________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 14 . . . . March 2, 2007


The Crew.

Michael Rouse (Producer & Director).
Vancouver, BC: Lakeland Productions (Distributed by Filmwest Associates www.filmwest.com ), 2005.
2 DVDs (6 x 22 min.), District/division media centres & universities $995.00; Individual K-12 schools $495.00; Public libraries (no public performance rights), $295.00.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters and Sean Brown.

*** /4


Films, video, television production it all seems so glamourous. Choosing costumes, designing special effects, decorating sets, making a hair-style perfect for the star of a show it's all part of being a member of "the crew." Members of a generation who have spent their lives in front of one video screen or another are undoubtedly interested in finding out how to break into film production, and The Crew, a six-part series, offers an understanding of the various departments which work together to form a film production unit. It is intended to give students a sense of the business, what it's about, and how to get started in the many careers possible in film production.

      Each episode of The Crew follows the work of technicians from three film production departments as they perform their work. And, it's genuine I recognized actors from Da Vinci's Inquest as I watched all six episodes! I knew that no job is as "glamorous" as it looks, and, as I viewed the various segments, I heard costumers talk about friends who said, "Oh great, you get to shop for a living," not realizing that a costumer's shopping is neither recreational nor leisurely, and might involve desperate drives from one mall to another, chasing down a remaining wardrobe item. And although one might be paid very well for one's work on "the crew," life in film production is often a "feast or famine" existence. As a cameraman pointed out, "You work sunrise to sunset for three weeks, and then you're unemployed for three months." Still, a hairdresser in the "pretties department" (i.e. costume, make-up, and hair) began her career by volunteering to help with hair styling in amateur theatre, and over time, just came to love the work. Despite everything, members of the crew believe that "things in the end are great," and their enthusiasm carries them through and over the bumps.

      But The Crew is intended as an informational DVD for teachers and career counselors. I asked Sean Brown, Career Intern at Kelvin High School, to view the video and provide his insights into how it might be used. Sean wrote that The Crew offers an "in-depth look into the world of film making; it's a great example of an informative, documentary-style educational series. It gives the viewer a realistic look into the expectations and responsibilities of a career in film production."

      The casual nature of the participants in The Crew is the winning factor for its target audiences. By presenting the next generation of film production crews with energetic subjects, the students will easily relate to the technician and his/her responsibilities. It is refreshing that the editing format stayed away from the modern MTV fast-cutting style which is so commonly used to grab the attention of young adults. The Crew maintained a contemporary presentation and style without distracting from the content.

      The young and enthusiastic members of the crew help keep the energy high as viewers are taken through the different aspects of the industry, an approach which makes this a fantastic tool for educators to inform students about the employment opportunities in the film industry. The six-episode series makes it highly accessible for students as they could view portions or entire episodes, individually or in a class setting. As for providing viewers with the secrets of breaking into the industry, it is hard to judge if "secrets" were unveiled. However, in providing positive, interesting subjects and specifics about each position, the tools to make an informed career choice are clearly outlined. Each episode is well-balanced, with three different aspect of the production crew covered. In some cases, such as the camera segment, I would have liked to see more information provided as to the job's education requirements so that students are given a starting point for that career. In addition to education requirements, educational options would also be informative to students. For example, are there different avenues students can take to acquire the knowledge to become a set decorator or sound specialist?"

      After each of us had viewed The Crew, we talked about its cost as an acquisition, either for a school library, a school board resource centre, or a career resource centre. The price was reasonable for a Career Resource Centre (with a generous budget), and school libraries could acquire it for use as an in-house resource (usable by students within the school). However, it is a bit pricy as an acquisition for an individual school: site license cost is $595.00, and only larger schools would have the kind of budget to allow that sort of acquisition. Another small glitch which we both encountered was this: the DVD played best on a computer. We tried numerous DVD players and encountered difficulties in playing the disc on all of them.

      Still, The Crew is definitely worth a look. Both Sean and I would award it 3 out of 4 stars for covering the career information thoroughly, its great cast choice, and the good flow to the series, in general. On a positive note, the six-part educational series encourages the interested viewer to seek out employment opportunities in the world of film production, although the first step in the process, education, is not included in the main focus of this series. The rather large price tag is the other down side; it may not be realistic for the tight budgets of the school districts in Canada. Informative as the series is, it also has to be easily accessed by the target audience.


Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB, where Sean Brown is a Career Advisor.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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