Preproduction Meeting (PPM)

The preproduction meeting (PPM) takes place at the end of the preparation phase of a film production to finalize everything before shooting.

PPM in Commercial Productions

The term stems from commercial and agency-driven productions. In an advertising production, the PPM defines the completion of the preparation phase. It's the last joint meeting before shooting starts.

In a PPM, all sub-areas developed since the commercial was commissioned are summarized for the involved parties with the aim of reaching an agreement on the goals and the final external appearance of the advertisement. The participants are the representatives of the client, the agency, the production, and the director.

In reality, there can be more than one PPM. The purpose of a PPM is to clarify and get the final greenlight on all production areas before principal photography. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Time frame and budget: Are we on track? What milestones (shoot, rough cut, delivery, etc.) have we agreed on?

  • Deliverables: Is it clear what the client expects as an outcome at the end? Any cut-downs? Additional material for social media, etc.?

  • Storyboard, AV script, shot list: Is it clear what footage needs to be collected? Are you and your client aligned regarding the story, the look & feel? Is the vision of the director clear?

  • Do you have full agreement on locations and drafts of production design if needed?

  • Do you have full agreement on the cast of actors or speakers and the styling and so on?

All these areas are now summarized again, often in the form of a production book or a presentation, which anticipates the overall impression of the finished advertising. Even if there is no formal production book, it is highly recommended to at least lay out a report, follow-up memo or email – something in written form. It will avoid a lot of headaches in the later approval process.

PPM in scripted content and shows

PPMs are not limited to commercial productions. As preparation is key to successful shooting, it is necessary for all creative decision-makers involved in a production to discuss all aspects of the production as early as possible.

As preproduction and principal photography of a TV show or a feature film takes much longer than for a commercial, one meeting is definitely not enough. Sometimes, the final meeting prior to the first day of shooting is referred to as the “PPM”. Quite often, all major meetings, e.g., weekly meetings, are called PPMs.

Who should attend a PPM?

All major players and decision-makers who need to get a clear vision from the director and need decisions on their tasks and budget should attend a PPM. This includes all heads of departments but is not limited to them. Here is a typical list of attendees:

  • Showrunner (for a series)

  • Director

  • First Assistant Director

  • Director of Photography

  • Production Designer

  • Costume Designer

  • Head of the Make-up & Hair department

  • Post-production supervisor/producer

  • VFX supervisor/producer

And, of course the production:

  • Producer and/or his/her representative, such as:

  • Line Producer

  • Production Manager

  • other production partners or co-producers that play a key role in principal photography

If we’re talking about a production that uses virtual production technologies, there might be specialists in the field present, as they’re essential for good planning and execution.

The agenda can be pretty similar to a commercial’s PPM. Just that in this case, it is more about the director and/or showrunner unfolding his or her vision. Of course, there is no client present. For example:

  • Presentation of mood boards, sketches, etc.

  • Running through the latest script version, scene by scene

  • Answering questions from the departments for the breakdowns of the various scenes

  • Sharing creative visions, sketches, photos, or any similar visualization for costumes, props, set constructions, special effects makeup and so on

  • Discussing tests for lighting or make-up tests, etc.

  • Sharing updates and details on filming locations

  • Updates on casting decisions

  • Explaining shot lists or storyboards or other previsualization, especially for complicated or VFX-intense shots

  • Discussing prep times, e.g., if special effects make-up is needed that will affect a shooting schedule

  • Defining amount and types of extras and background actors

The desired outcome of these meetings is that everyone is on the same page about what is needed for what scene. So all departments can eliminate surprises on set as much as they can.

Whatever is discussed, it is highly recommended to have a person record what has been agreed to. It can be an official memo or note in a production management software. Or a simple email follow-up. Remember: When it comes to discussion on a particular shooting day, this might come in handy.

Bear in mind: a PPM is also the last chance to reach an agreement on parts of the agenda that have not yet been discussed or decided, to once again identify problems, and find solutions and to make final changes.

It is, therefore, important for production to plan and set up a PPM carefully. Changes can significantly disrupt production processes at this point in time and trigger unpredictable costs.

After a well-documented PPM process, the shooting is just a matter of execution.