Given that a shooting schedule can quite literally make or break a production, the value of a good shooting schedule cannot be understated.
It doesn’t matter if you are working on a multi-million dollar shoot or a $500 short film with a couple of friends, planning, a shooting schedule will not only save you a lot more time than you put into it, but it’ll also make the experience a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.
Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of heading out to set determined to work it out as you go. A good shooting schedule will reflect in the quality of your finished production.
Depending on your shoot, shooting schedules can be super complicated. Working out who is available when or how do we shoot the most expensive elements is not an easy task. A well thought out and planned schedule will mean your shoot will be a more positive and productive environment.
1. Read (and understand) the shooting script
Before getting started, you must first read the script. By reading the shooting script a few times, you will learn which scenes are more important and which are emotionally challenging. This will help to craft a more effective production schedule.
2. Its about people, not scenes
A good starting point is to shape each day around the ebb and flow of your cast and crew’s creative energy. Take into account who is working hardest in the scene, also who may need a break after the last scene and lastly who hasn’t been busy for a while.
Your production schedule can put your mind into a logistical frenzy of what needs to be scheduled, coordinated, and accounted for, but people are the key to any shoots success. A production schedule that inspires creativity will feed right back into the film you’re making.
3. Schedule difficult scenes early
Both cast and crew benefit from knocking over the tough stuff fairly early in a shoot. Actors deliver better performances when the production schedule accounts for their process especially in emotionally or physically challenging scenes.
Actors and crew can anticipate a difficult scene at the start of the day and can prep for it the night before. Some scenes takes extra time to shoot whether they are emotional scenes or technically complicated. Having the more difficult scenes up front means the easier scenes are later in the schedule. This means both cast and crew can breathe easier knowing the hard parts are already shot.
4. Be mindful of your actors emotional swings and needs
If your cast has to shoot an emotional scene, don’t schedule a very happy scene right after it. Shifting emotional states can be a delicate process which can affect both actors and the director. Give everyone time to prepare and recover from emotionally complex scenes. This also goes for demandingly physical scenes too.
5. Don’t forget the crew
The same principles apply when it comes to the crew. If you’re shooting a scene that calls for a long gimbal or steadicam shot, make sure the operator gets a break when that scene is finished shooting. Make sure you understand the time it takes for crew to accomplish their tasks and allow appropriate time.
6. Set your film crew up for success
Don’t over schedule your shoot day . This just makes everyone frustrated as no matter and no matter how hard you all work, you hit the end of the day with scenes left un-shot.
After enough of these days, nobody will be really trying that hard anymore because they know the schedule is unachievable. Allow your cast and crew to have successes and they’ll thank you with hard work and better results.
7. Create extra shooting schedule
For days the you may feel are a little under-scheduled or for days that you are ahead of schedule have a secret extra shooting schedule of scenes you can easy shoot. With this all on the production will feel like they’re crushing it and you will make most of the shooting time.
A good idea is don’t share this with everyone, just with the director, AD and only key personnel.
8. Plan for weather
If you have a scene on your shooting schedule that requires specific weather, always have a backup scene ready for that scheduled time.
It’s best to see if you can match cast and crew on a day of indoor shoots with a day of outdoor shoots.
Always schedule the outdoor shoots earlier in the production because it will then be easier to reschedule them for later.
9. Avoid burnout
If your team reaches burnout, it’s most likely your fault. Make sure there are meal breaks, avoid overtime and on longer shoots avoid 6 and 7 day weeks. Give people the breaks they need to recharge. You need your cast and crew to be able to function at their best and full of energy.
A well-crafted shooting schedule can turn a crew into a team. It should build morale, momentum, and a positive work environment.