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You have your script, and you have your actors. The next step is to gather everyone up and start shooting. But before you can roll camera, you need to make sure all your ducks are in a row. In this video we'll be talking about how to build a storyboard, organize your resources, and manage a production schedule. When film-making, time is money, and being well organized will keep you on time, and, more importantly, under budget.
When you're paying by the day for your equipment, actors, and crew, it's in your best interest to make sure shoots run as efficiently as possible. Storyboarding will help you build a list of every shot you plan on getting for the entire production. While a simple shot list may suffice in some situations, most directors are visual people and storyboarding is a great way of being able to see what your film will look like before you spend a dime on production.
So what is a storyboard? Put simply, a storyboard is a depiction of your production, shot for shot, in the form of non-animated illustrations. If you've never seen one before, a storyboard might look like a very long comic strip. Each shot is illustrated along with the dialogue that will accompany it. The goal is to use the storyboard as a guide when you're on set as to what shots you plan on getting.
Despite common misconception, a storyboard doesn't have to include high quality art. Unlike your film, the storyboard isn't intended for public release. If all you can draw is stick figures, go with that. Feel free to make notes and include camera direction. Include zooms or pans you'd like to see in the final shot. If you have action in the shot that you're struggling to illustrate, draw arrows and write short notes. Anything that will remind you of your initial intentions once it's time to roll camera.
Once you have everything illustrated, go back and read every panel in order. Ask yourself if there are any sequences that are lacking shots or if sequences are too busy. As you go to through your storyboard, you should be able to see the film playing in your head.
With your storyboard in hand, you can start mapping out how you're going to be able to get every shot you have planned.
One of the first things you'll need to nail down is securing your location. Assuming you already know where you plan on shooting, there are a few things you'll need to make sure you have in place. Perhaps the most obvious is electricity. Are there enough outlets to connect your equipment to, and is there enough power to run everything simultaneously? Secondly, you're going to need green room for actors. A green room can technically be any quiet area away from the set for the cast and crew to hang out while they're not shooting. Finally, you'll must make sure you have the proper permission and permits to shoot. There's nothing work than being chased off by the authorities in the middle of a shoot.
Now it's time to build a checklist. You need to make sure you have all the equipment you'll need. Aside from your camera, lights, and audio gear, it never hurts to bring some basic tools with you, to do repairs on the fly. Include a couple rolls of gaffer's tape, or duct tape to the non-filmmaker and a ready supply of C47s, or Clothespins.
Most new filmmakers remember to bring their essential props, but many forget to bring duplicates. If you're shooting an action film, more than likely you'll be breaking a lot of props. Gaffer's tape can do wonders in a pinch, but you don't want to push your luck. Re-read your script and go over, in your head, everything you think you'll need and bring extras.
Lastly, and this may go without saying, but the most important thing you'll need to schedule is your cast and crew. Don't only consider how much time you'll need to shoot each scene, as moving a set-up will take up a good chunk of your day. If possible, ask your crew to dedicate the entire day to a shoot. It's common for shoots to run long, and sometimes cutting out early isn't an option, especially when doing so means paying for an extra day for your rental gear.
Once you have a list of everything you need, it's time to set the schedule.
When scheduling your shoot, it's important to consider the time of day. We're not talking about whether or not your crew wants to be able to sleep in, but rather, the availability of the location and the quality of indoor and outdoor light. You may need to be able to plan your schedule around the sun, possibly spreading scenes across several days to make sure you're getting the right light every time.
There's a reason why the Los Angeles is the world's movie making headquarters: The weather is very predictable. Having the wrong weather on a day you're scheduled can ruin a shoot and drain a budget. If you're paying for your gear by the day, pay very close attention to the weather. If you need sunlight, and there's a chance of rain, you're going to have to roll the dice. Will you cancel the shoot and return the gear, thus saving your budget but pushing back release? Or will you risk it all to finish your film on time?
While every day you shoot may be costing you money, be sure be considerate of the needs of your crew. As the director, it is unlikely that anyone on set is working harder than you, but not everyone will be able to manage working 16 hour days every day for a month. When you're planning the schedule for when you'll have your gear and locations, be mindful of your human resources and make sure to set reasonable hours and days off.
Unfortunately, no matter how much planning and organizing you do, something will always come up. People get sick. Equipment goes down, and the weather... does whatever it wants. It's important, that no matter what comes up, you and your crew adapt on the fly. Stay nimble and try to keep production moving.
As you're preparing your shoot, use this guide as a checklist for what you need to have in place. If you start with a storyboard, keep your resources organized, and always adapt on the fly, you should be set up to deliver your film on time and under budget.