Help! I’m in Production Prison

You’re the producer, your reputation is on the line, your job is on the line, and your head is on the chopping block.  Because if something’s not working on the set;  food, wardrobe, art direction, camera, sound, or anything else, you’re going to hear about it and everyone will want you to do something to rectify the situation.

Let me give a little illustration –

Some years ago I was producing a music video and we were shooting in The Tombs in NYC.  For those not familiar with The Tombs, they’re the holding cells in NY for accused criminals waiting for transport to federal prison.  The client wanted to shoot there.  Yes, they did – something about authenticity.   So arrangements were made and we were allowed to shoot from 6pm until 4am when prisoners were sent below somewhere I wasn’t privy to.  As you can imagine security getting in and getting out wasn’t just tight – it was sealed up – as in, once the crew and talent were inside, no one could leave until the entire crew left.  That meant, there would be no runs to any store for anything that was needed once  inside.  Everything needed to be carefully and skillfully prepared before 6pm the day of the shoot.   In addition the crew needed to be a small as possible.  In particular, we couldn’t have catering or craft services on the ‘set’.  That meant I had to ensure all arrangements were made for the proper amount of food and beverage for a 10 hour work day.

While I have always been prepared to expect the unexpected, I didn’t think rats would abscond with the some of the food while we waited to take our meal break.  I was forced to order the food that had been picked at by those nasty rodents to be thrown out.  That left precious little for a crew that had been working for five hours in 102 degree heat with no windows inside an actual jail.  Needless to say, I didn’t just get dirty looks, at that point I had a bull’s eye painted on my chest and back and it was target practice time for the crew, because in the end, it falls on you the producer.

So – here’s a little tip.  If you find yourself in a position of having to shoot in a place you can’t leave make sure your food budget is large.  And then make sure you keep the food under wraps – as in hermetically sealed.