Dealing with Flake Friends (for beginner filmmakers)

By: Sun Mancera

Unfortunately, Idris Elba is not available to play a lead role in your film. But one of your best friends is second on the list because he fits the bill. You nearly wrote the character around his personality! You hit up bruv and he says “Of course! I’m always here to support.” Nice! Afterall he is your best friend a.k.a. the realest homie a.k.a. YA BOY!!!

He is also known as YA BOY who picked you up 40 minutes late from the airport. YA BOY who needs to “catch up” at every party because he didn’t make it to the pre-game. YA Boy who didn’t help you move furniture because he felt sick when the Snaps said otherwise.

There are battles between choosing flaky friends who fit the bill and friends who are reliable. I know it is a sacrifice having to make your character less of what you envisioned. You put so much thought into a certain outcome that changing it would make you clench your cheeks and call the lord. And if Murphy’s Law is here to haunt our asses the best solution is to make do with what we have.

These tips have been developed by making multiple mistakes. I hope these help with your new experiences so you don’t run into the same problems I did. -Sun Mancera

Preproduction is key

When dealing with crew, actors, and especially flakers, smooth sailing starts at the top with pre-production. Pre-production is the meat of our sandwich. Production is the veggies and cheese that build its structure. And postproduction is the French bread that puts the goods together.

Without pre-production, all we have is this nasty ass vegetables and cheese sandwich. Yes, we can call it a sandwich, but no we do not want it.

We want to make a good film and the best way is to stay prepared.

The tips in this series can also be applied to both cast and crew.

In case you’re unfamiliar with pre production necessities, provides a good pre production checklist here. This is a good article for beginners and smaller productions:

Tip 1: Make sure your friend can act before you fight for their schedule

Since your friend is so hilarious, you want them as a character for your movie. But he’s a bit unsure of his acting abilities in which you reply “Dude! But you’re so funny!” Your friend isn’t confident about his schedule either, but you believe he would be best for your film. Listen to your friend. Test them on camera before you convince them to work with you. It happens often where a person cannot act naturally in front of the camera. This falls into the Hawthorne effect (or observer effect). It’s described by MBA Learner as a subject’s reaction to modify its behavior in response to their awareness of being studied (or in our case, on camera).

It’s annoying your friend can’t act on the day of the shoot. Don’t make that mistake.

Tip 2: Try not to settle your mind on one actor when writing

Unless you are writing with the actor, it’d be best to keep an open mind on how the actors look. This will make replacing flakes a lot easier. Be open about their race and gender (if it's possible with your story). And have different scripts in mind to fit the same role with different looking actors.

This will help you detach yourself from your original idea. It will create more concentration during production. It helps you mentally move forward from thinking about what should have been in case you replace anyone.

Tip 3: Note who’s a flaker and find back up

A flaky actor might be a good friend, but this is your project so take it seriously. Be honest with yourself. It’s nothing personal about them, but this is your work, so you take it personally.

For casts of 10 folks or so, note who has a flaky history. Have 1 or 2 people in mind to back up each flaky main actor. And have around 3 people in mind to back up all extras. If an actor is a friend of a friend, ask your friend how reliable the person is. Are they serious about volunteering? Get nitty gritty. You gotta know the deets.

These numbers can be adjusted to the size and trust in your group. It seems like a lot of effort, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Tip 4: Regularly remind actors AND BACK UP ACTORS of shooting schedule

Many people don’t implement this step! Sometimes they just shoot a text with “I'm filming this Saturday, you should come.” If it’s not some little YouTube skit, your cast list shouldn’t be up in the air. Yes, you can trust a process but jeez it doesn't mean you have to settle. And yes, you got friends who no doubt will make it Saturday, but that one guy from work who said he was interested… ionno bout him.

Regularly remind your actors of your shooting schedule and include your back up actors. In case anyone falls through, your back up actors will be informed of when they may be needed. We want to increase the amount of solutions we have for any big surprises. Like “I forgot I gotta finish a paper today” surprise.

Tip 5: Make sure actors reply to your reminders

Read receipts won’t do here. It says something about your actor if he/she can’t reply with a simple thumbs up. COMMUNICATION IS KEY HERE BABYYYY. We got to know if our message has been received AND understood. Ending the event reminder with a question like “sound good?” or “see you there?” will encourage them to reply. This will aid with identifying who’ll be there and who’ll be square. Now there is a better chance of knowing if the back up actors will be needed.

Tip 6: Reply to schedule confirmations, say thank you, and tell them what their efforts mean to you

Replying to your actor’s “thumbs up,” “i gotchu,” or “like” is important because it communicates that I asked you for something, you agreed, and now I’m gunna hold you to it. We are working on a project together and you gave me a “go” to hold you accountable. It sucks sounding serious like that, but if your project is serious that’s what’s really going on.

After you tell them thank you, remind them what their time means to you.

If you reflect on the text message and realize the actor’s efforts don’t mean that much to you, you’re probably working on something you don’t really like. Remember that. (Question yourself if this happens).

These people are taking time out of their day to make words into action. No pay. Maybe snacks. Telling them what it means to you will create a personal sentiment on the importance of your project. You shouldn’t want your crew to think it's just some video for the internet. Tell them what it is to you so they understand why it’d be great if they were there.


I asked you for something accompanied by deets and a question to encourage a reply