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Production Service Companies and Film Fixers

Written on October 27, 2016

Service Company or Fixer?

Hiring the right production service support is critical to the success of any project. In some cases a production service company is required, in other cases hiring a film fixer is a better approach. Two main factors will determine what is the best path forward for your project:

1. The Size and Scope Of Your Shoot

Larger, complex projects such as TV commercials or feature films will likely require a service company approach. Fast moving, small footprint projects such as documentaries or b-roll shoots are typically better off with an experienced, reliable fixer.

Both a service producer and fixer need to have plenty of experience and contacts to ensure a successful and cost-conscious shoot. There are however several key differences in approach that will determine which is a better choice for you.

A great service producer will offer exceptional production services down to the smallest of details for the most complex of shoots. Years of experience will give them a deeper understanding of the specific project dynamics and an anticipation of a visiting client’s needs. They will have a solid team made up of experienced department heads. Hiring a service producer is a good idea if your project requires:

• A highly organised and documented approach from enquiry through to wrap folder.
• Work and film permits for visiting crew. Importation of equipment and product without any issues.
• Access to an extensive location database. Location copyright knowledge. Arranging shoots that involve traffic control, street closures, and large setups.
• Complex shoots involving large crews, sophisticated equipment, studio builds, or working with celebrities, to name a few examples.
• Helping you navigate union versus non-union, premiums and fringes, talent buyouts negotiations, rules and regulations involving working with children and animals, local film safety laws, insurance rules, and taking advantage of tax rebates for filming.
• A service company will also have longstanding relationships and preferred rates with local film industry vendors such as customs brokers, props houses, film equipment rental, studios, post production houses, transport companies, and hotels.

Fixers on the other hand are more scrappy in their approach…

• Shoots requiring fixers are often fast moving. A great fixer will know what you can get away with and what you can’t.
• A fixer needs to be well connected to get you into and out of any situation. Shoots in dangerous environments require a fixer with strong connections to both local community groups as well as government officials. They will know when it’s best to travel discretely and when it’s best to travel with a larger security outfit.
• A great fixer is also a great journalist. They will add value to the shoot with strong research skills and an eye for a good story. They will have a deep understanding of the local culture and be able to marry that with the requirements of the visiting team.
• The most experienced fixer is not always the best fixer for a job. Some fixers fall into the bad habit of offering the same stories, locations and interview subjects, which although making life easier for the fixer, does a disservice to the visiting production who go home with the same footage as the projects that came before them.

Production Companies, Ad Agencies and Brands

2. Your Budget

Service producers often say they can service any project, and that is true in the sense that they have experience that exceeds what is required to competently service a small project. Unfortunately, bottom line, for a small project, they just can’t compete with the cost of a fixer. Service companies are often bricks and mortar operations with a full time staff. You’re going to see that reflected in the budget. Fixer’s are freelancers that generally work from their computers on the fly, arranging office space only when the project needs it. A service company will charge producer fees for prep, shoot days and wrap, plus a percentage markup on the A-K which is usually around 10% on top of those costs. A fixer will charge a day rate that is far less than a producer’s rate, and sometimes even package a flat rate for the whole shoot. Fixers do not charge a markup on the line items. Service companies will make sure everything is above board with adhering to all legal requirements and taxes. Fixers will live closer to the edge to cut costs. Some may even suggest that payment be made in cash to avoid paying those costs. Based on the specifics of your shoot, we can help you determine the best approach to take in terms of cost and managing risk.

In terms of larger shoots with high stakes and many moving parts, a production service company is the only way to go. You’re paying for peace of mind. A great service producers will be thorough in their budgeting so they are able to execute the project flawlessly and still come in under budget. What client doesn’t like to end a perfect shoot with some money refunded?

RED Coca Cola

Hire Production Support

There are of course in-between production solutions. Many smaller production service companies exist that are able to meet the high production standard at more competitive prices than more established service companies. We have film and photography service companies and fixers in every country around the world. All are fully vetted. Referrals are tailored to the specific requirements of each project.

Contact us with your creative brief, production specs, schedule, dates, budget, and any other important information.

We will be able to quickly get back to you with answers, references, cost estimates, and availability of the right production support for your shoot.