As an addendum to our story on An American in Texas, we asked MovieMaker readers to share their experiences of losing cast or crew at the last minute—and their advice for avoiding the scenario.
“Weeks before principal, I lost my 1st AD after his wife served him with divorce papers. When that happens, project calm. If the outgoing crew member is leaving on good terms, ask him or her for recommendations. Then start making calls. Be upfront with the people you’re calling and tell them exactly what’s going on—there’s no point in sugarcoating.” – Shaun O’Banion
“Have a shortlist of ‘durable, tested, go-to’ types who can serve as back up in an emergency.” – Mike Messier
“On the day, two hours into filming, my AD was ‘stuck on another set’ and ‘would not be able to make it, sorry.’ I will never use a volunteer AD again!” – Charles Doran
“My sound operation quit, and a crew member recommended a ‘great’ sound person—his girlfriend—who forgot to press the ‘record’ button. We had no sound for an entire day’s shoot! I rewrote the scene to take place at a later location and it worked pretty well (we got into Sundance!). No matter how desperate or pressed for time you are, screen replacement crew members. Ask questions and insist on references.” – David Paterson
“Our 2nd AC was constantly smoking pot and getting lost trying to find our locations. There is a time and place for drugs—and the place is not on set.” – Robert A. Torres
“Stranded and terrified, I hit up Facebook, friends in the business, and Craigslist—and met an amazing DP.” – Clark D. Schaefer
“On low-budget indie productions, my rule of thumb is to book three times as many PAs as you think you’ll need. A third won’t show, a third won’t realize they need to actually work, and a third will work their butts off.” – Rob Kates
“In an emergency, I cast a 44-year-old man who had not acted since high school as my lead in a feature, with a day to memorize lines. I had already accepted other people’s money and in good conscience I could not let them down. At the end of it, we did not have enough footage for our feature—but we got about 40 solid minutes and are turning the adventure into a doc.” – Mike Messier
“When hiring, listen to your DP. A good DP is part talent, part mystic. They know.” – Lis Anna-Langston
“Hold auditions not just to see who’s right for a part, but to see who’s actually going to show up.” – Jesse Hanna
This article appears in MovieMaker‘s Fall 2016 issue, currently on newsstands.