Local vs Traveling your crew

As someone who works on a crews and especially as a sound mixer I have noticed that travel jobs have got less as more and more productions only look to hire locals. It seems that having a team that works together as a well oiled machine isn't considered a priority any more. I have lost count of the horror stories that I have heard. Many producers have told me that they wish that they could have travelled me but the bean counters in the office won't let them. I've had many DPs who have traveled say to me 'I wish you could have come with us on that shoot as you just know how we work. I have had editors tell me that having so many different guys with different equipment and different ways of working makes their job more of a challenge when it would have been easier to have consistency. It seems to me that it is often a false economy just to try and pinch pennies on flying one or two extra people. Why can't productions see that the advantages far outweigh the costs.


  • edited January 2017

    I always prefer to find a way to make it work $$ using my most trusted crew(s), even if it means traveling them. It's getting harder to do as budgets shrink, but if the budget allows - travel the crew.

  • It's unfortunate that it has come to this. I personally wind up traveling myself quite often for long term jobs and work as a local as most production companies seem to be hiring locals only nowadays. Typically though, when hiring real 'locals', you get what you pay for.

  • I am in that predicament right now, and is all due to the bottom line! Need to travel to the West Coast to shoot several short spots in several cities, they want me to hire local talent for everything except the LP and myself. Not a fun process.

  • I have noticed this lately, too. I'm located in Pennsylvania so finding consistent production work here is tough, but not impossible. I've been on two shows over the last two years that hired me as a traveling crew member and I would like to see it happen more in 2017, but I won't hold my breath.

    It's an illusion of saving. The company looks at how much they're saving on travel/lodging but they don't see how the show can suffer in the end. Different people = different gear. If you hire local cam ops and want them to supply gear and you are forced to use two different cameras then that makes more work on the editors. That's just one example but there are many more, as I'm sure you all have experienced in one way or another.

    I'm hoping good things are to come for all of us in 2017.

  • As someone situated primarily in post, I'll just say that I've had several instances in the recent past where the work of subpar work by local crew (audio & camera) caused definite problems, to the point where the local crew members had to eventually be replaced by LA traveling crew.

    I am totally right there re: advantages outweighing the costs, but convincing people to beef up their budgets is so challenging for ANY department these days, regardless of how much it may make sense to do so.

  • I get it from the locals perspective, that we may be taking work from that specific economy. But having a complete and trusted crew is invaluable. As many of us have, I have traveled to work as a local for longer gigs. And I have been there as we cycle through local crew that have not been up to par. There are also plenty that have been amazing. In the end , you want to have a group of people who trust each other and get along. Sacrificing for the dollar up front more than likely leads to higher expense in the long run or a lesser quality product.

  • I hear all these points and yes there is truth in all. I am a DP/Camera op who's has struggled with the travel vs. local myself as productions have hired locals instead of using myself. If it's a longer production such as a series show, It's obviously better to have a consistent qualified crew. However I have also lost jobs in my area because they travel crews who work as "locals" which is also not fair. As for local crews not being qualified I believe that is due to the lack of someone doing their due diligence and probably more due to the fact that they choose a local because of their low ball rate. I believe there are plenty of qualified local crews in every market. If I wasn't available I could recommend a dozen DP's who are just as experienced as myself. And if your thinking well maybe I am probably not as good as I think I am, well I have over 20 highly reputable recommendations from Reality TV, Network tv, AD agencies and Corporate executives. It doesn't matter what my area code is I have traveled all over the world for television! I live where I live because I love my family to much to move them to a major metropolitan city not because I'm not good enough to compete.

  • I travel 90 percent of the year. Most of the crews have worked together on other shows for many of the same producers. Trust and respect says a lot. That is why producers hire and travel the same crew members.

