The Perfect Shooting Schedule: Ten Insider Tips And Tricks
An insider's guide to the important things to consider when creating a shooting schedule with tips on how to make everything run smoothly.
There are a multitude of factors to consider when creating a shooting schedule. While it's not possible to account for all the variables that will occur, there are a number of things you can do to save time and effort. With that in mind, Jesper Petzke has compiled ten helpful tips and tricks to help you make the most of your schedule.
Find The Right Amount Of Work For The First Day
Set The Right Tone For Production
The first day of shooting is a phenomenon. The concentration and dedication of a team are never as great as when shooting begins. In a sense, therefore, the first day of shooting dictates the course of a shoot. As a rule of thumb, if things go smoothly, things will go smoothly through the whole shoot; if things are difficult, then the shooting days to come will not be easier.
Don't Start Too Big
The workload on the first day should therefore not be too much or too little as you want to give a good example for what is to come for the rest of the shoot. It should be organised in a way that allows everyone to focus and get down to work. It's no harm if there are a few challenges to be addressed, like staging questions for the director or technical issues for various departments - these are normal parts of any production and do not have to be avoided. You should, however, always refrain from filming difficult or technically challenging scenes on the first day.
Smalls Sets First, Larger Sets Later
Get Potentially Difficult Scenes Out Of The Way First
One of the first decisions in scheduling is the distribution of the locations over the shooting period. It makes sense to always start with small sets - that is, with filming locations that will require one day of shooting or less - and finish the shoot at the main filming location. Why? Shooting on small sets is associated with particular difficulties and risks. Also, moving from one location to another means less is completed than on a key set where the team can set up a studio-like approach to maximise productivity.
Make Up Ground At The Main Location
The main sets thereby provide greater flexibility in planning and more opportunities to make up ground that has been lost earlier in the production. Leftover scenes, for example, can be rewritten for the main location and made up for there. Also, on the main set it is also possible to schedule a long shooting day which includes overtime, which is generally not possible on a small set.
Creatively Combine Sets
Be Careful With Location Changes
One of the biggest time drains on any movie production is moving between two locations within a day of shooting. These changes mean all departments at the first location have to pack together, reposition and redevelop at the second location. This not only costs time but is also a risk. If any unforeseen problems occur during the change of scene, the rest of the shooting day can be endangered. For these reasons, you should avoid location changes whenever you can.
This can be done by finding creative solutions in the shooting schedule. You can capture certain scenes on another set: There is a high possibility that a scene set on a 'Secluded Road' can be combined with the film location 'Forest' without the need for a move. Certain sets can also be staged in other locations - 'John's Bedroom' can very likely be staged in the filming location 'Harry's House'. It is important to search for these potential combinations early in order to maximize the possibilty of doubling up on sets and locations.
Pool Staff and Resources
Minimize Working Days For Staff and Equipment
The people in front of and behind the camera and the necessary resources required for filming are paid for on the basis of whole working days. These days can be correlated with the schedule easily. Compile the scenes that will need the same staff and resources in order to be filmed and make sure to keep the number of whole working days needed to film them as low as possible.
The fewer shooting days an actor, a filming location, a crane or a dog with a coach will be required for, the less they will cost. Therefore, prioritize resources on the basis of their costs: An actor or location costs more than a crane or a dog with a coach per day, so focus on these things first before moving on to the cheaper parts of the puzzle.
Pay Attention to Chronology
Accommodate The Artistic Process
At the same time, it must be understood that the artistic needs of actors and directors should not be secondary to purely financial considerations. Instead, you should strive for a certain chronology. By doing so, you help the actors find their characters and develop relationships with each other. You also give the director the opportunity to build on what he has already worked on and help him or her develop the staging of the scene. This does not have to be associated with additional costs.
With small sets, it is usually sensible to shoot chronologically as there will not be many scenes to shoot. With a main set, you can set out to shoot chronologically and adjust things as necessary as you have more scope with the extended shooting time you will be working with. You also help directors and actors if you try to stage crucial emotional scenes chronologically, even if these shooting days are supplemented with various small scenes, which should also be organised in such a way that they follow the narrative arc of the story if possible.
