Though it lacks the glamour of on-set production, pre-production is where real filmmaking happens. This crucial stage of planning is where you can determine where, what, and when you’ll be shooting.
But it’s so much more than that. This is the phase when your vision is realized, and your video becomes a concrete plan. During this critical period, you can anticipate (and manage) any problems or obstacles that may arise. Because it’s highly likely that they will arise, and it’s rarely fun to solve problems in real-time.
Today, we’re going over six pre-production considerations to help you plan your shoot.
1. Set your budget
Money talks, and you can’t do much in the way of filmmaking without a solid finance plan. So, first thing’s first: nail down your resources and be realistic. And when you set that budget, set up a reserve for yourself. Leave room for additional editing days, broken gear, and enough dough to feed your production team for every day they’re shooting.
And, here’s a little tough honesty: Don’t assume you’ll stay in budget. But, you can try. Determine what’s essential, and what you can give up if needed.
2. Manage your risks
Do you need a permit to shoot at any of your locations? Did you get your gear, cast, and crew members insured? Is there a place where your crew can sleep or chill out during your shooting period? Are you on a remote location where food and water need to be driven in, or sourced carefully beforehand?
Treat production like the big event that it is, and answer any and all questions that you’d need to make it smooth and enjoyable.
3. Hold and confirm your cast and crew
If you’ve got the budget for it, hire cast and crew to help bring your vision to life. Or if you’re a team of one and don’t have the funds to hire pros, pull in favors from friends and colleagues.
Common practice here is to ask them to hold a reasonable range of dates in advance. Then once you have your permits, gear, and schedule locked-in, reach out to your people with confirmed dates. Collaboration is crucial in filmmaking, so include your team in your process and production. Once you confirm your people, meet them in advance to discuss your overall vision.
4. Set your storyboards and shot lists
It’s tempting to continue tweaking your script until the day of shooting, but it won’t serve your future self. Instead, lock your script and commit to giving yourself extra time to make proper storyboards and shot lists.
From there, you can really get a detailed sense of what your shooting schedule will look like. You can always edit things here and there during production, so try not to get bogged down making everything perfect.
5. Gear up
In pre-production, it’s important to determine the equipment you’ll need. Think lights, props, set decoration, mics, stands, and generally life-saving gear that are essential to have on set.
Decide what you’ll be using and rent, buy, or borrow it. If you’re planing to rent gear, schedule and reserve it. If you’ll be borrowing gear, be sure to get it insured. For those planning on buying gear, fight the temptation to blow your entire budget on state of the art tech. If you have money to spend, put it into your reserve fund.
6. Smooth out production with schedules and call sheets
Create a detailed production schedule and be pragmatic about time. When in doubt, remember: Everything takes longer than you’d expect when you’re shooting. Don’t cut corners. Leave time for lunch breaks, traveling between locations, costume styling, resetting your scenes, and so on.
Once you’ve got your schedule set, make a call sheet. This document is essentially a list of each day’s pertinent information. Call out cast and crew arrival time, identify your location(s), and include contact information for everyone involved in the production. If you want a smooth start to the day, circulate your call sheet a minimum of 24-hours before everyone’s due on set.