The True Life of a Fixer

Few careers seem more suited to variety than that of a Fixer – the local person responsible for bringing all the elements together for a television series, documentary, commercial, music video or photo shoot. They help productions save both time and money by allowing them to hit the ground running and not worry about logistical issues.

The job requires a deep knowledge of locations, strong organizational skills and an extensive database of crews, equipment rental houses and vendors. For those that love working behind-the-scenes on a new production, it is an ideal job. But the work is demanding as a Fixer is always looking for the problem to solve. Nor is it a guaranteed ticket to landing work. Many Fixers need years of experience in many production roles to have the depth of knowledge necessary to be successful.

“I don’t see creative briefs and scripts anymore. I see jigsaw puzzles. You see the whole production through the eyes of ‘what do I need to shoot here’, not just ‘that’s a cool concept,” said Kent Youngblood, Fixer and Owner of Denver-based Movie Mogul Productions. “The weirdest thing about the job is how detail-oriented you become. I’m constantly thinking about the hundred different pieces I need to find solutions for. It can drive my wife crazy.”

Every Day is a Challenge

In the first six months of 2022, Youngblood worked on two large documentaries for European networks, each with their special challenges. For the BBC – Studio Ramsay coproduction Trailblazers, he had to provide over 30 different locations and activities, crew recommendations and transportation options for a three-week shoot. With a crew of 40, there were a lot of moving pieces. The shoot schedule was aggressive and each day was a company move to a new location. From a dusty bar in Cheyenne, Wyoming to the summit of Pikes Peak, it was a project of epic proportions. Work on the documentary series started in January and continued until the shoot concluded in April.

A month after completing Trailblazers, he was off on another huge documentary, this one for France 3 television called Pack Your Rucksack. Although the journey through Colorado was similar, this project had a much smaller crew and needed additional support for a French-speaking crew. One major challenge was working with national parks across Colorado. Due to staffing shortages and limits to what can (and cannot) be done on park land, getting answers was difficult and required persistence. In the end, having the production designated as “Low-Impact Filming” was critical to success.

By the end of June, Youngblood had travelled over 3,000 miles throughout Colorado and consumed “at least 100 Starbucks orders and way too many fast food drive-ins. It was an epic six months of travel. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”

Questions and Problem Solving

Every production has its unique requirements and it is the Fixer’s job to come up with solutions to those demands. Years of experience and intimate local knowledge help a Fixer anticipate most production needs but that doesn’t mean there aren’t surprises. Requests can range from the challenging:

Can we get 250 pounds of camera equipment up to the top of the Great Sand Dunes National Park? Yes… with sledges, plenty of time and lots of manpower.

To the absurd:

Can we summit Long’s Peak in March with a crew of 20 people? No… with a crew unaccustomed to an altitude of 14,259 feet, deep snow drifts and freezing temperatures, it’s a safety hazard.

Even then, production companies will still try to attempt the impossible. The Long’s Peak climb was only canceled after five mountain climbing companies confirmed Youngblood’s concerns.

The Thrill of Accomplishment

The feeling of working on an intricate puzzle and clinching it with the final piece is gratifying. “I’ll walk into something and go, ‘This is it’,” said Youngblood. “Everything together: the locations, the crew, the equipment, the travel arrangements… and all under budget. It’s a thrill and a relief.”

Above all, one of the best parts of being a Fixer is how every project is different. “In one month I worked on a network documentary, a music video for a major label, a Vogue fashion shoot and an immersive experience for Netflix,” Youngblood said. “The variety is hard to beat. And the people you meet along the way are awesome.”


For further reading:

The Role of a Fixer

Filming in Colorado

If you’re looking for a Fixer now or in the future, reach out to Movie Mogul at their Contact page.

