The Importance of Being Prepared

14.03.17

Whilst lights, cameras and actors are all vital in the creation of a polished film, working without a plan in place is a surefire recipe for disaster

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”

Benjamin Franklin

Film making is often considered to be more of an art than a science. But with so many moving parts and people, once everyone is on location, time (which usually equates to money) starts to rapidly disappear. So, it’s hugely important that every video production be well thought out and planned to ensure that time can be used effectively, and you’re able capture everything you need in the time you have available.

At Forward we break down every video we produce into 3 key stages. Pre-Production, Production, and Post Production. Whilst the Production stage is where all the action is (pun intended), Pre-Production is definitely as, if not more important. If you don’t put enough time into the planning of a film before you start rolling cameras things will overrun, it will rain, you’ll forget to film important close ups, your editor will hate you, you’ll have to do reshoots, incur more production costs, and ultimately the gods of filmmaking will laugh upon you as you rock back and forth in a corner, wishing you’d studied to become a doctor like your parents wanted you to.

So, Pre-Production. What’s that all about, then? Pre-production is essentially the process of creating the blueprints of a film. This all starts with the idea, the bright spark from which a film emerges, and which is usually followed by the phrase “We don’t have the budget for that”. But then, after some more creative thinking, Idea Number 2 emerges; a refined, sleeker and more cost efficient version of its predecessor.  The client approves. There’s cheers of joy and the film moves into its next stage; concept development.

Concept development is where we take the idea and realise it through scripts and storyboards. We find locations, meet actors and interviewees, whilst visualising how the final piece will look and feel. Alongside this creative process runs the logistical planning, making sure everything being discussed creatively can be achieved within the allocated budget and timeframe.

With so many moving parts on set, without a solid plan in place things can easily fall apart

With so many moving parts on set, without a solid plan in place things can easily fall apart

One of the biggest things in planning a production is the creation of a schedule, it’s the hymn sheet from which everyone reads. It breaks down travel and arrival times, location changes, lunch breaks. Anything that can be foreseen should be planned for and allocated appropriate time within it. Director’s, camera-ops, sound recordists and other crew members often don’t have time to keep checking it. So, it’s also a good idea to have an ‘enforcer’ of the schedule. I usually play this part and can often be heard between takes saying; “Ten minutes!”, which usually means the team has 20 minutes, but I know they’ll undoubtedly run over (pro-tip there!).

Running a tight ship is something I take great pride in, but things rarely ever go exactly to plan. If things do overrun, if something goes awry, or if British weather just wants to ruin everything I have the ability to look down and see where I can potentially steal time from or possibly juggle a couple of scenes/locations. The schedule is the most important tool I have in solving any issues that arise, keeping within budget and avoiding creative compromise.

Similarly, we always schedule our post production days. Setting out a timeline of offline edits, music composition, sound mixes and colour grading so we know exactly when elements are coming in and when various versions are going out to our client. This means I know who is doing what, and when, without feeling like my brain is going to melt.

If you’d like to know more about how we work, last summer Forward’s Creative Director, Tom Martin, talked through our entire production process as part of a series of films for our client Wex Photographic: