Picking the right video team for your project is essential. I try to use professionals as often as possible, but I also like to use volunteer production assistants from time to time. It’s a great way for volunteers to get film experience, and for you to get the extra help you so often need on a shoot.
While volunteers are great to work with, there are some important factors to consider when bringing someone on your team. Are they eager to learn? Do they seem enthusiastic about pitching in? Do they have good references? Will they show up?
I always try to meet with my volunteers before a shoot. One of the key ways I determine whether or not I will work them is what kinds of questions they ask. The ideal candidate may or may not know anything about video production. Either way, if they ask me about the shoot and seem earnestly interested about it, they usually turn out being great volunteers. I ask them for references because I want to be sure I have someone who is going to show on time and act professionally. What I don’t like is someone who talks about themselves incessantly, trying to impress me with how much they know.
Local colleges are a great place to get interns/volunteers for your video team, but don’t limit yourself. I’ve had people work with me who have never taken a college film course, and sometimes they have turned out to be better than film students.
A case in point…On a recent shoot, I had the volunteer production assistant cancel at the last minute. The client suggested I call a woman who had volunteered for the client’s event. The woman turned out to be one of the best production assistants I’ve ever worked with. She used to be a first grade teacher. She knows something about staying organized and calm under fire. Plus, she knows A LOT about crowd control. (Her name is Mary Gregory, and you can see her photo attached to this article.)
Probably the best recommendation a team member can get is when a client comes back to me and says that the team member was a joy to work with. And that’s what it’s all about for you as a video producer…Putting together the right team for the job, getting exceptional video and audio, AND making sure that everyone has a great experience on the shoot!
(Photo of One of My Video “Dream Teams” - From left to right: Ben Cassidy, sound technician; Cristina Cassidy, video producer, camera; Mary Gregory, production assistant; Rachel Nicole Foley, second camera, co-producer)