Filming in Colorado

Colorado has been a hidden gem for film locations for quite some time. With a rich history of filmmaking, it has been featured in such classic films as True Grit, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Filmmakers have know for years that Colorado is hard to beat when you consider its varied terrain provides the perfect stand-in, no matter the setting. Alpine peaks, rolling plains, lush forests, epic sand dunes, and modern cities are all mere hours away from one another. Because of this, Colorado can easily double for parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Aspen Mountain Independence Pass Crystal Mill in Marble

Beyond the varied locations, Colorado has many other advantages:

Great Weather

The state has over 300 days of sunshine and when stormy weather comes through, it moves on quickly. An average altitude of 6,800 feet above sea level provides mild winters and low-humidity summers creates crisp, cool nights. This allows production schedules to run on time with little threat of weather delays.

Quality Crew

Colorado has an enviable track record of hosting productions from all over the world. There is tremendous depth in every crew position as well as a number of equipment rental vendors and full-service production companies in the state to support them. The Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media (COFTM) offers a bevy of programs and resources for out-of-state productions.

Affordability

As compared to states on either coast, Colorado is a bargain for filmmakers. Equipment rentals, crew rates and travel expenses are lower than production hubs in California, New York and Georgia. Not only is it an affordable state for production, the quality of life index is one of the highest in the nation. And Colorados’s rich history and diverse landscape provide numerous reasons to visit.

Incentives

After lagging behind behind its neighbors when it comes to providing film incentives, Colorado has a $6 million film incentive. The state allows companies that film in Colorado to receive up to a 20% tax rebate if they spend a certain amount on qualified expenses, such as crew wages and set construction.

Rich History

Colorado with its striking mountain and desert landscapes has provided the backdrop for many old silent westerns dating as far back as 1898. It has continued to be the location of choice for films like The Hateful Eight, Fast and Furious 7, The Long Ranger as well as numerous commercials, music videos and documentaries.

To take advantage of any state, you need a company well-versed in production logistics, location scouting and permitting procedures. As natives of Colorado, we know the state from Grand Junction to Burlington, Fort Collins to Trinidad, and every place in between. We are skilled production coordinators that have experience in all aspects of film and television production. We also represent a variety of filming locations in Colorado, as well as local studios offering full production services in Denver. If you need a Fixer on your next shoot, drop us a line.

Tips for Shooting Video on Green Screen

Filmmakers looking for an easy way to expand their shoots need to understand how to use green screens. With a good green screen, you can more easily create special effects, simulate locations, and build virtual sets. You can be shooting at a studio in Denver and make it look you’re in the middle of the Amazon!

But without proper technique, shooting a green screen can be more painful than it is helpful. There’s nothing worse than spending hours cleaning up bad green screen footage because someone didn’t spend time setting up the green screen properly.

To save you time on your next project, here are some tips for shooting green screens.

The Wall

In some situations, a green screen will be painted on a wall, but often green screens are hung using a green fabric material. In these cases, make sure to pull the screen tight on all sides.

For a good key, you need a green screen surface that is as flat and smooth as possible. You don’t want creases or folds in your screen. Folds create shadows that will wreak havoc on your keying in post-production.

Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important parts of using a green screen. Why? Because if you don’t evenly light it, you’re going to have shadows. If you have shadows, you’re going to have a bad key. Always concentrate on lighting your green screen thoroughly.

Light your Screen

The biggest mistake you can make with a green screen is lighting the screen and the subject as one. You will need multiple high-quality lights set up just to light the screen. Use diffused, nondirectional lighting that hits your screen from above. That will give you the flat lighting you need for a good key. Try measuring the lighting on your screen with a waveform monitor. You’ll know the green screen is lit well when you see a flat line going across the monitor.

Light your Talent

Talent is a part of the environment you’re creating, and that environment has its own light source. Knowing what type of footage you’ll be using for your new background will tell you how best to light the talent in front of your green screen. Where’s the light coming from? Is it behind the talent or in front of them? Plan this out and light accordingly.

