This week we will continue mapping out the steps needed to plan properly for your next film project.
In last week’s article, we discussed some practical considerations when planning your shoot (note-taking/organizational apps, legal, and weather). This week, we’ll be looking at the more creative side of your shoot. Planning around creative is a much more enjoyable process, so once the practical stuff is out of the way, you can focus more closely on the details of making your story come to life.
As we said last week, legitimacy and professionalism are sacred, and they are only achievable with proper planning. If you want to grow in your video career, strive for those traits by kicking tardiness and complacency to the curb, in favor of pursuing something much better.Prepare Your Script (plan ASAP)
If you’ve never familiarized yourself with the proper techniques of writing a screenplay, a great software such as Celtx can be incredibly helpful, and make following the consistent, standardized format of screenwriting a breeze.
Following screen-specific writing formats allows your team to have so much more clarity than a simple Word document, and it will give you a chance to explore your script in a much more detailed way.
Not only is Celtx great at guiding you through the process of writing your script, but it also offers cloud-based collaboration for your team, and can even provide a master document for your production team to work from.
Storyboards (plan 1-2 months ahead)
If you have access to a storyboard artist, share your script and vision with them, and have them draw some panels to accompany your most action-heavy scenes. This way, everyone can have a visual representation of what the end result is supposed to look like, and can work toward that end.
It will also allow you time to see if some scenes may need to be re-structured, or cut altogether. Try to do location scouting before storyboarding, if possible. That way, you can provide the storyboard artist with some photographic context of what the scenes will actually be like.
The value of a good storyboard artist cannot be understated! Spend plenty of time ironing out all the major scenes in storyboards with your crew.Location Scouting (plan 1-3 months ahead)
- Have you received any necessary legal permissions in writing to film on these premises
- Do you need to notify surrounding residences, businesses, or city authorities? Sometimes it can take a lot of time for businesses or committees to approve filming in certain locations, and you want to ensure that you have plenty of time to receive permission.
- What will the foot and vehicle traffic be like during the day of the shoot? Could it be disruptive?
- What will the background noise be like on the day of the shoot? Take some audio equipment with you as you scout locations, and record the ambient sound to see if noise may be a problem.
- Consider potential lighting and camera placement at your locations, as well as crew and talent placement.
- Visit your locations at Golden Hour, if that would be ideal for your scene. You can find Golden Hour apps on Android and iOS to help plan out what times would be best to visit.
- Estimate scene setup and teardown time at each location, and put together an itinerary for everyone on the day of the shoot. This will keep everyone on track, and give you a guide when your mind gets busy on set.
- Spend time absorbing the environment with at least one other crew member. What does the atmosphere feel like, how will it translate on-camera, and what can it lend to your scene? Many great cinematographers can turn locations into a character of their own, and the environment can often convey more than a simple line of dialog can.Location scouting is incredibly important to setting the atmosphere of your film. Not only are you prepared to set up more quickly, but you can use the locations to inspire new ideas and shots. A great tool for location scouting is the
Cadrage Director’s Viewfinder app forAndroid and iOS. It provides the capability to use your phone to test out simulated cameras and lens packages on virtually all major camera types. Cadrage also lets you save your location photos with embedded metadata regarding the lens and camera configuration, focal lengths, GPS coordinates, videos, and more. The app saves the photos and videos to your phone for quick reference later, and you can even compile a shotlist as a .PDF to share with your team.
Another helpful tip, even if you aren’t using Cadrage Director’s Viewfinder, is to make a Google Photos album of your location photos, complete with annotations for your cast and crew. This way, you can set expectations for your crew, get new ideas, and your team can spend less time getting familiar with the surroundings on the day of the shoot - plus you’ll have your shots backed up in the cloud.
One great advantage of using ActionVFX’s library, is that you don’t have to worry about "what ifs". Their affordable, quality visual effects stock footage allows you to focus on your planning and less on whether you got the right shot or not.
Crew and Talent Prep (plan 1-3 months ahead)
- Do you have appropriate crew waivers and talent release forms?
- Do the crew and talent fit their roles well, and will they be able to meet the physical expectations of the shoot? Running, driving, lifting, etc.
- Will you be providing makeup artists?
- If the shoot is more than a few hours, schedule catering or meal breaks to make sure everyone is well-fed. A fed crew is a happy crew.
You have so many resources available to make you a successful filmmaker, but you must put forth the effort to make planning a priority. Leverage teamwork and technology as much as possible, and set milestones for when you’d like to have goals completed. Meet regularly with your team, but make sure your meetings have a defined purpose, and end with clear action plans to propel you forward to the big shoot.
We could add on many other areas of planning that need attention during pre-production, but these are some of the trickiest and most prominent areas to cover.
Undoubtedly, many of you have your own favorite strategies, apps, and tips for planning a successful shoot, so please share your advice for veterans and newcomers alike in the comments below!
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