

  7. In Post Production, nothing should change. But make sure you meet with your editor alone once a week. The editor is with the director non-stop and sometimes has a lot that they bundle in over time. It is your job to release that tension and use what you have learned to help the creative process flow better.

Why Filmmaking is a Family at Summer Camp

And, once the film is in the can, the family has to stay together. I was honored when THEM THAT FOLLOW was officially selected for Sundance this year. It was our crazy family who pulled together to make it all happen. Premiering at Sundance, selling the film and now seeing it come out in theaters this weekend has been nothing short of extraordinary. Also getting incredible reviews from the NY Post and LA Times has been so rewarding.

None of this would have happened if we didn’t see every single cast, crew and filmmaker for who they were and what they contributed to this creative process. I encourage you to create a camaraderie with your set and when you get the wins like we have with Sundance and the theater premier, it’s only sweeter to share it with your “family.”

If you live in the LA area, be sure to check out the screenings this weekend!
After the screenings the filmmakers will be doing Q&A!

Why Filmmaking is a Family at Summer Camp

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About the Author

Bradley Gallo

Bradley Gallo

Content Creator, Filmmaker, Producer

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