The one person crew is often one person too few!
We all start out with humble beginnings but when is the time to start taking the pressure off your shoulders and share the load with more video crew?
I remember when I started out... too many years ago to actually remember. Back then I was a video crew of 1 and I thought I was a Titan... but we all know what happened to the Titans. Being in video production is tough, shoot days start early and often finish late, you have footage to back up and gear to put away. In the back of the mind you're thinking about the post production, the client, the next project, the bank balance and the fact that you don't really have a personal life.
So when is it a good time to bring on more video crew? My simple answer is "as soon as you can".
The point of being in business is not to scrape by. It's also not to be exhausted and stressed. I've read too many articles and heard too many stories that glorify the "burning the candle from both ends" and the "work hard, party harder" narrative. There is nothing glorious about being exhausted and there is nothing glorious about burnout... I and plenty of other video production professionals can attest to this first hand.
My advice really is simple... keep a good handle on your work life balance. I promise you that no job, regardless of how it's sold to you, is worth losing your health over. Longevity in our field as video crew is attained through being balanced in what you do and sharing the load. You don't have to begin with a huge crew, start out bringing a Production Assistant along... don't see it as just pay them the fee, see it as giving you freedom to focus on what's important... the shoot. The more you get used to working with a crew the more you'll see your work improve and the stress levels subside. I generally work with a crew of between 3 and 4, this will consist of a 2nd Camera Operator / Assistant, a Field Producer (to help with the client and taking on the soft skills), a Sound Recordist (good audio is 70% of the shoot) and myself, the DP / Director.
But what if my your client doesn't have the budget? These are the questions you constantly have to ask yourself when you run your own video production company. Is the client good enough for you? Could you convince them that a little more budget could make a big difference? Should you be trying to find a better client? It's a lot to fathom, especially when you're just starting out as a one person video crew. Ultimately, breathe... think clearly, don't be afraid to take risks and don't fall for money before your health. To all the new video shooters out there, stay strong and the best of luck on an exciting journey.
Charles Meadows is part owner of the Incubate Video Agency in South Africa. Charles films primarily in the documentary space and films throughout Africa.