Drawing Up the Shooting Schedule

When all the preliminaries are over, you are finally ready to draw up the shooting schedule. This is normally the joint work of the director and the production manager. The main responsibility is the director's, but the PM is there to double-check all the ideas, to ensure that the schedule is feasible, and then to put the first scheduling decisions into action.

The shooting schedule is a plan of work for the shooting. Theoretically, it should take all the problems involved in the shooting and solve them in the simplest, most practical, and most economical way. The schedule tells you what to film, whom to film, and when and where this should all take place. Before you can do this, you need certain information at your fingertips. Assuming you have fourteen days of shooting starting June 1, you will probably need to know the following:

• Anticipated weather at your locations

• People's availability (checked out on your second visit)

• Distances between locations

• Any public holidays

• Any special happenings, such as school graduation, summit meeting, etc.

With this information, you can begin to break down the script and juggle the shooting to maximize shooting freedom.

The first thing to do is to go through the script and list all the filming that has to be done in one location and the people involved during the filming. You may finish up with something like this:

Leon's office, scenes 7, 10, 18

Mayor's office, scenes 9, 24 Joe's party, scene 1

New Jersey: Diana's garden, scenes 2,

Of course, the numbering of the scenes may just be a shorthand for Leon's study, his children's room, kitchen, garden, and so forth.

You will go right through the script in this way, listing who is in each scene. At this stage, I also like to list all the photographs and any stock footage that I will need. My list will also include any special requirements for a scene, whether technical, such as special lenses, or practical, such as ordering drinks and food for a party. In a complex history film, you may want to lay out your preproduction list slightly differently, and I've discussed that at more length in chapter 19.

Once you have the script breakdown, you start adding other considerations, and then the complications start. Personally, I like to start off the shoot with a few easy days. This allows the crew to assess each others' pace and working habits and also allows you to see how the equipment is performing. With this in mind, you start drawing up your daily shooting list. At first, this is very tentative because you have to juggle so many elements. Let's say on your first day you have five scenes in mind. If you want to see whether it's feasible to do them, these are the questions you should be asking:

• If we want to start in the office at 10 a.m., what time will we have to leave the hotel?

• How long will it take to set up lighting?

• Once the lighting is up, how long will the shooting take?

• If we finish at 11, can we be at Lincoln Center by twelve?

• When should we break for lunch?

• Can we do three scenes by 5 p.m., get the stuff from the hotel, and be at the airport by 7 to catch the 7:30 flight to Atlanta?

• Will the crew eat on the plane or expect a meal in Atlanta?

• We will probably be working from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. Is that too long for a first day?

Depending on your answers, you may stay with your first tentative schedule or juggle it to allow more freedom. Your considerations each time are fairly simple: How much time do you need for preparation, lighting, meals, breaks, travel, and shooting. If you are unsure of the way your crew works or the difficulty of the scenes, it's best to be pessimistic rather than optimistic, allowing more time rather than less time for the shooting. I am always wary of beautiful schedules that look magnificent on paper but fail in practice. Something always goes wrong on a shoot. A camera breaks down; an interviewee suddenly has an urgent appointment. You overcome these difficulties in two ways. First, you make your schedule flexible rather than rigid; if you suddenly cannot film Diana in the morning, you can substitute the library sequence and film Diana in the afternoon. You allow alternative sequences in case of rain. Second, every third or fourth day, you should leave a couple of hours in the schedule totally open for fill-ins and emergencies. If there are no crises, you will always find something to film, but if you have lost time or lost an interview, then the open periods in the schedule come as a godsend.

Observation films or evolving action films are the most difficult to schedule. Here, you may be able to sketch in an approximate schedule for a day or a morning, but anything tighter often gets lost. You have to allow for emergencies, for changes, and for the unexpected. The only advice is to stay loose and to be patient.

Film Making

Film Making

If you have ever wanted the secrets to making your own film, here it is: Indy Film Insider Tips And Basics To Film Making. Have you ever wanted to make your own film? Is there a story you want to tell? You might even think that this is impossible. Studios make films, not the little guy. This is probably what you tell yourself. Do you watch films with more than a casual eye? You probably want to know how they were able to get perfect lighting in your favorite scene, or how to write a professional screenplay.

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