Sometime last week I was in a discussion with some members of the crew when this question came up. What part of “Production” has changed over the years? We all talked about cameras and formats and workflows but what came to my mind was pre-production.
Pre-production (or pre-pro) seems to have been scaled back over the last couple of years. I’m not sure if it’s a cost cutting move or a time crunch but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule these days.
To help back up my viewpoint I said to them “You wouldn’t build a house without blueprints and you wouldn’t go on a trip with out checking a map or two. It just makes sense.”
Now you may ask, “What do you want? Scripts, Storyboards, that stuff?
Well yes that’s part of it, but of all the arts, filmmaking is the most collaborative. It’s a team effort. This means discussing the project with everyone involved before you shoot. Your crew is a group of highly skilled and professional craftsmen, and they work best when they have a shared idea of a project.
Some of the things I’d like to know and discuss with the director and producer are “What’s the mood of the project?” Is it fast paced, lots of color, high-energy? Or is it slow and moody? This helps me start to work on my approach to lighting and shot selection. A good starting point is a script or outline giving me examples of what their ideas might be, and the total length of the finished project. (Storyboards are good descriptions.)
Scouting locations is a good practice. It lets me see the shooting environment we’ll be working in and if there are any concerns with power or accessing the location. A side note here is that sometimes having me on a scout might not be possible because of scheduling or budget. Fortunately, our director always pulls out his iPhone and shoots the location, giving me possible set ups, wide shots and showing me the location. This is great because not only do I see what he has in mind but also I can start to plan out my needs for the shoot.
Communication is the key. By investing time up front, you can potentially save time and money later. What’s more, by presenting a carefully thought out plan to those you are working with, your final product will come out looking and sounding great!