Planning is everything in filmmaking. From acting rehearsals to transportation and catering for the cast and crew, everything takes time and organization to bring magic to the silver screen. However, one of the things that is of the utmost importance to master in this industry, is making shooting schedules that are optimized for efficiency and make the best use of everyone’s time. Below, we go over 4 things that are essential to learn how to master this stage of pre-production.
Group scenes by location and set dressings
First up, you want to do a script breakdown and group all the scenes that happen in the same locations in one master list. These locations probably won’t always look the same, so you want to categorize them further and jot down the different set dressings they may have. With this in hand, you can start planning your shooting accordingly, preferably grouping scenes that take place in different sets at the same location first, and then moving to the next logical location.
Consider days and nights
One factor to choose what should be the next logical location is categorizing your shooting schedule further by taking into account not only your locations but also the time in case it plays a role in the scenes you need to shoot. Having days and nights in your script makes things a bit more complex in terms of logistics when it comes to planning, particularly if these are exterior scenes and you can’t fake day for night as easily as you could in interiors. Things like sunsets and sunrises are also very tricky, so keep them in mind while writing if you want to avoid putting your cast and crew in difficult situations.
Make the most out of your actors’ time
Once you have figured out the puzzle of locations and times of the day when they are available to shoot, you need to add one more element to the mix: your actors’ time. Unlike your crew, who are usually clear of the working terms of your production and will stay by your side if they’re friends and family collaborating on your indie project, actors are typically hustling from job to job and might not be able to commit for extended periods of time. In that sense, you need to consult with them and make the most out of your time with them, which will typically result in a few changes in your so-far perfect schedule fitted to times and locations only. Be prepared to revisit locations after being done with most of the shooting just to get that one shot you couldn’t get on day one.
Avoid turnarounds as much as possible
Conflicting schedules are a nightmare, but the worst part is over after you figure that out. If you manage to somehow make things work and click as best as you can, then you can optimize what looks like your definitive schedule by taking a look at setups. We all know scenes are not shot in chronological order, and here is where we take the most advantage of the magic of cinema to gain time and optimize workflows as much as possible: go through each scene of your schedule day by day, and arrange the shooting in a way that minimizes drastic lighting setup changes. Film all the shots of one character under a certain light first, adjust it a bit for closer angles if needed, and then switch over to your next character and their shots. Going back and forth is just too much of a hassle and it wastes precious time.