THINKING ABOUT PRE-PRODUCTION
 

THINKING ABOUT PRE-PRODUCTION

One of the reasons that Setwerks exists is that making films it is almost as much about organizing to facilitate a fertile creative situation as it is about the creative and technical details during production. If there's anything that I can impress upon someone starting out, it's that pre-production planning will save you time and money (and liability in a worst-case scenario). The more you can reduce your administrative tasks in production, the more time you and your crew will have to focus on the endeavor in hand, which is making your project the best it can be.

Thinking about pre-production starts with considering the three basic elements that form the basis for project planning as it relates to film and video production. Content, Audio and Visuals. When we are planning a project we are serving these three elements.

Content is the basis for everything we do, the “why”, the “king” and all the decisions that we make in production should ultimately serve to bring the most out of the content that we decided or were hired to produce within the resources available to us. Usually, it’s a script, but it may be an event, a person, an object, almost anything. For the most part, this relates to story, the story we wish to tell but it could be the event we wish to capture or the moment or feeling that we wish to impart to a viewer.

Audio and Visuals are the “how”. These elements are the tools that express content, which is the priority. What do I mean by this? I'll give you an example. Say we're doing it a short independent feature film, we're shooting for 28 days and an entire day is dedicated to a particular location or a particular shot. Now it turns out that this magical day where we had helicopters and rainbows looks incredible on film, it's beautiful. It's everything we wanted it to be when we planned it out. But, after looking at the film as a whole, the scene is unnecessary and doesn't serve our story in the way that we had hoped it would. Do we keep the scene simply because it's beautiful? Certainly there is value in that. It's possible that we do. We may find a way to work it in, in a different way to get that value. But, it's highly likely that we cut the scene from the film because it hurts the content and takes away from our story. We strive to never get so highly attached to a technical achievement that we aren't willing to let it go for the sake of our content. The same is true for audio; it should always serve the story...it should never distract from the content that we're trying to get across to our audience. And, yes, bad sound is worse than bad visuals (see The Blair Witch Project).

Now, while all the departments on a film work to serve the story and the director's vision of the story, the visual departments on a film are most diverse and numerous in terms of personnel. I’d guess the average ratio of personnel working on visuals to those working only on sound to (generously) be roughly 20:1. So, a lot of our planning works around visuals-finding the right locations, recruiting and managing camera, art and grip & electric crew, taking care with logistics for equipment and resources for those departments and so on. It’s important not to forget that half (or over half, depending on who you listen to) of your project is sound. While production sound’s primary goal is to capture clean audio from your content, they can’t do it without allies in production. Keep sound in mind as much as visuals when scouting locations, considering schedules and making budget choices.

So, as you’re getting started with working out how your film will be made, make sure to understand the goals of your client or director and the “why” of your content and then start to make decisions about the “how” which eventually includes the "who", “what”, “where” and “when”, which is what Setwerks can help you with.

Starting out, Setwerks is focused primarily on narrative films, but the framework it provides can work for all kinds of projects whether it's commercial production, industrial production, documentary production or any of the myriad of other kinds of film or video making activities. These concepts and tools work on the smallest production, where you have only a few people--a cameraperson, the director and the sound person and on very large productions where you may have over 100 crew members working at any one time.


Happy shooting!