  • I do totally get when a show out of, say New York is shooting a quick interview in Los Angeles. They fly out the segment producer and find a small two man crew to shoot the interview. I've actually got a ton of work that way being the local on the West Coast. I understand having local PAs who know the area to do the driving and shop for all the little art and other accessories that might be needed, and the fact they probably know the best places to eat in town as well is a bonus.

    My frustration is that I would think the production sound mixer should be one of the key crew, but this is always the first job that is pushed aside when trying to save pennies, and is often the area that post has the most issues with (so I hear from my post friends) when dealing with varying quality of deliverables, file structures etc. Not only that as a sound guy on smaller doc style shoots I often end up being the guy to help move lights, and assist camera in various ways. After a few days of working with the same DP it does become a very efficient relationship so why not take advantage of that rather than having the crew figuring out how to find their groove in every different location.

  • I am hoping that when those who hire look at their locations, they keep notes of those who are local and worked well with them. And that they will rehire them next time they are in the area or will at least share names with others that may be coming to the area. I work as a PA mostly, but am a Set Medic and can do Crafty as well. I will work anywhere in Texas as a local, and other spots out of Texas where my friends live so I have a place to stay.

  • Working largely in the crew base gap between Pittsburgh and the northeast, sound seems to be one of the only departments that routinely settle for locals. The hardest part is actually how it seems to separate me from my local peers. I get steady gigs as a head, but my friends are perpetually restricted to over undercard jobs.

  • I work as a DP and am fortunate to have clients who put a great emphasis on our relationship. I know what my clients need, and they know I'll deliver. One of the secrets to that success is that I make sure that my crew travels with me. Enough cannot be said about building a team that works well together. As a DP, the quality of my work and the overall efficiency of the shoot is not the same when the team gets broken up. It leads to second guessing, assuming something is covered then finding out that it wasn't, not knowing what gear you have or where it is... Things become a mess. Fortunately, there are still plenty of clients who understand that they're going to get the best product and have the best experience on set from people they know, believe in, and trust.

  • I am a DP/ Operator outside of the LA, NY, Altlanta markets. But in a decent sized mid level market. We have great local crew, rental houses, etc. We literally have all the crew and gear any shoot might need, live, reality, doc, studio feature. Our locals are top notch. I'm sick of outside productions flying in crew from LA and NY thinking they are better when they are not.

    I've worked as a local in my city and have had producers,Camera Ops, and DPs come in with less expeince than us and want to blame us for our lack of knowledge when they went from PA to Producer in LA in 2 years because they are willing to work for peanuts just so they can be called producer. They come in knowing nothing thinking ohh I'm from LA I know everything.

    I see the reverse problems all the time. I've been traveled by productions far and wide to nearly every state in the US except one. My preference is to hire locals! As much as I'd like you to don't fly me across the US to shoot in Pheonix there is great crew there hire me as a local where I live so I don't have to seek and do traveling work.

    The only issue I see is these Traveling crew is Egos. Many citys have a great local community of very talented people. Maybe you didn't find them, maybe they weren't available, maybe you couldn't pay their rate, or maybe they were on a traveling show be cause to many people won't hire them as a local.

    There is an inverse problem to every issue. In LA and NY everyone's a producer, DP, audio mixer. In a smaller market city the locals with the credits and gear to get the top level work have ussually found their nitch after have had years of doing every job in every dept. they know the ins and outs of every part of production they know how it works as a whole. I can name 30 producers from LA or NY that have no idea how a camera works, what a prime lens is, how to wrap a cable, or why it would take more than 5 minutes to set up an interview in a location I haven't seen. On top of that I have no Gaffer, grip, or AC to help because they were to cheap to hire one because they brought most of the crew from out of state.

    I've made some of the highest rated shows on TVs as a local with locals with no issues. This just seems like people from over saturated markets complaining because they are not getting enough work so there blaming locals elsewhere and telling themselves and others that they are better so hopefully they get work.

