Thursday, November 17, 2011

So You Want to Make a Movie - The Plan

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker.  No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

Step 16. The Plan

If you are a first time filmmaker and producer, I suggest that you be intimately involved in every aspect of preproduction; that especially includes “the schedule”. Every film production has a bible, and it’s called “the production schedule” or “the production board”.

Your production manager is responsible for creating the shooting schedule and production board, which are based on a detailed analysis and breakdown of the script. The production board is essentially a blueprint that you follow during the production phase of your movie. It is designed to keep you on budget and on time. Without it, you have no chance of completing your movie. The production board’s main purpose is to group locations, actors, props, wardrobe, and crew in order to create an efficient and timely schedule. For example, if you need an actor for only two days and you’re shooting a 24-day schedule, it would be inefficient to have the actor work on day 6 and then on day 20. A good production board would have the actor on set on days 6 and 7.

The people you hire for your crew as well as the volunteers obviously need to do their jobs. You will have to trust their judgment, but don’t be afraid to ask questions about the schedule. The schedule has to be tight, but it also needs to breathe enough so that crew and cast are not pushed to the breaking point.

As the production draws closer, meet with your director and director of photography to look their shot list, lighting diagrams, storyboards, and blocking schemes. Have they done their homework? Do these look in order? Now is the time to find out—before you turn on the camera. All of these things are necessary as a low-budget filmmaker to stay on time, on schedule, and under budget. If the lighting diagrams and blocking schemes are too complicated, you might want to ask for revisions. “Keep it simple” should be your golden rule. Movie making is essentially an exercise in logistics. Good planning will solve a lot of problems within the production phase. Without a plan, you’re going to spend all of your time talking about what you want to do instead of actually doing it. Trust me; you can’t afford to do that.

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