Fifteen Things To Prepare For When Making A Film

As I navigate through the choppy waters of pre-production on my short film, THE EXAM I dug up another post from my old site, This Savage Art. Again, some minor edited for clarification. This post also appears on the filmmaking resource site, NoFilmSchool   I found this in one of my folders. I think I was originally trying to write an article for one of the online film resource sites. I just came off of making my digital short film, The Face of the Earth, and I had all this information fresh in my head. Kind of a postmortem analysis. Looking back now, I'm glad I wrote it down.

  1. Use SAG talent (if you can) – If the budget can take the hit go for people who have experience and know how to conduct themselves on a set, rehearse, etc. It will save you time and aggravation in the end. The last thing you want to do is teach someone how to act while your making your film. If you can’t go this way, get non-union but make sure all the talent is non-union. If you have a cast of ten actors and one actor is SAG then you still have to become a SAG signatory. An audience can forgive a scene that’s shot a little too dark but they will never believe a film that has poor acting.
  2.  Cast with a pro – Again, if you can afford it, cast with a casting agent. It definitely doesn’t have to go this way but if you are going union get someone who has a pipeline to that water supply.
  3. Date the DP – When looking for a DP look at it like you are searching for the perfect mate. Can you agree on a similar style of filmmaking? Bring them into your world. Show them the script, storyboards, photography, painting books that show what you’re trying to capture. Is this a person you can confide in for the next X amount of weeks. If a DP says you can’t do that shot and doesn’t give you an alternative, get rid of him/her. The last thing you want is someone who is going to shoot down your ideas. Know what you want and bring as much information to the table to see what the DP thinks of your ideas.
  4. Let someone else supervise the script – You have enough on your mind, you shouldn’t be worrying about continuity.
  5. Snap, Crackle, Pop – Make sure the sound person checks and field-test the equipment before using it for your film. If there is something wrong you really don’t want to find this out when you’ve wrapped and you are listening to the audio in post.
  6. Timetables and momentum – When you are prepping for your shoot arrange to have it done within a period of time. Meaning, people get busy and if you have them locked up for three consecutive weekends for your film try with all your power to finish it within those three weekends. Cast and crew are already setting up their next job when they are done with yours so if you don’t get it within your timetable the next time will be within ALL of theirs.
  7. Psychology rules – Try to understand everyone before you go into your project. There are so many personalities on a film set, if time allows, find out who you are working with. Is this person upbeat? Is this person cranky? In the 25th hour do you really want someone who is petty or incompetent?
  8. Call in back-up – For every choice you make whether it is location, an actor or a camera, have two other go-to choices in an emergency.
  9. A man’s got to know his limitations – You can’t exploit your resources if you don’t know what they are. If you are limited by budget understand fully what that means for your film.
  10. The script isn’t the only thing made of paper – When writing your short script write it to budget. If you have $500 to make a film don’t write all night scenes with car interiors, twenty SAG extras and a trained llama.
  11. Time is of the essence – Time is not just money, it is gold.
  12. The three r’s – Read, research, review. Be the absolute expert on making your film before you even buy film/video stock. It’s an overwhelming task but the more you know the better off you are. Read articles on filmmaking. Ask those who have done what you are about to do. Go over it all and use what applies to your film.
  13. Signs are everywhere – On a limited budget you might have to make compromises with some crew members but don’t hire if you have second thoughts. If they show up an hour late or not at all without a courtesy call, bad sign no matter how good they are. This behavior will continue in one form or another through out your production. Make sure they are serious about working on your film. Let them know up front what they are in for with regards to money or other challenges. There are hundreds of talented people working on films, get the best you can afford on yours.
  14. Thanks are in order - Filmmaking is hard on everyone especially during production. Tempers can run high and patience can become a luxury. Delegate with authority but respect is key in all situations. Thank your cast and crew for being part of your dream especially in the case where money is thin which is always. They are doing the unthinkable for you.
  15. Finish the film – Find a way to make this happen no matter what.