You’re a budding film director shooting your first important big-budget movie in a foreign country and you need a bunch of locals to shoot a crucial scene. You realize that it’s not as simple as holding an open-call audition for local talents as you have to deal with that country’s labor laws and speak to people who don’t speak conversational English.
What do you do in such a critical situation?
You need to find a film fixer.
What is a fixer?
Simply put, a fixer is someone who provides essential logistical support for productions that need assistance in complying with local filming requirements or sourcing local crew, equipment, and other essential services. They are also referred to as local producers or production coordinators.
Why are fixers important?
Fixers hold one of the most important jobs in a production, although they’re not often given the credit or recognition they deserve. But it is through their help that a director or filmmaker gets to do his job more effectively without having to worry about crucial issues like hiring crews or obtaining local permits.
What are their duties?
Basically, a fixer is a one-man (or one-woman) orchestra. Unlike other jobs, there is no specific course for fixers in the university, nor does a person grow up thinking “I want to be a film fixer!” But it takes a unique kind of person to be one as in the course of doing your job you end up doing all sorts of things. For instance, today you might be dealing with local government agencies to obtain the necessary permits to film in certain locations; but tomorrow, you might be guiding an entire foreign crew across the country’s terrain to shoot important scenes. And then the next day, you could be scouring the local shops for props needed for a particular scene.
Fixers don’t have a “fixed” (pardon the pun) role, but they do whatever is necessary for the production.
What are the essential traits you must have in a fixer?
A person doesn’t need to graduate from a specific course or obtain certification to be a fixer, but he does need certain qualities. Here are some of the essential ones:
- Connections – To have a successful career in the film industry, a person must have connections, and this is one of those jobs that requires him to build good working relationships with other people in the industry. Simply put, he needs to have good networking skills.
- Organizational Skills – As mentioned above, the duties of a fixer are many and varied; thus, it is crucial that he knows how to organize his tasks according to priority and timing. He must also be able to provide solutions to problems that might crop up at any moment.
- Knowledge of the Local Environment – This is considered a must as one of the basic tasks of a fixer is to help the production set things up in the local setting. This doesn’t just refer to knowledge of the geographical terrain but also includes local customs, cultural practices, political issues, and even laws and regulations.
- Negotiation & Financial Management Skills – This is a job that entails a lot of numbers. In the course of sourcing locations, managing the crew, hiring talents, dealing with catering services, looking for accommodation and transportation, and the like, it is part of a fixer’s duties to track the production expenses and keep a close eye on the limits of the budget.
- Production Experience – He must know the ins and outs of the filmmaking industry. It is part of his job description to anticipate the needs of the director and the production. His experience working on production sets in various roles will help him hone this particular skill.
- Passion and Tenacity – Like any other profession, a person can’t prosper in this job without having the passion for it. A lot of things can go wrong, and some of them will go wrong, but if a fixer is passionate about what he’s doing and has the tenacity to keep on going, then it’s all good.
Some Dos and Don’ts to Remember
A fixer always has his eye on the next assignment. While a film production only lasts for a few months, at most a year, his career is for life. For this reason, there are certain dos and don’ts of on-set etiquette that he must keep in mind if he expects to keep on working in the film industry.
- He should always tell the truth.
The best thing a fixer can have going for him is a good reputation. And in the world of cinema, a good reputation can open doors. Producers and filmmakers trust fixers with a lot of things—money, confidential information, and even their own lives—so if he makes just one wrong move, a lot can be at stake. Honesty is the best policy in this type of job; producers want to avoid risks and unsafe conditions so a fixer should always be honest so the production can avoid potential problems.
- He should keep an open communication with the right people.
In a project, there are point persons a fixer keeps in touch with. This could be the producer, the assistant director, the casting director, and the director himself. For any important updates or messages, he must notify the producer, the filmmaker, and the specific person in charge. The last thing a fixer wants to happen is to leave a production scrambling because they don’t know what to do or where to find him.
- He should keep timing in mind when networking.
In the film industry, a lot of jobs are gained through word of mouth—that is, networking. A production set can be a great place to make important connections, but timing is important when it comes to making these interactions. While it’s fine to network, it shouldn’t be done during official work hours as it can be considered disruptive to the actual work being done.
A fixer is not a magic wand that can instantly solve all your problems, but they do quite a lot in terms of managing your production, especially when you’re filming in a foreign country. Their knowledge and experience will ensure a smooth production process from start to finish.