  • I'm the production coordinator at a small company. We not only serve our direct clients on script-to-screen projects, we also provide crew and gear to folks coming in to town to shoot for a day or two or three. These aren't big productions or long term commitments- it's usually a 2-person crew, with maybe a grip or a PA for primarily corporate communications.

    Sometimes we book a crew to shoot back story on a local reality show contestant (the newest Bachelorette? Yeah, we did that). We pick up odd segments for news orgs as far away as Australia, as close as Austin. We shoot for C-Span. We shoot through crewing agencies. We shoot for sprawling multi-city companies, for tiny companies you've never heard of, for live stream. Producers find us online, through a referral from a colleague, through an agency.

    We hold quarterly Coffee Hour meet-n-greets to bring new folks in and try them out. We have our own professional camera gear and a pool of long-time freelancers that is both wide and deep. I know everyone of them, their strengths and their specialties. I listen to our clients and ask questions and get information. When I crew a shoot it's with professionals that you'd be happy to go have a beer with after a challenging 10-hour day. And when we screw up (and we do) we fix it til the customer is satisfied.

    We get repeat business from clients all over the country BECAUSE we're local, flexible, make financial sense, and we're good at what we do.

  • edited August 2017

    I used to be a field producer (now showrunner). It depends on the project/budget. I would prefer to travel the DP and soundperson so that we can set up quickly and obtain the same look and consistency to the series. But most of the time we only travel the DP and take a chance on a local soundperson, which can be risky in remote parts of the country. Having said that, I once did a project for Nat Geo where we hired all local crews around the US. Through my connections, I was able to find top top quality documentary DP's and Sound in all of my locations and honestly, because they were all so good, and I was there to supervise, the quality and look of the episode did not suffer at all. In fact, it looked better because these DP's were used to shooting at these locations so they knew all the great footage to obtain.

  • Wow Cecile, that actually sounds dreamy. All locals and perfection, can you be my producer? LOL
    One thing I have had to learn through the years as a DP is to be on top of the sound person, I always ask the director to let the sound person know that I am in charge of checking the sound and perhaps even planning how to record. Now this only comes with experience in the field, but it allows us to hire a local person and if I see an issue then take over on how it will be done. I always have a receiver from the mix split into camera and my headphones so I can most of the time hear any issues. While I believe this should be done by the director, many do not have the technical background to know when something is wrong.


  • Carlos I swear I'm not lying. LOL And yes it took some good producing, sleuthing to find DP's who had shot for PBS, the news magazine shows etc for this Nat Geo episode ... Sometimes the DP was not exactly from that location but within a good range. We shot in Calgary (DP out of Portland OR), Houston (out of Houston), New Jersey (out of NYC), Yellowstone (DP out of Jackson), Hawaii (DP in Hawaii), White Sands (out of Albuquerque)

  • Damn, I want to be the DP on that show, but traveling everywhere ;-)
    I believe you, there is great talent all around and you obviously did great research. Main reason why I hate producing ;-)
    NatGeo, how do I get to shoot for them, is one of my dream jobs. But commercial and documentary is what keeps me going.


  • Carlos, this just proves that the ideal situation is to travel a sound person that you know and trust. In the end making shows is a team effort. If sound and camera are in sync with each other then you as a DP can relax somewhat knowing that the sound guy has your back. You wouldn't need to be 'on top of sound' so much and you could devote your 100% of your energy into shooting beautiful images.

  • Completely agree. That is just a base rule to make sure everything works. Only had to use it once and he was very receptive and we did a great job. There is great talent out there, so that is a safety rule. I rather travel with the entire crew, makes it more fun too!

  • The best way to avoid local hire issues is to start with a local PM (who you have researched in detail prior to bringing on) and let them do the local hires, equip rentals, location scouting etc. If the company producer doesn't make this choice and instead tries to hire directly in a local market then they are putting their production at risk. Hiring a good PM will make their job less risky, more profitable, and smooth. This used to be a thing. Not so much any more.

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