THINKING ABOUT PRE-PRODUCTION
In the next couple of weeks, we're going to present a series of guidelines to follow when scheduling a film. Today we're going to talk about a pretty simple rule which makes a lot of difference when getting started. Specifically, this suggestion is to start the schedule with simple, straightforward, uncomplicated scenes. While this rule applies to almost every day, it is most important on your first day and on first days at new locations or with a significant number of new talent or crew.
Think about the first day on almost any film shoot. The first day typically is a bit chaotic; we have a bunch of crew who may or may not have worked together trying to come together to get the scenes that we need to get done that day. Working styles/responsibilities have to be adjusted to, things like contracts have to get done for some or all of the crew, talent may or may not have met before and they may have specific needs to be addressed that haven’t yet been communicated, the crew may still be assembling, testing and organizing equipment, walkies are going out for the first time, callsheets are being prepped and modified as variables change, sometimes people simply need to put a face to a name on a call sheet in order to get what they need. Basically, a hundred logistical things that will settle into a rhythm on the following days of production. So, with all of these things in mind, it makes a lot of sense to build a little bit of padding into your first day. It's going to take a little bit longer, at least on that first day, to get things up and running smoothly.
So, start your first day with a simple, straightforward, uncomplicated scene.
What does this mean?
This means a scene that doesn't require a lot of emotional heavy-lifting from your talent or a lot of technical heavy-lifting from your crew. It's a scene you can set up quickly with a minimum of equipment, personnel, extras or other kinds of wrangling.
How does this make things work better?
Let's take the example of talent. If we have two scenes at the same location, and one scene has a single cast member and the other scene has four cast members--which scene is going to be less complicated? It depends on a variety of factors, of course, but, assuming no other major variables, the scene with a single cast member is going to be something that we can get ready for quicker than one with four cast members. This is simply because four cast members going through makeup/hair/costume/rehearsal is going to take a lot longer than a single cast member (unless you call them early or prepare with extra staff). It's also easier for the director to get up to speed and appropriate caffeine levels when they're dealing with single cast member going through some motions than directing a scene with delicate interactions. Single cast member scenes usually have less setups on your shot list. Discuss it with your team, of course.
So, knock out an easy scene first. Get one in the can while everyone is getting settled in. Keeping it simple for the first scene allows the departments to dedicate unneeded team members to preparing for future setups and other startup tasks. It gives the cast a moment to get to know each other and get ready. It looks good on your reports to get that first shot and scene in quick and it helps everyone be better prepared for when things get complicated.
Harold Lloyd Image by Perlinator on Pixabay