One of the very first shoots I ever worked on mainly took place in an old, empty warehouse downtown. The AD was very adamant about kicking everyone off set that didn't have to be there, so the grips and electrics spent a lot of time just hanging out around the truck, smoking cigarettes and swapping stories. I remember one lively discussion topic being about cheap ass producers and skewed budgets. It's not uncommon for a producer to aim for a high production value when they don't have the cash for it, so they'll often splurge on the good stuff like high end dollies, state of the art jibs, and big ass lights. This becomes a problem when they decide to skimp on the crew to save money. Sure, they now have the fancy equipment to make their film look great, but they're not going to have enough crew to use it. Or they may have enough guys, but based on the rate they're getting paid, they're not going to know much. And a PA does not an electrician make.
This kind of story comes back time and time again. I can't tell you how many times I've been on a shoot where the crew size should've been at least double what it actually was. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the world of independent film.
Though I've been out of the game for a little while now (darn you actors and your non-existent contracts!), I was reminded of this silly little practice today when I got an e-mail from a director/producer. Apparently, he wanted to hire me for his project this weekend, but could only afford to pay $25/day.
Yeah, that's right. $25/day. WTF??
Apparently, he sacrificed a huge part of the budget so he could hire a really good DP, and is now left with almost nothing to pay for a crew. In my opinion, that's just ass backwards. You can have a pretty inexperienced DP, but if you hire the rest of the crew well, they can fill in the gaps for him and stuff ends up turning out pretty well. And from what I've seen, people who have had as taste for the good life (ie: productions with money, labor rules, and/or a well-seasoned crew) generally have a hard time going back to a shoot with no budget where they have to do everything themselves.
The sad thing is, I probably would've took the job if they at least offered me minimum wage. But I guess what's even sadder is that they couldn't even afford that. Silly people...