In the world of low/no budget Filmmaking finding a reliable non-paid crew can be a nightmare. For smaller shoots lasting 1 or 2 days it's usually not too big of an issue, but for anything longer than that it's almost impossible for some to put together a dependable team that is will to go through the hurdles with you.
I've seen many ambitious projects crash & burn because of zombie crews (they're neither dead or alive. They're just kind of there.) The director, of course, is very passionate about the project, but the crew look like they don't want to be there. These productions usually last a few weeks until the director/producer finally gives up because the crew slowly disappeared.
How to fix that.
To find a solution we should first understand what the problem is. The problem is this: You can't find people who care about your project like you do, so they become disinterested very fast and eventually abandon your film.
The key word here is "care." Why should they care about your movie like you do?
If everyone is getting paid they'll wake up at 5 am and work really hard all day for you because it's their JOB! They might not care about your project like you do, but they sure care about their paycheck. That paycheck means a lot to them, therefore your project means a lot to them. In other words, they give a damn!
If you're putting together a free crew for your passion project the first thing you should ask yourself is "Why should they give a damn?" Why should Billy care so much about your movie that he'll give you hours of his life to make it happen?
A friend of mine was helping a friend of his with a movie once, and my friend brought me on board to help out. I knew it was a free project and had no problems with that, but imagine my surprise when the director/producer wasn't even feeding us! This guy just assumed it was our dream to help him make his movie! So in order for his movie to happen, I would have less time for myself, less money in my wallet, more miles on my car, and 0 reward.
The project failed pretty early on. The mistake that director made was that he was so naive in believing that the crew were passionate about his project that he didn't even try to make it easier on any of us. Get real! People are selfish and are looking out for their best interest. If you getting your movie made doesn't significantly benefit your non-paid crew, you're in trouble.
They're not helping you. You're helping them.
Remember when I said people are selfish? Well, that includes you too. Don't make it all about what the crew can do for your project, but what your project can do for the crew (darn you Kennedy!). Avoid asking favors when building your team. Like I said earlier, favors can work great for a 2 day shoot, but the same people that happily agreed to help you out will grow to resent you when you've taken their 3rd straight weekend.
Luckily for you, there are tons of people out there (or 5 if you live in Tennessee) like you who are willing to work with no pay on a project that benefits them. Have you noticed how many composers there are on the internet offering to work for free on film projects? It's not because they hate money but because scoring your project benefits their reel, helps them gain more experience, and/or because they just love composing.
See? None of these reasons have to do with doing you a favor, or being too scared to say "No" when you asked. The same thing goes for actors. Don't get your friend's second cousin who studies Chemistry to be the star of your movie. Just like you want to make a movie, there are many aspiring actors who are dying to be in a movie. Once they see the benefits of working with you, they'll happily give 110% on the set. Not because they love you, but because they love themselves (and IMDB credits)!
All my rambling was to pretty much say this: If you don't have money to pay your cast and crew, make sure they benefit in other ways from your project. Unless you're a big time director/producer, you shouldn't be the sole reason they're on the set. When things get tough (and they always do) you want people who are fighting for their dreams around you, not people who are doing you a favor by just showing up.
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- Rodolphe P.