Pre-Production Part 1
Aka Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Pre-production is the process of preparation that a production company/filmmakers does before principal photography begins on a film or series. This is where you plan everything out and line your ducks in a row so that when shooting begins, there are no major surprises and setbacks. Now, that being said, is there such a thing as a perfect shoot? No, of course not. Certain challenges will always arise. However, if you’re armed with ample pre-production, the challenges that arise will be minimal and easier to handle.
I’m currently in the middle of pre-production on a SAG short film that shoots on June 5th and June 6th. How that came about is because I’m part of the Professional Development Program 2.0 class at the Richard Lawson Studios. My classmates and I were divided into three different groups in January and were then assigned in mid-April to create a short film from scratch. The intention behind these short films, due on July 1st, is to create the evidence for our careers. To market ourselves with a solid product.
The minute we received the assignment, I felt myself take the position of producer in order to lead my group with intention. To lead the ship. With four very distinct, strong and creative minds in my group that all wanted to act in the film and write it as well, I took charge to shape the course of our direction. And a lot of it was by me asking the next question. Not for me to invalidate anyone’s ideas, but to ask the next question towards something exciting and tangible for all of us. And since that first initial production meeting in mid-April, this has been a lesson in “Yes, and…”
Yes, that sounds great, and…
Yes, I love that idea, and how about we add…
Yes, that’s cool, but how about we try this…
Yes, I get that and I get where you’re coming from, but can we also try…
And this process has been a reinforcement that art is a collaborative effort. My fellow co-stars and co-writers in this group have been amazing. When our director came on board, the support and collaboration she flowed to us was incredible as well.
If anyone is familiar with the concept of Backwards Thinking With Forward Motion by renowned manager Ken Kragen, that’s what I applied from the start of our pre-production process. July 1st is when the films are due. Great! So let’s work backwards from July 1st to where we are in mid-April. Great! This will help us to systematically and strategically push our pre-production process forward every single week. Each week will be a calculated and concentrated effort in putting together our short film.
In our first production meeting in mid-April, we started brainstorming potential story lines. Each one of us in the group come from different walks of life. We could not be more different from each other. And because we all wanted to act in it as well, we had to come up with a story that would make sense. A story that would believably involve all of us in a coherent and logical way. We threw out some ideas before settling on one. Once we settled and agreed on that idea, the impulse to immediately start writing dialogue emerged. As the emerging producer and leader, I knew this would be a nightmare if we didn’t establish a log line first. A log line is a short paragraph that summarizes what a film or TV series is about.
I knew I had to be adamant about creating a log line first because that would be our guide. Our blueprint. Our road map. Without a log line, we could start in NYC and end up in Venus. Like WTF? How did we end up there? What is this story about again? What are we writing about again? I’m confused. With a log line intact, we can stay on track with the story we want to tell. So we worked together to create a log line.
Next, I suggested that we establish weekly production meetings. Since we all live in different parts of Los Angeles, we decided to have production meetings on a video conferencing program called Zoom (By the way Zoom, if you need a spokesperson for your national commercials, I’m your guy)
These production meetings over Zoom would cover and handle certain things so that we could move our film forward.
Within a week, one of the group members offered to come on board as a co-producer so that we could split and carry the workload. FANTASTIC! THANK YOU! Within a week, I started to create a production timeline containing weekly goals, important information and deadlines that needed to be met. This production timeline listed deadlines for obtaining a director; the second writing meeting; the third writing meeting; obtaining a cinematographer and DP; taking pictures of the place we are shooting at; filling out SAG paperwork so our film can be a SAG signatory production; locking the script; locking a film crew from the first AD to a script supervisor to production assistants; a tech walk through with the director, cinematographer and DP; actor rehearsals; etc.
While I created the production timeline and obtained the crew (above and below the line) my co-producer handled all SAG paperwork and reached out to other potential crew members. She and I have met on Zoom to handle certain aspects of production. She will also handle the post-production paper work with SAG. She and I will coordinate on obtaining equipment and props for the shoot. Our director is currently story-boarding the script, is shaping the look and tone of our film, has given us homework for our characters and has served as a story editor to help strengthen our script and take it to the next level.
For the crew, I reached out to people who were upbeat, fun, energetic and hard-working. Cause at the end of the day, the set needs to be light, fun and forward-moving! And I have to say what a wonderful community we have at the Richard Lawson Studios. These crew members from the studio are contributing their talents and hearts to our film. Like I said earlier, art is a collaborative effort! You can’t do it alone.
So week to week, we are systematically crossing things off the list to set ourselves up for the best shoot possible. Script locked this past Wednesay. Crew locked this past Thursday. SAG paperwork submitted this past Friday. Etc. And even though we have two more weeks of pre-production left before we start shooting, I wanted to share this pre-production process. After we screen our films on July 1st, I’ll share the production timeline I created with you all.
Now, I have to say that producing is taking up a lot of my time. But I also have to say that it’s been exciting to create something from scratch again. To collaborate and create a product that will benefit us all. We are thinking bigger picture with our film. I look forward to being on set, taking off the producer hat and putting on the actor hat as well!
And somehow, despite how busy I am co-producing this film, I am still blogging every week. I am still rehearsing a scene from HBO’s “Girls” that I’m putting up in scene study class. I am auditioning and getting callbacks. I am receiving requests for self-tape auditions. I am getting closer to obtaining a meeting with James Franco and pitching my script to him. I am planning a reading of my feature film script. I teach the Professional Development Program 1.0 class every week with Richard Lawson. I am active on social media. I support people on my relationship map by seeing their plays, watching their music videos, listening to their podcasts, etc. I have a social life that is alive again because of a beautiful relationship that I am currently in.
Good God almighty! I’m ready and due for a TV series pick up. Like Lena Dunham. Mindy Kaling. Louis C.K.