Keep It Separated

Separate your green screen from your foreground elements as much as possible. A good rule is to pull your foreground elements at least ten feet away from your green screen. This will help to eliminate shadows that your foreground elements might cast on the green screen. Just like creases in the screen, shadows cast by the foreground elements will cause problems when you are trying to get a clean key.

In addition, separating your foreground elements from the screen will help eliminate the spill. Spill occurs when some of the green light bounces onto the objects in the shot, giving them a soft green outline. You don’t want to deal with spill when keying in post-production.

If It’s Green, It’s Gone

If someone shows up in a green tie, the Key tool in the video editing software will show a hole through their chest. Look out for colors that have just a hint of green too. Mirrored or reflective objects like eyeglasses can also be a problem. Take the time to review your shots before filming to make sure you aren’t picking up green reflections on any objects.

Plan Ahead

When shooting green screen, you want to be prepared. Know how to key properly. Know your shots and camera angles. Storyboard them or previs them so that everyone on the crew knows what you’re going for. Let the cinematographer know where the light source is coming from in each shot. Plan these scenarios.

Shooting on a green screen can provide some great results. It’s not that hard to do as long as you plan ahead and watch out for the small things that can pose big problems later on. We hope these tips make your next green screen shoot a little easier.

The Role of a Fixer

Ever heard of a Fixer? You might have heard them referred to as a Production Coordinator or local Producer but the term originated in journalism. New correspondents in an unfamiliar location would often hire a Fixer to help with logistics, translation, transportation and travel. Although more common outside of the U.S., a Fixer offers support at every stage of a production. From location scouting to securing crews and equipment, Fixers are the driving force behind commercials, documentaries and feature films.

How Can a Fixer Help?

The best fixers have years of experience, local knowledge and industry connections. What does all of this mean for you? Put simply, your production will run like a well-oiled machine. Although every project is different Fixers help in the following areas:

Location Scouting: Their knowledge and familiarity with locations in the area they live enables them to overcome language barriers, connect with local crews and keep locals happy.

Location Permitting: Every country has its own film commission and permit application criteria. This involves a lot of complicated paperwork. Fixers handle it, relieving the production company of the stress of permitting.

Hiring Crews: Fixers have strong working relationships with leading crews in their area. This includes Directors, Cinematographers, Producers, Camera Operators, Sound Mixers, Grips, Gaffers and even PAs. They can add individual crew members to your team, or put together a full crew that’s perfect for the job.

Equipment Rental: Whether you need a single piece of equipment or an entire gear package, Fixers can help. They have relationships (and accounts) with all the leading equipment rental houses in their area. Because of these relationships, they can get the best rates, which they’ll pass on to you. Many Fixers also have their own production and equipment insurance.

Why are Fixers Important?

Fixers are particularly important for unfamiliar locations. Through the professional relationships and networks that Fixers have developed over time, they help productions save both time and money by knowing where to find the services needed at different budget levels. Productions are able to hit the ground running and not worry about logistical issues.

As mentioned, Fixers are excellent at scouting filming locations, assisting with filming permits, arranging travel and accommodations, and providing recommendations on how to keep the production crew and equipment safe in this time of COVID.

Managing your Fixer

Establishing roles and responsibilities up front make working with Fixers easy. Checklists and lists of expectations keep clear communication between the production and the Fixer. Depending on how many responsibilities you give a Fixer, make sure not to overwhelm them with too many tasks. The Fixer can only do so much. Make sure they are not setup to fail due to a lack of producing experience or financial resources.

Finding a Fixer that can be your ambassador to their city will vary in cost from location to location, but the assistance they provide can be invaluable.

Production Expertise

From Colorado to Utah, from Wyoming to New Mexico, our team has travelled all across the Rocky Mountain West. We are skilled production coordinators that have experience in all aspects of film and television production. We also represent a variety of filming locations in Colorado, as well as local studios offering full production services in Denver, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City. If you need a Fixer on your next shoot, drop us a line.

The Role of the Fixer is part of our series that looks at various roles within film and television production. Also check out the Cinematographer and COVID Compliance Officer