We’ve all had the same thought at one point; whether it was whether you’re a film school student, or an industry professional one thing never changes: pre-production suuucks. it’s just so much homework! It’s so tempting to look at it all and just go: “Whatever, I know what I’m doing.” Well, I did that, and it was probably the worst mistake I’ve ever made. Taking pre-production too lightly left me with a terrible time slot, ruined half a day of filming with equipment failures, and an extra two days of filming … a month and a half later.
I learned the lesson the hard way so you don’t have to. So listen up!
1. GET A PRODUCER
This one was tough for me because I love producing, so when I was told I might want to think of getting a producer I only half listened and only gave him half the work, thinking I could do it all. What followed was rushed storyboards, and a series of things that were only half done. Get a producer and TRUST THEM.
2. GIVE YOURSELF A DEADLINE, BUT DON’T RUSH IT
This last project I really picked a bad time to start moving forward with it. Half of the production team was busy with other projects and it was probably the worst time ever to start a short film. In my mind, I thought, “Ah, it’ll be fine.”
Yeah look, it absolutely wasn’t fine, I can tell you that right now.
What followed was me rostering people to departments they’ve never worked on since film school out of necessity. We ended up having equipment trouble almost instantly and it forced us to shut down halfway through the day. This half a day of lose put us back and we had to reschedule an extra day with not just the crew, but five busy actors. All in all, it was a month and a half later before we were able to figure something out.
ALL of this could have been avoided if I had waited just a week or two before filming.
3. IT’S OUR FILM NOT MY FILM
The biggest mistake I made during pre-production was probably that I didn’t get my crew on board. I don’t mean I didn’t ask people in the office to be part of my film, but I didn’t have any meetings about the film with anyone, I just kept working on everything that was half-started (because I wasn’t trusting my Producer).
What I didn’t realise was I was leaving my crew in a state of limbo. I wasn’t trying to get people excited for the project, or make them feel like they were helping to create a cool story.
I ended up with a group of people who were just standing around going: “Okay now what?”
These are filmmakers who are passionate about the craft and because of my miscommunication, I couldn’t even get them excited about something they’re passionate about. It created just a bit of a stressful set environment, which we did bounce back from but it took a bit to get there.
So please, for the love of everything: Plan for the slot that works best, not what’s fastest, trust your producer, and get your team on board. Listen to my mistakes, I made them so you don’t have to. Just a bit of filmmaking advice from your friendly neighborhood filmmaker.