Start With The Most Difficult Picture Of The Day
Take Emotional Intensity Into Account
The scenes of a screenplay are challenging in different ways. Just as each scene requires a different technical effort, scenes also have different emotional weights. A highly emotional scene is more difficult and strenuous for directors and actors than a scene designed to provide the necessary cinematic information to move the film along. Therefore, you should start each day of shooting with the most difficult scene of the day and keep emotionally complicated scenes spread out over the entire period of shooting.
By doing this, you are not only thoughtfully considering the energy and concentration everyone involved on set can expend during the course of the day, you are also providing the ideal circumstances for the filming of the dramaturgically important scenes of your film - which are usually the emotional ones.
Merge Related Scenes
Combine Scenes Where Possible
Every shot in the shooting schedule has to be rehearsed and filmed. Consider a scene with a conversation between two characters in a room, with separate over the shoulder shots capturing each actor. First, everything will be set up to capture Character 1. All cameras will face in one direction for shots 1,3 and 5 after which everything will be rebuilt to face in the other direction to capture Character 2 in shots 2,4 and 6.
Now imagine if Character 1 leaves the room to make a cup of coffee in another room while the conversation continues. This might be listed as a separate scene and set in the script. A director might reasonably decide that putting a coffee machine in the first room would make the whole set-up easier to film.
When analysing the script, you should keep an eye out for individual scenes like these that could be merged together, for example because the plot information merges seamlessly or because the scenes are only separated by a brief leap in time. If the director decides to shoot everything in one room, two or more scenes have now become one. This is always associated with a time saving due to the absence of additional set-ups, tests, and rehearsals. In addition, it helps both actors too as they can perform for long stretches at a time, meaning the result can also be better.
Planning A Night Shoot
Avoid Working With A Tired Crew
Everyone has their own internal body clock and each person handles deviations from it in different ways depending on their constitution. People are used to being in bed after midnight. Unfortunately, in the film industry we are confronted again and again with shooting situations which are required to take place at night. Experience has shown that during the course of a night, shooting becomes increasingly slow and unfocused and the scene being shot suffers because of it.
So, before planning a long night shoot until dawn, think about creative alternatives. Maybe the night can be divided into two half-shift days, each with half a shift in daylight and half a shift at night? Nobody wants to be working long into the night if there is a better alternative.
One of the biggest uncertainties in filming is the weather. This means you have to prepare your schedule from the outset for the possibility of bad weather. You will be helped by creating cover plans for shooting days - flexible workloads which are intended to adjust to weather situations in the course of the shoot. A shooting day can be covered in two different ways. On a day of shooting with mixed indoor and outdoor work, you can keep the order of the scenes flexible in order to be able to react to weather developments in the short term: In good weather, you can start outside. In bad conditions, you can start indoors. With this trick you can avoid at least half a day of rain.
The second option is to exchange a day of shooting completely. Instead of undertaking the planned shooting day, you choose another shooting day at short notice which can be implemented independent of the weather. However, such a shooting day must be identified early in the production of the shooting schedule, because it can only be actioned if it has been fully prepared in advance. The downside of this: Significant costs.
Prepare To Change
You can only plan for so many things during the pre-production process. The closer it gets to filming, the more logistical requirements and restrictions increase. But even for an experienced director, it can be a stressful situation if an actress has to leave the set at 3pm because she has a theater role in the evening, or if a restaurant must be closed by 12pm. Both of these situations have consequences for staging and concentration. So you should avoid such limitations if possible and give yourself flexibility.
Flexibility On Set
And even if a scene is not completed on a day of shooting, this should not be the end of the world. Ideally, your shooting schedule is flexible enough that you can re-schedule the scene for another shooting day. It is imperative to consider flexibility from the outset and defend it against all restrictions. The fight is worth it: The more flexibility you have, the easier it will be to handle unforeseeable circumstances when you are shooting.
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