In this issue's Member Spotlight, we shine the light on one of our newcomers: Crew Me Up! We reached out to
Co-Founder/CEO Josh Friedman to set up an interview about his journey into the film industry, the inspiration behind Crew Me Up and what he's been up to since the app's initial launch in 2020. Start reading below to hear those answers and details on how the app streamlines tedious processes that have plagued productions for years, how it improves the way we handle last-minute crew complications and much more.
Would you mind introducing yourself?
My name is Joshua A. Friedman. Born in Connecticut, raised in Georgia. Both parents are from New York - one from Queens, the other upstate. I’m an Aries, I love to swim and I’ve only worked in restaurants, theater, film, and TV. I moved to New York at 22 years old and I once pretended to be a ninja (on production's orders) to surveil an actor on Law & Order who wandered away from set.
What was the path that led you into the film & TV production industry?
I graduated from Magnet High School in Georgia with a focus on both performing arts and math/science. After that, I went to the University of Maryland where I studied stage management and performance in the theater department. I graduated early and moved straight to New York where I spent a year working in theater before I was offered a professional film opportunity. New York has been my film school. I had no formal training going into this… one of many reasons I wrote the book on how to be a PA! (He's not kidding, either - Getting it Done: The Ultimate Production Assistant Guide by Joshua A. Friedman)
Do you have a favorite project you have worked on? Has any project/experience made a significant impact or lasting impression on you?
Honestly, I don’t have a favorite. I take something positive away from everything I’ve ever been a part of. It can be a relationship, maybe even a piece of advice, but it's always a story. The simplest piece of advice came to me from my mentor (a producer of Law and Order: Criminal Intent) on my first day of production. As a young, low-level production assistant, I was pulled into his office and he told me this: "Your boss is the 1st assistant director (AD). They’ll be trying to answer two questions all day: "What’s wrong with this picture?" and "Why aren’t we shooting?" If you know the answer, be part of the solution.”
When did you first think of the idea for Crew Me Up? What inspired it?
Crew Me Up has seen so many iterations over the last 7 years. It started in 2015 when I was producing a movie in Texas called Warning Shot. I had to replace my gaffer (a key crew member) and had no resources in Corsicana, Texas to fill the position. After the film, I came back to New York and realized I had over 700 PAs in my phone, but it took 60 phone calls to hire six people. So, the first two problems V (Voravong Nachampassak) and I set out to solve were 1) how to find crew shooting in unfamiliar areas, and 2) how to make the process of finding crew more efficient in areas with a large number of established connections. Thus, the work on Crew Me Up began, which officially launched in January 2020 and built to 5,000 filmmakers before our 2.0 began testing publicly this past July 2022!
Was there an "aha" moment?
There have been so many “aha” moments. That Warning Shot experience was one, but every time we speak with our community, we find another piece of the puzzle we can integrate into our roadmap to serve a sustainable resolution for our filmmakers.
The interest in sustainability (as it pertains to film and tv production) seems to be growing. Why do you think this is?
The more we re-use and reduce our footprint, the lower the "cost" of our future will be from multiple perspectives: cost of goods, cost to the environment, cost to our personal wellness, etc. They are all affected by sustainable practices, reducing production costs allows us to save on a project's budget, which in turn allows an extra day in the schedule, thus giving the crew a chance to work without as much stress (not less urgency… less stress), and an outcome like this simply makes everyone happy.
What responsibilities do you have as the company's CEO?
Overall, my job is comprised of two major responsibilities: guide the vision/direction of the company and secure funds to keep the company alive until we begin generating revenue. A the moment, my role covers a wide range of positions : product management, fundraising, sales development, business development, marketing campaign and strategy development, mentoring, partnership management… just to name a few.
What do you find most challenging about working in this space?
The most challenging aspect of building Crew Me Up has been getting established filmmakers to change their habits. The up-and-coming generation is excited to get on board and look for opportunities, but the filmmakers who hold said opportunities occasionally seem reluctant to adopt a new process.
Tell us a bit about your Crew Me Up team.
Everyone is part of the Crew Me Up team! Internally, we have Co-Founder and COO Voravong “V” Nachampassak and me. The backend of our tech is built by a fantastic company called OneSeven Tech. Our marketing is handled by Spike Society Creative. We also work with organizations and vendors on a daily basis, so we like to consider them part of the team, too. Finally, we have all of our filmmakers! The average network TV show boasts 85 crew members on any given day…. that’s a team!
Has anyone in particular been a significant inspiration to you through the creation of Crew Me Up?
Many people have influenced the direction of Crew Me Up, but for me personally, it has always been Fred Rogers. The way he is kind, thoughtful and always serving others has guided me and this company through every success and struggle of our journey. His speech to congress in the 60s to save public access funding still brings a tear to my eye and reminds me every day to continue striving to be better.
What else would you like people to know about Crew Me Up?
Crew Me Up is not just about hiring… We have built a labor management system that accounts for staff and day player positions. Crew Me Up is a national community of film resources available for free to all filmmakers (union or not). Right now we’re testing, so jump on board and help us make Crew Me Up better!
How can someone get involved or support this cause?