Ten things I learned while producing my first feature film.

1- Prep is everything.

Most Guys are Losers was filmed in the Chicago suburbs, with a tentative day to start production the first week of November. I got there three weeks before we were supposed to start, and even though we had already settled on the main location we still had to find a bar-restaurant, get city permits for outside scenes, arrange and book a basecamp for every location, find parking, hire crew, and get a catering company. Basically prep a feature film in a strange city in three weeks. It was madness, and if my producing partner (from Chicago) handn't joined the project and worked his connections, the film would never have happened with so little prep before principal photography. Add to that, snow, tons of fluffy snow. Why didn't we take more time to prep? Six weeks at least? Budget. It's always the budget. Still, it's a very bad idea to skimp on prep.

2-Dealing with SAG is difficult

and time consuming. Start the signatory process early. Gather all the materials before applying

  • (Gather Film LLC documents, subscription agreement, budget, script, and registration with USCO (the US Copyright office). USCO takes a long time (unless expedited). Plan way ahead to save $ on this. Actors' contracts have to be sent, CAMA agreement... depending on who you get from SAG, they can be a bit more lenient or strict on the paperwork and the timing to submit it. It's better to be ultra-prepared.
  • If your film has children, SAG will ask for the studio teacher's name and their credentials. Lock down this person early.
  • If the script has stunts, SAG want to know the name of the stuntwoman or man.
  • Make sure to have 40% of the actors' salary set aside to pay SAG's bond. (you get it back later, but much later, so you're out of pocket for a while.)

It's very hard to work with SAG, but there's no way around it.

3- Child actors.

If your child actor is from CA, but you're shooting in another state, the studio teacher has to be California certified. The company On Location Education provided guidance, help and went above and beyond to make sure our child actor could work, given the hours on set for children are limited. I'm beyond grateful to them and their excellent service.

Most Guys are losers poster
Most Guys are losers second poster

4-Build a relationship with

your payroll company. If you can meet them in person that's even better. It's a relationship that lasts after the film is wrapped and goes into post and residuals. Ideally your payroll company can handle residuals as well, so you can keep working with them. If your production is dealing with several unions make sure your payroll company has worked with those unions, like IATSE (some small payroll companies only work with SAG and DGA). Knowing that your payroll company has worked with all the unions you're making contracts with will give you piece of mind and will make your life so much easier.

5-Value ability more than experience,

bet on brains and put smart, talented people in roles where they can grow and shine. A production coordinator is so important and so valuable. In Chicago, not knowing a lof of people I depended on the coordinator and assistant coordinator a LOT. These guys didn't have a ton of experience but they came from the music festival, live event world and they were problem solvers. They went above and beyond, they brought their friends to work on the film in various roles and they all gave their best. There was not a task or challenge thrown at them that they couldn't accomplish. One day, we needed a ramp for a wheelchair, out of nowhere the guys brought a carpenter and the ramp was built in a matter of hours. I look forward to the next project so we can work together again–albeit with way more time to prep.

6- Take time with your casting director

and discuss your budget. Can you afford a lavish trailer, first-class plane tickets, and a limo to the airport? Also, be specific. If you're providing transportation in the form of Uber reimbursement or a town car– spell out the details in the contract. Vague contracts can cost a lot of money later.

  • Familiarize yourself with SAG rules so you don't get caught off guard. For example, actors cannot change costumes in a bathroom, they need a trailer or a bedroom. Some of these rules are in the SAG website but some are not. ADs and experienced producers can give a lot of advice.

7- Take time with your accountant

they are the bridge between you (producer) and the payroll company. They can make your job so easy. They can help with tax incentive paperwork and build relationships with the film office in the state where you're filming. They can help liaise with unions on your behalf when you're swamped and need all the help you can get. They can provide guidance and warn you about union penalties, overtime, and protect you from costly mistakes.

8- Take time to hire the crew

and make sure they're the right fit. You're going knee-deep in the weeds with this group of people. The right crew makes the process of making movies super fun. They become your brothers and sisters. They're pulling for the project as hard as you are. They want to see you succeed. The film is the crew. Also, when you take time to hire your crew, you can pay more attention to whom you're hiring. Does your crew represent the country we live in? Are you hiring women? Are you hiring people of color? Are you providing opportunities for first-timers?

9- This is so obvious I'm hesitant to write about it, but here it is.

Is your relationship with the director solid? Does the director have your back as much as you got his or hers? Do you know the director well? It is very important to be on the same page with this person.

10- Have cash in hand.

Always have a wallet full of cash baby. You got a dog that won't stop barking and is ruining your sound, use your wallet full of cash to pay the dog's owner. Maybe they can take their dog on a walk until the scene is over, or to a friend's house. You got a neighbor that's complaining about the number of cars parked in the neighborhood, that wallet will come in handy. Or some random person asking for a permit that you couldn't get because there was a last-minute change or whatever-the cash will save you.


are everything. When you have a good relationship with your vendors they will save your ass, give you a discount, and go and above and beyond. Relationships with city employees that did you a HUGE favor when they didn't have to. Companies that provide free water, free meals, and free coffee because you have a relationship with one person that works for that company. Family members that become your best allies and bend over backward to help you when they don't have to, friends, or friends of friends that introduce you to their connections, get you better deals without asking for anything in return. Remember these people, take them to dinner, get them a present, tell them how much you appreciate them. They're the ones that will be there for you time and time again if you take care of them the same way they took care of you.

Making movies is hard, but it's also a ton of fun. As a friend says, it's not open-heart surgery, a life is not on the line. It's supposed to be fun.