At Grey House, people are everything.
So naturally, when it comes to building our crews, we put a lot of thought and care into aligning people who are not only a great cultural fit, but who we feel will thrive on a given job based on the client and director or photographer. Here’s what we look for in our crew, and how we set them up for success.
The go-to crew
Like most production houses, we have a go-to crew of people that we rely on for standard jobs — the people we hire time and time again. Most of those people have found their way into our office (and our hearts!) by personal recommendation, which we take seriously. But if those people are already booked, or if it’s an especially busy week for production, then we’ll begin to look outside for new faces.
Especially locally in Chicago, if we’ve worked with someone at least once before, then they’ll be higher on our call list. But on occasion, we’ve had to look outside of our regular crew and open up jobs to new faces. If someone really wants to join our team, I will almost always give them a meeting — in part, because I enjoy connecting with people, but more so because it’s important to vet someone face-to-face to gauge their communication style and interpersonal skills before working together.
With PAs, I’m looking to see how thorough and detailed they’ll be. If I mention having a call at 10am, will they call on time? If I don’t answer an email right away, will they follow up? And will they do so with poise? Mostly, I want to know that they’re flexible and can plan ahead. So whereas in a typical work scenario, my instinct is to clearly communicate the details — this is where you should park, this is how you get into the building, this is how you should prepare, etc. — if I’m truly trying to vet someone versus just getting to know them, then I’ll be watching to see how they handle new scenarios without instruction.
With a stylist or an assistant or anyone I’m sitting down with for the first time, I listen to how they talk about their work. It’s not an interview…but it’s close. I’ll ask about experiences they’ve found themselves in, and listen for things that I can’t teach. I can teach them our preferred craft service display or how to load in at a location; I can’t teach initiative or gumption or good communication skills. Those things are innate to people, and come with emotional intelligence, so I’m looking to test those out ahead of time.
With Chicago it’s a very proactive scenario, meeting with potential new crew members. Travel jobs are typically more reactive, in that we don’t have an opportunity to meet our crew until we need them. For those jobs, I’ve got a three-tier approach. I’ll first reach out to people who I’ve worked with before, or who’ve worked with others I know. Second, I’ll look to my regional networks for recommendations, typically via Make Create or ProductionHUB. Third, I simply have to look for someone brand new. I honestly try to never resort to the third tier. But sometimes, it’s a last-minute job or really busy week, and that’s the way it goes. And that’s part of my job: handle anything! It’s never a case like, “Oh crap, I have to fill this position.” It’s being able to find someone who’s going to work with the team members we already have in place, pull off the timeline, be professional and excel in their craft —and all of those things that matter on set. It’s way beyond just finding a person that has the right skillset and is available. It’s about finding someone who will not only fit into our group, but who will eb and flow seamlessly the the team in demeanor and skill.
Building the team
Even with the people I do know, I’m always thinking about building a team for a specific photographer or director, and to help everyone thrive in context. If we’re working with a photographer we haven’t worked with before, I’ll talk with them about their preferences on set: Do they want someone on their lighting team who has a really strong opinion and who will weigh in? Or do they want someone on their team that won’t push back? Do they want a digital tech that’s super-encouraging? Or someone who’s very technical and will otherwise stay out of the way? Do they want a stylist that’s going to bring options and feel strongly about their own artistic vision? Or just someone who says yes to the client and isn’t necessarily looking to impart their point of view to the look?
No matter the job, I’m taking all of these things into consideration: temperaments and personality, understanding the client and their needs, being mindful of the timeline; gauging the talent (do we have kids? celebrities? animals?) and so forth. All of these factors matter, and all of them will ultimately determine the people that make up each custom tailored Team Grey House.
Building a crew of your own? We’re always happy to share our resources list, or give a personal recommendation based on your needs.