June 2018 Newsletter: Gaffer, Sound, and Stylist - Film/Video Supportive Crew Coordination

DFS Productions re-starts supportive crew coordination and newly launch gaffer service for foreign productions 

Would you like supportive crew coordinations in Japan?   Yeah, many of clients would.   We have not accepted such requests since years ago, however.  My reason is simple; it won't make a profit at all. In its early age, between 2012 and 2014-ish, DFS Productions had done such tasks for several times. It did not need much time for me to notice that it's waste of time and rather make me loose money. We had done that services for a while despite of my recognition, but finally stopped that around 2014. Situations have been changed dramatically since that era, however. It's time to re-start crew coordination services but conditionally now.  

These days, many of commercial and corporate video productions bring their own DPs and Directors from their home countries. What clients need in the Japanese local side is a variety of supports for productions, in this case additional crew who supports DP and director.  Today even corporate videos use expensive cameras from RED or ARRI. This suggests that budget scale for foreign video productions in Japan has been raised compared to several years ago. Some of them now have enough budget to hire supportive crew. This is exactly what happened this June.

Arranging Gaffer, Sound, Stylist, PA, and Equipment for an US corporation project in June 2018

I had the first contact from a producer on Thursday, June 13th, 2018. Her requests were a gaffer, sound, stylist(A-team and also bilingual), and lighting equipment rental. This is so-called a supportive-crew-and-dry-hire-only project. In addition, this project's shooting dates are set on June 18 and 19th (Monday and Tuesday). This is, so to speak, a sort of last-minute project. I messaged and refused her requests politely. DFS Productions have accepted projects only if we are in charge of main crew like DP, director or producer/PM/fixer. On Friday 14th, she sent me a message again, and also gave me a phone call. I explained in detail why we cannot accept this project. Problems are simple and clear; budget and time. Basically, past foreign productions did not have enough budget for supportive crew. Besides, if we would accept this project, we had only three days to arrange everything and two out of three days were weekends (Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th). We discussed the matters. In other words, say, if we could figure out the budget and time problems, we can go.  Yeah, but how?

To solve this matter, I gave her a rough estimation for this project. Before I would have contacted my people and rental dealer, the producer would ask a client if that number can be paid or not. If yes, I would contact my side and give her a response in 24 hours if or not we can make this. To my surprise, the client had enough budget for supportive crew and lighting equipment. I felt wow at that moment to be honest. One of two big problems, budget, was solved easily. Okay, next is my turn.  Time was running, and most of my crew were not available for other projects. As always in the last-minute projects, I had to use several windows to contact potential crew outside of my network. C'mon, a-team and also bilingual crew is 0.1% of the entire market. It's hard to find such people available within this limited time resource. I persuaded the producer to admit  monolinguals for sound and stylist. She said the client would understand. I secured the stylist and equipment rental on 15th. I also secured the gaffer, sound, and PA on 16th. Everything's done. 

Gaffer matters.

I(Hotaka) did a gaffer for the project. I have been worked mainly as DP and photographer these days and familiar with lighting. It is unusual for people who are already doing DP to support other DP but it was too hard to find a bilingual gaffer in my market in time.  What we use this time is like;

  2. 6x bi-color LEDs (rim/fill)
  3. Bounces, flags, 6 x c-stands, additional stands, arms, scrims, diffusions, blankets, ...etc.
  4. Magliner Jr. 

Lighting is for interviews and b-rolls in spaces with mixed lights in interior and also exterior.  These days bi-color LEDs and color temperature meter make jobs much easier and versatile. I almost cannot remember the era when we used tungsten and colour filter to match colour temperatures  (very about. We were not confident at all if color temperature of filtered lights and ambient light matched perfectly. Differences are just day light and tungsten.)  Since we had enough crew to manipulate lighting, we also satisfactorily used the modifiers not only diffusers but also flags. Supporting the DP,  I was thinking something new in my mind. This is indeed why I newly starts to accept gaffer-only job; to make long story short, it's not too bad. It's rather fun. If writing in items;

  1. I can see other DP's work very closely
  2. I can sleep enough during production!

As for No.1, it is always fun and interesting to see other DP's work closely. If you are doing exclusively DP, you rarely have a chance for it. There are always things to learn in life. I like it.   

As for No. 2, to be honest, this is my first thought why I will accept a gaffer job. When I do DP work, there are tons of responsibility. Before and during production, I cannot make a mistake and always must secure my footage for client. I often use my time after/before shooting to maintenance cameras and accessories, backing up footage, and to consider how I shoot tomorrow. As a gaffer, on the other hand, these tasks are not comparison with DP's.  Equipment maintenance? secure your light head. Does it power on? Dim/color-changed? If yes, you are already ready for production (well, I mean, C-stands rarely break!). I do not need to secure footage. This is big. It's DP's job. I also don't need to consider tomorrow's shooting. I will handle matters flexibly according to DP's vision. Client also will pay if I need to go preparation and meeting with DP in prior to shoot. As a result, I could sleep enough and also had a time to walk around area for sightseeing. I could drink. Wow, this is the difference between main crew and supportive crew. 

I thank this project and the DP to give me a chance to re-consider how to work. I will update DFS's service pages and will add "Gaffer" and "Crew Coordination" page soon.