In Europe, if you are lucky, there’s a coffee machine on the hallway of the broadcasting corp. and a producer who found a couple coins still left in his pocket, or even better, on the floor! On this hallway the crew member will find a safe haven between productions. In Europe "less is more". Less money, less time, less people and often less seats filled. But not to worry. For years some films have reached the status of a masterpiece if viewed by friends only. So thus on the Old Continent less can indeed be more, while trying to sort out where a German actor working in a French film shot in Iceland pays his taxes. Yes, its’ about art.
Technical innovations affect on both sides of the pond. Editing with computers instead of moviolas has changed the traditional route an assistant might become an editor and how to get work can be as tough in both "systems". In the US the union/non union rules affect, but there is also a Supreme Court decision on people’s right to work. In Europe unions hardly have the same kind of power as the ones in Hollywood. Yet this does not mean that the famous ”tea breakes” of the British crews would not have caused bewilderment for Kubrick (see above). If you want to endulge yourself in the practical differences between US and UK filmmaking, just take a look at the rules on what and in which order to fill the clapperboard!
Perhaps one of the key differences to keep in mind is that US crews have so much more working hours behind them than a European one will hardly ever be able to reach them. This will will no doubt also affect the quality seen on screen, whether big or small. HBO TV productions with DOPs who have started in film and then gone television is a reversal of the route,but the quality is there.
The work by the Ford stock company, the Malpaso team of Eastwood or Bergman’s trusted allies continue to dazzle us. Film crews form a family of sorts. Each of these teams, whether in Asia, Europe, North America or at the backyard of your house, soon have their own dynamics, while trying to get it all done before the sun sets. Just remember who you are (what you are worth) when making the deal. In the end what matters is how many set ups and shooting days you get.
by Atso Parnanen