Friday August 30, 2019
When I started in this business over 20 years ago the custom for prepping productions abroad was for the production manager/ producer to contact a local fixer then go to the country of choice to make contact with local authorities and open a bank account for the production.
This process has been speeded up due to the abundance of production service companies and most countries have a dedicated film office. Obviously, there is still a need to investigate the credentials of a PRC (Production Service Company) before commencing pre-production.
What are the reasons? Well if you are going to be shooting in a region where the service company is based, then they are far more likely to be up to date with local laws, have direct contact and experience with the regional authorities, know where to source experienced local crew, equipment and get you better rates on accommodation and vehicles etc.
What’s the advantage with a smaller PSC? Some of the larger service companies are only used to working with huge budgets and this does not necessarily mean they will be looking for the most cost-effective solutions for your smaller- middle budget productions. Big offices with many staff make for high running costs. A small budget project will often have a lower priority and be handed down to a freelance producer who might not go the full distance for your production. There are many out there, and often the temptation is to immediately go to a service company who displays an impressive client list and massive shot-reel. However quite often a smaller PSC can do the same job more cost-efficiently and with less fuss and bother. They will save you time and money, reduce problems and permit the producer to concentrate on his work.
Things to look out for. One thing to be very careful of is a company that immediately accepts your budget, be very wary of this as it could mean that the PSC is too inexperienced or too desperate to check the feasibility of your budget. If they accept a budget that is unrealistic and leaves little room for extra costs you could find yourself in a difficult situation further on during shooting. Better to go through it all in fine detail and make as many adjustments as needed.
Unscrupulous PSC´s exist everywhere, some producers prefer to use them as they may have better contacts with local authority’s and use “tips” to make things happen faster or more smoothly, some expect a percentage of the supplier’s fees for recommending them, some even have taken large portions of the extra’s salaries. Also, unless previously agreed in the contract they may hold on to tax refunds. If the producer is aware of this and decides to go with it then it is at his own risk. It is a question of “caveat emptor” or buyer beware. Check both yours and the services company’s insurance are adequate and have you fully covered.
Do your homework, consult the recent client list to see if the recommendations are true, ask the local film office if there have been any issues, this research will help make your shoot successful and enjoyable.