Guerilla Run-And-Gun Versus Structured Set
I’ve recently worked on both types of production––back to back in fact. After the wrap parties, I settled down for a few brews at my favorite hangout (The Boylan Bridge Brewpub) to consider the question posed to me by a friend and colleague: which type of production do I prefer to work on. By my third pint of the very delicious amber, I realized that there were things I liked and disliked about both, but I very much wanted to continue working on both types of shoots.
I should point out that I’m comparing short film to short film (short defined as less than an hour of finished work). Most shorts are typically in the six to thirty minute range.
Guerrilla run and gun productions certainly yield more spontaneity, and more finished minutes per hour of shooting. They can be much more fun for cast and crew. You show up in an alleyway, someone looks out for “trouble makers”, and you zap a scene or two out as quickly as possible. Then the filmmaker takes the footage and sound files home and works his other magic. You can really crank out a lot of material in a minimal amount of time.
Structured sets, on the other hand require many more hours of shooting (much of it set up time for the crew and rehearsal time for the director and cast). You typically need a bigger crew than guerrilla style requires (probably an on-set production manager, assistant director and script supervisor at the least, but often a dedicated lighting technician and grips/gaffers, makeup artist, and a second person on the sound team (a mixer and a boom operator/technician). The DP might bring in a few impressive pieces of gear, such as a jib, dolly, and steadicam rig. Because of the extended time, you’ll generally see some craft services tables with food, drinks, snacks, etc.
The negative aspects of guerrilla style shoots is that they are often rushed, and a senior crew member may not get the assistant(s) wanted and maybe needed. The production sound mixer may have to operate the boom microphone as well as mix (not easy to do and not advisable if you want good sound). The DP might not have lighting people or grips to help setup and move things around. You might have one or two spare utility people (PA’s) to hold bounce cards, move a prop, run an errand, hold a microphone or light, refill the coffee urn, etc.
The negative aspects of structured sets is that even short productions can take excruciating long periods of time to shoot. On some shoots, there are just way too many people in confided spaces getting in each others way.
The primary advantage of guerrilla style shoots is the satisfaction of getting a lot accomplished as quickly as possible. The primary advantage to structured set work is that you really get to learn (albeit on a smaller scale) what working on a real Hollywood set is like.
Both are great experiences to have under your belt.