Post-production nightmare: How to handle major reshoots

Any film project, whether a high-budget feature or a low-budget passion project, will experience difficulties, issues and obstacles. These obstacles can come in the form of production delays, shoot issues or post-production problems. The issue I will discuss in this article is one that, luckily, doesn’t happen too often. But when it does happen, it can completely derail a project’s process. The problem I’m referring to is a last-minute change to the end of a film. This happened halfway through post-production and required a whole host of reshoots. Here’s how we handled it and what we would have done differently.

This can end up being a real nightmare for the post-production team, especially when it’s a last-minute change. Unfortunately, many who’ve worked in post-production have experienced this, as have I. The story I will tell here is one that I experienced firsthand while working on a feature film. However, I won’t mention the film or director by name for obvious reasons. I intend this article to act as a guide for post-production editors. I’ll offer insights on how to handle such situations, whether you’re a director or an editor.

So, let’s begin.

Imagine this: The worst-case scenario for a post-production editor

The filmmaking process consists of three stages: pre-production, production and post-production. Once a project enters the post-production phase, the film’s story is generally set in stone. Major changes to the story are often made during pre-production and, at times, in production. This is because, by the time a film reaches post-production, most of the footage is already shot. Implementing any significant changes at this stage would lead to reshoots, which can be costly and really delay the process.

In my case, I was working on a high-budget feature film that was nearing the end of its post-production process. The visual effects were coming in, and the music was already being composed. Then suddenly, the director came to us and said he wanted to give the film a different ending. This would inevitably lead to expensive and complicated reshoots and rushed, last-minute work on the post-production team. There wouldn’t be deadline extensions.

How could this situation have been avoided?

Plan, plan, plan and plan again

A very important factor in filmmaking is your script. Before you start shooting, you should always have a script that you stand by, ready to go. This means that from beginning to end, you should be happy with the story and the way it’s being told. Now, there will always be some scenes or shots that you’d like to change, which is normal. But when it comes to a major scene change, a lot of fast-paced planning will need to happen.

After the director changed the ending, my team and I scrambled through some quick planning and strategizing. The production team quickly got to work finding last-minute shoot locations, organizing actors and ensuring that the post-production team was ready to handle a new intake of dailies.

One way to preemptively prepare for this would have been to allocate a reshoot budget in advance. You can also set a post-production schedule that won’t lead to a sudden rush in the event of a reshoot. This is the biggest issues experienced with many films. There is a rush to the end as the post-production deadline approaches.

If you are a director, the best bit of advice I can give you is to read your script as many times as you can before you start your shoot. Be sure you are happy with all parts of it. This will not only lead to making your film the best it can be but also make the entire production process much smoother.

Communication is key

If you are a director, it’s crucial to keep lines of communication open with your production and post-production teams. That way, everyone can be constantly aware of what you’re thinking and planning. The main issue for my team and me in that situation was that the director’s major change was thrown at us suddenly. We found out about the reshoots very late in the post-production timeline. Had we known earlier that there would be a change like this, we could have organized a way to intake dailies efficiently. We could have gotten them in front of the editor sooner, so he could begin cutting without any time being wasted. Another important factor we could have dealt with was informing our visual effects vendors of new incoming shots. This could have allowed our producers to discuss the budget and possibly find additional vendors to help out with completing these shots.

Dealing with reshoots in post-production

As I mentioned above, the post-production team will have to take on the brunt of the load that comes with a reshoot. From the editorial team to visual effects to music and sound, many elements of a film will be affected by adding new scenes. This is why communication is so key. The first line of communication would come from the director. It’s on them to share the details of reshoots with the post-production team. The post-production team needs to know if any of the new scenes will affect the current sound and music. They also need to know whether new visual effects shots are needed. Letting the post-production team know as soon as possible about reshoots will allow them to begin preparing to handle the new footage.

As a member of the main editorial team, you also need to decide how to handle the new dailies. The editorial team will be in charge of ingesting this footage into their editing machines. They make sure it’s all synced up and ready for the main editor to begin working with. This also includes getting script notes logged and prepared for the editor. Having a system in place to help bring this footage in quickly and efficiently is crucial, even if there has yet to be any talk of reshoots.

The takeaway

With all this being said, I can confirm that sudden last-minute reshoots are a horror scenario for a post-production team. However, the main takeaway from this, whether you are a director, editor or VFX artist, is that communication is key. Make sure that everyone you are working with knows what is happening and what actions are being taken. Reshoots are no fun ride, so make sure that the people having to deal with them are as well-informed as possible. This will ensure everything goes down much smoother and that your film will be completed on time and with as few issues as possible. Now, something will always come up that causes problems with a film, but hopefully, the points I have made above will help you to handle such a situation better.

Antonio Pavlov
Antonio Pavlov
Antonio Pavlov is a professional freelance videographer, writer, editor and visual effects artist with over six years of experience.

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