If you are trying to do film projects in your classroom, it is important to get everyone involved.
So everyone needs a job, a different job.
On a film set everyone is encouraged to "stay in your lane". That means to do your job and your job only. Film has a chain of command, and there can only be one person in charge of the production. That person is the director. I assign a student to be the director, but I let them know I have the final call. As teacher, I assume the role of producer and make sure the students are able to make a film by providing them with the gear necessary and provide supervision of the entire production process. I usually assign an assistant producer to arrange for other locations and handle the business end of the production. I have tried to keep these positions as true to the industry as possible.
Film crews vary in size. As a teacher, you could put the students in groups of 5-7 students and have them make a films. When I did this in my class, I had the student do silent movies and kept the actors to a minimum. Numbers never work out evenly and students are always going to be absent. I figured out it is best to just a do a whole group production. I would prefer to have crew of no more then 24 students. At most schools you are going to have a few more. These are in order of my chain of command.
1 Director - They are responsible for keeping the film production going on even when the teacher is not engaged in production process. I let them know they are charge of the production and I am in charge of the classroom.
2 Assistant Director The AD is responsible for running rehearsals and keeping the production on time. I put them in charge of the production assistants.
3 Assistant Producer The assistant producer helps to keep the classroom going. I usually have the make copies of the script and any paperwork.
4 Director of Photography/Camera Operator The camera operator is the person who will be setting up the shots and capturing them. The DP is responsible for the look of the film. I encourage this person to change the settings until they see an improvement. I combine these roles because this isn't Hollywood and I need students elsewhere.
5 Script Supervisor This student is making sure that everything gets captured. They also take notes on which takes are good. It is helpful to have this person record the settings from the camera. If someone is absent, they have this information to match the settings to get the same look.
6 1st AC or Focus Puller. This student is in charge of getting the camera in focus and helping to set up the camera.
7 2nd AC or slate In this position they help to set up the camera, work with the 1st AC to set marks for actors and everyone's favorite job slate the shots.
8 Gaffer/Lighting Depending on the equipment available you may be able to add more people. The key here is to have enough light to shoot the scene. This person needs to work with the DP to get the look you are going for. I recommend keeping it simple. It is a horror film it needs low light. It is a comedy it need to be brightly lit.
9 Actor 1 Realistically you may only 1-2 students who can act. Unless you are fortunate to have a lot of drama students in your class. You are going to need a few students who can fake it. I usually pick students who are extroverts like cheerleaders, chorus or band students. They can usually take the pressure of having everyone look at them. The fewer actors the better, if not getting coverage will be an issue.
10 Actor 2 This is your 2nd actor.
11 Key Production Assistant 1 This is one position that will help where needed and will assigned to help by the assistant director. They will help assign the other production assistants duties.
12 Background actor 1 This is where you might want to use some 2-3 students who are well liked, but may not have the acting or technical skills. These students may have one line to deliver or may have some action in the film. One of the scripts I use has a character who shows up late for class. It is a funny character so everyone gets a good laugh. This helps the students get into the character.
13 Background actor 2
14 Art Department 1 Set Decorator This student works with the DP to place objects on set to be seen by camera.
15 Art Department 2 Props for this job you really need someone who is going find all the prop necessary for the scene.
16 Production Assistant 2 The PA in this position will be in charge of lock ups. When you are recording, they will make sure that no one enters the set. They are standing at entrance to keep the production from getting interrupted at a critical point.
17 Production Assistant 3 The PA
18 2nd Assistant Director The 2nd AD is in charge of paperwork including the call sheet. Briefly, the call sheet is a document that lets the crew know what scenes are being recorded and who is working in which jobs. Assuming you have a classroom printer the students would get one everyday for the next day of recording.
19 Boom Operator - This is the student who aims the boom pole to record the best audio. This takes a bit of technique. I try to demonstrate to the students the difference in sound quality by showing the difference between a microphone that is aimed at the actor versus one that is aimed to the side of the actor.
20 Audio Mixer- This student is responsible for recording the audio. They press record on recorder, adjust levels as necessary and monitor for any problems. When we are short on crew members, we plug the camera straight into the camera and monitor the audio there. Just make sure that the camera setting are correct and you are not dealing with onboard audio.
21 Data Wrangler - This student is responsible for copying the footage to a hard drive or computer. It is best to make multiple copies. I prefer to use several small SD cards and keep the footage on the card until the production is over. To back up the footage on a Mac I create a disc image of the card. This is stored on an external or several external drives. Another method, I have used is to simply drag a copy of the footage into a folder and label the folder with scene number. I don't recommend this method unless you are certain that it will not mess up the file structure.
22 Editor - On my most recent productions, I made the whole class edit the final project. However this fills another position and keeps a student busy during the production process. As long as the student has access to a computer that can usually edit the previous days recordings. On the first day, have this student work on a credit roll and a title sequence.
23 Assistant Editor - I have this student import, label the footage and place in bins according to scene. For example, if a shot is scene 1 take 2, then label the shot sc1-tk2. Then that footage is put in the bin for scene 1 and sort the good takes from the bad takes. Later this footage is easy to find. Another duty they can perform is to synchronize the audio from the audio recorder to the video. Hopefully, your software will make this an easy job. You can manual synchronize the audio by lining up the sound of the slate from the audio recording with the scratch/camera audio.
24 Production Assistant 4 - You can never have too many production assistants. You may have this student tag along with you. When a problem pops up, assign them to fix it. It could that someone is absent or that the wind is blowing props around. Something will happen, and that is where they can be assigned.
25 Behind the Scene Photographer - It is a good idea to have a student take some pictures of the production process. These are good PR for your program. These can be used promote your final film or to share with parents.
26 Make Up Person - If you have a student or students who are interested this can be a valuable position.
Sure you are probably going to have a few more students. They can be background actors or PAs. My second year class are usually smaller and I have to do my productions with less students.
Chris Holcomb is the film teacher at Griffin High School in Griffin Georgia. His program is located in the heart of the growing Georgia film industry. Before coming to GHS he started the broadcast video programs at Ola High and Cordova High School. Chris developed an interest in film at an early age when he took test visual effects shots for a Star Wars fan film he wanted to make in elementary school. Chris started his career producing educational and sports programming at the University of Mississippi. He continues to produce videos and work freelance during his free time.